It's entirely possible to get organized on the cheap, and I often encourage my clients to resist the urge to throw money at their disorganization by buying fancy new organizing gadgets, books, and supplies they probably don't need. That said, there are a few organizing investments that can help make the process more efficient, more effective, and less frustrating.
Here are four smart ways to invest in organization.
Hire professional help for difficult or time-consuming tasks.
Many of us strive to be as self-sufficient as we can in terms of completing the tasks we need to do to get or stay organized, ignoring the fact that what takes us four hours (and several headaches) might well take a professional half an hour. Service pros like handypeople, housecleaners, bookkeepers, and personal assistants can often quickly and easily do the tasks that linger on your To Do list for weeks because you don't have the time or inclination to get to them. A few hours of a professional's time can free you up to do more important, more pressing, or more enjoyable tasks.
Get the right containers and tools for the job.
If you're storing papers you want to keep in moldering cardboard boxes in the basement or are trying to cram detailed scheduling information into a tiny pocket-sized calendar, you're making organizing harder than it needs to be. Though containers and tools in and of themselves can't get you organized, using the right product--rather than trying to force the wrong one to make do--can have a big impact. Invest in products that do what you need them to do, hold what they need to hold, and aren't a chore to use, and you'll save yourself serious amounts of stress immediately.
Upgrade your supporting organizational gadgets.
There's no need to make your home or office look like an organizing products showroom, but there are definite benefits to making small upgrades to the organizational supplies you use. For example, switching from the wire hangers you get from your dry cleaner to basic plastic or wood hangers will make your closets look neater and also make it easier to find and put things away. Trading in the warped, bent, and torn file folders you've been using for years for clean new folders with reinforced tabs will help make filing less of a chore, and will help keep your papers better protected. Again, you don't have to buy the fanciest stuff you can find or spend tons of money to make an appreciable impact.
Let go of anything you're keeping only because "it cost good money."
Admit it: somewhere in your home is something you're holding onto not because you love it, use it, or need it, but because you (or someone else) once spent a good chunk of money on it. I challenge you to think of getting rid of that thing as an investment in a more organized and less cluttered future. Whether you sell the item and recoup some of the original expense, donate it and get a tax break, or simply give it to someone who will actually put it to use, parting with it will help free you from whatever guilt, frustration, or annoyance holding onto it might cause. You'll also clear out space in your home and will have one less unused thing to deal with.
For the most part, getting and staying organized are inexpensive ventures, and you certainly don't need to spend a lot to get your life, stuff, and calendar in order. Consider making a few of the investments above, though, and you might find that organization is easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable. Invest wisely in organizing and you'll almost certainly reap a return.