50Plus-Today is more like a curated resource for adults age 50+ than a blog, and we are supported partially by our readers. When you buy via the links on our site, including amazon.com, we may earn an affiliate commission. We do not accept incentives for our reviews; all opinions are our own.
originally published July 29, 2018
updated September 22, 2020
Author: Lisa Miller, Chief Simplification Officer at Living Simply by Lisa
If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone
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 to start, 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. Try to 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 to find 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
You can complete a project 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 draw 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 as completely “empty” so she could finally clean it. In a fairly short time, we did it! She was skeptical her goal could be reached, but after she verbalized her commitment and visualized how the room looked long ago, we were able to make it happen.
Tackle your project in “bite size” pieces
Your challenge might feel so big that you become overwhelmed or even paralyzed by the thought of where to start. How do you declutter an entire house after 20 years? In my experience, the best approach is to divide the project into manageable chunks. Decide which one room to work on first to take your focus off the whole house. Or break it down even further. For example, first declutter the desk piled high with papers or a corner filled with boxes. You can 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 hours in a day and the choice as to what we do with that time. If it is a priority to get organized, commit to set time aside for it. Put a date or two (or ten) 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. Every project I start involves 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 to set 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 to clear your 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 it’s hard to start, try to schedule 15 or 30 minute increments. See how much you can do, smile and repeat. Once you straighten a drawer or clear a messy area, you realize your goal is achievable.
Celebrate your success
Organization is a journey, not a destination. There’s 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; she envisions how her donations might benefit others which she says feels really good.
The bottom line: 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!
About the Author:
Lisa Miller is the Chief Simplification Officer at Living Simply by Lisa, located in Dallas, Tx. She is happily living her second act as a professional organizer after a long financial career in corporate America. For more information about organization and decluttering, visit Living Simply by Lisa or contact Lisa at 214-240-4384 / email@example.com