Open Spaces’ guide to creating space in your home (and life)

Photos by: Open Spaces

Home should be a counterpoint to the busy world – a space for downtime, rewarding activities, and spending time with loved ones. But, the busy world has a tendency to come clattering in, and it takes mindfulness to make your home into a haven. When it comes to the foundation of comfort and enjoyment in your life, a little organization can go a long way. The following 10 steps from the team at Open Spaces will guide you through the process of creating your own flexible and sustainable approach to organizing your home.

1. Think of organization as a skill, not a trait.

It feels nice to be called organized. The downside? It sends the message that organization is something you’re born with. But like just about anything else, you can learn to be organized. It’s all about building the skills to create the systems that work for you, and it gets easier over time. For inspiration, we look to the work of Carol S. Dweck, Stanford researcher and author of the acclaimed book Mindset.

She claims that having a fixed mindset, or believing that your skills and abilities aren’t changeable, keeps you from learning. A growth mindset, on the other hand, or believing that you can develop your intelligence and abilities over time, can give you the power to grow.

This applies to organization skills as much as anything else. While some of us are born with a knack, teachable skills make up most of what it means to be organized.

2. Set up your space for what’s important to you.

When you’re getting organized, it’s important to think about why you’re doing it. We like to say create space to enjoy. That means organization is for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s about setting up your space in a unique way to allow or encourage spending time doing what brings you the most fulfillment.

Here’s a guided exercise to help you think about what’s important to you and how your space can support it. Grab a pen and paper and hit play when you’re ready.

3. As you’re getting started, bring everyone into the conversation.

If you live with others, you probably already know, it can be complicated. But getting organized together can also be incredibly rewarding.

The process can help you learn to support each other. Plus, when you get organized together, you share ownership over the upkeep. When everyone is bought in, your systems for staying organized can stick so you don’t need major overhauls.

4. Create the right mood to enjoy the process.

When you make organization feel better, it’s easier to get started and organize more often. Everyone is different––candles, music, podcasts. Here’s a selection of our go-to tracks to get started:

5. Organize in little windows of time.

Organization doesn’t always need to be a big overhaul. Little windows on a regular basis can help you create a habit without getting overwhelmed or exhausted.

If you have…

5 minutes: Collect all your mail in one place. Put away the dishes or shoes. Fold and put away any clothes that have been sitting out. Collect all your spare chargers and cables in one place, or clean out your wallet.

10 minutes: Clean out a kitchen cabinet. Open your mail and shred or recycle what you don’t need. Photograph and recycle any bits of paper you’re keeping for reference like business cards or a flyer. Organize by category of belongings like putting all your batteries in one container, travel adapters in another, etc.

20-30 minutes: Go through one category of clothing in your closet and donate unnecessary duplicates or things that don’t fit. Go through your bathroom cabinets and discard anything that’s expired or you haven’t used in the past 6 months. Corral all your cleaning supplies in one place. Organize your bookshelf and make sure you’re not holding on to anything you’re never going to read. Go through all your hanging clothes, collect duplicates and the items that don’t fit, and drop them off to be donated.

6. Give everything a home.

Having a set place for everything builds good habits, creates calm throughout the home, and helps you remember where it all is.

We’ve provided a few questions to help you get more realistic about where an item should go, based on what context you use it in and how often: Who uses the item? What is it used for? When do you access this item? Why do you have it? How often do you use it?

7. Keep what reflects you.

Here’s the part where we talk about getting rid of things. Whether we like it or not, it’s a part of organization. We like to think about keeping items that reflect you and getting rid of what doesn’t.

Just as a mirror seems to create space, items that reflect you have the effect of creating space in your life for what you enjoy. Often, we collect things based on versions of ourselves that aren’t true at this point in time. That’s okay, but sometimes we need help realizing what’s going on.

The exercise below is meant to help you figure out what you should keep or let go of, with practical questions like: “Have I used this in the past month?” or “Would I buy this again?” At the same time, we’ll guide you through the emotional process of letting go.

8. Find a second home for what you don’t need.

Letting go of what we don’t need can help us create space for what brings us enjoyment. Plus, sometimes it just feels good. We’d recommend first looking to friends who might be able to use what you won’t. For the next best things, use the resources below to give your items a second life.

Donate: Call the charity of your choice to arrange for a donation pickup or drop bags off at a donation center. A few good local options include Goodwill and Salvation Army.

Recycle: Check your local listings for recycling centers nearby or the E.P.A. website for more options.

Sell: More people wearing secondhand clothes means less waste. ThredUp is a great way to shop and sell clothing with a smaller impact on the planet.

9. Embrace a little imperfection.

Getting organized feels great. But a little contained messiness here or there might even make your space feel more lived in or enjoyable.

10. Allow organization to be an ongoing process.

With organization, consistency is the name of the game. Be flexible. Move things around often. And pick a regular time, whether it’s right before bed or on a Sunday afternoon.

We’ve provided a guided organization below that you can use in different places in your home. Block out a little time, hit play, and create space to enjoy.

For more articles on creating space, check out Creating a joyful workspace and Octave’s tips for mental health.