Many people think that a good organizing plan needs to be a complex one. This could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, good organizing is a simple system that works for you —the less complex the better. It is about choosing the best way to organize the "stuff" in our lives, so we will be able to retrieve it quickly and easily.

Whether your desk is mounded with stacks of paper or your closet looks like a tornado hit it, the steps you need to take to achieve order are basically the same for any organizing challenge you might face.

Set your organizational goals and make them realistic. Don’t try to organize every area of your life at once because this will be too overwhelming. The most important thing to remember with any organizing task that you tackle is to be realistic with your expectations and what you can accomplish in the time you have allotted.

Break your organizing task into small manageable pieces. Like any other project we undertake, our only real hope for success is to identify the action steps and complete them one by one. The same thing is true about getting organized. Instead of saying that today is the day you are going to organize your entire office, try selecting one specific place to start like the top drawer of your desk or your briefcase.

So what do you do next?

Once you have decided where to start, the rest is downhill. Follow these simple steps and you will be assured of making measurable progress in a short period of time.

1. Remove items from the designated area.

2. Sort the items by grouping like things together.

3. Toss or recycle the things you no longer need. Ask yourself why you are keeping it and if it still serves a purpose. If you are still having trouble “letting go,” then ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you toss it? If you can live with your answer, then get rid of it.

4. Containerize items to keep similar items together and make it easier to retrieve them. Use drawer dividers, file folders, binders, and appropriate storage boxes for this purpose.

5. Replace items in the designated area.

Commit to a logical system that works for you and maintain it. Once being organized becomes a habit, it will become second nature and a part of you. You will begin to do things in an organized way without consciously thinking about it.

Author's Bio: 

Barry J. Izsak, CPO® is the Immediate Past President of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), author of "Organize Your Garage in No Time" and co-author of "Exploring Productivity." He is a national speaker, founder of ARRANGING IT ALL™ in Austin, Texas, a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and a Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist (CRTS). For more information, visit