From Stress to Sanctuary: 3 Simple Steps to an Organized Home

August 9, 2021
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Does your home relax you—or stress you out?

Home is supposed to be our “shelter from the storm,” the place where we can rest, restore, and feel... at home! 

But after a year plus of isolating and social distancing, you may feel more like the walls are closing in on you, than like you’re at a Zen retreat.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t take one more day neck-deep in your stuff ... you’re not alone.

Every year, I teach tens of thousands of people how to transform their surroundings into a place where they actually WANT to be.

A place that feels like an organized sanctuary—not a stressful, cluttered mess.

And of course, last year was unusual, to say the least. Many of us have about 18 months’ more accumulated stuff to deal with, even if we were “somewhat” organized before the pandemic hit, between all the extra gear (masks, hand sanitizer, etc.) and a pause on nonprofits accepting item donations. 

You may find that you now have a surplus of TP and other necessities, as you stocked up, just in case.

And as some people return to the office, some students return to the classroom, and travel and commerce open up and then scramble to address viral surges, our routines are changing... AGAIN.

Here’s the thing: There IS a way to STAY organized, no matter WHAT is happening.

And remember, it’s really not the getting organized, but the staying that way that’s likely your challenge anyway.

In fact, any organization system worth your time and investment should help you maintain calm and order, through ANY changes or transitions—the only real constant that IS guaranteed, after all.

That’s why these three guiding principles deliver the goods, day in and day out, no matter what else is going on. So here is the simplest, more direct path to getting your home organized and clutter-free—for GOOD.


Give every item in your household one and only one home. That means your keys are only ever in one of two places: on the hook by the door, or in your hand because you’re using them.

This rule is literally life-changing. The average person spends ten minutes a day searching for lost items. That’s over an hour a week.

With just one home for everything, you’ll never have to scramble for your keys, wallet, or phone again. You won’t be stressed, anxious, and constantly late. You’ll know exactly where everything is, because you planned it that way.

This doesn’t have to take a long time. Start with the biggest offenders—probably your phone and your keys. Take five minutes and identify a dish, hook, charging station, or other place in your home where they now live.

That 5-minute investment will save you 10 minutes every day for the rest of your life.


Group all like objects together—and I mean all. 

If you try to bend this rule, it will break YOU, not the other way around.

So don’t try to hack your way into having 3 different kitchen cabinets with cereal in them, because YOU have a good reason for this variation. You will only create confusion and waste time … I promise.

You don’t have rubber bands in a “messy drawer” in every room of your home. If you need rubber bands, you’ll only ever look in one place.

This works even if you have that super-secret closet that so many people have, piled high with a jumble of stuff, like Monica on Friends ... If you’re working with piles, that’s okay—just create piles of like items.

Like the saying goes, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Assemble everything you have that is similar, and only then do you decid what stays and what goes … and where each group of items can live together.

Get a clear picture of what you’re working with and what fits together. You might discover that you have five duvet covers and only one comforter. That’s great—now you know where to start when you’re ready to let stuff go.


Once you reach a point of stuff “equilibrium”—where you have enough of everything that serves you and nothing that doesn’t—you can implement the third and final leg of what we call The Organizational Triangle®

When something comes in, something else goes out. This is all about the achievable kind of balance … not that ever elusive “work-life balance! This one you can actually get to and maintain.

Only you know what the right number of sweaters is for you. Or books. Or shoes. Or … fill in the blank item.

Your space is giving you quiet but steady feedback on what fits. You can either listen to it or ignore it and try to shove more into a space than it can possibly hold.

But no one outside of you and your space has any useful number to share with you.

So if some minimalist is ranting on and on about how you should only have one perfect sweater or 5 books … you can just ignore them.

Have whatever serves you and that you have room for.

That requires a bit more attention than simply adhering to some rigid dogma … but it also puts you right in the driver’s seat … where you belong.

You won’t stay organized by boxing yourself in OR painting yourself into a corner or any other metaphor for limiting your choices based on someone else’s ideals.

SO, once you’ve reached the point of everything having a home and all like objects stored with each other and easily accessible, you ARE organized.

Staying that way ONLY requires you to maintain what you’ve built for yourself.

Don’t add more to the mix without getting rid of something while you’re doing it.

That’s why there’s a difference between getting organized and STAYING organized for life. 

This last rule is how you prevent clutter-creep even months after you first got organized, instead of going through an endless cycle of accumulating and releasing clutter.

Adopt “something in, something out” as a household rule, and this WILL be the last time you ever declutter your home again.

The Bottom Line

It’s been a rough year and a half, and most of us have at least a few drawers, closets, or heaping piles of stuff to deal with.

Your home should feel like a calming retreat, a sanctuary for your soul—not an additional source of stress.

Three simple steps can take your home from “disaster area” to “calm and collected.” I call them The Organizational Triangle®:

  • One Home for Everything
  • Like with Like
  • Something In, Something Out

Use them to get organized and stay that way—for good this time.
Ready to put the triangle to the test AND get your house in order? You CAN jumpstart this process—and get LIVE advice, instruction and support right here: Join our 5-Day De-Stress Your Mess Challenge, starting January 17, 2022!

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!