4 Things You Shouldn't Bother Organizing (And 4 Things You Should)

03/06/2015 10:09 am ET | Updated Mar 06, 2015

Here's a secret from the tidiest people we know: There are places in your home that shouldn't be organized. Follow our to-do-list-shortening guide to straightening up the ones that matter.

By Amy Preiser

  • Technology
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    Organize This: Your Smartphone home screen.
    It's an easy and often-ignored chore you can even tackle in a doctor's waiting room -- make sure your home screen has only the apps you use daily, with any pre-programmed or long-forgotten icons moved off to the second page of the screen (or better yet: delete them). This alone could save you 150 micro-hassles per day -- that's the number of times users check their phones.

    Not That: Your email.
    In 2011, IBM researchers studied 85,000 instances of looking for old emails, and discovered that the search function is a much more efficient tool than meticulously categorized folders. Consider that official permission to forgive yourself for ignoring the "online shopping receipts" folder you created last year.
  • Closets
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    Organize This: Wrapping paper and supplies.
    Interior designer Betsy Helmuth, author of Big Design, Small Budget points out that a carefully chosen gift deserves more than wrinkled wrapping. And that's exactly what you'll get if you're shoving papers and bows in the back of a closet.

    Not That: Holiday decorations.
    There are two days a year when you need to deal with these: the one where you take them out to decorate the house, and again when you're stuffing them back in a box for next year. Give yourself a break and skip the categorization here in favor of a faster post-holiday cleanup.
  • Kitchen
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    Organize This: The refrigerator.
    A neat fridge is not just more sanitary (storing meats in the bottom shelf prevents unsavory drips, but can also help you make healthier choices. Brian Wansink, Ph.D, author of Slim by Design, has found that assigning fruits and vegetables to the top shelf (rather than the crisper) encourages people to eat three times as much produce.

    Not That: Herbs and spices.
    "Don't waste your money on crazy contraptions for these," says interior designer Taniya Nayak, who regularly appears as a design expert on The Food Network. "There's only one rule you should follow -- keep the [ones] that you use most often in the front, with specialty ingredients in back."
  • Entryway
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    Organize This: Mail.
    Nayak recommends a bin for catalogs and magazines (and consider if you'd like to switch to digital subscriptions if you're ignoring the bin in favor of your tablet). Bills go in a highly visible spot to remind you to pay them ASAP (and help avoid more mail: second notices.) Important family correspondence can go in a tray, noting updated contact info in your address book or phone and then discarding.

    Not That: The miscellaneous things you carry in your purse or coat pockets.
    One trick Helmuth has implemented in many of the 1,000 homes she's transformed is a simple tray to empty your pockets into each evening. "Keep your day-to-day chaos within the walls of a 4-inch deep space," she says. "You'll save time in the morning when you don't have to search for keys in one place and a watch in another." Instead, she says, you can grab the tray's contents on your way out the door.

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