So, disorganization comes in a two forms: tangible (the kind you can touch and see) and intangible (stuff you can’t touch or see, but is there none-the-less).
Today we’re going to cover the tangible. This can be clutter or just misplacing things. Both can be huge inhibitors of peace. There are countless systems and methodologies out there to help you with these things, but you have to make the time to learn how to and then make the changes. You also have to realize that it may take you several tries to stumble upon what really works for you in this department. Don’t assume that because you try it one way and it doesn’t work–you are hopelessly disorganized. Not so. I’m a very organized person except when it comes to papers. Seriously–my piles had piles… for years. But I was (and can still be) crazy with organization and streamlining processes to eliminate waste… I did it as part of most of my corporate jobs as well (which landed me in the position of “owning” the tech support process for a specific support group of a large, international bank 🙂 ).
Because I’m generally so organized otherwise (and had tried countless “systems” to keep papers under control) I assumed that this was some mental miswiring that I wasn’t going to overcome. Then I found a system that seriously worked. It’s going on a few years, but I am still using and recommending the JOYS filing system. In fact, I’m now evaluating their tickler system for my husband. The point is: it’s a matter of finding what works for you.
There are two rules that guide my household in managing where stuff is:
Everything has a place and everything in it’s place.
You have heard this before, I’m sure. It means that everything HAS a proper place to be, and you take the extra time to put it there when you’re done with it. Period. How much time COULD it seriously take to put it back? Probably way less time than you’ll kill trying to find it when you need it. This is HARD to train yourself to do. You will stop and insist that you’ll remember where it is, or that you truly DON’T have the extra minute, or you’ll be really lazy and convince yourself that it doesn’t matter. It matters.
You are worth having a space free of chaos and stress. Your time is more valuable than to be wasted on looking for things because you didn’t take care to put them back. Your money is worth more than to be wasted on replacing something you can’t find–and you don’t have the time to wait out finding it: it has to be replaced now. Realize that all of this is about what you think you are worth. YOU are worth the extra few minutes it will take to put it back. You are worth the time, the effort, the money. You are worthy of living in a clean and kept area. Scientifically, someone published some report a year or two ago showing that visual clutter induces stress. You are worthy of being stress-free. And you are absolutely capable of doing it, but it will require effort.
With my kids, they have a chance to put everything in “it’s proper place” and if they don’t, mommy’s throwing the stuff out. (In reality, I gather it up and hide it for a week or two and then I put it in it’s proper place… or I donate them if it’s stuff they no longer use/need, which is why they didn’t feel compelled to “save” it from me to begin with).
The second rule that runs my household is:
Organize around how you live. Don’t try to change how you live to accommodate being organized.
This concept really struck me when I read it several years ago. Let me give you an example of what this means:
If you come into your home every day and plop your stuff down at the door, then make the area by the door a place to accommodate your stuff instead of trying to teach yourself to walk down the hall to the area you’ve decided the stuff should go. It takes about 21 days (THREE FULL WEEKS) to create or break a habit. Is there really anything wrong with your behavior? Would it be so horrible to work around who you are? There’s probably nothing wrong with you. Let the organizing bend to your personality. Put the key rack somewhere else.
These two are the guiding themes for keeping our home organized. It was the same at work. If you need to seriously declutter, here is a good article I wrote for BellaOnline called “How to Purge and Declutter Anything”. From a small junk drawer to your house, the process is the same. And for general help on getting into a full-on mindset to help you organize, I highly recommend Julie Morgenstern’s work. Start with “Organizing from the Inside Out” (which is easy to read and mercifully short).
Last, make sure that when you get your act together, you try to make it LOOK nice. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Just make sure that you’re trying to create an environment that you actually enjoy looking at. If you love how it looks, you won’t want to mess it up. THIS GOES FOR GUYS, TOO! What you love to look at may be different in terms of the style, colors, whatever–but male or female, be sure to love how it looks.