Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs — Intro

Does your life run like clockwork?

Does your life run like clockwork?

As a former engineer I’m all about systems and problem-solving. And, as a student of fine arts, and a certified home stager and interior re-designer, I’m all about making things look nice. But as a professional organizer, function takes precedence over form. Who cares how pretty your laundry hamper is, if your dirty clothes are still lying on the floor? Who cares how neat and tidy your office looks, if you can’t find your stapler when you need it?

A system is just a methodical way of doing something that produces consistent results. Share on X

What is a system?

A system is just a methodical way of doing something that produces consistent results. So, you may have systems in place, but are they still working for you? Even the best system needs to be reviewed periodically, and adjusted as necessary.

6 Systems

Let me share with you the six basic organizing systems I think everyone should have in place for effective daily living. By “effective daily living” I mean your house is not cluttered to the point where you are embarrassed to have friends over; you get important tasks done on time; and you are able to enjoy your life without the stress that results from NOT having systems in place that work for you and your family.

1. Doing Laundry
2. Doing Dishes
3. Launch Pad
4. Paper Flow
5. Clutter Flow
6. Getting Stuff Done

Which of these systems do you already have in place? Which ones are working for you, and which ones aren’t? (Please share in the comments below!)

5 Questions

To implement, or fine-tune, your systems try asking yourself these five questions:

1. WHO is affected? WHO will do it?
2. WHAT needs to be done? WHAT tools are needed?
3. WHEN and HOW OFTEN should it be done?
4. WHERE will we do it? WHERE will we store our tools?
5. WHY do we need this system?

You may notice I haven’t included this question: HOW? That’s because there are often many ways to accomplish good results. When working with clients my job is to find a system that works for them, not to force them to do what works for me or someone else.

Now let’s take a closer look at each system…

First System: #1 Doing Laundry


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  1. Janet Barclay on May 3, 2012 at 10:44 am

    When it comes to daily and weekly routines, my husband and I are a great team: we each know our jobs and schedule when it comes to dishes, laundry, mail, and pet care, and have designated spots for nearly everything. It’s a bit more challenging to deal with occasional tasks, like taking unwanted items to the donation centre or shopping for stuff other than groceries. Do you have any suggestions for ensuring those things get done?

  2. Hazel Thornton at on May 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Janet, great question! Those occasional tasks need to be scheduled too, or at least considered on a regular basis. So you could have a running errand list and add donations and shopping as you recognize the need. Or, you could make a re-usable weekly checklist that includes donations and shopping, and simply cross them off if they don’t need to be done that week. My personal trigger for taking donations is if my donation bin gets full. Then I put it in the car and work it into my other errands. Do you think any of these ideas would work for you?

    • Janet Barclay on May 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

      I love the idea of the running errand list. Then when something HAS to be done, we can deal with anything else that is on the same route. Or, when we see a bunch of errands that are close together, we can plan an outing for one or both of us to look after them. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Susan Terkanian on May 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Hazel, you are a woman after my own heart. Good, concise post with great info. You rock!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks, Susan! Your comment made my day!

  4. Linda Samuels on May 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I love the way you describe the essential systems for daily living and leave the “how” to be determined based on personal preferences and styles. For those that need to have their systems tweaked or established, you provided wonderful questions to get us thinking. Thanks so much, Hazel!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Thank you for your validating comment, Linda! I tend not to give how-to tips, per se, because not all tips work for everyone. And yet, to “hear” the things I have to say requires a bit of reading, and thinking, and deciding what to do for oneself. And not everyone has the attention span for that. But that’s what I have to offer.

      • Kerin on June 3, 2024 at 4:52 pm

        I too appreciate that style. How to tips are just directions and everyone has different needs, preferences, and styles. Plus having to think things through helps it sink in.

        • Hazel Thornton on June 9, 2024 at 5:40 am

          I agree — me telling you what to do in a blog post doesn’t help you with your unique situation, or help you deal with changes in your situation. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Seana Turner on February 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

    I love the way you think, Hazel. Breaking it down into 6 systems appeals to me at a core level:) I’ve had people tease me about being so systematic, BUT that is how you get things done. I agree that function needs to come first. I’ve seen many beautifully decorated rooms that look awful because there is a mess all over the place. Or gorgeous women, with perfect hair and make-up, who aren’t happy because they feel “out of control.”

    • Hazel Thornton on February 14, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Thanks, Seana! Wow, what a good analogy — a gorgeous woman with perfect hair and make-up who isn’t happy because she feels “out of control”. Thanks for commenting!

  6. […] TWO- Hazel Thornton of Organized for Life has a wonderful series on developing Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs. […]

    • Hazel Thornton on November 27, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Thank you for linking to this blog series!

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