So you are ready to get organized – good for you! And if you’ve been reading along here at Project LIFE, you may by now have an understanding of how you got into a bit of a mess in the first place.
At about this stage it is tempting to dive in and start pitching stuff. However, if you want to be organized for life, and not just for this week, you need to first step back and understand the global principles that will enable you to live in a more intentional, structured, and clutter free way.
There are many principles when it comes to organizing, but two are of the utmost importance and can change your life if you truly embrace them.
1. Everything you own needs a home.
2. Stop cleaning up and instead began restoring order.
The most important principle when it comes to organizing is that everything you own needs a home. There is absolutely, positively no way you will be able to stay organized if you have objects in your home or office which have no designated space to live. You can’t put an item “back” if there is no “back” to put it in! While you may not be able to instantaneously find a home for every item you currently own, you can start today to not bring one item into your house until you have decided in advance exactly where it will live. As you continue on the process of reviewing, sorting and culling through your belongings, you will be able to take this same approach with what you currently own. Every single item needs to have an “assigned seat” in your space. If you can’t find a place to put something, then you know you need to either get rid of it, or get rid of something else to make space for it.
The second principle is that you need to stop cleaning up, and instead begin restoring order. “Cleaning up” is typically a process where we shove, stash, hide, and otherwise clear away our belongings to get them out of sight, often in a very disorganized way. A child can clean up a messy playroom very quickly if all the parent cares about is that it looks “clean” when he is done. A closer look at a playroom after this kind of activity typically reveals toy parts in the wrong places, puzzle pieces missing, broken parts at the bottom of drawers, etc. Think about how we clean up before a party, hiding any evidence of our “less than perfect” lives in drawers, closets and hidden locations. This is actually the antithesis of organizing, and ultimately creates more problems than it solves. Instead, we need to start thinking about taking periodic breaks in our day to put our items back in their designated homes (hence the importance of principle #1!). The frequency with which we do this will depend greatly upon the individual. Some people are fastidious, preferring to put objects back as soon as they have been used. Others are more relaxed, and designate a specific amount of time at end of day (for example, 10 minutes) in which they restore order. This is a personal decision. The key is that you must designate a time to restore order and then stick with it! This process becomes automatic and turns into a habit with time.
One more thing…if you think about it, you will see that these principles apply not only to your stuff, but also to your time. You only have 24 hours in a day, so you have to schedule your activities/meetings/exercise etc. to fit into those hours. If you want to accomplish a task, it better have a “home” on your list of things to do, or it is likely to get missed. Furthermore, it is extremely effective to look at your calendar at the end of the day and to reflect on what you’ve done, what needs to be rescheduled elsewhere, and what needs to be added.
Old habits die hard, so don’t be afraid to tack these principles up on a bulletin board so that you will be able to get - and stay - organized!