Here are some comments I frequently hear:
“My house is a disaster!”
“My kids make the mess faster than I can pick it up.”
“My husband dumps everything all over when he comes in.”
“I don’t even know where to begin.”
If this sounds like something you might say, and you’d like to make a change, here is my advice:
1. Focus On What You Can Control
Many times we get frustrated because we are trying to get organized, but the people we live with won’t “get on board.” This can be very difficult. Since you can’t control the behavior of others, initially focus on spaces that are primarily yours. Maybe this is your bathroom vanity, or your desk. Work on developing good habits with your own belongings. Others may (or may not) pick up on your new habits, but at least you’ll have a few spaces that you can count on being in order. Over time, negotiate a few ground rules for the public spaces, such as the living room or the dining room. This way, you can incrementally expand the sphere of order in your home.
2. Start With The Bothersome
When you are deciding where to begin, focus on what is driving you crazy.
– the table you see when you first walk in the house?
– the pile of shoes that always ends up all over the floor?
– the mass of business cards that never got filed?
Ask yourself, “What aspect of my space makes me cringe?” or, “What situation makes me feel like a failure?” THIS may be a good place to start. Making visible progress – especially in an area that has been giving you grief – is incredibly motivating. As we conquer one area, we feel energized to move on to another. Again, remember to begin somewhere that is under your control, so that your accomplishment is not quickly undone by someone else who is not committed to the process.
3. Chew In Bite-sized Pieces
How many times have you gotten motivated to organize a space, dumped the contents out all over the room, gotten interrupted, and then didn’t have the time to finish the job? The result: you have a bigger mess than when you started. This can be very discouraging. When you are trying to decide where to begin, remember to start small. By this I mean, select an area that you can complete in the allotted time.
~ instead of working on “the garage,” work on the shelf at the bottom of the stairs
~ instead of clearing out “the closet,” begin with your pants, ties or belts
~ instead of pressuring yourself to clear off “your desk,” commit to sorting a stack of magazines
~ instead of trying to organize “the kitchen,” begin with one drawer
A great place to start is with what is commonly known as the “junk drawer.” I’m not a fan of this moniker, because people generally don’t buy junk. Instead, this drawer might contain tape, pens, paper clips, scissors, a ruler, coupons, post-it notes, stamps, etc. To make this space work effectively, empty it out, wipe it clean, and remove what doesn’t belong (such as the hammer you stashed inside when company came over and you didn’t have time to return it to the garage). Now look at what you want to put back inside, and use drawer organizers to assign specific spaces for each item. If many people use the drawer, add labels to each little section so everyone knows where things go. Be sure to avoid stacking things on top of each other, which is a quick path to chaos in a drawer. Now, get rid of the “junk” mentality, and redefine this as your “command center” drawer.
As you complete each small project, you can move on the next. I know one woman who cleans out one drawer or shelf in her kitchen each weekday while cooking dinner in January. By the end of the month, her kitchen is finished!
* * * * *
A large project can seem overwhelming, but it isn’t impossible. Taking the first step is often the hardest part. Remind yourself that even small progress is a reason to celebrate.
Is there an area of your space that you wish were organized? Can you imagine a way to begin?