1) Where you belong
Establish a place for everything in your house or apartment -- this could mean in a basket, on a shelf, inside drawer or on top of a rack . It doesn't have to be fancy: even just a nail in the wall is enough to hang a broom or dustpan.
2) Store smart
Don't go hunting every time you need something -- keep things where you use them! Put extra paper and ink cartridges near the printer, place a key rack and other hanging hooks by the door you most often use to enter/exit the house, and drop all the remote controls in a basket next to the TV/stereo. Add small trash and recycling bins to any room where you will use them to save you from making repeated trips to the kitchen or garage.
Keep similar items together. Here are a few examples:
- Place all first aid supplies together -- from bandaids to rubbing alcohol to pain relievers -- in a basket inside a bathroom cabinet or drawer.
- Designate a basket or bin to hold all of fresh batteries (and make sure it's big enough to handle packs of D batteries as well as AA and AAA multi-packs).
- Don't store flat sheets on one shelf and pillowcases on another -- keep the entire sheet set together to make changing the bed a more efficient process.
- Store all of your camera's bits and pieces -- extra film or memory cards, lenses, filters, cleaning cloths, manuals -- in a bag with or alongside your camera.
- Put napkins, placemats and trivets in the drawer below the silverware to make it super quick to set the table. Serving utensils should be stored with the flatware, too.
Find two boxes of the same kind of cereal -- and both are open? Take the bag from the first box and tuck it into the second. Same goes for all kinds of dry goods: tea bags, potato chips, bandages, etc.
If you're not obsessive about lining up your jewel cases all in a row, take your discs out of their cases and instead sort them in a CD/DVD binder or wallet. (Some even have space for the CD booklet.) You will save lots of space, and taking them in and out will be a breeze.
6) Daily, monthly or yearly?
Make frequently-used items easily accessible, and store away the things you need only rarely. For instance, if you use your crock pot daily or several times a week, keep it on the counter -- but if you only use that slow cooker once a month, instead store it in the back of a low cabinet. (And if you use it once or twice a year... are you sure it's even worth having?)
7) Do you still need it?
If you don't use it, get rid of it. Unless it's a beautiful decorative item or a cherished memento, why are you keeping it? Pass it on to someone who really wants or needs it -- either to somebody you know personally or a local charity.
8) Make it easy to be neat
Do what you can to make tidying up as simple as possible. For example, use hooks instead of hangers for coats, take the lids off storage bins and hampers so toys and clothes can just be dropped inside, and choose cabinetry with roll-out shelves or drawers instead of doors.
9) The bottom line
Make one simple rule: "If you get it out, always put it back right where it belongs after you use it." It's usually pretty quick and painless, and will keep clutter from getting out of control. Soon, you won't have to waste precious minutes trying to find the missing flashlight or dog's leash or tape measure -- and you can spend your time instead doing something you love.