Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life

Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life

by Julie Morgenstern

Paperback(Second Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805075892
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/01/2004
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 99,116
Product dimensions: 6.16(w) x 9.23(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Julie Morgenstern is the founder of Task Masters, a professional organizing company that provides consulting services to individuals and companies. Her corporate clients have included American Express, Sony Music, and Microsoft.

Read an Excerpt

1. A New Way of Looking at Organizing

If I asked you to describe an organized space, what would you say? From most people, I hear things like "neat and tidy," "spare," "minimalistic," and "boring."

But an organized space has nothing to do with these traits. There are people whose homes and offices appear neat as a pin on the surface. Yet, inside their desk drawers and kitchen cabinets, there is no real system, and things are terribly out of control. By contrast, there are many people who live or work in a physical mess, yet feel very comfortable in this environment and can always put their hands on whatever they need in a second. Could they be considered organized? Absolutely.

Being organized has less to do with the way an environment looks than how effectively it functions. If a person can find what they need when they need it, feels unencumbered in achieving his or her goals, and is happy in his or her space, then that person is well organized.

I'd like to propose a new definition of organization: "Organizing is the process by which we create environments that enable us to live, work, and relax exactly as we want to. When we are organized, our homes, offices, and schedules reflect and encourage who we are, what we want, and where we are going."


Misconceptions affect the way you think about any process, poisoning your attitude toward it and eroding even your best efforts to succeed by convincing you before you start that you're bound to fail.

Here are some of the most common beliefs about organizing, and the debunking facts that will change your thinking.

Misconception: Organizing is a mysterioustalent. Some lucky people are born with it, while others, like you, are left to suffer.

Fact: Organizing is a skill. In fact, it's a remarkably simple skill that anyone can learn. How do I know? Because I was once a notoriously disorganized person myself. In fact, everyone who "knew me when" is amazed at the irony of how I make my living today. Two summers ago, I went to my twenty-fifth summer camp reunion. Naturally, as we all got caught up on what everyone was doing with their lives, I spoke with pride about my work. Since professional organizing is such an unusual field, all of my old friends found the concept absolutely fascinating. One brave soul, dear, sweet Martin G., put his arm around me, discreetly pulled me off to the side, and whispered politely, "Uh, Julie . . . I don't remember you ever being particularly organized."

From the day I was born until I had my own child, I lived in a constant state of disorder. I was a classic right-brained creative type, always living in chaos, operating out of piles, spending half my days searching for misplaced papers, lost phone numbers, and missing car keys. I'd permanently lost everything from little stuff to big stuff: passports, birth certificates, cameras, jewelry, shoes, and clothing. I'd lost things that belonged to other people. I once spent four hours searching for a friend's car in the parking lot at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, because I hadn't paid any attention to where I had left it.

I was one of those people who lived "in the moment": spontaneous and charming, but never planning more than one minute into the future. As a result, I was always scrambling at the last minute, and frequently didn't get things done on time, either because I forgot I had to do them or because I couldn't find whatever I needed to get the task done.

My day of reckoning came when I had a baby. When Jessi was three weeks old, I decided it'd be a beautiful day to take her for a walk by the waterfront. When she got up from a nap, my husband went to get the car and I went to get the baby. Suddenly I realized, hey, I should probably take along a few supplies. What did I need? Let's see, diapers, a blanket . . . Oh, yes, a bottle of water, and maybe a toy or two. I started running around the house, gathering items. Every time I thought I was ready, I'd think of something else to bring. The Snugli, a sweater, and how about a tape to listen to in the car on the way? By the time I was packed up, more than two hours had passed and Jessi had fallen back asleep. I realized at that moment that if I didn't get my act together, my child would never see the light of day.

I decided to organize the diaper bag. Dumping out all the items I had gathered for our outing, I began by grouping all the supplies into categories that made sense to me: things to keep her warm with in one group (blanket, change of clothes, sweater); things to feed her with in another group (water bottle, pacifier); things to change her with in another (diapers, wipes, powder); and finally things to entertain her with (toys, a tape for the car).

Then I assigned each category of items a particular section of the bag, so that I could quickly get my hands on items when I needed them and know at a glance if anything was missing. I ended by tucking an inventory of all the supplies into a special pocket in the bag as well, as a tool to make restocking the bag easy. What a victory! From that day forward I was in control, packed and ready to go at the drop of a dime, confident that I had everything I needed at my fingertips.

That diaper bag was the first thing I ever successfully organized. And though it sounds small, it was truly the beginning of my path to organization. After that, I tackled other areas of my house, my drawers, my closets, papers, and so on, always using the same basic approach I used to organize that diaper bag. The rest, as they say, is history. I had happily discovered that organizing is a very straightforward skill, learnable even by the likes of someone as once hopelessly disorganized as me.

Misconception: Getting organized is an overwhelming, hopeless chore.

Fact: No matter what you're organizing, no matter how daunting the task or how huge the backlog, getting organized boils down to the same very simple, predictable process. Once mastered, you will discover organizing to be an incredibly cleansing and empowering process-an exhilarating way of freeing yourself up and maintaining a steady life course in a complex world. You'll even consider it fun because it produces a gratifying sense of clarity, focus, and accomplishment.

Consider this reaction from newly organized speaker Connie Lagan:

Cleaning out the clutter has magically, maybe even miraculously, released creative energy within me. The first evening after I completed my own business spring cleaning, I sat in my office chair and stared. I could not believe how energizing it was to see "white space." My eyes had places to rest and my spirit had found a home once again in the place where I spend most of my waking hours.

Misconception: It's impossible to stay organized.

Fact: Organizing is sustainable, if your system is built around the way you think and designed to grow and adapt with you as your life and work change. It is when your system is a poor fit for you that maintenance is a difficult chore. In addition, like eating well and staying fit, organizing is a way of life that requires monitoring and ongoing effort until it becomes satisfyingly ingrained. Instructions on how to maintain your system are an integral part of the organizing process presented in this book.

Misconception: Organizing is a nonproductive use of time. People in my workshops often say to me, "I want to get organized, I try to get organized, but I always feel like I should be doing more important things with my time-calling on customers, attending meetings, going to seminars, writing proposals, spending time with family and friends, relaxing, even catching up on my sleep."

Fact: Life today moves more rapidly than it did fifty years ago and will continue accelerating in the years ahead, presenting us with more opportunities and ever-greater demands on our time and ability to make choices. In an environment like this, those who are organized will thrive. Those who are disorganized will feel overwhelmed, unsure of which way to turn, and flounder. You can no longer afford not to be organized. Organizing has become a survival skill for the twenty-first century, and Organizing from the Inside Out is your handbook for getting there...

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Most Important Organizing Book You'll Ever Read3
Part 1Laying the Foundation
1.A New Way of Looking at Organizing9
2.What's Holding You Back?16
Part 2Secrets of a Professional Organizer
3.Analyze: Taking Stock39
4.Strategize: Creating a Plan of Action47
5.Attack: Getting the Job Done59
Part 3Applying What You've Learned
How to Use This Section71
6.Traditional Offices and Filing Systems73
7.Home-Based Businesses90
8.Cubicle Workstations102
9.Mobile Offices110
10.Household Information Centers122
11.Attics, Basements, and Garages136
15.Kids' Rooms179
17.Living Rooms201
Part 4Tackling Time and Technology
18.Conquering the Clock213
19.Taming Technology228
Appendix AResources for Organizing Products241
Appendix BSuggested Further Reading243

What People are Saying About This

Fran Putney

Do you run around in circles looking our keys? Do you turn your desk upside down searching for an important document? If you're anything like me, you need to read Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. Her unique approach will ease your conscience and boost your self-esteem, and her sound advice and practical organizing ideas will inspire you.

Felice Willat

Julie Morgenstern shows us how to look inside at our own habits and styles to create a foolproof plan that works, and have fun doing it!

Brian Tracy

This is a wonderfully helpful book that enables you to organize your time and your life in a quick, simple, practical series of logical steps. It really works!

Barbara Sher

I like it! It's useful, intelligent, and fun!

Customer Reviews

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Organizing from the inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Marquetry More than 1 year ago
I have a tendency to keep far too much, and as you can imagine my house gets very cluttered. When I saw this book, I flipped through and found someone who has been there, and pushed through to the other side -- finally being organized. In the first section, she takes the reader through some principles of organization and necessary steps that she has found to work, and also writes about some of the reasons people keep too much. I felt like I was reading about myself! The second section breaks down specific parts of the house, and suggestions/strategies for each of them. After reading the book, I'm going back to the beginning to put the principles into practice. I highly recommend this to anyone trying to organize their home -- whether it's a closet or the whole thing, there is help for you in here!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you even think that you want to get organized, this is the book for you. It's easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to put into practice. No matter what your current level of organizational skill, you will find something helpful in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author teaches how to organize around your own personality instead of trying to retrain you to live differently.
exploringNOOK More than 1 year ago
Still useful after over 10 years. Keeps me encouraged and effective
Guest More than 1 year ago
The general concepts that were laid out in this book were very easy to understand and made getting organized fun! An analogy she used was the Kindergarten classroom. If you are looking for paint, brushes or smocks, you would go to the art center. The same is true for your home. If you primarily watch movies in the living rooom, that should be the place you find your movies. My husband and I have absolutely loved this book. This is the first time I've ever seen him excited about going into Pier 1 to find organizational baskets and furniture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The books itself tackles from our psychological bearing to objects down to the emotional clinging of what has been. The author did not just push me to change asap but understand where i am coming from. I have never felt better about myself now that i understand that my being messy is something i can change. She made sure that all rooms has been touch. Julie gave some specific instruction that made it easier for me to follow thru. I have cried for feeling so helpless about my being disorganize but now i take it easy and just do the SPACE method whenever i slipped to being messy again....which seldom happens. The book helped me to really start my way to feeling confident about my surrounding and reminder is taped on the doors and walls which she said will be my constant advisor to help thru my organisational attacks. The book now has been my anchor for my new organized... clean...and neat well as my redeemed self-confidence. One thing only.... if they will revised it, i hope they will print out larger letters and eye-friendly spacings and photos.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book cover-cover, and it gave me a few guidelines. One that was new to me was to buy storage AFTER you decide how you were to organize. That still is tough for me. I agree with the poster who said that this is most helpful for office workers. I'm a teacher, so I was able to adapt some of the stuff, but even then, it's really for the person who sits at her desk during the day!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a pretty busy schedule at the age of 19. I work full time at a computer company and go to school full time. This book is intended more for the crowd that is a bit older and a bit more involved in office type of deals, as well as to people who have younger kids. I was looking more for time management more than for organizational type of things. Do not get me wrong though, she did an great job at what she wrote about, I will be using some of her tips in the book. I do see now that she has a time management book that I will be looking at to see how it works. One thing that I liked a lot about the book was that you can read it very fast. It goes by super quick, mostly because it is like she is talking to you. I would recommend this book to anymore that is looking to organize their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a chronic packrat. I'm the kind that keeps a soda can as a prop souvenir from a college play. Well my hubby and I are gonna try for a family this year, and I wanted to start setting a good example. Morgernstern's organizing techniques are so easy to follow, and helped me 'let go' of stuff I no longer 'needed'. I figured lots of people could use clothes, kitchenware, etc. that was just collecting dust and space. For example, I used to set bakeware on the sofa to make more room for countertop space! Now along with my kitchen, I've got extra room for my gym and home office. Another great tip is calling a charity to pick up your items and writing it off as tax deductible. I've never felt this liberated since I traded corporate pantyhose for bunny slippers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been taking the BNU class based on this book and the experience has been very positive. The author is excellent in explaining the importance of setting up systems that will work for you and your particular setting to achieve your own goals based on your own values and what is important to you. She approaches organizing as a skill that can be learned, and proceeds to teach how to do it in a very clear and down to earth manner. The free on line course is easy to follow and is faithful to the text and the philosophy outlined therein. It provides a little extra structure and the message boards are filled with like minded people who are on the same path. I'd higly recommend this as one of the best overall self help vehicles I've encountered in a long time. Highly recomend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband bought this book after watching Oprah. He was so impressed and soon had me excited about organizing our house and office. I have never been the most organized person and thought I was doomed to be that way forever. This books gives relief and states that organization is a 'learned skill' not something you are born with - although some are better than others. Julie M. is great about helping you analyze your own style and helps you take that into account. My husband and I have now organized his home office, the kitchen and our bedroom. It takes us about 15 minutes to pick up things now. It's amazing. People in my office now want this book and I would encourage anyone - even the most unorganized to get this book ,read it , and apply it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many, many books to help me organize my home office. Since purchasing this book, I have put all the others away. The recommendations are helping me make much better decisions about why I am organizing each room, and how to do it. What I like the best is, each organizing task has the approximate amount of time it will take to complete. It has provided me with realistic timelines of how much time I will need to get organized. I now schedule my home and office time according to the room, the plan, the tasks to be completed, and feel better about reaching my goals. For the first time, I don't feel guilty if I do not finish an organizing chore, because I know in advance how much time it should take. I am doing one room at a time, and my family has recently noticed the improvement. This is a great book!
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Not only does the author deal with the psychological aspects of disorganizations, she also gives details about organizing. She begins with her own experience of oraniziation a diaper bag for a new baby. Divide the things necessary by function, itemize them and pack them separately. She suggests the client, for indeed being a professional organizer is her profession, visualize specific areas of a house, identify closets, then allow only those things that have a "home" and will fit. I bought this as a guide, thinking that it would not only help organize my possessions, but organize my life. I will have to see
lorireed on LibraryThing 7 months ago
If you have ever been frustrated by trying to organize a room, your desk, or your life this book is for you. Featured on Oprah, Organizing From the Inside Out offers a three-step organizing system that can be applied to any space or situation. Morgenstern goes room by room and gives practical and helpful advice on how to get organized and how to stay organized. Each chapter has a "How Long Will It Take" section that gives you a realistic time estimate and a "Julie's No-Brainer Toss List" that gives you permission and encouragement to get rid of things that you know you'll probably never use again. The last chapter of the book "Tackling Time and Technology" will help you organize your electronic life, i.e. Palm Pilots and hard drives.
storming on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Julie Morgenstern starts out by explaining that being organized is not the same as being clean or neat. It's about having a system where everything has a home that's easy and logical to you.Skip the chapter on electronics - Julie obviously doesn't use a lot of gadgets.
lizvero on LibraryThing 7 months ago
very good book, very helpfull,
verber on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Julie Morgenstern helped me tame piles of paperwork and organize our house. In our modern life it seems like we have way to much stuff to manage. This book suggests simple but practices tools and techniques to organize things. I am particularly fond of her "Kindergarten" principle... everything should have a place to be put away right by where where they will be used. Reading this book also helped me appreciate how my tendency to want to organize things "exactly" can lead me to get nothing done... between to lump a few things together. I haevn't read it, but here later book about purging things would go well with this book.
89vine on LibraryThing 7 months ago
If you want to get organized, this is the book. You can make a career out of organizing after reading this. It's a very straight forward book that details exactly how to get organized.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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CasualUnclutterer More than 1 year ago
Organizing from the Inside Out is the “cheat sheet” of organizing books. It is PACKED with Ms. Morgenstern’s insights. She offers everything from estimates about how long typical projects will take, to her observations concerning common emotional obstacles people encounter in their efforts to get organized. She is generous when providing techniques to get structured, and points to many resources for further help. This is an excellent book to read after you’ve read foundational books like Cindy Glovinsky’s “Making Peace with the Things in Your Life.” Read the foundations, read Organizing from the Inside Out, then keep Organizing from the Inside Out to thumb through whenever you are stuck. It will get you thinking again. Lauren Williams, Casual Uncluttering LLC, Woodinville, WA, USA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SusanCH More than 1 year ago
A whole new way to approach organization. I started with my refrigerator. It's clean, organized, everything has it's place and best of all my family puts everything in it's place! I went from there to an overload bathroom closet. What a difference!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago