“I’m too busy,” ”I’m overwhelmed”, “I can’t afford a Professional Organizer,” “It’ll never change, I can’t do it!” –
Whatever your excuse is – no matter what… it usually can be loosely translated to some variant of: “I’m doing nothing about it right now”. Check it out… What do you complain about? Your health, eating, your weight, your partner, not having free time???
Whatever your complaint – state it outloud.
Now, ask yourself – “What am I doing currently about this complaint?”
If your answer is nothing – you might consider taking action to shift this self-perception.
If you’re really dissatisfied with your life the way it is, and you have a sense that it’s due to disorganization – stating that dissatisfaction boldly to yourself and others will make it real. Once it’s real – you can move toward accepting what is so. Once you do, it will help you get motivated to do something about it.
Humans are more driven to get rid of the things that dissatisfy them than getting more of what they like. Your level of pain, dislike and disgust will more quickly drive you to shift and take action than being satisfied. When it’s more painful to keep things as they are, you move into action. As soon as the pain outweighs the benefits of doing nothing, you’ll do something.
So, if you’re a slacker when it comes to getting your space and systems working, and for the slacker in all of us, I’ve broken out some simple, realistic ideas that can help you get it done!
Paper Bag Drop
- Put a sturdy paper bag in your closet labeled “Outgoing”, “Donate”, “Too Small” (or whatever words you need to indicate you’re done with items). If you try something on and it doesn’t work – toss it in the bag. When the bag fills up – put it immediately in your car. These immediate actions will help you move forward.
Make a Habit Goal
- Instead of focusing on your disorganized space and the overwhelm, focus on habits and behaviors you’ll put in place to get organized. Create a ”behavioral goal” that is already established as a “best practice” or “winning behavior”. An example may be, “I’ll put items back after I use them” or, “I’ll sort the mail BEFORE I put it down“. These are what I consider “behavior goals” or “outcome goals.” Creating a behavior goal helps you focus on accomplishing your desired result through baby steps. A behavioral goal is something actionable you can do right now (and tomorrow, and the next day, and next week). You can’t lose 10 pounds tomorrow, but you can get up and go on a walk for 20 minutes today, tomorrow and next week. Each time you do, you’re demonstrating success – and action toward your goal.
- When you get started organizing after a long period of inaction, DO NOT bite off more than you can chew. Instead of overcommitting yourself, or jumping in too far and never finding your way out, start small. Find an organizing project that is small. Start with a drawer, or a SECTION of a room or office. One thing to remember though: the smaller the items you’re organizing, the LONGER it generally takes. (This may be opposite from what you’d think, but a stack of papers can take much longer than a kitchen counter for instance.) Practical, doable and, most importantly, something you know you will complete in one sitting will help you keep your energy positive and keep you motivated to do more.
- Schedule “organizing” time. Start penciling “10 Minute Tidys” into your day so you can anticipate and look forward to this brief break in your busy life. Make sure you set the timer, and stop when it rings. It will turn into a game and be really fun. Better yet, try to reframe this as your “distraction-free” respite — a date with yourself to meet your goals.
Use What You Already Have!
- Not ready to “invest” in new stuff to get the job done? NO problem! It really doesn’t take much to get organized. Many people with organizing dilemmas have many more containers, bins, boxes, barrels and baskets than they ever need. They’re missing the first steps, planning and decision making that comes before the containers. When you decide to get started – that is the beginning… DECIDING. Using what you have to ‘containerize’ is completely acceptable and affordable. Many a cardboard box, plastic food tray or packaging good have been repurposed in my house! Figure out what you’re trying to organize first, and the right size container will show up.
Don’t Buy Anything (Yet)
- Picture if you will – The classic disorganized person’s plight as they ponder all the organizing and storage items available at their average big box store. After 20 minutes of staring blankly at all their options, they fill their cart with lucite trays, baskets, bins, wall-mounts, drawer sorters and any options they can find in a desperate effort to finally get organized! But listen up! Products don’t solve organizing problems. Figuring out what the problem is and then figuring out a good solution is the only way to break free and move forward.
- Many a coach will tell you that there is a chemical shift in your brain when you write something down. Not only do you ingrain a physical action, you create a visual path for your brain to remember too! Speaking and writing out your goals makes them more “real” than when they live in your head. Writing it down helps you get up and get moving on your projects.
Create A NOT List
- A “NOT” List is what I refer to is negative criterion. How does it work? WELL, it focuses you on articulating everything you don’t want. I use it often with clients who are wide open to possibilities, and struggle with finding limits and boundaries. For those who struggle with decision-making, it might be easier for them to articulate what they don’t want prior to making decisions. Recently I was helping a client purge her wardrobe, and she could come up with all the “shoulds” she had about keeping EVERYTHING in her closet. She never let things go. Instead of focusing on possibilities, I asked her to focus on what she didn’t want. Her list exploded: clothing that’s dated, not flattering, not my colors, stained, more than 2 years old, too revealing… suddenly we had criterion to help her let go of things. It was magical. Focusing on what you DON’T want is often easier and more specific than trying to find out what you do want.
Find a Support System
- Don’t go at it alone. Find other people who are like you, that don’t like to organize alone. It motivates you, it inspires you and it helps you to come back to finish when you have a partner there to accompany you along the way, and to cheer for you at the finish line! Committing to a support system helps you feel accountable, and the sense of community of like-minded people will provide motivation when it’s hard to find your own.
Vary Your Approach
- My Flowmaster friend, author and coach, Sunny Schlenger taught me this by living it. To manage her energy levels, she listens to herself and her own cues, and takes breaks whenever she feels the need. Some people really struggle with organizing because they get bored out of their minds. Move around, take breaks, set timer for short bursts of time, and work in small segments so that you can reset, get a drink, walk around and stay fresh. Adrenaline, dopamine and other endorphins are released with activity and exercise – so don’t forget those important components.
- Create a tool kit full of supplies you need to be successful. Assemble the common things you’ll need to stay on task with your organizing projects. Typical tools can include cleaning supplies, adhesives, zip ties, baggies, tape, markers, bins or bags, 3×5 cards to use as labels, post it pads and a stapler. Some other items that are often used are small tools such as screwdrivers, hammers and a glue gun. Often things that end up in a pile are because we didn’t have the tools ready to fix them when they broke in the first place. Assembling these items prior to getting started will set you up for success. Call it your Organizing Kit – and keep it in a spot so you can grab it when you need it.
- Positive behavior creates more positive behavior. You are rewarded with feeling good, and it makes it easier to keep going. Taking the first step is the hardest, because until you do – you’re simply feeding that monster in your head that keeps you stuck and miserable. Once you take the first step, it makes it easier the next day to do it again.
- Set an organizing goal daily for one week. Meet your daily goals. Then set a week’s more. Once you’ve repeated 3 weeks, you should already have made a big bite into things and see the fruits of your labor.
- When you meet your first milestone, do something to celebrate! Relax. Reward yourself. Do something restorative and rejuvenating! Rewarding yourself for a job well done is a way of celebrating a milestone!
If you’re a slacker, what works for you? I’d love to know… Please share your wisdom and tips in the comment bow below!