Organize your life for you, not for Instagram

I still love it when I hear my clients tell me about how getting organized has impacted their lives.

“After you got me organized, I enrolled in a cooking class I’ve been wanting to take.”

“I started gardening again.”

“My family told me I was a lot less grumpy.”

“I felt like I could breathe again!”


My “brand” of organizing came out of my own, real life.

I first started organizing my home 12 years ago, quite by accident – I wasn’t a “born organizer.” When I found myself feeling restless and anxious after I left my corporate career at age 49, I started organizing my bathroom cabinet.

Almost immediately, I started noticing that the act of sorting my home’s contents and purging things I no longer wanted, then finding creative ways to store or display them was fun and did wonders for sparking my creativity not to mention taking my mind off of being unemployed with a mortgage.

The first time I helped a friend get her papers organized, I came home and told my husband it was the most satisfying thing I’d done in years!

If my clients say they want their kitchen’s dry goods stored in chalk-labeled, air tight containers, that’s fine, we’re happy to do it. For me, it’s not worth my time.  My dry goods get put in a bin in their original packaging. When I want pasta, I know where it is.

Your home does not have to look like a cover from a lifestyle magazine or an Instagram post if that’s not who you are.

Knowing how you behave in real-life is a great decision tool to help you when you are thinking about ways to be better organized. 

Here’s an example I see often.

People keep way too many business cards.  But in reality when they are looking for a business they rarely if ever go to that “business card file.” They get a referral from a friend, or another professional or they do a web search. In other words in “real life” they behave differently from how they organize their life.

When my clients tell me, they want to store all their recipes in sheet protectors, in three ring binders but they have three stacks of old, saved paper recipes a foot high on their kitchen counters from 10 years ago, I will ask them, “In real life, if you were looking for a recipe, would you go through this stack?” Sometimes they say yes, but most times they’ll admit they refer to their cookbooks or go online for recipe ideas.

When it comes to organizing, do what’s truly worth your time.

For anything you are wanting to organize, ask yourself, “is it truly worth my time?” or “if I were looking for this, where would I look for it in real life?”

It takes hours to create a 3-ring recipe binder for recipes. As an organizer, it’s not for me to tell my clients what to keep or what not to, but sometimes I know my clients get caught up in the magazine version of organizing instead of what really fits their own habits and lifestyle.

They want the complete collection, the perfect solution, or they want to be the version of themselves they think they should be instead of who they really are.

If it’s worth your time to sort through that stack of paper recipes, to curate your favorites and edit out the ones you would never make anymore – the ones using meat, for example if you’re now a vegetarian – then by all means do it if makes you happy!

What you don’t want to do is hold onto the recipes – or the unfinished craft projects or the broken chair you’ve intended to fix for ten years — and say, “someday I’m going to do this.” Because you won’t. If you wanted to, you would have. It’s not a priority for you anymore. And that’s good. It means that hopefully you’re spending your life on things that you do enjoy or are important and meaningful to you.

If you’re not, those are questions you can pose to yourself as well or with the help of an advisor, guide, life coach or therapist, if appropriate.

As we get older, our priorities shift and time seems to speed up and feel more precious. 

If six months or a year goes by and the recipes are still stacked on your kitchen counter, the art project never got started, the chair never got fixed, then maybe it’s time to say, “I’m choosing to do something else with my life now” and let it go.

Here’s another approach. Ask yourself, what is it about the unfinished project that still holds your attention.

Perhaps the recipes remind you of happy times with your family, parents, grandparents and you want to keep those memories alive. If that’s the case, then find the two or three or ten recipes that evoke the best memories and make them. Toss the rest.

If the unfinished art project was something you felt inspired to create when you first decided to, ask yourself, ” Do I still feel that inspiration now?”  What was it about the project that excited you when you first thought of creating it? You may find the answer will reveal a new inspiration that is more compelling for you now.

As for the broken chair, imagine it’s fixed. Would you use it? Would you gift it to someone? Did it belong to someone special in your life? Are you honoring them by keeping that memory stored broken in a basement?

The point is, don’t get hung up on the goal you set for yourself 3, 5, 10 years ago. If you really still want to do it, then it’s possible something else is holding you back.  You may be stuck on an outdated perspective about yourself or what it means to be a better version of yourself. You may be holding on to an Instagram version of you instead of the real you.

Is the you, you are now, enough?




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