A myth is a story we tell ourselves or each other that has no basis in fact or natural event. Such a common way to deal with something we don’t want to look at realistically, right? “I have time to add this to my life”! “I will have time to finish that later”.
What happens is that these myths we have about being organized become obstacles that keep us stuck in habits that will never get us where we want to go.
Here are a couple of things people tell themselves and me that they wished worked to get them organized (but, didn’t) and ways around them.
Buying expensive organizing items gets you organized.
The myth goes like this: You’re at the store and you see some lovely, colorful boxes and you feel this hopeful surge and a feeling of complete wellbeing. You know if you buy these items you will be inspired and stay inspired and by the end of the day or week you’ll be entirely organized. All because you bought these lovely boxes. But, you bring them home and that wellbeing is gone and the boxes you bought really don’t fit on the shelves.
You are overwhelmed and angry at yourself and the dream dies.
How do you correct this myth and create a more useful story for yourself?
First, don’t be so hard on yourself! All you’ve done is mix up the order of getting organized. You can use those boxes. You just need to do a few things first.
- Purging and sorting your stuff helps you see what you have and how much you have.
- Deciding where you want to keep all your different stuff allows you to see what kind of storage bins you really need. Also, are you going to see the bins? Then getting decorative bins is smart. Are they going into the garage? Then getting air tight bins might be what you really need.
Now that you know what you have and where it’s all going to go you can look at the organizing products you have and decide what will be used where.
Buying organizing items is always the last thing I do with a client. Plus, buying is often unnecessary, especially once we’ve purged!
There is one system to get organized.
This myth means that, for example, that the one organizing book you bought from Amazon will have that one magic way for you to become organized once and for all! But, it doesn’t get you organized, so you are a failure and you’ll always be dis-organized.
For fun, I went to Amazon and put in ‘professional organizing’. Over 1500 titles came up. There are many options to help us get organized!
The best way to organize is the way that will work for you.
So, how do we figure that out?
Listen to yourself complain about your frustrations with an area and then list what your goals are. This will help you see where you want to go.
Try different things. It is not wrong to try a few things to understand what will work for you! Each time, think about what worked and didn’t and then adjust. In this process you will be able to discover how you think and you will learn how to integrate new things into your life without falling apart.
Above all, you need to be patient with yourself. But, if you just can’t imagine where or how to start, a professional organizer can help. I can help you make a plan that you can implement or we can work together to complete a project.
Have you ever invited a friend over and just before they arrived, you saw what they will see (dusty shelves, overflowing with books, papers, piles of laundry clean and dirty etc. etc.) and felt pre-embarrased? So, you spent the next however many minutes before your friend arrived to stuff things in a room whose door you can close or in drawers/closets/behind the sofa… in other words, wherever. Now you hate your home and everything in it. You feel like all your stuff is old, crappy and you just want to throw it all out. Your home is not giving you energy, but sucking it out of you.
So what do you do? You can throw everything out, sure. If that is not an option, here is another strategy and I think it is kind of a trick but I also think it is possible this will help some people love their home again when all else has failed.
Switch your furniture. Create a new sitting arangement in your living room. Move your desk to where your dresser is and your dresser to where your desk used to be. Whatever! Just move some stuff. It will help you see your life through your possessions with new eyes. And it is more fun to think "I'm rearranging my furniture" than "I'm going to clean up this #*@$ mess!".
Don't get too fancy. Switch one end table in the living room with your bedside table. That will force you to transfer those items and you'll notice if those things that have been living there deserve to remain and if nothing else, you'll be reminded of what you've been sleeping next to for the last few years.
So, how do you keep from getting too overwhelmed?
Remember that this is a strategy to create energy and lift your 'organizing metabolism'. It is not meant to be a whole organizing day. When you get in this place of hating your stuff and hating your home all you need focus on is to get a little energy. So maybe all you do is put everything back in your "new" bedside table without purging. That's OK. The point is to feel different about your space and see new possibilities.
The other day I moved around the stuff in my bedroom. What energy it created! I walk into my bedroom now and just love it. My cat loves it too. She now has all these new nooks and crannies to hunt her favorite mouse.
Now go out and enjoy the perfect fall day!
(Writer's note: I hate searching for photos that "go" with my posts or are inspirational. Hate it! and so much time wasted because what a rabbit hole is google images! But, I do love looking through National Geographics "photo of the day" on their website! No, these photos won't "go" with my post, but hopefully you'll enjoy them anyway. If you love my photos and wonder where i got them from, now you know.)
When you face your organizing options remember this: You need to decide. You need to decide how much of this thing (be it sponges, magazine subscriptions, shoes) do I need for my life work for me?
How does this work strategy for me? Well, I look at my space, time and effort. How much space do I have? How much time do I have to enjoy these things? How much effort am I willing to put into maintaining these items in this space?
Do you have a spacious pantry or a "Costco" closet? Well, then go shopping! Get that case of paper towels… you have the room! Or, do you have a galley kitchen with just enough space for a few days worth of food? This is more my situation. I shop at Costco though too. How do I manage that? I go with a friend and we split most items. The reality is that no matter what your situation, you have to acknowledge it, then construct a system that works within your reality. Dang! that sounds tough. It is and then it isn't. At first, you may feel you should buy a case of paper towels at Costco, "It's so much more economical!" Or another pair of shoes "I deserve them". That may be true. But that decision then makes it so you are tripping over that case of paper towels for a month or more while you use them up or you now have a pile of shoes on the floor of your closet so you can't even see all the great shoes you actually have. When you work within your space "reality", things fit where there is room, your home is enjoyable to live in and you have space for everything you need.
Do you have a full time job? Kids? Volunteer 3 nights a week? All these things take up a lot of time and how much is left over is precious. Make sure what you bring into your home not only makes your life better but that the time it takes to maintain these items is worth it.
Again, your time is your greatest personal asset. How will you spend it? You make that choice everyday whether you are aware or not. So why not be aware and make sure you time is spent in your best way?
There are as many ways to organize as there are organizers. The trick is to find that organizer who is compatible with you. The way I organize is as holistic as is appropriate for each client and project. Each of these steps is designed to build on the part before. Hopefully this helps you envision what a session with me will look like.
1) Know where you’re going.
This means that both my client and I know where we are going and that we are going there together. We have the same goals and direction. During my assessment of all my new projects, I take notes, listen and notice what is going on both verbally and non-verbally. I am focusing on the client, what their frustrations are and what problems they need solved. This doesn’t always get said clearly. Often, a throw away comment will stick with me. When I get home and start writing the assessment, that comment will come back to me and I will realize the importance of it within the context of the client’s goals.
2) Strategize Your Actions
What is the actual plan? We can talk goals and dreams but without a real plan and strategy to get there the goals are meaningless. In my assessment I lay out what the goals are and then a step by step guide to get us to that goal. I send this to all my clients before our first work session so that they can read it and have the time to agree or disagree with me. Often the client and I will assess the project at the end of each session to make sure we are on track with our goals.
3) Transfer of Skills
Part of my job as an organizer is to help my client develop as many organizational skills as they want. I let them know why I am choosing to do what I am doing, whether it is putting all the canned goods together or labeling a file with a certain name. Organizing and system setup happens together. The client and I discuss the benefits and reasons so when the job is finished they understand the reasoning behind the systems we have set up.
4) Customize Your Environment
Of course, setting up systems that don’t make sense for a client is setting them up for failure. Setting up systems that work for each individual is a task we accomplish as we organize your space. We keep in mind what you need, want and enjoy and make sure the systems reflect your preferences, habits and goals.
5) Master Your Psychology
Why are you disorganized? It could be your job is overwhelming and you are exhausted by days end. It might be that you grew up in a disorganized home and don’t know how to organize. It could be growing up with a fear of lack so you feel everything has a use, even if it is “someday”. This is a sensitive topic and it is something I leave up to each client to tackle. Whatever the reason, we can choose to look at the reasons and understand what is so you can move beyond it.
I am participating in a new volunteer project this year. Rebuilding Together San Francisco.
"Rebuilding Together San Francisco provides free repair and renovation programs for low-income, elderly and disabled San Franciscans and for nonprofit and community facilities. Our programs address basic living, life event and quality of life needs of homeowners and the people served by the facilities with which we work. The work we do creates safer environments and makes it possible for people to live independently for a longer time in their own homes." (From website – Rebuildingtogethersf.org)
I did my first site visit last week, meeting with the homeowner as well as 5 others leading the project.
What makes this so exciting to me is that RTSF is consciencly working with Professional Organizers, to make the project scope encompass a larger portion of each home/community center. I am going to help put together a kitchen after receiving new cabinets as well as reorganize a bedroom and a living room. Including the work of professional organizers will round out the services RTSF offers.
I am so excited to be working with them, they have been enormously supportive!
I will keep you posted on all our progress leading up to April 30th, the official rebuilding day.
Fun note: RTSF started in 1989, in response to the Loma Prieta Earthquake.
I often get asked "Is there just one way to organize?"
Often, there is a critical undertone to this question. Like "I've tried to be organized but it still hasn't happened."
Or, " I feel badly because I read one book and tried what they suggested and it didn't work".
My answer is always "There is no one way to be organized. The way to be successful in organizing is to find out what your style is".
How do you do this?
Ask yourself some questions.
What are your habits?
When you walk in the front door each evening, where do you put your keys? Mail?
If you have a lovely table for your purse, keys and mail but it doesn't get used because it isn't in your "coming home" path it is time to move it or retire that table for another use and put something in your path that fits in the space.
Are you a "need to see it" person or a "out of sight to be able to function" person?
Do you feel everything needs to look pretty? and then feel like a failure when you see piles around your desk?
Don't. If this is how your study should look for you to accomplish what you need to, then it is what it should look like.
Make sure your files are labeled with words that make sense to you. If the term "Oakland hotspots" doesn't make sense to you, what does? When you are holding a piece of paper in your hand ask yourself "Why/when would I look at this paper again?" Is it because you want to get ideas for a fun weekend in Oakland with out of town guests? Then labeling it "Weekend Fun, Oakland" might work better.
The last thing I would say is that no matter what your style might be, everyone needs to spend time figuring out a home for each kind of thing that is important to you. If you send a lot of gifts around the holidays and you save boxes throughout the year then, instead of cramming boxes into the corners of your bookshelves, closets and under your desk, I suggest you have one storage box you keep in the garage. This way you will know how much you have and when you can stop saving.
The ultimate goal of having an organized home and life, in my opinion, is that what is physically around you is what helps you accomplish whatever it is you want in life.
So what does an organized home look like? Any way you want.
So, if occasionally having to step around a pile of papers truly is in keeping with your perfect life, well, I won't argue with you.
And, if you look around and don't recongize who you have become, well, I can help with that!
I subscribe to just a few blogs. I must love them very much if they are to be put into my email inbox mulitiple times a week.
This here Blog is one of them: Zen Habits
I'm giving you a link to this blog about the wastefulness of decluttering because, although I believe in every single word and I talk about these priciples to anyone who will listen, I didn't have the great fortune of writing it. Maybe next time!
Rule #4: Like with Like. A classic! Even the most disorganized person recites this for me and for good reason. If you have ever looked for a bandaid and just know you bought a package not that long ago but can't find it you understand the wisdom of this rule. One of the basic reasons we organize is to save time. If all your bandaids (bills, candles, gift bags etc etc…) are in the same place you will save time and money knowing you only need to look in one place for your supply. Listen people! one place = more time! more $$!
Rule #5: Sometimes cheap is too expensive. Buy items to last. I do love the dollar store for some things but when it counts, buy quality over quantity. It is better to buy one $80 coffee maker then 2 $40 ones. You will most likely get a better cup of coffee but you will save space in the landfill too.
Real Estate in the Bay Area is some of the most expensive in the country. Why do we pay hundreds of dollars per square foot storing boxes of outdated college textbooks? Keeping your life (and things) current is good practice for allowing new, exciting things into your life.
Here are a few ideas for all of you to keep a good flow of energy through your home.
www.freecycle.org – A neighborhood driven internet based site that allows you to post what you need to get rid of for free! And, you can request a need and there is a good chance that someone in your neighborhood has it and wants to get rid of it…also for free. Nice.
www.earth911.org – Just type in what you want to recycle and your zip code and they give you the place you need to take it. easy! I had a question about recycling incandenscent light bulbs but there was no information on the site. I emailed someone and, no kidding, got this great detailed response about why the old school, incandescent light bulbs are not able to be recycled. Personalized service!
Garage sale – Get rid of loads of stuff at once. Remember that bargining is in the spirit of the garage sale. You may remember how you spent $80 on a set of utencils but the customer doesn't know that and most importantly, doesn't care. All they know is that they are at a garage sale and they want a bargin. Give it to them.
college kids – What college kid doesn't need a microwave, coffee mugs and milk crates.
neighborhood listserv – You can find out if your neighborhood has one by going to your city website. I belong to 2 since I live right on the border. Postings include, free plant cuttings, neighborhood meetings, newsletters from our mayor and council people, events, lost pets (and found again!), suspicious behavior and on and on.
friends – I just attended a clothing swap with 12 other women and got rid of 8 shirts! All that doesn't get chosen goes to Good Will or Salvation Army.
family – My parents just bought new appliances and since their old stove and dishwasher work great, my parents, who love a good road trip, are going to load them into their van and drive from Michigan to California! I get "new" appliances and someone will get my older appliances (still good) from Urban Ore. Yes, this is pretty extreme but it works for us.
Rule #6: You need to maintain. sigh. This is possibly a sad reality for many including me. You may feel the reason you are disorganized is because you have no time or energy at the end of the day. You dig dinner out of grocery bags because you don't even have time to put them in the cupboards.
This may be the time to re-evaluate your life. Is everything you do important and necessary to you? Does what you do each day reflect your life goals? Or, is it simply time to engage your family, your mate, your children in helping you stay organized? Simple things like having your 10 year old sort laundry or put away the groceries are useful skills you may take for granted but actually need to be taught.
Part of the overwhelming nature of our lives is sometimes your household just has too much information coming in and it is hard and unrewarding to maintain when, each week, piles of store magazines, credit card offers etc come in. You can stop this. Here are 3 sites to stop the mail that never gets opened anyway.
Let me know if these rules are helpful to you and what are some of your favorite rules for staying organized?