a row of colored cups (line green, seafoam, kelly green, sky blue, royal blue) on a light blue background

Organizing rules for recovering perfectionists

Which organizing rules are you trying very hard to follow? Do they help you or do they trip you up? Check out the new rules for coping with clutter without sending yourself over the edge.

O.H.I.O. is old school

  • I don’t try to O.H.I.O. (Only Handle It Once) paper because that sets me up for failure.
  • I do try to K.I.M.O. (Keep It Moving On). That means I pick out the next small step to to deal with this piece of paper and figure out when that’ll happen.

Handle the mail daily

  • I don’t stack the mail in an appropriately labeled container so I can deal with it “properly” every Sunday.
  • I fetch the mail daily and open it while standing over the garbage can and the recycling bin.

Bag of bags

  • I don’t sort my bags by size and potential very specific use.
  • I keep one sturdy bag for holding flimsy plastic bags. When it’s full, I don’t keep any more.

About those clothes

  • I don’t believe that if I haven’t worn something for a year, I never will. I know that if I haven’t worn something in ten years, that’s a different story.
  • I don’t follow the ‘one in, one out’ rule but if I have more than five of the same item in the same color, I let one go before I buy another.

A shoe story

  • I don’t store all my shoes in shoe bags or special shoe racks.
  • Kicking them off and leaving them on the closet floor is fine when I don’t have too many. Declutter your shoe collection before you think about how to store them.

Books are for reading

  • I don’t organize my books by color, size or Dewey category unless I want to.
  • I sort them by whatever system makes it easiest for me to find the book I want. Your system should be based on what kind of books you have, how often you read them and where you like to read.

Concerning freebies

  • If I see a wonderful walnut buffet with inlaid maple sitting on the side of the road with a ‘free’ sign on it, you’d better believe I’m stopping to rescue it. Blanket ‘Don’t take free stuff’ rules are too rigid.
  • However, I won’t take anything that’s not unique and amazing. I don’t take anything that needs fixing, anything that could be a refinishing project, anything that I can’t immediately visualize having a spot in my house. And that spot ain’t the basement.

If any of these rules appeal to you, try them out. Better yet, come up with your own. Send me your heretical rules today!

READ MORE >>> How to stop organizing overwhelm

by Lucy Kelly


  1. Oh, girlfriend, I am WITH YOU! I could not have agreed more if you’d also included a diatribe against gravy. 😉 The O.H.I.O. Rule has never made sense to me — when I am dealing with paper, I need to touch something once to triage it and put it where it will actually be handled (to be paid, called about, or otherwise attended to), and once when I’m done and must file, recycle or shred it.

    I’ll be honest, I’m too much of a germaphobe or bug-a-phobe to ever take something from the side of the road, but all-in-all, these rules are the kinds of things that make people feel professional organizers will be too constricting. I’m glad you set our record straight!

  2. I’m with you on so many of these. I don’t think there are firm rules about how long to keep any specific objects, such as a piece of clothing in a closet. I think we need to find a system that keeps items circulating so that our space is working the way we want it to. If it is, then that is good enough!