Fall is the time of the year that many people feel the urge to organize because the holidays and winter are coming. Yet 55% of those people who work to organize a space report that it takes less than TWO weeks for their space to become disorganized. Another 39% report it takes less than ONE week!
Why is it so difficult to stay organized?
Often times, it’s because we get the essential steps to organization out of order or we skip over a step. Organization is not about jumping into complicated systems or purchasing expensive products. Organization always starts with a good understanding of clutter, disorganization, and a realistic organization system that makes it easy to maintain and hard for clutter to build up again. Without these key components, it will be all too easy to slide back into disorganization.
What is clutter?
Clutter is anything we don’t need, love, or use.
It’s such a simple definition, but it really does cover everything in our living and working spaces. I may not love my stapler, but I do need it and use it. The tiny Japanese teacups are not needed or used in my office, but I love them. They provide a sense of peace and calm in my space. Therefore, the stapler and the teacups stay. That year-old book that couldn’t keep my interest and really doesn’t apply to my business? It has no place in my workspace and only comes between me and the stuff I do love, use and need.
What is disorganization?
It’s stuff we love, need or use that doesn’t have a defined place in our space. Those piles of paper may be very important, but they feel and look like clutter because there is no paper system. A good paper system has a distinct and defined home for each category of paper that belongs in our home or office. For example, reference paper is scanned or filed, action paper may live in a ‘hot file’ on our desk, and transitional paper like tax prep or a major project could be contained in a portable document box.
Why is it important that we make the distinction between clutter and disorganization?
Clutter takes up our energy and makes organizing feel like a bigger job than it needs to be. Organizing will take more time and money if we are trying to organize what really has no need to be in our life. And, ultimately, clutter will overwhelm any organizational system that we try to implement.
Disorganization creates its own set of problems. Disorganization can mean that really important things are impossible to find. Disorganization results in duplicate purchases which then feeds into the whole clutter/disorganization imbalance. For example, if it seems we can never find the scissors, we may buy more scissors. However, we actually have scissors (several pairs) but we can’t find them because clutter is in the way and/or the scissors have no defined home and/or people in the home aren’t returning the scissors to the defined home. So, we buy more scissors and we probably won’t be able to find those either!
Clutter and disorganization working together will be the death of any organizational attempts. It’s no wonder that half of us cannot maintain the organizational gains we do make.
What’s the best path to organization?
Don’t let past missteps discourage you! By following the key steps below, anyone can achieve organizational success:
1) Tackle the clutter and be ruthless. Remember that if you don’t ‘need it, love it or use it’ it has no value to you and can only contribute to the stress of maintaining organization.
2) Tackle tomorrow’s clutter. Look for changes that can be made to prevent clutter from ever coming into your space and put systems in place that give clutter a way out of your home. For example, take steps to stop unnecessary paper to prevent future paper piles.
3) Find a place for everything in your home. Once clutter is handled, everything left is important. And, if it’s important enough to keep, it is important enough to have a defined place in your space. There is a reason we say, “A place for everything, and everything in its place!”
4) Make it easy to put things away. Your kids are more likely to hang their coats up if you give them a handy coat hook by the back door. You are more likely to file papers if it’s easy to access files from your desk chair. The best system is always the easiest system because we are all human and put off doing unpleasant or difficult tasks.
5) Maintain the organizational systems by resetting those spaces as part of a daily routine. Put the kitchen back to rights after a meal. Spend 10 minutes picking up the family room at the end of evening. Put papers away and clear the desktop before ending the workday. These examples of ‘reset’ are an essential part of every organization system but a good system that is clutter-free and easy to use will make this ‘reset’ practically painless.
The path to organizing does not have to be full of trials and tribulations! As a professional organizer, I’ve spent 10 years helping clients find their ‘organized’ by following these key steps. The very best part of my job is when I visit or catch up with a client and find that the system we put in place years ago is still functioning and easy to maintain.