Sophie set on the sofa at her friend Maria’s apartment, surveying the surroundings. Everything was so organized! The DVDs were categorized by type and were alphabetized by title. Books were on the shelf by order of height. The coffee table was adorned with just the right amount of décor, not enough to be considered minimalist and not enough to be cluttered.

Sophie sighed aloud. She thought, “I would love to be as organized as Maria! But this looks like too much effort to keep it together. I don’t think I have the personality for this!”

Can you relate to Sophie’s problem? We have all seen those rooms that are perfectly symmetrical, perfectly ordered, and perfectly placed. If you are a person who desperately wants to become organized, it may seem like a daunting task. But how often are those flawlessly arranged rooms actually practical?

There is a common misconception about organization – it requires perfection. For a room to be organized, it does not have to be impeccably sorted. The most important thing about organization is that you need FLOW. Let’s break it down:

F is for Function
L is for Location
O is for Order
W is for Work-in-progress

It’s incredibly logical when you put it all together. Function and location generally go hand-in-hand; you need a functional location or otherwise the whole idea of organization is moot. Once you have a spot that provides both functionality and a workable location, then you add order to the equation. And finally, it is important to remember that organization is a work in-progress. Once you establish a system that works for you, then you must put in a little effort into maintenance of the system.

Let’s return to Sophie’s dilemma for a more in depth analysis of how FLOW works.

Organizing Problem: Sophie is a bookworm, and her books are scattered all throughout the house. They are in the living room, on the kitchen table, on the bedside table, and in the bathroom. She never can remember what book is where exactly.

Organizing Goal: Organize Sophie’s books into a workable library system. (Note: this does not mean busting out a label maker and creating a personal Dewey Decimal System for categorization. Simply put – we want a manageable system that helps Sophie find a book quickly.)

Function and Location: It is imperative to find a functional location that works for you. If you select a spot that fits your habits, then you are more likely to continue with the organization. On the other hand, if you select a spot that does not fit your daily routine, then you are less likely to put forth the effort to stay organized.

In Sophie’s situation, putting all her books in one spot is not going to work because she likes to read in lots of places around her house. For example, if Sophie places all her books in the study and yet she never goes in there to read, then it becomes a hassle to go to the study each time she wants to pick up a book. The best thing for her to do is to narrow the locations from numerous to about 2-3 spots she constantly uses to curl up and read. Sophie decides these rooms will be the living room and the bedroom.

Order: Once you select a location, create some rules of order. The rules of order will also be personality dependent.

Sophie is sure of one thing: she does not want to put her books in order by height like Maria and she does not want them alphabetized. That is too much work, in her opinion. She decides to move her biggest bookcase to her living room, where she does most of her reading, and she divides the books into categories – classics, non-fiction, fiction, etc. Then she takes 10 of her choice reads and places them in the top drawer of her bedside table.

Work-in-progress: Over time, you must put some energy into upkeep of the system of functionality, location, and order that you designed. However, it should take minimal effort after the system is established.

Now that Sophie has a master plan, all she has to do is return books to the book shelf or to the drawer in order to sustain the organization. If she slips up and leaves one book on the kitchen counter and one book on the bathroom floor…things might snowball and she might muddle the system she created.

While you may find that many organizational gurus are perfectionists by nature, that doesn’t mean that living an organized life will require you to be exhaustively flawless! With some simple adjustments, you can be well on your way to organization.

Author's Bio: 

Carmen Coker is a professional organizer who helps individuals find the motivation and know-how to get organized and stay organized. To learn how to save money, create more space, and manage your time through organization, register for the "FREE Tip Kit: 10+ Pages of Tips and Tools to Help You Get Organized — Finally!" at