How to Organize Your Home in 2021

Take back your space with check-lists for every room in your place

Illustration by Vicente Nirō

We’ve spent a lot of time at home in 2020. Whether it’s the isolation seeping into our psyches or just too much time in the same place, you’re probably a bit tired of your space. From a make-shift office on the kitchen table to an impromptu classroom in the living room, your home has likely become a multi-purpose mess that’s spiralled out of control.

Given the circumstances, a bit of clutter makes sense. But overtime, the misplaced items and piles of junk take a toll on how we feel. A messy desk makes it hard to focus and a cluttered bedroom means it’s hard to unwind.

Use this guide to take back your space, put everything in its place, and find everything you need when you actually need it. Download our Todoist template on organizing your home for a step-by-step checklist on taking your home from disarray to order.

This blog post is part of our 2021 Goals Series. Change happens one task at a time. Achieve your goals in the new year with Todoist templates to help you start a side hustle, organize your tasks, and disconnect from technology (at least some of the time). Subscribe to Ambition and Balance for more blog posts in the series like How to Cook More at Home and to get future articles like How To Organize Your Finances and How to Read More Books delivered directly to your inbox!

Principles for Organizing Your Home

Before getting your space in order, room by room, kick off your decluttering process by keeping these principles for organizing your home in mind. They’ll guide you through deciding what goes and what stays plus help you keep your place neat and tidy weeks and months after your initial overhaul.

Five principles to organize your home

Things will get messier before they get neater

Organizing your home takes time. Through the hour-long stretches of sorting and the days of deep-cleaning, it’s helpful to remember that things will get worse before they get better. You’ll find long-forgotten boxes and amounts of dust you didn’t think were possible.

Before you take your space from messy to neat, you’ll have to cross a chasm of chaos where it feels like there’s no end in sight.

Push past the discomfort of piles of clothes on the floor and the flung open cupboards for the reward on the other side: a clean and clutter-free home.

Group like items together as you organize

As you clear out your closets and pull out items from under the bed, you’re bound to find odds and ends that don’t make sense. Create order amidst madness by creating piles of things that pair well. Bring together beanies and baseball caps while separating your cooking spoons from everyday cutlery. When your like items are together, you’ll get a sense of exactly how much you have…and what needs to go!

Discard and donate liberally

You probably don’t need the elephant trinket you got at that garage sale or the bright pink flamingo shirt you’ve never worn but have been keeping “just in case”. Embrace your minimalist side and get rid of the things you don’t truly need. Don’t get loose with the definition of “truly” or “need”. Consider a strict rule of discarding and donating any items you haven’t used in the past six months. There’s room to hang on to the things that bring back memories, but find a way to keep sentimental items to a minimum.

Label boxes, containers, and folders

For the things you do keep, make them easier to find by sorting them into boxes, containers, and folders with labels. Help out your future self and use labels to distinguish between the box of vintage yearbooks and the one filled with your business receipts. Don’t feel the need to splurge on an expensive label maker to distinguish your sugar from your salt in the pantry. Instead, buy inexpensive blank labels and fill them out with a marker or pen. Labels are an extra layer of organization that will make finding the things you need that much easier.

Find a place for everything (and always put things back there)

How much time have you wasted frantically trying to find your keys on your way out the door or blindly stumbling around in search of your glasses? Whether you live in a quaint studio or a sprawling two-story, our things have a way of getting lost in the shuffle. Give everything in your space a home of its own. The stapler goes inside the top office drawer, the punchbowl on the lowest pantry shelf, and your raincoat in the entryway closet. Keep them there and return them to the same spot after use. Choose spots that just make sense. You’ll better enjoy the things you have rather than going on a search mission every time you need something.

Before Organizing Your Home

To make the organizing process seamless and stress-free, follow these tips for preparing prior to decluttering your space:

  1. Schedule organizing and cleaning days. If you’ve spent time organizing before, you know cleaning out just one closet can take up the better part of a day. Don’t underestimate the task ahead! Spread out the work involved, room by room, over days or even weeks. Select and schedule your organizing days ahead of time and add them to your calendar or to-do list.
  2. Buy shelf, pantry, and drawer organizers that fit your space. Grouping like things together is easier with organizers like baskets and containers that fit inside shelves, cabinets, and drawers. Buy inexpensive containers you can use to store and separate your everyday household items. Aim for acrylic; clear containers are handy for seeing everything you have at a glance. On a budget, use cardboard boxes or boxes from other products –– they might not be quite as aesthetic, but they get the job done for free.
  3. Buy or make labels. Get a hold of some labels to organize the things in your home as you return them to the right spot.
  4. Buy cleaning supplies. Clearing out closets and emptying spaces is bound to bring some muck to light. Make sure you have cleaning supplies like a mop, broom, paper towels, and disinfectant handy to get your space sparkling.
  5. Research local charities. Donate any new or lightly used items you don’t need to local charities. Given you might be giving away everything from dress shirts to deck chairs, spend time researching multiple organizations who might have different needs.

With these prep steps in place, you’ll be ready to dive into organizing your home and reclaiming your rooms.

Organize Your Home

Organizing your home isn’t the same as a quick clean or a ten-minute tidy. It involves truly assessing the things in your home, getting rid of clutter, and putting in place a system so it stays well kept. We recommend taking on each space in your home, one by one. Organize your kitchen one day, your living room the next, your bedroom after that, and so on.

We’ve included a checklist of things you should do in each room. For a digital checklist version, download the organize your home Todoist template so you can check off each task as you go.

organize your home checklist

While many of the same principles will apply as you go from space to space, we’ve made these checklists room-specific to guide your cleaning and organizing quest.

Kitchen

Keep your kitchen clean, clutter-free, and functional for the next time you need to whip up a quiche or lasagna. Get rid of the food and items you don’t use, so your cooking space doesn’t make you cringe.

Organize your kitchen

Pantry, refrigerator, and freezer

  • Take everything out of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer
  • Throw away old and expired food items
  • Deep clean your empty pantry, refrigerator, and freezer
  • Put back your food items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Use acrylic storage and labels as needed
Organizing Tip: Consider cutting back on clutter with storage that helps you keep your food and snacks organized. For instance, put loose granola bags or tea bags in their own dedicated container. Use labels to distinguish loose foods, like “flour” and “sugar”.

Cupboards and cabinets

  • Take everything out of your cupboards and cabinets
  • Do a dinnerware, utensils, glassware, cookware, and Tupperware audit
  • Look through everything you took out of your cupboards and cabinets, deciding what will be thrown away, donated, and kept (e.g. plates and bowls, forks, knives, and spoons, serving and cooking utensils, glasses, cups, and mugs, pots and pans, Tupperware)
  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Deep clean your cupboards and cabinets
  • Put back all your cupboard and cabinet items, organizing them in a way that works for you

Countertops

  • Take everything off your countertops
  • Do an appliances, accessories, and cookbook audit
  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Disinfect and wipe down countertops
  • Put back your appliances, accessories and cookbooks, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Tuck away appliances you use infrequently to reduce countertop clutter
Tip: For your countertop audit, look through everything currently on your countertops, deciding what will be thrown away, donated, and kept (e.g. large appliances, small appliances, cutting boards, accessories and knick-knacks, and cookbooks). If you can store it out of sight, do it. The less visual clutter on your countertops, the more organized you’ll feel.

Microwave, stove, and dishwasher

Other

  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor

Living Room & Family Room

Clear out your living room to create the perfect place for weekend movie marathons and curling up with a good book. Get rid of the things that amount to clutter, but keep just enough to keep it cozy.

Organize your living room

  • Clear out clutter and anything that doesn’t quite belong
    Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Look through books and magazines
  • Take a look at old VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs, and records
  • Assess extra blankets, throws, and pillows
  • Examine accessories, knick-knacks, and random items
  • Go through old electronics, stray wires, and random remotes
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor
  • Put back all your living room items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Swap out old batteries in your remote and electronic devices
  • Look into innovative ways to manage (and hide) your cords and cables
  • Switch out any dead or flickering bulbs on lamps and light fixtures
  • Consider inexpensive baskets, chests, or built-in couch storage for a clutter-free look

Bedrooms

Keep your room a place for rest and tidy up the things that keep you stressed. Get rid of old clothes and shoes and craft the right space that’s uniquely you.

Organize your bedroom

Empty out your closet

  • Workwear and formal clothing
  • Loungewear and “home clothes”
  • Shoes, sneakers, sandals, and slippers
  • Bags, backpacks, wallets, umbrellas, and purses

Empty out the drawers, night stands, and any shelves

  • Underwear, sleep wear, and bathing suits
  • Accessories like jewelry, watches, belts, hats, and scarves
  • Books, stationary, pens, and paper

Everything else

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Put back all your bedroom items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor
  • Switch out any dead or flickering bulbs on lamps and light fixtures
  • Consider inexpensive baskets, chests, or built-in bed storage for a clutter-free look

Bathrooms

From empty shampoo bottles to raggedy old towels, toss the clutter that’s keeping your bathrooms messy. Make sure everything from toilet paper sunscreen has a spot.

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Shampoo, conditioners, and hair care
  • Appliances like curling irons, shavers, straighteners, hair dryers
  • Skincare like moisturizers, toners, and after-shave
  • Make-up like lipsticks, foundations, primers, and mascaras
  • Loofahs, sponges, and towels
  • Cleaning supplies, plungers, clean brushes
  • Medicine and supplements
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor
  • Put back all your bathroom items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Consider inexpensive acrylic dividers and cases for a clutter-free look

Home Office

Stay focused and do your best work in a clean and productive space. Take your office from messy to meticulous with paper and pens in the right place.

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Books, stationary, pens, and paper
  • Old documents and loose pages
  • General desk clutter and knick-knacks
  • Office electronics like a webcam, batteries, microphone, headphones
  • Put back all your home office items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor

Laundry Room

Ironically, the space for getting things clean can tend to be a bit of a mess. Keep your detergent close at hand and the fabric softeners nearby. Tuck everything else away for a later day.

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Laundry accessories: iron, ironing board, etc
  • Detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, etc
  • Spare towels
  • Put back all your laundry room items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor
  • Clean out lint from dryer hose

Linen and Storage Closets

Store what you need and bin what you don’t. Take out the faded linens you no longer use and keep the decorative pillow shams that spark joy.

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Bed sheets, pillow cases, shams, and comforters
  • Luggage and travel gear
  • New and unopened products
  • Batteries and back-up supplies
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor

Hallways

Walk through your home unencumbered by clearing out the hallways. Whether it’s moving boxes out of the way or clearing out the suitcase from a long-ago trip, take away the tripping hazards and keep corridors clear.

  • Pick up any misplaced and random items
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floor

Garage

Empty out the old oil canister and toss the dirty rags while keeping all the extras in order. Park your car in a tidy space.

  • Clear out the garage including cars, shelves, and cabinets
  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Power tools and appliances
  • Paint, cleaning supplies, outdoor supplies
  • Random items and knick-knacks
  • Put back all your garage items, organizing them in a way that works for you

Backyard

Get random items off your lawn and make your backyard a place to unwind after work and enjoy on the weekends. Wack away the weeds, clear out the deflated soccer ball, and put away the old toys. Tidy the deck and clean out the shed.

  • Sort everything into three piles: keep, donate, and toss
  • Outdoor appliances: hose, sprinkler, snow blower, lawn mower, etc
  • Games and toys: sports balls, pool noodles, chalk
  • Put back all your backyard items, organizing them in a way that works for you
  • Lawn care and landscaping: mow the lawn, fertilize, water plants, and pull weeds

Keeping your home picture perfect isn’t always realistic. Living spaces should be cozy and comfortable and that sometimes means some clutter. But when you feel overwhelmed with stuff and can’t find the things you need, getting organized is a path to peace of mind. It takes time to organize your home, but will be well worth it when you’re opening a neat closet, making dinner in a clean kitchen, and going to sleep in a bedroom that will be tidy in the morning.