From time to time, we all get stuck. Lifestyles are chaotic and living spaces are mired in stuff we no longer need. Frantic mornings are impeded by misplaced keys or cell phones. School forms requiring signatures are presented while the school bus waits at the curb. Tax time is a nightmare because receipts are scattered in envelopes.
Embarrassment, guilt and frustration are palpable, yet the road to organization is blocked by anxiety, hesitation and questions. “Where do I begin?” “What if I fail?” “How can I think about organizing when I have no time or space?”
These feelings are common misconceptions about organizing. Our perceptions guide our actions. If we transform the way we perceive a situation, our approach should change as well. Following are practical suggestions to tackle each misconception so you can overcome roadblocks and enjoy the home and lifestyle you crave.
No Time (Like the Present)
We’re all pressed for time. And when there is time to spare, most of us want to spend it having fun not fiddling with stuff. Yet disorganization, wasteful spending, disarray, looking for lost items, shuffling stuff to clean under and around items all eat up time. Getting control pays huge dividends into your time bank. Carve out a few hours or look for gaps where you can squeeze in a task or two. Pay bills online while waiting to pick up your child from soccer practice, sort the mail while dinner is simmering, dust when you’re placed on hold, wipe down counters as you prep so cleanup is a breeze. Organization frees up time in the long run. Leaving the house is less challenging when your keys are on the peg by the door, those permission slips are signed and nestled in the backpacks, and receipts are filed and ready for tax time.
We all fall prey to unrealistic expectations. Your home does not need to be perpetually camera-ready. If you are at peace in your space, can easily find what you are looking for and accomplish tasks at a reasonable pace, then you’re golden. Leave the perfectionism to magazine covers.
Not a Pinterest Queen or King? No problem. Simplicity is the key to getting started. Leave the crafty storage bins and labels to those who have the time, talent and inclination.
Only One Right Way
A myriad of books, magazine articles, blogs and videos offer organizational tips. Why are there so many resources? Because there are an infinite number of methods and perspectives. Explore your unique style. Pay attention to daily routines over a week or more. What flows smoothly? What causes hitches? Relocating items may save steps and time. As there is no correct way to arrange your possessions, you cannot do it wrong. Following someone else’s prescription may or may not work for you. For a system to be sustainable, it must suit the users. If you are struggling to find your way, professional organizers are available to guide you.
There is no failure and no one is judging you. Organizing is an experiment. After you rearrange, give it a go for a few days or weeks. Not satisfied? Assess the hiccup and change things up again. Nothing is set in stone. Let’s say your dishes reside in a cupboard near your dining table. While setting the table is a snap, you cart heavy stacks across the kitchen after unloading the dishwasher. This process is unwieldy, bad for your back and time consuming. Is there a cabinet above the dishwasher? House the dishes there. The result is a few extra steps at dinnertime, and unloading the dishwasher goes faster with less strain on your back.
What you need to get organized is minimal. Search basements and attics for container options. A thorough clean out frees up containers and spaces for repurposing – and voila! – you saved money and time by avoiding a trip to the store. An occasional purchase might be needed for bins, file folders, labels, shelves or a shredder. If so, Office Depot/Office Max, Storables, The Container Store, Ikea, Target and Home Depot are hubs for organizing products.
All or Nothing
A popular organizing book series purports that the entire organization project must be done all at once. That works for people living in small spaces with few possessions. The author’s advice would send a number of my clients into a frenzy. Baby steps will ease you into the process. Start small and see how it feels. Tackle one area or room for a rapid sense of gratification. Your success will invigorate your self-confidence and eagerness to take on the next space.
Out of Space
No space to store what you have typically indicates that it is time for a heart to heart with your possessions. Look at each item you have or wish to buy and ask yourself: Do I need or love it? Will I use it and how often? Could I borrow or rent it if it will only be used once or twice? Would I pay a mover to move it? Would I get rid of something to make room for it? Americans own more stuff than is necessary. Be mindful about every one of your possessions.
That said, on occasion we become custodians of others’ belongings. Independent children move back home, seniors transition into assisted living and we temporarily house their furniture. Life throws us curve balls. If the situation is temporary, you might have to make do. For the long term, carefully consider clearing out what you can. If the furniture belongs to your children, assess the quality. By the time they move out again, they will be ready for something better than milk crates. Farm out some of your parents’ possessions to siblings, if possible. If there is no chance that they will return home, pass along their things for consignment or donation for another family to appreciate.
We all have episodes in our lives when circumstances surpass our control. Babies, new careers, heavy workloads, divorces, senior care and deaths can bamboozle the best working systems. During those times, put out an SOS. Call upon a spouse, children who are old enough to help out, a roommate, friends or other family members to step in until you get back in the groove. Professional organizers are available to get you started or back on course. Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers at napo.net/search for assistance in finding an organizer in your area.
Now that the barriers have been jettisoned, it’s time to get to work. Grab those free minutes to examine, sort, rearrange, release and restore order in your life. You will love your newfound freedom.
Sherri Becker Curley owns The Practical Sort Eco-Organizing Solutions. For more time and organizing tips and resources, visit thepracticalsort.com.