This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a More Organized, Simpler, and Less Stressful Life, which will be published by Peter Pauper Press in November 2010.
As you start the organizing journey, you may suffer from what I like to call, Temporary Organizing Paralysis. This is when you start organizing, freeze up, stare at all of the stuff and think, “Where do I begin?” “What am I going to do with all of this stuff?”
Realize that it will get worse before it gets better if you are in the middle of an organizing project. The stuff will be out of the drawers, files, closets, etc. Come up with a staging area to sort the stuff, so it is not in the way! That will help keep your stress level down. Also, identify early on who and where to donate items: friends and family, thrift shops, places of worship, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, etc. There are many willing homes for used stuff. Adopting a charity or a needy family makes getting rid of your clutter a whole lot easier.
Often, there is a domino effect of being disorganized. You may need to start somewhere else in order to clear space first before you can work on a particular organizing project. For example, let’s say you have paper all over your dining room table (a common clutter catcher spot!). You would think of starting on the dining room table. But the real problem is your home office. You haven’t cleared out the paper bins and filing drawers in so long that you can’t bring any new paper into that room. Thus, you started piling it on the table. Therefore, you need to start in the home office, clear clutter, make room, and then move to the dining room table. So, give some thought to the order of your organizing projects and how one may affect another. Of course, if you desperately need or want your dining room table back before your home office is organized, you can temporarily box up the papers on the table and move them to a staging area and work there while getting organized. If you have the space to create “organizing central,” then go ahead and do it. Get some boxes, bins, a folding table, and go to town!
In order to stay motivated while organizing, post your list of goals in a conspicuous place, especially if you are a visual person. Before and after photos also help many people get and stay motivated. Consider playing some upbeat music to keep you alert, or relaxing music if you are easily distracted. If you dread organizing alone, work with your spouse or a friend, involve your kids, or go pro and hire a professional organizer. And, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way as you would with any other behavior modification program.
Getting organized is about making progress, not achieving perfection. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of getting organized. Just take it one step at a time. You’ll have more chance of success if you break the overall project into manageable tasks, tackling a little bit at a time. The key is to get started and stay focused. You can do it!