If you’ve recently gone on an organizing binge, you’re feeling pretty good right now. Where you once had clutter, chaos and stress, you now have organization, order and calm. How great is that? So … what do you think your space will look like in a couple of months? Will it still be just as calm and orderly as it is today? If you’re like most of us, probably not. As new belongings and activities come into your life, slowly but surely the disorder and clutter creeps back in. After all your hard work getting organized, that’s the last thing you want. Isn’t it?

Fear not! Below are nine simple strategies to help you maintain order and stay organized longer.

labelsLabel, Label, Label

If you haven’t done so already, label where things go. This subtle reminder will help you remember what goes where and provides a source of extra guilt in the case of an unexpected urge to cram things into too small a space. It’s also great for letting your family members know where things belong.

Does This Go Here?

Now that you have a place for everything, when you go to put something down ask yourself “does this go here?” If not, take the extra few seconds to put it where it belongs. Putting things back where they go right away is the single best defense against clutter.

Build-in Room for Expansion

Does your newly organized space have room for growth? Do you have empty space for all the new items you’ll be bringing into your home in the upcoming weeks and months? If after organizing your closet, cupboard or kids room, the space is filled to capacity, it’s only a matter of time before you’ve got a clutter crisis again. If you can, build in room to grow now. Clear out just a few more items, those you were on the fence about keeping, and create a space for new things as they come in. Keep an empty bin or two in your newly organized closet, an open section in your pantry, or a clear shelf on your child’s bookcase. Having room to grow will help you reap the benefits of your organizing for longer.

Create an Overflow

A similar strategy to building in room for expansion is to create an overflow area. The overflow area holds extras, things like the extra bottles of rubbing alcohol you bought on sale. Your overflow area can also hold items like hand-me downs you receive from friends or family. Make a note in your main storage area to remind you what lives in the overflow.

One In, One Out

Another maintenance option is adopting the “one in, one out” rule. This is where you make a commitment to purge one item every time you bring a new one into a space. If you buy a new shirt, purge an old one. If you buy a new pair of shoes, donate a worn out pair. And so on.

Routine Maintenance

Take steps to regularly maintain your order and organizing. Consider decluttering every day, say for ten minutes each evening before bed. Turn on some great music and rally your family together for some quick decluttering. Can’t bear the thought of dealing with it every day? Consider scheduling an hour each week to de-clutter. (Remember, it’s probably easier to find ten minutes every day instead of a full hour one day a week. Plus, if you declutter daily you’ll always enjoy the benefits of an orderly home.)

donation binPurge As You Go

Set up a bin or space on a shelf to store things you no longer need. Move items to this area as soon as you decide you don’t need them. I recently cleaned out my closet and kept a pair of khaki pants. I went to wear them one day last week and they just didn’t work. They were uncomfortable and I didn’t like how I looked in them. So, off they went and I wore something else. These pants headed straight for my Goodwill bin in the basement. Since I rejected them once, I know I’ll never wear them (at least I wont wear them and feel good about it) so it’s time they quit taking up space in my closet. As you come across items, especially clothing, that you reject, purge them right away! Make it easy. Put a “donate” or “sell” bin in each closet of your home.

Scheduled Maintenance

How about setting up routine times for a deep purging at least twice a year. Tie this to an event to make it easy to remember and plan around. You could schedule your purge to coincide with time change weekends, the start or end of the school year, or birthdays (a great strategy if you or your kids get lots of new stuff on your birthdays.) Or tie it to your bi-annual dental exam check-ups which has the added benefit of an unsolicited reminder. The trick is to tie the deep maintenance to an event, so two times each year you’ll remember to purge before your collection of stuff gets out of control.

Monthly Maintenance

Maintain a different room each month. January you could organize the kitchen. Do the home office in February. Organize your closet in March. And so on.

From the list above, pick a maintenance strategy or two that fits your lifestyle and makes sense to you. Be sure to record your decision on your calendar now, while you’re still thinking of it ;). With a little planned maintenance you’ll enjoy an organized and clutter free home for the months to come!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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