10 Ways to Get Organized for the New Year

The new year’s a-comin’, and for many of us that means looking ahead and thinking about how we can make the coming year even better than the last. No matter what your new year’s resolution, starting the year out feeling a little bit more organized can put you in the right head-space to tackle whatever goal you set for this year. Check out our tips to help you get organized in the new year!

Related Reading: 5 Steps to Reduce Clutter in Your Space

There’s a cute quote that’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately: “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life,” but I couldn’t disagree with that more! For many of us, an uncluttered space means an uncluttered mind. No more digging through piles of stuff to find a pen or rifling through tons of bottles to find the aspirin when you have a headache. A tidy, organized space (and life!) saves time, energy, and headaches.

Whether getting organized is your new year’s resolution or you’re just looking to start the year out on the right foot, there are so many aspects of our lives that we can tackle. From finances and our schedules to closets and cabinets, we’ve rounded up 10 tips and tricks to help you get organized and kick off 2013 right!

Up Next: Organizing those finances

organizing finances

1)    Finances

Don’t you hate the feeling when you overdraft at the bank? Or realizing that you spent too much on treats this month and now you’re a little short on cash for bills? Taking a look at your finances can make a huge difference!

You can create a spreadsheet or use software like Mint (it’s free!) to track what you’re spending. To create a very simple budget, take a look at what you spend for a few months on things like gas, bills, groceries, rent or mortgage, and your pets and decide how much of your budget needs to go toward those expenses. From there, you can decide how much you want to put in savings each month, and whatever it left over is your funny money for treats like eating out or clothes shopping.

Going through all of those bills can be pretty stressful, so make sure you take a kitten break once in a while to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed!

Up Next: Get those piles of paperwork in order


2)    Paperwork

If your filing system is more of a piling system, it’s time to tackle those stacks of paper! Sort through those stacks of bills, notices, and bank statements, and make two piles: to keep and to shred. You don’t need to buy a shredder if you don’t have one. Many office supply stores offer secure paper-shredding services. Just call around!

For the “to keep” file, go through your filing cabinet and make sure your folders make sense. Consolidate and eliminate folders where you can, then file away the paper you just sorted through. Not sure how long to keep household records? This site has some helpful suggestions!

You can also opt for a paperless filing system. Instead of using a filing cabinet, scan the documents you want to keep and organize them on your computer in folders instead. Just be sure to back those digital files up on a USB drive or external hard drive. Tax time is no fun if you’ve lost all of that year’s paperwork! Unclutterer has some good tips for going paperless that are worth a read.

Up Next: Organize your closet

closet organization

3)    Closet

Is it a struggle to find anything in your closet or to close the door once you’re done in there? It might be time to take inventory!

Pull every item of clothing and every shoe and accessory out of your closet, and – you guessed it – make a few piles! I’d go with: keep, donate, and sell. A good rule of thumb for sorting through clothes is that if you haven’t worn something in over a year, you’re most likely safe to donate or sell it.

You can also make a store pile: if you’ve got very limited space, it might make sense to box up out-of-season clothes and stash them in the attic to free up room for the clothes you’re using now.

When you’re putting everything back, also take a hard look at your hanger collection. Hangers that are bent, twisted, or broken should also get the boot. It might seem nit-picky, but those disfigured hangers can often take up extra space, because your clothes won’t hang straight. For shoes and accessories, make sure that every item has a designated place. Get some big boxes or baskets to store things like purses and hats, and line up your shoes with the ones you wear most in the most accessible part of the closet.

Up Next: Kitchen cabinet organization

kitchen organization

4)    Kitchen Cabinets

It’s a good idea to sort through your kitchen cabinets once or twice a year, and what better time than in the new year? Pull out everything in the cabinet and check the expiration dates. Ditch the expired food, composting what you can and recycling the containers where possible.

Next, take a hard look at what you have left. Are you ever going to eat that can of beets? What about that processed box of cookies that a guest brought over but you forgot to open? Bag those items up and bring them to your local food pantry.

With the remaining items, store them mindfully – group items by type, and put things you need to use first in the front. Those beans that spoil in March should go in front, but that pasta sauce that doesn’t expire until 2014 can go further back, since you don’t need to eat it as soon.

While you’re at it, you may as well tackle the fridge! Pull everything out, wipe down shelves and drawers, compost anything any fruit or veggies that are starting to spoil, and make sure you’re putting your food back in the fridge the right way to make it last the longest.

Up Next: Get that schedule under control

day planner schedule

5)    Schedule

Do you feel like you’re always running late or miss too many appointments? It might be time to get that schedule in order.

You can use a paper planner or go electronic. For my schedule, I use iCal. It synchs on my computer and my phone, so I get reminders about everything from taking my vitamins to meetings no matter where I am. There are other free calendar programs out there, like Google Calendar, that let you synch your schedule up between devices, too.

If you prefer a paper planner, choose one made from recycled paper or make your own!

No matter what kind of planner you use, one key to keeping an organized schedule is to put work and personal appointments in the same place. This helps you avoid scheduling your kid’s doctor’s appointment on the same day as an important meeting and lets you block out time in your day by giving you an idea of your whole day – both at work and at home – at a glance.

It also helps to put every obligation on your calendar. That means going beyond appointments and meetings. Are you trying to work out three mornings a week? Block that time out in your planner so you don’t schedule over it. Do you have a big work project that’s stressing you out? Put time on your planner just to focus on that project, so you won’t over-schedule yourself.

Up Next: Unclutter your music collection


6)    Music Collection

Is your music collection taking up valuable shelf space? Unclutter your life and ditch those CDs! You can use programs like iTunes to rip the music to your computer, then donate your old tunes to goodwill or even sell those discs to a used CD store, if you can find one in your town.

Just like backing up paperwork, it’s a good idea to back up your music storage on an external hard drive, so a computer crash doesn’t mean losing all of your music.

Up Next: Organize your desk, drawers, and shelf space

messy desk

7)    Desk, Drawers, and Shelf Space

Organize your office and never hunt for a pen again!

Pull everything off of your desk, out of those drawers, and off of your shelves, and make sell, donate, recycle, and trash piles. When you’re putting everything back, make sure that each item has a space. Don’t shove anything into a drawer! Place things mindfully.

You don’t have to buy expensive organizers to keep your desk and office space in order. A cute coffee cup can hold your favorite pens and markers for easy access, and you can use reclaimed cardboard as a drawer divider.

Up Next: Create a landing strip

coat rack

8)    Create a Landing Strip

Is your foyer cluttered with piles of keys, shoes, purses, and sweaters? Instead of fighting it, embrace it! A “landing strip” is an area near the front door designed to hold all of the things that folks want to put down right when they walk in the door.

Hang a coat rack for jackets and sweaters, and place a small shoe rack and table underneath. The table should have designated spots where everyone can put keys or whatever pocket contents they normally dump in a heap. Maybe that means a small box or bowl for each member of your household or adding extra hooks right on the table for bags. How you organize your landing strip depends on what kind of clutter you’re dealing with, so take inventory and get creative!

Up Next: Meal planning

grocery list

9)    Your Weekly Meals

Instead of aimless shopping and frenzied meal-planning, sit down on Saturday or Sunday and plan the meal’s weeks. From there, you can check the pantry to see what items you already have, then make a shopping list with everything else that you need. Sites like Dinner Tool can help you choose meals and even automatically generate a shopping list to make meal planning fun instead of painful.

Bonus tip: Organize that shopping list! Group items on your list by type: produce, canned goods, frozen food, bread, crackers, etc. It will make your life so much easier in the grocery aisle.

Up Next: Tackle the medicine cabinet

medicine cabinet

10)    Medicine Cabinet

Like your kitchen cabinet, it’s a good idea to sort through the old medicine cabinet once a year.

Go through the medicine cabinet and your makeup bag and check those expiration dates, setting aside anything that’s expired. To dispose of makeup, empty and recycle (or reuse!) whatever containers you can. Disposing of expired medicine can be a little bit trickier. Check out this guide for tips on how to properly dispose of medications.

You’re almost ready to put everything back! Before you do, though, grab a rag and wipe down the shelves, so you’re starting with a clean, dust-free space.

Now that you have your makeup and medicines narrowed down to just what you want to keep, put things back thoughtfully. Nail polish and remover should go near each other, for example, and you’ll want to group medications, too. Put prescriptions together according to who they belong to, and organize things like cold and headache medicine so it’s easy to find when you need it.

Have you been trying to get more organized for the new year? I’d love to hear how you’re tackling the organizational challenges – big and small – in your life!

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Dubravka T.
Dubravka T.1 years ago

Thank you! These are useful points to organize things not only before New Year, but during the year as well

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

I already do all of this except meal planning, My medicine cabinet could probably use some love

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider2 years ago

Good advice :-)

Alison A.
Alison A.2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Sarah M.
Sarah M.2 years ago


Christina B.
Christina B.2 years ago

Articles like this one are my absolute favorite, since I love organizing stuff. Once a year, on January, I go through all the pens and markers in the house, making sure they still work and getting rid of the ones that don't.

The medicine cabinet is sorted through at least twice a year: packages are recycled and medicines that have expired get sent back to the pharmacy for handling.

Valerie A.
Valerie A.2 years ago


Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O.2 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Inari T.
Inari T.2 years ago

Timely advice - would you believe, just before I logged on I'd decided I should clear up my space, beginning with a complete review/reorganisation of my pantry! :-D

Celia Daniels
Celia Daniels2 years ago

I have several pencil cups around the house--by the phone, the computer, the desk, in the kitchen. Each one has a few pens and pencils in it, plus a Sharpie marker, a small pai rof scissor, a nail file, and nail clippers. This really helps me not search all over the house looking for a nail clipper or scissors in a hurry. And if someone in the family or a visitor asks for one of these I can just say--find a pencil cup!