With the new year come and gone and January already in the rearview mirror, most people have already forgotten about any resolutions they made in that end-of-year moment of hope and idealism. But it’s not too late to start making 2015 better and more successful. Below are our three keys to accomplishing that goal.

#1: Declutter!

Focus on decluttering first. It’s hard to begin to organize anything when there is a layer – or layers – of clutter obscuring all of the things you actually use and need. So get rid of anything you do not use or wear regularly. Donate them to charity, give them away to friends or family, or sell them.

We talked to Ellyn Elstein, founder of Creative Closets, about her approach to making life simpler and more enjoyable through a personal organization. Ellyn’s tips for making decluttering happen:

  • Get a black trash bag and fill it with your unnecessary items, then make sure it is outside of your house (and wherever it’s going) within 24 hours. Decluttering is not putting things in bags; it’s removing them from your life permanently.
  • Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the last 2 years. If you haven’t needed it in that amount of time, you aren’t going to.
  • Be prepared for a multi-step decluttering process. The first round of decluttering can seem easy, but that second purge is harder. Be as ruthless as you can. Continuously asking yourself, “Do I really use this?” may be helpful.
  • Be realistic about clothes that no longer fit. People will often keep clothes in smaller sizes because they love the way they once looked, but they aren’t being realistic about the size they are now.
  • Keep a notepad or tablet with you during this process so you can track what you are donating for tax purposes.

People often conflate decluttering and garage sale-ing, but these are two different processes with two different goals.

The goal of a sale is to make money or have fun, while the goal of decluttering is to remove unnecessary things from your life so you can enjoy what you value more. “I do not believe in doing garage sales for that reason,” Elstein says. “When you go to sell things at a garage sale, you get so little money from what you’re selling, that it feels demeaning.”

If someone comes up and offers you $0.20 for something that you were sentimentally attached to, you won’t want to say no, but you will feel like kicking yourself afterward. “Instead, I suggest to people that they offer their unneeded things to family or friends. If they don’t want them, give it to someone who can use it. It always feels good to give things to people who can really use them. Charities can always be used items in good condition, and often, so can people in nursing homes.”

Elstein stresses that for some people, decluttering is a lot easier than for others. “I’ve always been told that it takes the first half of life to accumulate things. It takes the whole second half to get rid of them.”

#2: Make Everything More Accessible

Once the decluttering process is finished, you can focus on the second organizational key: keeping the things you do have and use accessible and in order. Practically this means throwing out the trash or incoming unneeded items quickly rather than letting them sit around to recreate clutter.

Take care of clean laundry right away. Sort your incoming mail so that you can deal with it as it comes instead of leaving it to build up and create anxiety. The more visible clutter you have in your home, the harder it will be for you to make decisions and the more stressed and tired you will feel throughout the day.

#3: Customize your organization methods to how you live

Finally, design your organizational system to your home’s aesthetics and your household patterns of life. There is no one way to organize, so make sure the way you do it is an expression of yourself, your sense of beauty and order, and your lifestyle. How you organize your home is an outward display of who you are to everyone who visits your home – as well as an expression of how you see yourself.

As an organization expert, Ellyn has a few tips on how to accomplish this as well:

  • Have someone come in to evaluate what kind of space you have and figure out everything about the space to improve the way you use it.
  • Once you have the space that is most important to you done, you can start to work on the other areas of your home. You can evaluate your space yourself, but, generally, you aren’t going to get as much usable space out of your revamp as a professional designer or organization expert will. For instance, off-the-rack shelving pieces often space their shelves too far apart – which does not make for an ideal organizational solution or the best use of space. Professionals know how to make the kinds of small adjustments that make for a truly personalized solution.

By making your organizational solutions fit your own ideas of beauty and harmony, you make it easier to want to remain organized – because every task of putting away or rearranging something will create positive feelings and, therefore reinforce better habits. Filing cabinets or wicker baskets can both be good choices. In following these simple tips – decluttering, staying on top of day-to-day tasks, and creating organization solutions that are personally and aesthetically pleasing to you-you will have made great progress towards your goal of making 2015 a year of great accomplishment and satisfaction.