An important key to cleaning up your life starts with organizing your room. When we think of influence, we usually think of others, life experiences and personal goals. But our space has a big influence on us as well.  Whether it be the bedroom, home, office or workshop, every place and every space impacts you in some form or fashion.

From subtle to significant, a space’s organization, appearance and smell all leave an impression on those who interact with it. A clean room projects feelings of safety, security and serenity while also communicating the characteristics of responsibility and discipline. A messy room communicates creativity and chaos, along with  feelings of disorganization, carelessness and uncertainty. Personally, my spaces tend to fall under the latter category.

Why allow yourself to work and live in a space that does not ultimately benefit you? If you happen to be like me, organizing sounds like a lot of work that simply isn’t worth it. While living in a little clutter can seem carefree at first, it can quickly become overwhelming. From personal experience, let me tell you: It’s not worth it. As a veteran of several black hole situations, with consistent encouragement and a little pleading, I finally decided to listen to my mother and get organized.

As one season seamlessly fades into the next, you might feel that the opportunity to get organized has come and gone. But take my word for it — it’s not too late. There is no better time to start the journey of organizing a space than the present. (Right, mom?) Here are some tips, courtesy of my wonderful and patient mother, that helped me successfully face the daunting task of organization.

Step 1: Declutter, Declutter, Declutter!

Decluttering can be a big task. Whether it be an office or bedroom, the task  seems never-ending. A simple way to reduce the enormity of the job is to divide and conquer. First, grab a trash bag and gather up any and all trash that may or may not have accidentally missed the trash can.  (If this doesn’t apply to you or your space, I would like to congratulate you on not living in a total pigsty.) Now, instead of taking on a whole space, make several different categories. Focus your attention and efforts on one specific group at a time.

While this approach may seem more tedious, it allows for a thorough cleaning by eliminating the possibility of distractions from less important categories. By handling each category individually, you’re given more opportunities to experience feelings of accomplishment.

After the initial decluttering, accomplishing organization can feel nearly impossible. My advice is to ignore any and all feelings of discouragement. Keep moving forward!

Step 2: Prioritize and Purge

Next comes the purge. But before we can purge, we have to prioritize. What it ultimately comes down to are three questions:

  • Do you use it every day/often?
  • Does it have a useful or unique purpose?
  • Does it inspire joy?

If it fails to fall into one of those categories, dump it. Those trendy booties you only managed to wear a handful of times in the past year aren’t worth it. Neither are the lucky basketball shorts you haven’t worn (or fit into) since the glory days. In the case of any work space, cars included, if it’s not used daily, it has no reason to be seen daily. Carve out a space, either a drawer or a box, for important documents or tools.

Step 3: Designate and Destress

Having a designated place for every object is necessary for successfully maintaining organization. This is key because by assigning a place for each object or category, you eliminate time spent desperately searching for that account file or the beloved LBD. This is especially helpful in small spaces, as it tends to maximize the amount of usable space.

Step 4: Show Some Respect

What we all learned in preschool is still true: treat others how you want to be treated. Why not apply the same ideology to your space and its contents? Would you want someone to come in throwing your papers everywhere or slinging your nice jewelry this way and that? Treating spaces and the contents that fill it with respect will not only result in less self-inflicted wear and tear, but will also encourage the practice of treating other places with respect.

Step 5: Give a Little, to Get a Little, to Make a Lot

After everything is organized and pretty, you will feel confident in how far you’ve come. But the journey is not over. In fact, it’s far from being over. To enjoy what you’ve worked so hard for and to maintain the benefits, you have to put in the few extra minutes here and there, whether that be putting stuff in its place or making your bed. You have to give a little time, to get a little benefit, to make a lot of difference in the way you organize your space.