If you are new to organized living, or if your life circumstances have kept you from keeping organization a priority in your life (I’m looking at you college, jobs, kids, and chronic illness), you may feel overwhelmed with the whole idea.
Stores dedicate entire sections to organization. Websites are devoted to the practice, as are magazines. Even a quick Instagram search will generate thousands of perfectly organized and photo-worthy spaces. Who can keep up with all of that?
No one, that’s who. You can’t, and neither can I.
The first thing you need to do is let go of the idea that a website or a book, or even my blog (sorry, I’m not perfect either) is going to have the solution to all of your organization challenges. The next thing you need to do is identify what those challenges are.
Every last one of them.
Before you do, I suggest you get real with yourself for a minute. This is not going to be an easy task. You aren’t going to feel really good about yourself, your partner, your children, or your home when you are finished. I suggest making sure you have the fixings for a nice hot beverage and an indulgent snack ready for when you are done. You’re going to want it. Trust me.
Okay. Let’s get real. Grab a notebook, or some paper -any kind, even if you have to steal it from your kids or use the back of some junk mail you have piled in your kitchen- and a writing utensil. Now take a deep breath, and go through your entire home, one room at a time. In each room, make a note of everything about that room that you would like to change, even if it’s unrealistic. Jot it all down. Make sure you write which room you are working in at the top of each list. If you are feeling super ambitious, you can jot down home improvement projects you want to tackle as well, but for starters you can stick to organizational tasks. Don’t forget about hidden areas: under beds, closets, storage spaces, cupboards. Address them all.
Done? Now put your list down, go have that cozy drink and snack we talked about earlier, then come on back and join me when you are done. I’ll wait.
Are you feeling more overwhelmed than when you started? That’s okay. We’re going to help you move past that feeling of dread and give you some hope. Just stick with me.
The first thing I want you to do is take a new piece of paper and write “Someday/Maybe” at the top. Now I want you to go through all those sheets that you just created during your walk-through, and anything that you can’t realistically manage in the next one to two years -and be brutally honest with yourself here- I want you to move to the “Someday/Maybe” list, and then cross it off your original list. Those items that you might never get to? Move them over also; for now.
Now I want you to take two more sheets of paper and write “Partner (you can use a name here)” and “Kids” (if you have any) at the top. If you don’t have a partner, or kids, or your kids aren’t old enough to manage their own organizational tasks, don’t worry about this step.
Now I want you to go through the list again, and anything that can be delegated to someone else, I want you to assign it to their list (even if you don’t think they will do it), and cross it off your list. No, really, and don’t let your people off the hook too easily either. If it is something that is in their space, or their room, or involves things they own, it shouldn’t be on your list. If you have kids and they can help you with a task, put it on their list. If it is something you cannot handle on your own, get it off your list.
Now go through that list one more time, and be critical. Do you honestly think you can manage all of those tasks in the next one to two years? Are all of those tasks ones that can’t be delegated to someone else?
Do you have a more manageable list now? Feeling a little less overwhelmed? Need another break? It’s okay, I’m not going anywhere.
Once you have your list whittled down to your tasks, you need to identify your hot spots. What items on that list, no more than three to five (and really, I’d stick with three to start), are ones that drive you the craziest? Maybe it’s a counter in your kitchen that is piled high with mail. Maybe you can’t eat dinner at your table because it’s always full of everyone else’s junk. Maybe there is a spot where everyone comes into the house and just dumps all their junk/shoes/bags, and it makes you feel like pulling your hair out. That is a hot spot.
Go through your list and pick three of those things, and circle them. Then on three new sheets of paper, write those items, one at the top of each sheet. Under the item, brainstorm ways that you can solve these problems – any ways that you can think of – realistic or not. No idea is bad when you are brainstorming. Go to Pinterest and type in your hot spot into the search, and see if you can find some solutions there. You might see something that inspires you, or come across a way to deal with your problem that you haven’t thought of. Type your hot spot into Google and do an image search.
When you are finished, make a list of action steps you are going to take to solve the problem of your hot spots. One list for each hot spot. When you have acquired the items you need to work on a specific problem (if you need any), use these lists to help guide your time to get them done. Find yourself with five-ten free minutes? Is there an item or two on your action list you can work on towards getting one of your hot spots organized?
Once you have completed your first three (or five) areas, choose a few new items, and begin the process all over. Eventually (and there’s no rush on this, it’s not a race or a contest) you will work your way through that entire list, and you can move on to helping others with their lists, (or have them do their own), or that “Someday/Maybe” list.
Good luck. You can do it. Don’t forget to take deep breaths, and to stop and have a break once in a while.
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