5 Steps to Organize Anything

Today I’m welcoming a new regular contributor to the blog.  Her name is Shannon and she blogs at aka Design, which is a terrific DIY blog that she writes with her hubby.  Shannon also loves organizing and is going to share that passion with us when she blogs here.  Plus she is a Canadian girl too and I didn’t even know until after I asked her to be a contributor here that she in fact lives very close to my parents and sister in Ontario.  How cool is that!  I’m especially excited about it because it means we’ll eventually get to meet in real life when I go back for a visit. Welcome to the blog Shannon!


Having an organized home is one of my very favourite things. When a space is organized, it is peaceful, quiet, inspiring. It’s restful and Zen. Okay, so I’m not so into the Zen thing. But an organized home is certainly a refuge for its inhabitants.

Imagine a morning without searching high and low for the car keys or that missing red mitten – where on earth could it have gotten to anyway?

Imagine emptying the dishwasher and having a place for every last corn cob holder, gravy boat and cereal bowl.

Organizing each room down to its tiniest corner is really much easier – and more fun – than it sounds.


Much like Laura’s PROCESS, I’ve followed the same 5 Step system for years to organize everything from a sock drawer to the bathroom cabinet to the garage. Okay, hubby organizes the garage, but I’m sure you get the point.

These 5 Steps work for anything and everything. Check it out…

Step 1. Sort

Place like with like. This isn’t the time to be super neat. The mess actually has to get worse before it can get better. Just create piles of similar things. If you’re cleaning a playroom for example, make little heaps of toy cars, legos, dolls, etc. If it’s the kitchen pantry, put all the crackers, condiments, soup, etc. in their own ‘piles’.

Step 2. Edit and eliminate

After your things are sorted, decide what you want to keep and what you don’t. Get rid of anything that’s broken. Go ahead, toss it. You don’t need it. Donate any items that are in good shape but that you haven’t used in a while. Be realistic here. The exception is that if it’s got true sentimental value, store it. Otherwise, adios.


Step 3. Assign a home

Assign a home for the items you are keeping. Once you have sorted and eliminated, you should have a pretty good idea of how much space you need for each ‘pile’s’ items. Assign homes in cupboards, on shelves, etc. for these things. Put the things you use often within easy reach. Things that are used infrequently can go up higher or in a slightly less accessible place. (Do you have a small appliance like an extra crock pot that gets used only during the holidays, like Laura? There’s no use having it take up kitchen space, maybe it can live in the laundry room.)

Step 4. Shop

This step is my personal favourite, just because I love shopping! After your ‘keep items’ have a place, you can shop for pretty containers, baskets, labels or whatever you need to get and stay organized. But be sure to do it after the first three steps have been completed. You don’t truly know what you need until you have sorted, eliminated and assigned homes for your things.  Don’t forget to check places like Ikea, Dollarama and Michaels for some great storage solutions. Also shop your own house for containers, you may be surprised by what you already have.

Step 5. Maintain

Put things in their place. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes in each room to get everything back in its place every day. You just have to do it. When you’re finished with the TV remote, put it away. Done with the cereal? Back in the cupboard it goes. It’s so simple when everything has a place.

So, now do you see what I mean? Once the first four steps have been done, the last one is a cinch and you can sit back and enjoy a neat, tidy, organized home!

shannon acheson Shannon Acheson is a passionate interior decorator, frugal DIYer, sometime graphic designer, wannabe writer, homeschooling momma and adoring wife. She is the co-owner (with hubster) of AKA Design and the main writer/designer for the blog of the same name. Shannon recently moved from a war-era bungalow to a cozy backsplit in Oshawa, Ontario with her husband and their three children, and during spare moments can be found scouring local shops for decor bargains, rearranging the furniture again, or scrubbing paint off her hands.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Organizing Basics


30 Responses to 5 Steps to Organize Anything

  1. 1
    Laura says

    I would really love to get my place organized, as it BADLY needs it. You make it sound so simple! But with a rented townhouse, 2 small children and a messy husband, and limited funds, I’m just at a complete loss.

    So, what tips do you have for someone on a tight budget who has limited space, but can’t really make many changes (i.e., hanging large things on the walls, installing cabinets, etc.)?

    • 1.1
      More Than A Mom says

      I’d say start with organizing like-with-like and declutter, Laura!

  2. 2
    Shannon (aka design) says

    Hi Laura,

    I would still begin with sorting and then definitely editing and eliminating. If you have a messier-than-you spouse, it’s especially important to not have extra stuff kicking around. Simplify and streamline. That will make a huge difference. As for two young children and all their stuff, the same goes. When our kids were smaller, I used $1.99 Ikea plastic bins for toy storage. The dollar store also has more storage options than it used to. Start having them help tidy up a couple of times a day…maybe before lunch and before dinner or bedtime. I don’t promise this will make them neat and tidy on their own, but it will make them used to being asked to tidy up as they get older.

    Does that help?

    • 2.1
      Laura says

      My main problem is that there just isn’t anywhere to PUT anything. I feel like I’ve gotten rid of a lot of clutter, but we still have so much…stuff.

      • Shannon aka design says

        I hear you! We just moved, but for the past three years 5 of us (plus doggie) lived in a 1050 square foot bungalow with no basement and no garage. Unfortunately when kids are smaller there is more stuff associated with taking care of them. Sometimes the best you can do in the short term is to keep sorted piles – a sort of organized mess, if you will.

        If and when you shop for furniture or storage pieces look for ones that perform double duty: our coffee table is an old chest type one that holds our sleeping bags but at one point held our board games, we have cheap Ikea baskets under our $9 Ikea Lack end tables that hold blankets (but could easily hold toys or diapers & wipes, etc if needed), our previous hutch held our glassware in the top and homeschool books in the lower drawers, and our old dining room seating was banquet type that held files and out of season decor stuff.

        With a small budget and small space you have to be extremely creative!

  3. 3
    claudia says

    As an organize freak:) i love your blog, always has amazing ideas and tips. Welcome Shannon! I am from Ontario too. :)

    • 3.1
      Shannon aka design says

      Hi Claudia!
      Nice to ‘meet’ you!
      Is it sunny in your part of Ontario today?

      • claudia says

        Nice to meet you too Shannon. I am a new follower on this blog, can’t get enough of it. hehehe Yes it’s super sunny today, can’t wait for my baby to wake up so we can go for a nice walk. :) We live in the GTA area.

        • Shannon aka design says

          Fun! We just moved from Ajax to Oshawa. I’ve been stuck inside painting all day though! What does your blog title translate to? (Love the eyelash extensions, btw!)

          • claudia says

            Oshawa that’s great!!! Thank you, i just had it done last tuesday. Was really curious about it. Thanks so much for checking out my new blog. I am new to blogging. Still learning a lot. Petit Joujou is french hard to translate but it’s like saying my little baby , my little ( when you have something precious to you , you can say it’s my “Petit Joujou” It’s also my baby and mommy’s online boutique.:) Still not sure if i should keep that name as my blog…
            Take care and keep posting awesome ideas.
            Love it!!!

          • claudia says

            sorry to bug again but i have a quick question non related to subject. I subscribed to this blog and to your blog but i can’t find it under when i click on the blogs i follow i can’t find either.:( Sorry i am new to this. Do you see me in your list?
            thank you

            • Laura says

              Do you mean my blog Claudia?

              • claudia says

                Hi Laura yes I couldn’t find your blog and also Shannon’s blog on my list after i subscribed. So i tried to add it manually and it worked. youpiii :) I think it’s cause i am with blogger. Sorry to bug i am new to this, I was wondering if i wasn’t doing it right or i didn’t subscribed to your blog properly.

  4. 4
    Aukele says

    Thank you for this – especially the shop step, I’ve never started to organize when I wanted to because that part always got me… The light bulb just went off in my head!

    • 5.1
      Shannon (aka design) says

      Feels good, yes? Thank you for the welcome.

  5. 6
    Jane says

    Hi Shannon!
    I just came across your blog tonight and love it and all your ideas. I will definitely be following you from this point on. I’m so glad to be able to follow a Canadian Blogger and one that Is in my area as well. I’m from Ajax so we are neighbours. So often I see great ideas on other blogs but when it comes to finding products used, they are not available in Canada. I am always looking for ways to organize and de clutter and I’m currently on that quest now. A year ago we were to have moved out of our current place due to the landlord wanting to move in, however that didn’t happen and do not know when it will happen. But as a result I am half packed and half unpacked. Once I get my place organized to my satisfaction, I plan on going back to those packed boxes to see if I really need to move what I’ve packed. If you have any tips on making this job easier I would appreciate anything you have to offer!

    • 6.1
      Shannon (aka design) says

      Hi Jane (neighbour!),
      We just moved and I also just donated 4 (four!) boxes of kitchen stuff to the Goodwill! Their contents were some of the first things I packed back in October. This week I opened them one at a time, took out a couple of things and realised that if I hadn’t used the rest in three months, I could probably live without them!
      I would suggest you do something similar – one box at a time.

  6. 7
    Laura says

    Hi Laura (great name!). Great post. My problem is that I never seem to be able to find exactly the right storage options that are practical, and stylish. At the moment I’m looking for a recipe organiser that will hold all my odd recipes printed out and ripped from magazines over the years. Any tips on where to look for this, or other good storage options?
    Also, I love that lamp on the chest of drawers. Just lovely.

    • 7.1
      Shannon (aka design) says

      Hi Laura,

      Have you thought of a pretty binder with page protectors for those recipes? I have recipes my Mom hand wrote out for me when I got married…a couple of favourites got more than a little worn until I put them in page protectors. If you can’t find a binder you like, you could buy a plain one and cover it in fabric or contact paper?
      I typically get good storage from Ikea, Homesense and occasionally online.
      P.S. the lamps are from The Home Depot!

    • 8.1
      Shannon (aka design) says

      Fabulous idea, Pam! One small space at a time – like a pantry – is the perfect way to do it!

  7. 9
    Debbie says

    Great post, Shannon! I’ve never been here before, I followed you over from your blog. This looks like a fabulous site! And congratulations on being a new contributor!
    I’ve got to move & organize my craft/sewing/DIY area, from the workshop to the rec room. I’ll have more room (since my husband’s business takes up most out there)…necessary since I seem to have acquired a lot more ‘stuff’! I’ll be following along with you, Laura, thanks for a great site!
    Debbie :)

    • 9.1
      Shannon (aka design) says

      Ooh! Have fun with your bigger space, Debbie!

  8. 10
    Julie Fulmer says

    Love these ideas! Always looking for new ways to organize!

  9. 11
    Mary Jo says

    How do you get your less organized hubby to put things back? I will ask my DH, “where did you get ‘whatever’ from?” But he just can’t remember. He also has a problem of “seeing” things; it’s not that he is visually impaired…some people say it’s because he’s a guy (LOL). He will ask, “where is ‘whatever?’ I will go to the area he is looking and point it out…boom! It was hiding in plain sight. “Oh, that’s where you keep it.” In his defense, he is starting to grasp the concept of ‘like items together”… but I need help! Thank you for your suggestions, for your wonderful site and insight.

  10. 12
    VicBurk26 says

    I really need to get my house cleaned up and organized. I am tired of all the piles of clutter that bulid up because I never take the time to clean and put things away. Thank you for putting the process into just a few steps that make sense and keep me from losing my mind.


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