Embarking on a large organizing project can feel overwhelming and for good reason. It is. Staying organized is easier than getting organized. Why? Because for most of us just looking at a huge pile of mess makes us want to close the door and pretend it’s not there.
A few people can play the pretend-game for a long time. Eventually though there will be a consequence; finance charges from a bill you can’t find, time spent looking for a vital document at a moment when you don’t have the time to spare (say the night before your income taxes are due) or sometimes worse things if you let it go too long.
So if you’ve finally made up your mind to organize that pile of papers and other junk on your desk or realized you can’t go another minute with the clutter creeping upstairs from your basement or out of your closets and into your living room, don’t just dive in blindly. If you do, within a short time you’ll want to give up and you’ll be back to square one.
Instead take a little time to plan. With the right conditions you can be successful. What are the right conditions? As a professional organizer, I believe they include Support from others, adequate Time to accomplish your goals, a willingness to take Action, an incentive or Reward to keep you motivated and the Tools to help you get the job done efficiently. If you forget them, just remember the word START.
Organizing a large project can be lonely, tedious and overwhelming. Start by setting a small, manageable goal and ask a supportive friend or family member to help you. You can do this in one of two ways. The first way is to ask them to be your “accountability coach” by helping you stay on track. The second is to engage their help as a “clutter-buddy.” The best candidates will have a knack for organizing and will not be judgmental or critical. Before working together, tell them what you need (“I need support to help me meet my organizing goals” and what you don’t need (I would like your advice about what to keep, what not to and why, but I prefer to make this decision myself.” Finally, once you’re work is done, acknowledge and thank them for their help. Take them out for a great meal or offer to return the favor.
Not surprisingly most of us can organize someone else’s things better than our own. If your home or office have become so cluttered that you are ashamed or embarrassed, consider talking about it to a counselor, professional organizer or join an online support group such as “Messies Anonymous”
If you are a parent with young children, ask your spouse or a family friend to support you by taking the kids for the day so you can focus on organizing.
You don’t need money to get organized but you do need time. Consider dedicating some time each week to your goal. For large tasks such as organizing your garage or closets, you’ll get a jump start if you set aside a few half day sessions at first. Then taper down once you have control of your space.
If you can’t imagine squeezing one more thing into your hectic schedule, consider the alternatives and what your disorganization is costing you in terms of lost time, money or joy in your life.
You may also wish to consider using a couple of vacation days productively. Better to come home from a real vacation with your home or office in order than to have to face chaos the minute you walk back in the door.
Wouldn’t it be nice to wiggle our noses and have all the clutter be gone like Samantha Stevens, the young witch from the movie and TV show Bewitched? Alas, just like starting an exercise program, you’ll find getting organized is both a physical as well as mental process that take effort. The good news is by taking action your own momentum will increase. Physics has proved this. “A body in motion tends to stay in motion,” said the English physicist, Isaac Newton.
One important note: Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re organizing. Keep some water nearby and munch on healthy snacks or listen to music to keep your energy up. If you have limited mobility, consider asking a friend or professional organizer to help you. Organizing can be good exercise too so if you’ve been sedentary, getting organized can get you moving again.
Before you even begin, think about what will be different and how you will feel once you have everything just the way you want it. Ask yourself, “why do I want to get organized in the first place?” To entertain more? To feel in control of your life? To gain a room of your own to pursue a new hobby or an old interest? Yes, your newly organized and clean space will feel like a reward in itself but don’t stop there. Imagine what it will mean to you.
Every one of my clients has discovered a side of themselves they didn’t know they had before they got rid of their clutter. Getting organized is not only about clearing the physical space around you, it’s about opening up the space in your mind for other ideas and unrealized needs to emerge.
Finally, make sure you have what you need to sort, move or dispose of your stuff. There are certain tools that are indispensable when it comes to starting a large organizing project. I recommend the following “tools.”
* Trash receptacle, a large one, preferably one on wheels for big jobs such as your garage.
* Heavy duty trash can liners that fit the receptacle
* Cardboard boxes, collapsible storage cubes or paper shopping bags for sorting – each one labeled for things you plan to keep, donate, shred, repair, recycle and one more for things that go elsewhere
* A few basic office supplies such as envelopes and file folders
*Permanent markers for labeling
* A rag or dust cloth for wiping off sticky residue or dust. (Note: Consider hiring a professional cleaner for the nitty-gritty stuff when you’re done.)
Once you’re done, be sure to regularly maintain your changes because clutter has a way of creeping back. That’s because organizing is not a destination, it’s a practice. Practice and before long you’ll not only be more organized, you’ll be more of who you are and you may even discover who you were meant to be.