Ever wondered how to organize a room? No worries. I have the BEST simple tip to organize any space in your home.

Sometimes it’s not just about how to organize, it’s about the why’s and decisions behind the organization process. I was so frustrated with all my stuff until I discovered the number one tip to organize any room.

how to organize a room tips

Over here at thistlewood we’ve been talking a lot about organization lately.

We’ve chatted about ideas for organizing under your kitchen sink.

We’ve discussed my favorite way to organize a linen closet.

We’ve talked about what we call the drawer where everything ends up in the house and what to call it.

We’ve even discussed how I organize a day in my life.

And all that organization is amazing.

And wonderful.

And makes me so happy.

But truth? So many times keeping your house organized or organizing a room isn’t really about the actual organization process. I know might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the real solution isn’t about organizing at all. Instead, it’s so much deeper than that. It’s more about the reason why it all got there in the first place.

I’m a big believer in the process.

And all that process and analyzing the why and the reasons that all the stuff piled up, led me to this tip.

If you can apply this to all your stuff? You can organize any room and more importantly?

KEEP it organized.

how to organize a room bookshelves


Here goes.

(takes deep breath)

Let’s start with an example. We’ll start with one of the most challenging areas in most people’s homes.

The kitchen counters.

Kitchen counters are a magnet for stuff. Everything ends up there. You walk in from the car and put your coffee cup on the counter. Homework books show up. Random pieces of odds and ends like straws and Tupperware and pens and paper and notes and receipts and water bottles.

It all collects in one place and you walk into the kitchen and look at it and it overwhelms you.

All. That. Stuff.

So you shove it into drawers or put it all in a basket or just leave it on the counter hoping it will all put itself away.


Here’s the truth. Here’s what I want you to hear. It all shows up there because every single thing on that counter is a DECISION. A wonderful friend of mine named Kathi Lipp told me that once and I’ve never forgotten it.

All that stuff is just sitting there waiting for someone to tell it what to do.

Where to go.

Where to find a home.

how to organize a room putting things away

That’s the real reason why things aren’t organized.

No one has DECIDED where they need to go.

Does this make sense? I know it looks like I’m stating the obvious, but it’s an obvious that so many of us overlook. That stuff sits there for days and sometimes even weeks before it leaves its place on the kitchen counter.

And the solution?

Here’s my tip that works to organize any room. Are you ready? Drum roll, please.

Have a place for everything and then put everything in its place

Because when you have a place for everything? It takes the DECISION out of your hands.

Remember when we talked about my morning routine? The reason why the morning routine works is because all the decision-making has been taken out of the equation (especially first thing in the morning before you’ve had coffee). I wake up and when my feet hit the floor, I head to the bathroom and I wash my face. Then I stretch. Then I have a quiet time. Then I finish the rest of my morning routine.

The morning routine works because I don’t have to decide what to do. It’s already all been decided for me.

That’s just like organizing.

You have to figure out where everything goes and give it a home.

Let’s go back to our original kitchen counter example.

  • The coffee cup goes into the dishwasher and then into a shelf for just coffee cups
  • Homework books go on a shelf in the kitchen (or a basket)
  • Extra straws go into a plastic bag of straws and then into a container with all of the paper goods
  • Tupperware (why do all those extra lids show up all of the time) should be matched with a lid and stacked on a shelf together
  • Pens go into the junk drawer
  • Receipts go into a file folder
  • Water bottles go on their own shelf

If you know that everything has a place, it’s so much easier to keep everything organized because all the DECISION-MAKING has been taken out of the process.


So now we have the basic principle of organizing.

Deciding where it all goes.

Before I add the rest of the solution, let me start with encouragement. If you are looking at your kitchen counter right now and it’s covered with stuff. No worries.


I’ve got some actual real-life ideas and inspiration to put all that stuff away. Then you only have to decide once where it goes once.

Here are some places to DECIDE where it all goes:

I could literally keep listing ideas, but my list was getting long.

So I thought of another solution.

Remember that post from long ago with all of those great solutions for quick snacks to keep on hand in the pantry?

I still read all those comments.

I’d love to have a list of comments about organizing like that over here on this post. So if you have an organizing tip or if you have something that needs organizing or you don’t have a place for right now, just leave it in the comments and I’ll comment back with a solution.

Then we can all organize together.

Decision making is so much more fun with friends. 🙂

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  1. Image for Elaine Elaine

    Hi Karianne, I have a Beatrice Potter cookie jar (Mrs Tiggy Winkle) on my worktop in the kitchen. No cookies have ever been in it! I use it for all my receipts, I know exactly where they are and I sort them out when full, approx twice a year. Also much easier than having them stuffed in your handbag when you need to find one, maybe to return something to the shop? Any jar will do the job, I just prefer one thats also pleasing to the eye. Mines sentimental, my husband bought it for me from our first baby 42 years ago. As our son now lives in New Zealand, its a daily reminder of him! 🥰

    1. Image for Ann C Ann C

      Elaine when I read your comments a meme popped in my head that I remember reading recently. IF YOU TAKE ALL THE RECEIPTS OUT OF YOUR PURSE AND POCKETS AND STAPLE THEM TOGETHER, YOU WILL HAVE A BOOK OF WHY YOU ARE BROKE. 🥰 I love the idea of a cookie jar that is so sentimental as convenient and cute storage!

  2. Image for laura nuss laura nuss

    genius! Right now i have the following on my island : low cal ice tea lemonade container matches cookies to ship to #3 for care package spray cleaner honey bear notepad ( to stay organized) remote scissors 3 super absorbent cleaning cloths! ha! and fresh snow out my window I think i just wrote a blog post 😉❄️

  3. Image for Fiona Fiona

    Great post and so true! My husband always tells our friends that I'm awful about throwing things away. But, I always tell him I don't throw anything away that has a place where it belongs. All you gotta do is assign it a place - and then put it there =)

  4. Image for Betsy Betsy

    My straightening method has become being honest about what I really need, toss and donate the rest. No more one use appliances, dozens of pens by the phone charger etc. etc. This may not work for everyone but it sure has given me breathing room and less clutter.

  5. Image for michele coffey michele coffey

    Recipes...I print out the recipes I try and keep the print out if we like it and I plan on making it again. I don't like clutter around my house and don't want to keep a binder out on my counter. I like to have a recipe in hand...not on my phone/computer. I need a way to organize all the print outs! Right now they sit in a drawer and I go through a pile of papers when looking for one recipe. Thanks!

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Michele, I found the cutest recipe binder here with clear sleeves: https://amzn.to/3suGRd1 (affiliate)! It might be a solution! KariAnne

    2. Image for Jenn Jenn

      So I purchased an app called Paprika and instead of printing out the recipes you go to any web based recipe and save it it the app. It has a calendar in the app and you can choose your meals for which days and build your shopping list all in the app. It is a huge lifesaver for me and I don’t have to print recipes anymore.

    3. Image for AnnTN AnnTN

      I have a binder full of printed out recipes. I have an idea. You could get a pretty recipe binder, for the recipes, and keep it displayed on the counter on a book stand. It will always be right there when you need it. :)

  6. Image for Donna Gerardi Donna Gerardi

    You always have the best ideas for us, thank you. And can you tell me where you got that lovely checked blouse? It looks beautiful on you.

  7. Image for Debby Debby

    I love the idea for the hanging container of grocery bags. I fold them and place them on pantry shelf, but they seem to migrate to places where they are not wanted. I also sent the link for the battery container to my husband, who is always searching for the appropriate battery. This suggestion may be too specific to the quilters in this group, but might apply to all crafters using patterns. I have printed my pdf patterns and organized them in darling fabric binders by category (e.g., large quilts, lap quilts, children/baby quilts, pillows, single quilt block patterns, etc.). I did this on a whim when my sewing machine was making an unexpected 3-week (aaaaggghhhh) repair vacation and I was having serious withdrawal symptoms. I love it. The shelf looks cute and I know where the patterns are stored.

    1. Image for Lynne Lynne

      I used to keep grocery bags in empty square tissue boxes. Fold them and smash down inside the box, holds about 5 bags. Then I'd recycle the rest. Last year at an antique shop I bought an old, small trash can with a pedal to open the lid. Washed it up, and now put my grocery bags in it, it sits on my pantry floor. I keep about 10 bags, recycle the rest.

  8. Image for Kirsten Kirsten

    Good morning! I am struggling with how to re organize my terrible closet which has sliding doors and isn't very big. I am also struggling with where to put my folded clothes as I have just minimal drawer space. Any advice would be wonderful. Thank you.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Kirsten, I actually ordered these this week and they came yesterday! This might solve your folded clothes challenge: https://amzn.to/3ojcRzt (affiliate)! KariAnne

    2. Image for Jodie Filogomo Jodie Filogomo

      We LOVE our bed with the drawers under it (from Ikea) which helps so much with having room for our folder clothes. Granted it's not an easy change like ordering something from Amazon, but it's a thought?? XOOX Jodie www.jtouchofstyle.com

  9. Image for Carol Anderson Carol Anderson

    My best little helper has been my double pocketed wall calendar that hangs via command hook on the inside of a cupboard door. Receipts, bills to pay, cards to be sent, income tax necessities, appt cards, business cards, schedules, and as you can see I really use it! My problem is like another reader in that I've got a mt of printed recipes. HELP!!

    1. Image for Terry Terry

      My husband is a wonderful cook! One year for Christmas I got him a large, heavy-duty, 3-ring notebook and dividers so he could create his own custom recipe collection. When he finds a great online recipe, he prints it, adds any notes about preparation, and files in plastic sleeve protectors in the notebook. We recently had to expand to three notebooks - one for desserts and one for drinks. This may seem no better than a hardcover recipe book but in this one he only has the recipes that he loves, are reliable, and wants to make over and over again. It's easy to toss any that don't work for us.

    2. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Carol, I just found the CUTEST recipe book with sleeves here: https://amzn.to/3IVocxt (affiliate)! KariAnne

  10. Image for Nan Clute Nan Clute

    I like my counters and everything very Zen. Just a few basis (coffee). No extras. And everything has a home…plus I have worked very hard to simplify our life. It is so easy now to keep up! Tell us about the checked blouse! Too too cute!

  11. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Love this! I also use the rule don't touch things more than once (receipts, mail, paper in general). If it is a hassle to find its place then it doesn't end up there.

  12. Image for Sharon Sharon

    Marshall’s is closed today due to snow and I’m off for the next two days. Do we think I can get the kitchen island uncovered in 2 1/2 days using KariAnne’s strategies as inspiration? Should I report back?

    1. Image for Lynne Lynne

      Start at one corner and work your way across, one item at a time. That's how I just cleaned off my desk and it worked like a charm. I can actually see the porcelain top, a/k/a my home 'office'.

  13. Image for Ann C Ann C

    I took everything out of my junk drawer and divided the stuff by category. Then found containers for each category. Then found a convenient place to store the containers. I acquired a whole drawer in my kitchen! Having a place for things also helps when someone comes looking for an item, you know right where to tell them to go. Just remind them to put it back there when they are finished with it.

  14. Image for Lynne Lynne

    How simple is that! I've never, ever thought of it that way and it makes so much sense. It applies to everything too. Thanks for great advice! Lynne

  15. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    Sometimes I am in a better frame of mind for putting things where they belong than others!!! Lol When I am "on" one I can really fly and find better places for some of my stuff!!!

  16. Image for Lori Lori

    Hi there, I was watching one of your Wednesday videos and for some reason it popped to another one and now I'm unable to find it again. Can you please send me the link for the wooden beads with tassel you bought from Amazon? I would really appreciate it. Thanks for the Wednesday videos, they are so fun

  17. Image for Celeste Celeste

    Haha, you must be peeking in my kitchen windows. I clean the kitchen counters ALL THE TIME!. Yesterday's contribution? My grandson arrives with a plastic egg filled with slime and a new dinosaur. I wash said egg (and my hands and anything that came in contact with said egg) and it is still sitting there, mocking me. I can't throw it away but where do I store it? I think I'm going to slip it into his pack back the next time he comes over. How's that for a decision.

  18. Image for Penny Penny

    I have been doing a marathon organization of my home lately. My best advice is clear containers. They are a game changer especially for the bathroom, linen closet and pantry. You can see what you have prior to shopping and you'll know what you have enough of and what you need to re-stock. I do love baskets for lower shelves wher you can see the contents.

  19. Image for Bea Bea

    Karianne, I am ashamed to admit that when I visit other people's homes, I start cleaning up and putting things away, washing their dishes, etc. However, my own home looks like someone broke in and threw everything everywhere. It used to be much better. We downsized from a 4 bedrm, 4 bath, 2 car garage, attic, yard, separate laundry room, and large rooms where everything fit. We tossed or donated clothes, books, furniture, etc until all of it fit in this condo with no attic, no basement, and storage allowed in the garage. Then our son passed away and I'm trying to sell hundreds of things that I have no place for here. I have Kitchen Aid mixers, Instant Pots, coffee pots, blankets, tools, memories that I'm not able to toss or donate. My place is a wreck. Where can I sell these things to someone who would use them and we could have some income as well. Your ideas are wonderful for people who still have all those large rooms, big drawers, a separate laundry room, etc. Help asap with advice. I really need it. because I can't live like this. If someone would tell me where to put everything in this house, I would stay awake until it was complete. Seriously, that is how important it is to me. But where????? The "places" just don't exist. Please advise. Thank you for being so willing to help so many.

    1. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

      That can be overwhelming and heart wrenching. In this situation, I would hire a professional organizer to help you sell/donate/keep/trash. Usually the sold items cover more than the cost of the organizer.

    2. Image for Lois Lois

      We have used Facebook Marketplace to sell items. People are very appreciative. You will make some money. If you can't part with some of your son's things, but it is too much for your home, try a small storage unit for awhile until you feel you are up to parting with it.

  20. Image for celestial celestial

    Here are some of my favorite organizing ideas: 1. Keep the roll of garbage bags in the garbage can, under the current bag. It will always be there and available to use. 2. Keep an empty kleenex box on top of the dryer to place all lint from the lint trap. 3. Keep all letter writing supplies (cards, paper, return address labels, stamps) in a clear bin so you can pull it out for whatever correspondence task. 4.Keep a squeegee in the shower and use it after every bath to take water off the walls and grout. It takes 30 seconds and reduces lime deposits and mold formation. There is an excellent book called "Atomic Habits" that specifies in detail why and how habits can structure a day to make it more productive. It is one of the most comprehensive works on the subject and is very well written to explain and reinforce new ideas. Since adopting many of his ideas, I now get up and dressed and take the dog out to the dog park every morning for an hour. It is exercise for me and an hour of solid running for the dog. This sounds simple but I have now gone out every day for a year ( even in -20 degree temperatures and slippery ice) whereas 2 years ago, before dog, I wouldn't have crossed the threshold for love or money. You can do this, people!!!

  21. Image for Linda Linda

    Use an empty tall square tissue boxes to store lots of plastic grocery bags, 20+. They are decorative & pop up like tissues! 🙂

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