Home > Articles

Principles to Live By When Organizing Your Home

This chapter describes eight principles that you’ll find relevant to organizing the spaces in your home. There are seven that tell you where to start and one that tells you when to stop. (Intrigued?) Many of them apply to other types of organizing, too, such as data and time management.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter:

  • Learn about the "homes" within your home
  • Begin thinking in categories and groups
  • Discern the key points of "containerizing"
  • Discover how to make tradeoffs to optimize your organization
  • Search for new storage options that defy gravity
  • Understand the importance of improving your decision-making ability
  • Prepare to develop systems to support your organizing efforts
  • Learn how to know when to STOP organizing

Here’s something you might find comforting, or unnerving, or both: There are no hard and fast rules for organizing. There are some widely accepted and respected guidelines, and there are principles such as the ones I’m about to offer you, but even the most universal of organizing concepts is not one-size-fits-all. The key word here is flexibility: Everything must be customizable person by person, and if a "rule" is not adaptable to your unique needs, it’s not valid.

This chapter describes eight principles that I think you’ll find relevant to organizing the spaces in your home. There are seven that tell you where to start and one that tells you when to stop. (Intrigued?) Many of them apply to other types of organizing, too, such as data and time management. If they inspire you to move beyond organizing your belongings at home and into also organizing your time, your paper, or your space at work, so much the better!

Understanding these principles from the outset will give you a significant head start toward the hands-on organizing coming up in later chapters: They allow you to take a much more targeted approach, because you’re better able to anticipate the results of your efforts, and you have a global perspective to keep yourself working according to your priorities. Carry these principles with you after you’ve reached your organizational ideal: They’ll help you make prudent choices when your systems need future updates.

Have a Home

Everything you own should have a home within your home—a place it belongs, fits, and can go to when not in use. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in its home very often (think remote controls that are put away only when company’s coming) but when it is time to tidy up, those reserved parking spaces must be accessible.

Adhering to this principle accomplishes two things: It makes it easy for you and anyone else in the household to put things away where they belong, and it forces you to decide, for every last thing you own, where it should be stored.

Choose a small area that is always cluttered in your home and look at each of the objects on that surface. Ask yourself where each of them belongs. If you don’t know or have never decided, well, there’s the problem: How can you put something away when it doesn’t actually belong anywhere?

Figuring Out Where Things Should Live

Assigning homes to every last object can be tough. Some things are easy, and they’re the ones most likely to be put away on a regular basis. Other things are difficult for a number of reasons:

  1. It won’t fit where you store the other things like it. For example, many people have far more bath towels than they have linen closet space; it doesn’t seem out of control unless you manage to get all of the laundry done at one time, and then you can’t fit it all into the closet!
  2. It is used frequently and getting it back out each time would be too inconvenient. This is why keys, phone chargers, remote controls, carryout menus, coffee-making supplies, calculators, and pens tend to live on the countertop instead of in a drawer, and it’s why there’s always a logjam of shoes by the main entryway.
  3. It’s a lone wolf that has nothing in common with anything else you own, so you haven’t figured out where it logically belongs. Consider that back-scratcher you got from Disneyland. It’s useful as all get-out and you want it handy when it’s needed, but where do you store something like that?
  4. It’s something you will have only temporarily, and you need to remember to do something with it while it’s there. A great example is a course of antibiotics: You leave the pills out on the counter to remind yourself to take them. Another example is the daily mail. In theory, you intend to process it each day. In practice, it piles up because it’s a to-do, not a to-put-away.
  5. When it’s needed, it’s needed quickly, so it tends to be never completely put away. Things like this might have kinda-sorta homes, like the fly swatter hanging from a stray nail by the back door. (Yuck.)
  6. It belongs to someone else. Other people’s DVDs and leftover containers often play a part in cluttering up our homes. The idea is to leave it out where you’ll notice it the next time that person comes over or you go to see them, but it doesn’t work that way: Their stuff becomes part of the landscape just as quickly as our own stuff does, and their visit won’t be enough to prompt you: You’re both likely to walk right by it as they head for the door.

Choosing homes for everything you own is hard enough. Then, getting stuff put away presents its own set of challenges. We’ll look at these in Chapter 6, "Making Homes for Your Keepers."

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020