Author: Lisa Miller
Chief Simplification Officer, Living Simply by Lisa
Do you sometimes feel like you’re out of control? Stressed? Overwhelmed? You are not alone. Whether you struggle with chronic or situational disorganization, there are many tools, processes and techniques available that work.
The hardest part is getting started, just as it may be difficult to sit down to begin a new book. Asking for help is hard for most of us, especially if you have feelings of embarrassment or fear others’ judgment. But keep in mind, others are usually not as critical of us as we are of ourselves.
An effective organization approach takes creativity and combines art, science and therapy. The key is finding simple solutions that work best for your particular situation. There is never one right way; whatever works for you to achieve your goals is the right way for you.
So, where to start? Below are some tips:
Plan before jumping in
A project is completed successfully only when you have a goal, a realistic time frame and a plan to get you there. If you have a plan but it’s not fully developed, that’s ok as long as you have an idea of the direction you’re going. Make it fun with a white board, sticky notes or pictures you’ve drawn with erasable marker on your bathroom mirror.
Visualize your end game
Once you know what you want to accomplish, say it out loud. One of my clients described her vision of an immensely cluttered and disorganized room being completely “empty” so she could finally clean it. In a fairly short time, we did it! She was skeptical that her goal could be reached, but by verbalizing her commitment and visualizing what the room looked like long ago, we were able to make it happen.
Tackle your project in “bite size” pieces
Your challenge might feel so big that the thought of starting is overwhelming, or even paralyzing. How do you declutter an entire house after 20 years? In my experience, the best approach is to divide the project into manageable chunks. Instead of tackling the whole house, decide which room to work on first. Or break it down even further. For example, start by decluttering a desk piled high with papers or a corner filled with boxes. You want to achieve success one step at a time. Only you can determine the size of each bite size piece, but each accomplishment brings you closer to your end goal.
Make a “date” with yourself
Each day has exactly 1,440 minutes in it. We all have the same amount of time and the choice as to what we do with that time. If getting organized is a priority, commit to setting time aside for it. Put a date or two (or 10) on your calendar and then make sure you follow through!
There is no one right way
The “art” part of organizing is finding the personal approach that works for you. I start every project listening to understand how a client thinks, plans and works. We then agree on an approach and modify as we go. Some people like to use lists and a label maker. Others prefer setting up large bins to separate items into piles to be recycled, given away or kept.
Allocate blocks of time that work for you
It can be difficult to find whole days free to work on clearing clutter. If you wait for that kind of time to open up, you may never start! It may work better to find blocks of time to devote to your project. You may like to start early and stay focused for six hours, or you might prefer to work in two hour increments. Or if starting is hard, try scheduling just 15 or 30 minute increments. See what you can get done, smile and repeat. Once you straighten a drawer or clear a messy area, you will realize your goal is achievable.
Celebrate your success
Organization is a journey, not a destination. There is always more to do, but celebrate each accomplishment in your own way. If you wait for “the end” you may wait a long time. One of my clients rewards herself periodically by taking items she no longer needs to her favorite charity and envisioning how her donations might benefit others.
The bottom line is less mess often equals less stress. As you organize, you may find you feel a tremendous relief and sense of calm. The next time your reminder pops up on your calendar for your organization date, invite someone to help you, turn up the music and have a little fun!
Note: The image above is a real photo I took at a client’s house. On the left is what the room looks like now that we’ve organized!