3 Tips to Keep Things Organized

I’m not sure what has happened to me over the last week, but I am on a major organizing kick.


This photo was taken after my last organization kick.

Here are some of the things I’ve done in the last 2 weeks:

  • I sorted through my lingering papers and written notes. I had a few binders and a couple folders of paperwork and successfully pared it down to one binder and a folder which I hope to slowly put in digital form.
  • I went through all my Google Docs (now Google Drive), deleted a bunch I know I will never use and organized the rest into just a few folders.
  • I got about 75% of our planning done for the 2012-2013 school year.
  • I went through all of our homeschooling books, set aside a lot of them to give away and started putting the rest in digital form. I bought a few digital copies of ones we use regularly using my Swagbucks gift cards (gotta love free!) and downloaded a bunch of free classic books from Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s Free Collections. My goal is for my kids to keep the majority of their school books on the Kindle.

Everything in its place

I’m certainly not as much of an organizing ninja as some, but I do pretty well. I like things neat and tidy (see our bookshelves above).

I enjoy organizing things and have been known to spend days creating detailed filing systems.

I’ve also learned they often don’t work.

Here are my organization tips. All of these tips can be applied both online and offline.

1. Keep things simple.

Too many nested categories/folders makes any organization system more trouble than it’s worth. If you can’t see something at a glance, it’s easily lost. For example, I’ve pared way back on categories on my blog recently and I think it makes it easier for everyone. Same goes for my files in Gmail, and on my computer.

2. Don’t keep stuff longer than necessary.

I think this is a problem for most of us. Here’s a handy chart that tells you how long you need to keep important documents. Also, check your spam folders, drafted posts and other saved items that you really aren’t ever going to get to. Email bankruptcy anyone?

3. Keep everything in one spot.

I am a sucker for fun online apps and cool tools. The problem is, then I’ve got bookmarks strewn over the entire internet, a gazillion note-taking apps and to-do lists in 5 different places. This doesn’t exactly lend itself to optimum productivity. So, pick one place to store what you need (I choose Evernote for digital stuff) and stick with it! Offline, we have file folders for important hard copy documents, and my day-to-day calendar is a paper/pencil planner.

What about you? What are your tips?

Do you get The Useletter?

It’s a hand-curated roundup of tips I don’t share elsewhere. And peeks behind the scenes. Sign up here. Not sure? Learn more (& see what others think)...


  1. says

    We’re in a constant battle to keep the clutter down far enough that we can still walk around. Some days we win, some days the stuff wins.

  2. says

    I’ve been organizing like crazy too! I told my friend today I feel like I’m nesting. I’m not pregnant, but we are adopting. It started with just trying to get a bedroom ready, but the organizing frenzy has now gone through the entire house. I’ve got 2 closets left and I can’t wait to tackle them too!

  3. says

    Love organisation, but when it comes to KEEP it that way, I need to “re-organise every month or so, with children around, stuff seems to get messy over and over in and endless manner. The same as others, punch it and file it NOW, otherwise, later can become an unmanageable pile of documents not at all appealing to be tackled. Well, that’s the way it is, life is a constant organisation getting disorganised so that you can organise it again and keep going in a cycle all over again… Anyhow, greatly thankful to be reminded that I need to re-organise, once again! :)

    • Amy says

      I hear ya. I just spent the better part of the day going through clothes. My daughter said, “Didn’t we just do this?” Yes, we did. A few months ago. But they grow so fast!

  4. says

    A binder and a 3-hole punch are my best friends for paperwork. Keep a binder for each category (finances, writing research, decorating, recipes, etc.) When you finish reading something you’d like to keep, punch it and “file” it in the binder. You can also use individual sheet protectors that come punched with three holes, and slide the paperwork inside. Store the binders on your bookcase and flip through them wherever you are, rather than standing at the file cabinet and sifting through folders.

    • Amy says

      I agree that sometimes the most simple solution is the best, Darla! I can get so wrapped up in all my fancy apps and tools that I completely miss the point that organization should be straightforward. Thanks!

  5. says

    P.S. Might your next blog post be “How to get 75% of your homeschool planning done by next week” or something to that effect?!

    Pretty please?

  6. says

    Okay, you already got 75% of your homeschool planning done for the next school year, and you don’t consider yourself an organizational ninja?!!

    I don’t know how to respond to that!:)

    • Amy says

      OK, Michelle, here’s the truth. I just got back from a homeschooling conference and so felt pressured to get my homeschooling ducks in a row. LOL. I am a reluctant homeschooler myself and feel like such a newbie so my advice is, go to a conference and hope the serious homeschoolers’ enthusiasm and organization will rub off. Not the best tactic, perhaps, but that’s what I did. ;)

  7. says

    My Motto is: “Clean with courage!”

    In the past I found myself holding on to stuff for way too long out of FEAR that I would need it in the future.

    I have learned that there is a lot of “STUFF” out there, and God is perfectly capable of providing for my needs at the perfect time, so I don’t need to be a hoarder. :)

  8. says

    Thanks for the tips, Amy. I am always on the lookout for ways to keep myself organized. I do pretty well organizing things in my home and I am getting better at organizing (prioritizing) things in my business. It’s the organizing of the thoughts in my head that keeps me up nights. So, one of the tips I recommend is keeping a notebook. I’m sure it’s something you do as well. I keep a Spiritual Notebook for personal notes, one notebook each for my online businesses, a gardening journal, grocery lists, recipe books, etc. I keep such a long “to do” list going in my head that if I don’t write things down, I’ll go nuts trying to remember or forget them altogether. Great article.

    • Amy says

      Thanks Laura. Couldn’t agree more about keeping a notebook handy at all times! It stresses me out when I’m trying to remember it all in my brain.

  9. says

    In April, I did a lot of scanning of health and financial docs into Evernote and tossed reams of paper afterwards. On Saturday, I ordered a Kindle as the next step to making my life more portable. Thanks for reminding me of the resources for free ebooks.

  10. Jarm Del Boccioo says

    I try to deal with my snail mail as soon as it comes in the door…throw away, place on my husband’s desk, or open and put in an appropriate place if it is a bill, renewal of a membership, or a magazine to read later.
    The same goes for my email…it’s deleted, put into an email file for later retrieval, or, attended to immediately. I will unsubscribe from a mailing if I don’t need the info anymore, or, it comes to often and distracts me.
    Good work with getting your next year’s homeschool in order now…I plan to do that this summer when they are at camp!


    • Amy says

      Oh I am the same way with the snail mail. It’s not in here 10 seconds without most of it already in the recycle bin. :)

  11. says

    I’m trying to get rid of every piece of paper that I possibly can. I am scanning stuff instead of keeping random scraps of stuff around. And I have Mozy automatically back my computer up every morning, so stuff should be safe! I’m also a fan of the “Remember the Milk” software that is a to-do list on steroids. Couldn’t survive without this! I have all of my lists on this – everything from immediate (what to do today, this week, etc) to things to do someday.

  12. says

    Hey Amy – great post. My office could definitely use an organizational makeover. I was wondering where you got your shelving unit and storage baskets? They look perfect for my needs!

  13. says

    This was incredibly useful. I’m somewhat new to all of this and can get very overwhelmed running a business, a handful of websites and blogs, and more than a few other projects in addition to having a life and taking care of a house and my critters. I’m focused on paring things down and setting clear expectations for myself.

    I like the idea of having everything in one place, except that place is usually my desk and that place is also usually very messy. Instead, I try to keep it digital and organized or neat and tidy in folders on my desk.

    Thanks for the tips!

  14. says

    Amy, I love your site and refer to it daily. In response to Christina’s comment about wishing Pinterest’s boards were private – Springpad sounds like what she needs. Very similiar to Pinterest in that you can pin (Spring) things to boards (notebooks), but whereas Pinterest is mostly for images, Springpad is for anything. I use it for bookmarks, notes, lists, images – anything. You also have the choice of making your notebooks public or private – all mine are private. I am in love with Springpad – I find Pinterest fun – but Springpad is the best for organising anything you find on the web as well as being able to add your own notes as well.

    • Amy says

      Thanks for the tip, Margaret! I used Springpad for a while too, but then eventually switched to Evernote (they’re pretty much the same thing). Both are handy!

  15. says

    There’s nothing as awesome to me as the look of my home when it’s organized… I love it.. I need to RE-organize myself.. you’ve inspired me…Thank You!


  16. says

    I LOVE organization, but also have problems sometimes with keeping it simple. my biggest issue right now is that I need to go through older files and organize them into my newer system – stuff always piles up when I get really busy and then it’s a nightmare to sort out.

    I use Evernote, Google Calendar, Gmail, and currently LastPass, though I am not totally in love with it. I also love Pinterest for bookmarks, but am just waiting until (if?) they make private boards available so that I can REALLY use it for bookmarks.

    • Amy says

      Yes, private boards would be great, wouldn’t it? In the meantime, I use Evernote for this. :)

  17. says

    Hi Amy,

    I think the one tip I would offer is to create a separate business folder for each year. I use one of those ‘accordion’ like folder systems. I get a separate for each new year.

    I usually put the file into this order: Business #1 – bank statements, receipts, deposits, other.
    Then I do the same for business #2.

    That’s how I keep my business organized and so far it has worked well.

    When I no longer need the current year’s info (as in the following year after taxes) I put the folder in a large storage box with other years and I will keep them all for at least 10 years.

    That’s my ‘simple’ system and so far it has worked well.

      • says

        You bet Amy!

        This was the first time I encountered your blog, I will be checking back in. It looks like there are a lot of good, informative posts here. Thanks again Amy

  18. says

    I’m a new reader to your site and LOVE all the info! I’m a blogger in training. :) I have a question regarding the digitized documents. When you transfer books/homeschool material to the Kindle, are you just converting to pdf? Or is there a better file format to read on digital devices that is easy to do?


    • Amy says

      I use the Kindle version of the book(s) on Gutenberg Project and Amazon (linked above). Does that make sense?

      • says

        Oh ok! I thought you were converting your own material to digital form for e-readers (Something I’d like to do someday). I’ll need to research that some more. Thank you!

        • Amy says

          It is possible to put PDFs on your Kindle which I have done as well. To do that, plug in your Kindle to your computer and drag and drop the PDF into the Kindle Documents folder. Hope that helps!

  19. says

    I’ve struggled with clearing out everything I should, because I sometimes delete or throw away something and wish later I had kept it. Then I read a tip that said to keep an area in your home where you put everything that you intend to give/throw away. Put things there, then give, recycle, sell, trash, periodically. The trash file on e-mail operates on the same principal. I find I clear out more drastically when I know that I can change my mind later, but once an article spends time in the to go pile, I usually feel great about sending it on its way.