The US population has spent the past 50 years in an endless pursuit of stuff as a means to save time and live more simply (see www.storyofstuff.com), but what most people have found is that they have packed themselves “in” rather than freed themselves with convenience. If you are struggling with clutter in your home realize that getting organized is a means to an end. Whether your goal is to simplify, create space, reduce unwanted items, save time, lower stress, be happy, healthy, wealthy, or whatever you wish, you must create space, clarity, and alignment to make it happen. If you are packed in… here are some helpful tips to kick start your action to let things go…
Tip 1 – A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Do papers end up on the counter? Does sports equipment clutter your garage entryway? Does it seem that clutter never stops? Take pictures from every angle in your cluttered room and view those pictures in another space. Studies have shown that when you remove yourself from the actual cluttered space, you can be more objective in what you perceive. A picture will show you where trouble areas and log-jams exist in your home. Once you analyze what is not working, you can prioritize where to begin.
Tip 2 – Analyze Your Breakdowns
I introduce the Sane Spaces Dimensions TM to analyze clients’ disorganized state from different perspectives: space, systems, self habits, and the level of support you have. Analyzing your organizing dilemmas using these dimensions will help you identify breakdowns and ultimately lead you to organizing solutions that will work and be most likely to stick.
Tip 3 – Create a Master Plan
NO successful business has ever thrived without a master plan, goals and regular adjustments. For you to successfully run a home business (and even more so if your home includes managing the details of others) you must have a master plan. A master plan consists of a scheduling system (calendar), a task management system (daily action files) a communication system (phone & contacts) an information retrieval system (files) and a maintenance system (project list). When each of these systems is developed and maintained people feel much more in control of their space and can prioritize tasks more easily.
Tip 4 – Develop Schedules and Routines
If people didn’t benefit from routine, there would be none. Humans form habits around reliable and repeatable tasks. For all the tasks that you are required to repeatedly perform, consider “scheduling” them into a routine. Tasks such as laundry, shopping, cleaning, dishes, and home maintenance are all regularly required to efficiently run your home. Consider “scheduling” time to actually complete each of these tasks on a reasonably cyclical basis.
Tip 5 – Create a Landing/Launch Pad
The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) defines organized as “a space for everything and everything in its space.” I like to consider being organized as a state of being when you:
- Know what you have
- Have what you need
- Know where to find it when you need it
This definition works well when creating one of the keys to convenience for any busy person: A Landing or Launch Pad. This area is set up near the most-used entrance in the home and should have a place for everything people carry in and out of the home: keys, purses, bags, backpacks, coats, umbrellas, etc. Taking the time to redesign your entryway and finding the most reasonable solution to your particular needs will pay off in spades when you are in a rush out the door.
Tip 6 – Design a Paper Processing Center
The single most requested area where people ask for organizing assistance is with paper. To address this concern, create an area where you can process your paper easily. Sort your incoming mail over your trash/shredder and dispose of anything that you do not need or have to take action on. For the items requiring action – determine what the next action step is (file, pay, call, schedule, etc.) – and then immediately ‘activate’ that paper by adding the item to a to-do list – or placing it into an action file used to manage your tasks.
Tip 7 – Create an Action File
An Action File is a holding area for you to store papers that need action. There is no right or wrong way to create an action file. An action file could be hanging folders, a sorting system, a vertical tray or whatever seems to work for you in your space. What is important is that each action be labeled with the required repeated task: file, read, pay, call. Some people chose to design a system cyclically around the way they do work: daily, weekly, or monthly. Different people chose different filing systems, and the key to success is to develop a simple system that best supports how and when you work.
Tip 8 – Create Zones Everywhere
The ‘zone’ concept was coined by Julie Morgenstern (Organizing from the Inside Out). She introduced what she referred to as the Kindergarten Concept – where a classroom has areas set aside for certain types of “play”. Building toys were together, play kitchen items were together – and everything was very easily put back in place at cleanup time. This concept is often used with clients as we work to keep like items together and reduce the number of redundant storage spaces to simplify their home spaces.
Tip 9 – Function Before Form
When organizing, always think function before the form – always ask “how will I use this item”? Answering this question will help you determine an item’s function. Organizing items according to their function means placing them near where they will most likely be used. For instance, it may be more desirable for you to have tissues tucked away in a cabinet in your kitchen, but when someone needs a tissue…. it’s much more convenient to have that box readily available (functional). Your goal should be to find acceptable and lovely ways to store items functionally if you prefer clear surfaces.
Tip 10 – KISS
The age-old advice of keeping things simple is best received and supported by the organizing world. Simple is defined as what enhances your life and your ability to do what you want to do. In my business, when creating any solution to an organizing problem keeping it simple is always best. Don’t over think, over-organize or over purchase solutions. If a system or solution takes more time than it is worth – try something new.
Remember that getting organized is not an event, it a process that reveals itself in layers. Following these tips will help you get started and get organized to make room for a life you love!
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Do you have some tips you’d like to share? What are your favorite organizing ideas and techniques? PLEASE share them below: