Do these scenarios sound familiar?
… Someone hands you an object, and rather than put it away, you mindlessly set it on the nearest surface?
… You come across a slip of paper requiring action, so you lay it down on the counter or desk as a reminder?
… You stumble across an item that belongs in another room, but lacking the time or energy to carry it to its final destination, you set it down nearby to be put away later?
In other words, do you have a tendency to drop items in a convenient location “just for now?”
At some level, most people believe that putting items away in the appropriate spot is a good idea. Nevertheless, many of us simply fail to follow through for a number of reasons, including:
- It is inconvenient. For example, if we are supervising a young child, we may not be able to get up and leave in order to put something away.
- We don’t know where to put it. If we’ve never taken the time to assign a “home” to a particular item, we don’t know where it rightfully belongs.
- We are afraid of “losing” something. We fear that putting an item out of sight means we will either forget about it or will be unable to find it when we need it.
- We are lazy. It is simply easier to put something down than to walk up the steps or go out to the garage.
Unfortunately, we often fail to count the cost of temporarily stashing items. These costs include:
We forget where we have put something down, and end up spending far more time searching for it than it would have taken to put it away in the first place.
We never get around to actually returning items to their rightful “home,” creating an atmosphere of disorder that further demotivates us from putting things away.
We neglect important responsibilities because our visual reminder (e.g. a slip of paper) gets buried under other belongings.
If you struggle with the discipline of putting things away, ask yourself these questions whenever you handle an object:
⇒ “Where does this go?”
If you can’t answer this, begin by assigning it a spot.
⇒ “Am I able to put this away right now?”
If the answer is no, (e.g. because you can’t leave the room or don’t have time) place it in a “put away” bin. Allocate time each day – and a bit longer time each weekend – to empty the bin.
Or, move the item “one step closer” to its final destination. For instance, an item that belongs in the upstairs closet can be placed on the stairway and grabbed next time you go upstairs.
⇒ “Is there a good reason to not put this away?”
If the answer is yes, ask yourself if leaving this item out is the BEST way to fulfill that need. For example, if you don’t want to put the bill away because you need to pay it, consider creating a “to pay” file which you schedule to work on weekly, rather than just leaving it out on the counter.
⇒ “Am I being lazy?”
If the answer is yes, remind yourself (out loud, if necessary), that you are causing yourself future pain, that you deserve better and that you want to change this habit. Ask a family member to encourage you if he/she hears you having this internal struggle.
* * * * *
As with so many aspects of life, the temptation of momentary pleasure frequently screams louder than the long-term payoff of self-discipline. However, by making an intentional decision to resist the temptation to set it down “just for now,” you are giving yourself a gift that will pay dividends for the long haul.
How do you motivate yourself to put things away when you really don’t feel like it?