Simple Saturday ~ Guest Post by Mohamed Tohami

10 Rules of Thumb to Get and Stay Organized

A guest post by Mohamed Tohami

Mohamed Tahomi

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.” – George Carlin

Think about that quote for a second. Electrical power is the backbone of modern industrial society, and is expected to remain so forever.

Standup comedian George Carlin, describes electricity in a brilliant, funny and shockingly true way.

If you organized lightning you’ll have the same electric form that you get from the flow of electrical charges in an electrical wire.

This fact made me think of the true POWER OF ORGANIZING.

We all know that organizing our lives, spaces, work, etc is beneficial. But have you ever thought that through organizing you can acquire or create what is equivalent to electric power in your life?

The same way decluttering gives you a sense of relief and accomplishment, organizing shapes what matters most in a form that leads to increased productivity and easiness

Organizing your life leads to more FLOW!

When you organize your life, you’ll achieve more things faster and you’ll find it easier to navigate through and deal with all aspects of your life.

Organization is more productivity, more easiness and hence more flow.

Think of an organized wardrobe, for example. You’ll easily find your way to what you like and feel confident wearing. And you’ll do that faster than you used to. With a disorganized wardrobe, you will find difficulty to find your best matching items, you’ll feel frustrated every morning and you’ll forget about items you purchased and really look nice wearing.

Here are 10 rules of thumb to get and stay organized

 1.Don’t allow things to pile up:

“If you really think about it, each task would only take you a minute or two to complete. However, if you let them all pile up for days or even weeks at a time, they become an overwhelming burden.” – Andrea Dekker of Simple Organized Living

Clutter or chaos is easy to deal with on the spot. But when it piles up, you will need more momentum to start an organizing task.

So, start now while it still takes only a minute or two.

“Clutter is postponed decisions” Barbara Hemphill

2. Avoid everything multiple:

Don’t do many things all at once. Start with a drawer, when you finish it go to the next item in your life. Avoid everything multiple.

It exhausts the mind and consumes time.

Divide the work into digestible tasks and deal with one task at a time. Otherwise, you will get exhausted easily and quickly, and the chaos will take over again.

3. Barter:

For every new thing that comes into your life, throw out an older corresponding item immediately.

That works very well with new items of clothes. When you shop for new clothes, keep in mind that you are going to throw or donate older items.

That’s a good way to avoid feeling guilty after shopping.

Like organizing leads to flow, the secret to organizing is to keep an eye on the flow in your life. Chaos and disorganization happens when the inflow of material is at much higher rate than the outflow.

4. 75% full: 

When a storage area is 75% full, think of decluttering and organizing immediately. Don’t allow the storage area to be full while you have something new that you don’t know where to keep or store.

“Take action when your storage system is 75% full.” – Werner Tiki Kustenmacher

You’ll most probably find a lot of outdated items that you can get rid of easily.

When you have more room in your storage area, you’ll make space for new objects to enter your life and that will bring you more enjoyment.

5. The one place:

Werner Kustenmacher in his book, How to Simplify Your Life, shared a golden principle of tidying up: “everything has its place – one place.”

Keep a specific place for each item that you use or deal with frequently.

How many times did you forget where you placed your keys?!

Got the point?

90% of all people regularly have to search for lost objects. (study conducted by the opinion research institute EMNID in Bielefeld Germany, on behalf of Simplify Your Life book)

If everything has its well known ONE place where you keep it, you’ll decrease the rate of your forgetfulness dramatically.

6. Keep an eye on your desk

The desk where you work is probably the most important place where you should start organizing immediately.

It’s been said that: “An orderly desk is an orderly mind.”

When you work in an organized environment, your mind will be clear, focused and able to do better work.

7. Give room for some disorder

 Staying organized requires some work. Constant monitor for your environment might lead to tiredness. And this can lead to you giving up on organization completely, which is not good.

 When you feel tired take a vacation. You need at a certain point to give up and accept some chaos and disorder in your life.

 Find the ideal balance between organizing and disorder.

Chaos will occur at any chance. So, you’ll always have to pay attention. That’s why you need to give your attention some rest to keep going.

Any empty space attracts superfluous objects like magic.

8. Always ask the golden question

“If it were stolen, would I replace it?”

Ask yourself the question above to decide whether you need an item or not. I see it as a super brilliant and effective question to make up your mind and get rid of things that you no longer need, but think that you might get to it one day.

As a rule of thumb: you need only half as much as you own.

9. Start with the horizontal areas

When you organize start with what is clear to the eye. Start at the horizontal surfaces

Deal with anything that is not in use or should be stored somewhere accordingly.

When your eyes are at ease with your surrounding environment, you’ll be encouraged to dig into the hidden or covered areas.

10. Go for quality over quantity

Don’t organize or deal with anything that’s not top quality.

Get rid of anything that you’re not 100% satisfied or proud to own.

The poet Somerset Maugham once said: “It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it”

Don’t keep low quality items hoping that you might get down to it someday. That day probably will never come.

In his blog, Midway Simplicity, Mohamed Tohami shares simple living ideas that fall midway between extreme frugality & radical minimalism and the hoarder’s extreme fear of deprivation. If you’re looking for more mainstream simple living ideas that are not too harsh for your lifestyle, then give a visit to Tohami’s Midway Simplicity blog and start enjoying more with less.

Today’s Mini Mission

Saturday –  Declutter unused sports gear. In my case the ski clothes we no longer use. It is a good time to put it all on eBay here in Australia as we are going into winter. We kept these in case we had the need for heavy coats but we haven’t done so in five years. If we do have a need in the future we will pick some up cheaply at the thrift store.


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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Great post Tohami, thanks. I love “clutter is posponed decisions”. So true.

    • Thanks Katharine. I’m glad you like it. I believe we get ourselves into more trouble in general by having postponed decisions.

    • Thanks Katharine – re: comment below – well done on your bedroom transformation, I think I remember some months ago you were at the early stages and it seemed like it would take forever? Its awesome that you finally got there.

  2. Great post Tohami! I love the 75% full principal. It is so obvious, how did I miss it until now? Thanks heaps!

  3. This is good. I too like “clutter is postpones decisions.”

  4. I’m also going to take on board the horizontal area advice, in our dining area which is next to our entrance way, is a dresser/cabinet which houses wine glasses, vases, etc. The top of it has become known as our “launch pad” because that’s were everyone drops everything on the way in, anything that needs attention, anything that anyone doesn’t know what to do with, and it has also turned into a docking station for phone, camera & iPod chargers.

    My mission for today is change that.

  5. Calico ginger

    Fab post – just what I needed as I am deep in the process of amalgamating my mum into my home. Long exhausting days of decisions and lists… Can’t think what I would have done with 365less things to keep me focused and encouraged!

    • Thanks Calico. Simplicity can’t be associated with long exhausting days. We can’t use complexity to reach simplicity 🙂 Just do it in baby steps, like Colleen’s 365 approach and you’ll find it much easier.

  6. Great post ~ just in time for some re-organizing in my home.

  7. Wow, I’ve been over at your blog and checked it. You have some great things to say, but rather too much to take in at once for me. (here as well)
    I feel a bit overwhelmed.
    I think, I’ll just stick to “one thing a day” regarding these tips as well. For now, I picked the 75% – full – idea, as it has been new to me and I’m still not quite there.
    The further along I go this way to less, I wonder where I did cram all this stuff before. I mean, I got rid of more than 100 books in the last few months and my shelves are still crammed full. Same goes for clothes, dishes etc.
    No idea how this over-abundance ever fit in my cupboards in the first place.

    • Hi Sanna – I know what you mean. I had friends come up for Easter weekend, I was very pleased with myself ie the progresss I had made decluttering and how easily it was to prepare the house for visitors without all the excess. However over that weekend my eyes kept finding all the areas that still need work, small piles of stuff that were the last 5% of declutter that needed me to sit down and go thru carefully, the last bookcase that needs going thru etc. I forgot how far I had come and focused on the negative instead of the positive.

      • Moni, I think, you hit it: It probably NEVER fit in the cupboards and I just forgot that the tops of the cupboards had been full as well, boxes on top of the shelves or underneath the sofa that are now gone… Haha. I really forgot that for a moment.
        I think, I’m ready for another round… Eyes adjusted 🙂

        • Hi Sanna – you have put it better than I could have. It didn’t fit. So instead of me patting myself on the back and saying “Well done, you’ve combined three large bookcases down into one” I was bummed that it didn’t look all streamlined and neat. In the meantime my friends were wow-ed cause the house looked so much roomier compared to last visit.

          • Well done Moni for achieving so much your friends notice. You are right, it is so easy to focus of what is left to do, we forget to acknowledge how far we have come.
            Our bedroom is know permanently tidy since the great dedecorate and further downsizing of my husbands clothes. Everything now has its place in there and I am fairy confident we will both work on a one in one out policy from now on.

    • Thanks for saying it out loud. I sometimes wonder where all the stuff had been, too. I really have decluttered a lot by now and feel that I still have so much more stuff and clutter than I should and that streamlined or minimalist aren’t terms anyone would think of when seeing my home. “Orderly” at best by now …
      I have to admit though, that I am a bit proud of my cramming abilities (because it really saves spaces if you know how to pack). But I am also proud that I don’t use this “superpower” in and on every cupboard and shelf (and underneath and behind … ;-)) anymore.

    • Using Colleen’s 365 approach decluttering become much easier. And of course, you don’t have to apply all the tips at once 🙂

  8. Wowza! Lots of great ideas & actions to gleam from this post! Well done!
    I especially connected with the following bullet points.
    1. “Don’t let things pile up”.
    2.”Don’t organize or deal with anything that’s not top quality. Get rid of anything that you’re not 100% satisfied or proud to own.”.

    If I see that things are accumulating in the same spot at our house – there’s usually a reason. It’s because the current spot isn’t working & this spot does – so if that’s the case – make that the new “spot”.
    But if things are accumulating in a certain area & it’s not because it’s the best place for it….it’s usually because we haven’t yet found “the best place for it”.

    The part about not organizing things that are not top notch hit home with me.
    While I’m far from being a brand-name snob…I’m even farther from being someone who settles for sub-par. Nowadays, I tend to do a ton of research before I buy something & if that item fails to meet my expectations, I return it without hesitation. But having said that……there are quite a few underachieving items laying about my house that I need to tend too. Things like crummy plastic kitchen food storage containers come to mind.

    Great guest post Mohamed! I’m saving this one to my favorites!

    • Thanks a lot Jane. I’m glad you’re adding this to your favorites. I love what you said about returning anything that fails to meet your expectations. I believe we all need to follow you.

  9. Hi There,

    I thought I had it all working smoothly and then I get another bunch of great tips. Thanks for that and I too have added you to my Faves List. Love your site keep up the great work 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Wow, I’m catching up (I’ve been sick), but I like the ‘would you replace it if stolen’. I left my camera in a cab a few months back, and no, I haven’t replaced it. I have a smart phone now, which is always with me. The camera was always being switched on to low batteries, or needing to be taken in and out of the case (to protect it sure, but it was a bother too…) INteresting, as I wouldn’t have knowingly decluttered the camera!

    • Hi Snosie – I’m hoping to get an iPhone but am waiting for my current phone to ‘die’ first – do you like the iPhone? Easy to work?

      • I don’t have an iPhone. I use Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini. Small and Simple.

        However, I own a MacBook and an iPad…and I can tell you that Apple is the company of simplicity and elegance. You won’t regret owning an Apple’s product.

      • I have an old iPhone 3 Moni, but I think it is lacking in many ways. I believe from what others have told me that some of the other smart phones are better. Do your homework before deciding.

        • Hi Colleen – my sister has iPhone 4 and swears by it and can’t understand why I don’t sell one of the kids on ebay to buy one already! I will get one eventually but my current phone is in good working order.

    • Yes! We tend to keep stuff that we don’t really need. That question helped me a lot too. I love the camera example. Not only don’t you need it, it also bothers you 🙂

    • Hope you are feeling better now Snosie.

  11. I love the “75% full” advice also. It clearly makes sense when you read it, but apparently it’s not obvious because if it were, we’d all be doing it already 🙂

  12. Love the remark about the plastic containers. My daughter started selling Tupperware and I have bought some containers from her. Now, i have to reorganize my cupboard with all the plastic tubs and containers that held the yoghurt and goodies that I get at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. At least, I can recycle them. They do pile up quickly and I like bringing lunch things in them but there is no recycle at my office so I have to bring them home, wash them and then recycle. Guess I should just do it first and use my new Tupperware. Funny, the things we find we collect. Perhaps if I had less “tubs”, I’d have less leftovers in my fridge! 🙂 I can do a few of them this evening while dinner is cooking.
    It would be nice to reach into the cupboard without having tons of lids falling out.

    • Hi Maggie,
      I think it would be wonderful if we went back to using glass containers that got returned to, sterilised and reused by the supplier. That has got to be better for the environment than reprocessing all that recyclable plastic. Heavier though I suppose and more susceptible to breakage.