I’ve got to admit that I hesitated to even write this post. The last thing I wanted was to sound like someone who’s always got it all together, because there are definitely days when I feel as frazzled and pulled in a million directions as every other gal living in these busy times of ours. But after months of prodding from friends and readers, I decided it might be fun (and helpful) to share the organizational tricks I lean on to help me stay sane and prioritize all the different parts of my life that are important to me.

Because when we’re talking about a schedule that includes some combination of work, kids, relationships, working out, creative endeavors, hobbies, and possibly all of the above — organization is the name of the game.

I haven’t always been super organized, but over the years I’ve cultivated certain habits, keeping the ones that work for me and throwing out the ones that don’t. And what better time for all of us to get a little better at gracefully juggling it all than the start of a new year? Click through for the top 8 strategies I use, and I’d love to hear in the comments: what’s your number one tip for staying organized at life?

image by kristen kilpatrick

image by the every girl

Live by your calendar.

This is without a doubt the organizational technique that’s changed my life the most. It may sound rigid, but strictly following my calendar actually gives me a sense of freedom. Instead of constantly worrying about whether I might be forgetting something important I’m supposed to do, I can relax in the knowledge that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

My calendar system is pretty detailed to cover a schedule that includes work, social engagements, and childcare, and lots of people have asked me to share exactly how I maintain it. On the next slide, I go into more detail on how I setup my calendar to be most efficient for my life.

How I setup my calendar.

I’ve created several different calendars in Gmail so they can be accessed anywhere, then sync them with my iCal so I can easily view them on my desktop and iPhone. My calendars are divided by personal commitments, childcare, birthdays, and for work I have calendars for our editorial schedule, social schedule, and production / photoshoot schedule. Each calendar has its own color, and I can turn them on and off in iCal so that I can view just one, or all of them at once.

One of the most useful ways that I use my calendar is for recurring appointments. For example, I’ve setup recurring appointments for myself on Wednesdays to water house plants, on Fridays to pay bills, and on Sundays to deep clean the espresso machine. I also give myself advance reminders to do certain things that I know I might forget. For example, if I put a friend’s baby shower on the calendar, I’ll also create a calendar appointment 2 weeks earlier that reminds me to order their gift. All these reminders might sound obsessive, but it gives me a huge amount of peace of mind to know I’m not going to forget something important during a busy week.

Granted, my system might feel too OCD for some of you and that’s totally okay, so if you only take away one thing let it be this:

When you put something on your calendar, stick to it!

Half the battle is to treat everything on your calendar like it’s truly important, and when you do, I guarantee that you’ll start achieving your goals faster and getting more done in a day than you ever thought possible.


Prioritize your to-do list.

If you’re one of those people who can store every date, birthday, and deadline in your brilliant brain, I salute you. For the rest of us, our to-do lists are our greatest allies. I’m a big fan of keeping a digital list because I’m always tweaking and reorganizing mine, and things would get pretty messy if I were using pen and paper. There are tons of to-do lists apps out there, but for me, simply storing my list within my calendar (see slide 1) works best because I can access it when I’m on-the-go, and because when I’m making calendar appointments, I can easily add something related to my to-do list.

Here’s how I do it. In iCal, every Sunday I create a calendar appointment called “TO DO” that is basically my to-do list for the entire week. I order things in order of importance so I always know what gets priority, and then I place an asterisk next to anything that has to get done today. Then, I always know to check that week’s TO DO appointment and look at what’s starred since I know it has to be accomplished asap. When I finish a task, it gets removed from the list. At the beginning of a new week, anything that’s left undone from last week’s list gets moved to the next Sunday’s to do’s.

image by career girl daily

Use the weekend to organize for the week ahead.

You’ll be amazed how much stress can be avoided if you take a few minutes on the weekend to get yourself organized for the week ahead. My Sunday afternoon check-in with my calendar is crucial — I make note of upcoming birthdays and work deadlines, and confirm any social commitments I have coming up. I also use this time to schedule my workouts for the week, add them to the calendar as appointments, then treat them with the same commitment I would any other meeting. Once I started this weekly practice, it’s amazing how much more consistently I started meeting my fitness goals (and this technique can be adapted for whatever particular goals you’re working to achieve.) Finally, I plan our family dinners for the entire week, add them to the calendar, and create my grocery list accordingly.

image by naina singla

Have a place for everything.

Cleaning the house is usually the last thing I have time to do during the week (and I’m guessing it’s the same for most of you), but my state of mind is so much calmer when my surroundings are clean and uncluttered. So, I’ve worked really hard to cultivate the habit of finding a place where everything in my house belongs, and putting things away right when I’m done using them. It saves so much time when I don’t have to search for the things I need.

Here’s how I approach it: Let’s say you’re organizing a closet. First, ruthlessly get rid of anything you don’t use (see more about this on step 7), then group like things together. Everything from scarves to shoes to sports bras should have a designated spot of its own. Place anything you use frequently in a very easy to access spot, and things that are less frequently used can be put in a box, bin, or drawer (with a label if you really want to go for it.) And never ever allow yourself to have a drawer that’s identified as “miscellaneous.” (Mom, I’m talking to you.)

Don’t forget that this decluttering process has to happen continuously as you acquire new things and go about your daily life. I try to choose one little area of my house to reorganize each weekend, and as a result, no one area of my house ever gets too out-of-control.

image by hannah haston for camille styles

If something can be done in less than 1 minute, do it now.

This is one that I picked up from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and it’s really helped keep me to-do list from getting out of control. If there’s an email that I can answer in just a sentence or two, I do it now instead of flagging it to answer later. I put my clothes away right when I get undressed at night and sort the mail right when I bring it inside. It’s a practice that takes (literally) less than a minute, and goes a long way in making life feel less chaotic.

Basically — don’t procrastinate!

image by molly culver for camille styles

Write down all your random thoughts.

I have a terrible memory, and the only way I can hold onto ideas and inspiration is by writing everything down. I use the basic “notes” app that comes installed on the iPhone and syncs up to my desktop and iPad, and I keep dedicated notes for pretty much everything. When I hear a great song on the radio, I add it to my “music” note so I remember to download later. I also have notes for:

  • recipes I want to try
  • shopping list
  • cool beauty products to check out
  • books I want to read
  • gift ideas for friends & family
  • packing lists for upcoming trips
  • blog post ideas

image by molly culver for camille styles

If you don’t use it, give it away (or throw it out.)

I’m a firm believer that cluttered surroundings make for a cluttered mind, so I do my best to continually sort through different areas of my life (my closet, the garage, my purse, the refrigerator) and get rid of anything I don’t love or need anymore. With the exception of emotionally significant keepsakes, I stick to the rule of “If I haven’t used it in a year, I can live without it.” If you’re someone who tends to hold onto things that you don’t need, I bet you’ll be amazed at how freeing it can feel to clear your space of everything but the items you truly use and love. Donate it, put it on Craigslist, trash it — then revel in the peaceful feeling that an uncluttered life brings.

image by rose gold & marble

Make technology do the work for you.

For those times when it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, it may be time to look at which of your daily tasks you can either (a) automate or (b) get help with. There are so many apps out there that are geared toward saving us time, and it’s worth checking out the ones that service your area. When I’m making my grocery list for the week and I know things are going to be crazy busy, I’ll order everything on Instacart and it shows up at my doorstep a few hours later. You can deposit checks, order any food you’re craving, pay friends electronically, and do a million other things right on your mobile phone, so think about what tasks are sucking way too much of your time and investigate if there might be ways to let technology lend you a hand.

43 comments
  1. 1
    Katie H. | January 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    “If something can be done in less than one minute, do it now.” That’s my favorite and most utilized. I struggle with decluttering, but clean and simple with everything in its place is the dream.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Agreed — this one definitely takes practice, but once it becomes a habit to do all those small tasks immediately, life feels infinitely less overwhelming. Best of luck on your decluttering journey in 2016!

      Reply
    • Michelle & Watson | February 2, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Something I DEFINITELY need to be doing more of! I am such a procrastinator 🙂

      Woof Xo,
      Michelle & Watson
      https://www.watsonandwalls.com/blog/west-hollywood

      Reply
  2. 2
    Gabriella | January 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Oh my!! Camille! Those tips are brilliant and definitely motivating. We just moved house and are living amidst tools and dust, as we are undergoing construction (and living in the same house). Any tips on how to stay organised amidst the chaos? x

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      oh my gosh, I can say from experience – it is SO tough to stay organized during a move or remodel. This is really the time when “having a place for everything” comes into play, even if it’s a temporary spot just during the construction. It’s also a time when you’ve got to cut yourself a little slack and just accept the chaos, knowing it’s a season that will pass — and it’ll all be worth it in the end. Good luck and congrats on the new house!

      Reply
  3. 3
    sophieccollins | January 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Camille – absolutely LOVED this post, from one “OCD” Calendar maker to another!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 6, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      haha, I knew I had some calendar soulmates out there! 😉

      Reply
  4. 4
    Melinda | January 6, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you for this great post! I’m a mom of twin boys who works from home, and I have a busy social life and a husband who works a ton…I always say that my life is all about “Keeping the plates spinning”. I’m pretty OCD about my calendar as it is, but I just gathered some even better ideas from your post. Wishing you a wonderful 2016!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 6, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Amazing — I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from you! Sounds like you’ve gotten good at the juggle, and so glad you picked up a few tips. Keep those plates spinning! 😉

      Reply
  5. 5
    Jennifer Rose Smith | January 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Camille! I think the first thing people always ask me about you is how you manage to get so much done. Truly inspiring! You have definitely taught me the power of iCal… hoping to follow in your productivity footsteps in 2016.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 6, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      ha – thanks JRS! don’t think we could function without iCal. Cheers to an organized year! xo

      Reply
      • Emily T. | January 7, 2016 at 10:16 am

        Is iCal the app that is not free in the App Store or is iCal the same as google calendar ? I’m learning…

        Reply
        • Jennifer Rose Smith | January 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

          Hi Emily! iCal (aka “Calender”) is an app that comes free and already installed on any new apple computer, iPad, or iPhone. It can also be accessed online at http://www.icloud.com. Google Calendar is a competitive platform, which can be accessed for free through your Google Account online.

          Reply
        • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm

          I know, it’s so confusing! iCal is the same as “Calendar” on apple products — it’s free and comes already installed on your Apple computer and iPhone!

          Reply
  6. 6
    Alison Salcedo | January 6, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    THIS IS SO HELPFUL. The “to do” list in Calendar is especially genius. I love these real life lessons and tips. Keep it coming!! And happy new year. xx

    Reply
    • Andrea | January 29, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      This is the thing I most need to keep me on track, but I’ve got a stupid question…do you just create an event and call it “To do”, or is this a feature of iCal?

      Reply
      • Camille Styles | January 29, 2019 at 3:03 pm

        Not a stupid question at all! I actually create an event called “To Do”. 🙂

        Reply
  7. 7
    Christena | January 6, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Planning & cooking meals for the week makes life so much easier – and when i group the types of meals together (cut all the carrots and onions for all the meals) it can be whipped through – avoiding the dreaded “whats for dinner?” Curating your closet (and life) to be filled with things that you can actually enjoy is amazing – but I find myself filling up more quickly than I would like to admit.

    Reply
  8. 8
    Marife Roman | January 6, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Camille, thank you so much for sharing. It’s always interesting to learn about other’s organisational habits, so one can acquire new ways to shift our own habits.

    Reply
  9. 9
    Kate Simmons | January 6, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Camille, I can’t tell you how much I loved this post, and how helpful the specific examples are. I also love your answer above about cutting ourselves slack during particularly chaotic times. I am definitely a planner who likes to stick to a schedule. I find it helpful to carve out some me time during weeks when life presents a set of unexpected, chaotic circumstances. At first glance, “me time” seems counterproductive if I’m getting behind, but it ends up putting me back on track in a way too, even if I just take a step back for a short break. Thanks for your insights!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Hi Kate! I was just listening to a Podcast this morning about the importance of carving out a couple hours each week to be by ourselves and do something that truly feeds our souls. It was totally in line with what you said — that “me time” actually makes you more focused on the right priorities, which is actually way more important than just checking another to-do item off your list.T Thanks for the great insight! xoxo

      Reply
  10. 10
    CMQ | January 6, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Loved this post and have a suggestion for you – I too use my notes app to store my random lists of things to remember. However, I was able to delete my “books to read” list because I use the Goodreads app. It’s one of my favorite apps on my phone (nerdy? Possibly…) because it’s basically a reading social media app. You can keep track of books you want to read, “shelve” them (into groups of your own choosing so when you’re looking for a book in a certain category like romance or self-help, you can choose from the ones you’ve earmarked for yourself), rate books you’ve read, scan the ISBN number or search for books you’re currently reading, track your progress on current reads (for those of us who love to make tangible progress), and link up with friends to see what they’re reading as well. You can look up any book by title, peruse a summary, read reviews and add it right to your “want to read” list. I love it for a variety of reasons (clearly) and would say it’s probably my most recommended app as a result. Thanks for your wonderful tips and hope you’re able to outsource your “to-read” note as well!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 8:48 am

      AMAZING — absolutely love this tip. Thanks for turning me onto the app. Downloading it today!! xoxo

      Reply
  11. 11
    Nalena | January 7, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Camille, thank you! You have always been an inspiration on to how to live in a organized and clutter free manner. I remember you once sharing that you respond to all emails within 24 hours through a flagging system. Would love it if you could share more! I have a constant struggle with my inbox.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Thanka Nalena — so funny that you mention that, because I was just thinking, “hmm… maybe I should share inbox management tips, too.” Of course, I have a system for that too, ha! Thanks for your sweet words and for the great feedback.

      Reply
      • Mary Keller | January 8, 2016 at 8:25 am

        Yes please share your inbox management system!!!

        Reply
  12. 12
    Danette | January 7, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for sharing all your tips! I am a paper planner user but, your approach with Google calendars and iCal makes total sense. I will try it but, keep a paper calendar handy for support. Enjoyed the post

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Great idea — and I know that there is just something about the act of writing it down with pen and paper that helps a lot of people commit something to memory! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for sharing your approach!

      Reply
  13. 13
    cbsteckel | January 7, 2016 at 10:17 am

    These are great! Already re-organized my List-list on my iPhone! I’m a constant pile maker. If things are around the house I group them into what room they need to be returned to rather than making multiple trips to separate rooms all the time.

    I would love to hear how you keep your kiddo’s toys and crafts organized! Trying to tackle this now.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      I love the pile-making strategy! That is so smart. Similarly, I corral all the kids loose toys/stuffed animals into a bin on the stairwell and take them up with me in one trip instead of having to go up and down the stairs multiple times. I could probably write an entire post on kids toys/crafts organization, but I am a big fan of having tons of baskets and storage bins so that everything has a place. We have a walk-in entry closet in the living room that I throw all their downstairs toys in and then just shut the door and pretend like it’s not there! 🙂

      Reply
  14. 14
    Jackie | January 7, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Love this post! Mostly because your organizational habits are incredibly similar to mine – particularly the slide about using the “notes” app on your phone. I have a note for EVERYTHING (my boyfriend/everyone makes fun of me), but it truly delights me to make lists (is that weird?). Sometimes, if I’m having trouble sleeping because I can’t stop thinking about my to-do list, I’ll get out of bed just to write everything down, and then my mind is instantly put at ease. And once I tackle my tasks, it’s such a rewarding feeling to check off that to-do list. Who’s with me?!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      So with you — listmaking for the win!!! (and I literally just remembered something I need to add to my grocery list as we speak.)

      Reply
  15. 15
    Amber | January 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I have a scarf problem and you mentioned them in your “Have a place for everything” tip. I find them difficult to keep wrangled, have you come across anything that helps you keep them organized?

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      Agree that is an organizational challenge! In my closet, I have 3 narrow bins from Container Store. I roll up my scarves and then line them up tightly in the bins side by side. That way I can see my entire selection, and rolling them keeps them from getting wrinkled. Hope that makes sense!

      Reply
  16. 16
    Kendra | January 7, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Such a helpful post! I love the idea of color-coding by category and syncing up the to-do list. Random and unrelated question, but I am in love with the large textural flower in your entryway – would you mind sharing where you found it?

    Reply
  17. 17
    Kate Smith | January 7, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Hello Camille, great info thank you! Which calendar do you choose to use specifically?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 7, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Thanks Kate! I use Google Calendar and then sync it up with iCal on my apple laptop.

      Reply
  18. 18
    robynsoffice | January 8, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks Camille, this is an awesome post, thank you so much for sharing your tips. Especially like the idea of a reminder 2 weeks before an event that you need to purchase a gift for, genius 🙂

    Reply
  19. 19
    Amber | January 10, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Your calendaring system is brilliant, definitely going to give it a go!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks Amber, would love to hear how it works for you!

      Reply
  20. 20
    Lulu | January 22, 2016 at 12:04 am

    Why do you create your calender in gmail first rather than in ical to start off? I’m trying to get better at relying on technology rather than notes of paper floating around in my purse.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | January 22, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Creating the calendar in google allows me to access it anywhere — even if I’m somewhere and need to use someone else’s computer or phone, all I have to do is login to gmail in the browser and view my calendar. I also think that google makes “sharing” your calendars (with family members, co-workers, etc) a more seamless process. And then the reason I sync it up to iCal is so that it’s easily accessible on my desktop and phone. Hope that helps and let me know if you have any other Q’s!

      Reply
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