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If you’re like most people, you spend some time once a month or so getting your house and your life in order. But slowly, that organization seeps away, and the clutter keeps back in. If you’re ready to break out of this pattern and stay organized for good, check out these seven steps.

Small Goals

Tackling your whole house at once can be overwhelming, so you’ll probably stop before you even get started. Instead, pick one thing – a junk drawer or a closet – and do that, instead of diving headfirst into the garage or basement. With small goals, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to keep going and take on the more significant areas.

Time Yourself

Knowing you don’t have to spend the whole day on it is also helpful in getting motivated to start. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When time’s up, you can either stop for the day or, if you’re excited about the progress you’re making, reset it and keep going.

Tidy Piles

Use plastic bins to make neat piles—one for keeping, one for donating, and one for tossing. Using the containers keeps your collections organized, so you know exactly what’s going on and prevents the new piles you’re making from becoming part of the clutter you’re working to clear.

Use Labels

Plastic storage bins are great for keeping items long-term, too. Just be sure to label them so you can easily find what’s in them the next time you’re looking for something. This labeler is our favorite and a best seller.

Avoid Off-Site Storage

While it can feel tempting to rent a storage space and shove everything in there, it can lead to problems. Storage units are intended for short-term use, and the “out of sight out of mind” mentality can add up to a lot of money for space to hold the stuff you may no longer even need.

Create a System

And more importantly, stick to it and train everyone in your house (including the babysitter and dog walker) to follow it. Simple things like hanging up your coat right away or immediately throwing away junk mail quickly add up to a much more organized space.

Hire a Professional

When it comes to tackling those larger spaces like the garage or basement, working with a professional organizer can help alleviate the stress and feelings of overwhelm. Depending on the size of the area, it could take 10–15 hours of work – and it can be emotional. Working with a professional organizer makes it much more manageable.