Are you chronically disorganized or do you live life disorder-free? Few of us land on either extreme. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, research tells us that keeping our lives clutter-free and organized increases both happiness and productivity.

For more than 25 years, author and professional organizer, Julie Morgenstern has been helping people create their own systems for managing their time and space. Morgenstern first appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show where she introduced the world to –  S P A C E – an acronym to simplify the approach to decluttering our homes and home offices.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach that is so popular today like Marie Kondo’s The Art of Tidying Up. Both approaches are effective if you think of decluttering and organizing as a learned skill. As long as you find a winning formula that matches your personality and style, you too can be successful at creating and maintaining systems for organizing.

It’s worth noting that it is not uncommon to be organized in one area of life and not in another either. For example, most jobs require organization skills in order to be successful. In other words, your being paid to stay on top of things so you can be productive and keep systems flowing optimally (and profitably!). When we get home, it can seem like a chore to keep our closets, kitchens, and garages organized.

If you really want to declutter and organize your home finding a successful plan of attack will be transformational. SPACE is a step-by-step procedure that anyone can learn to make their homes genuinely livable. Find your winning formula.

SORT 

When you are ready to declutter don’t start by throwing things out first. Instead, group everything into similar categories. Oprah says, “This is really important if anybody is going to think about doing this.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by putting everything into one big pile.

In cases of extreme disorganization, categories are jumbled throughout the house. Categories can be as broad as dishes, clothing, and shoes. Or, as detailed as china and everyday dishes, black pants, and winter shoes.

It may be tempting to start getting rid of things at this stage but that could distract you and become discouraging.

PURGE

Once you put like items together, it’s easier to see where you have duplicates or what is broken and needs to be replaced. You also may find you’ve got too much of something making it easier to decide what to donate to your favorite charity.

When it comes to closets an easy rule-of-thumb that we hear all of the time is that if you don’t use it then it’s probably time to lose it. However, other areas of the home may take more effort and thought to purge. If you’ve got furniture or appliances to donate arrange to have them picked up by a local charity. National charities that offer this service include Donation Town, Goodwill, and The Salvation Army.

If you simply don’t know or are unsure about whether to keep something it’s okay to create a “Decide Later” pile. Once everything is organized in your home, you’ll feel a sense of empowerment making those tougher choices easier to make.

ASSIGN A HOME

Determine what shelf or drawer or where in the closet or pantry something belongs. However, before you can take this step, you need to assess if there are obstacles that will prevent you from maintaining it. Every mess may look alike but there are different reasons they exist in your home.

Maybe things are piled up because there isn’t a home for them or accessing the designated storage space is inconvenient. Getting out the step ladder or climbing up to the rafters in the garage to put things away will make it difficult to put things away on a consistent basis.

Where you assign a home for everything that is easy to remember and access on a daily basis will influence your ability to get or stay organized. For items that are seasonal such as skis and snowboards or things like family heirlooms that you plan on giving to the kids one day, consider longer term storage solution.

CONTAINERIZE

As your putting things away, it will be much easier if you think in terms of containers. These aren’t just big storage bins either. Think of a container as a system of storing like items together in a larger space.

You can get containers for everything from silverware drawers and pantries to elaborate systems of garage organization systems. Containers offer a cue to family members on where to place items. If you’ve got young children or a forgetful partner, labeling the containers and shelves in the kitchen will make putting away dishes much easier for the whole family.

EQUALIZE

Once your system is set up, you need to integrate a maintenance program. Morgenstern recommends a clean up routine that you take as seriously as brushing your teeth. Take the time every single day to implement cleaning up and putting away, “Just like kindergarten,” she says.

What is important to know is that organizing with the acronym SPACE – Sort. Purge. Containerize.  Equalize. – is not only a system but it is also a skill. Oprah points out that organizing is a learned skill and that if you start to sort and purge at the same time it can be exhausting.

Many of us have to retrain ourselves to learn effective systems of organizing. Maybe mom or dad did all the clean up for us when we were growing up. Or we were forced to keep our beds made to military standards as a child and decided to rebel as young adults and never make the bed again.

Time management and energy management are the keys to living an organized and productive life. Oprah says she used to be exhausted by organizing but that the beauty of the SPACE system is that works really well once you learn it.