by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I’d like you to look at decluttering and organizing a bit differently.
Grab a pen and paper (or sit with a blank word processing document) and list what it means to be organized.
Now, review your list. Is it filled with end results – clear kitchen counters, an organized closet, neat desk, toys put away?
But, what does an organized person do to keep things neat and clutter-free?
If you’re thinking, well, they cleared the kitchen counter and filed the papers on their desk, you’re getting warmer.
What specific actions cleared the kitchen counter? They
Notice that all these how-to tasks need to be repeated. Every time the blender gets used it will need to be put away. The dishtowel needs to be hung each time it’s used. It’s this maintenance, the habit of keeping stuff organized, that’s more difficult and more important than the initial decluttering.
This is nowhere near as exciting as, say, posting before and after pictures of your kitchen or garage on social media.
However, cleaning out the coat closet won’t make a lasting difference if you don’t hang up your coat.
So, what does it mean to be organized? It means that you can maintain the order you’ve created without a lot of fuss or effort. It means that you know why it’s important to hang up your coat so that you don’t argue with yourself or give yourself an excuse to skip this habit. (“You’ve had another tough day and it doesn’t matter if you toss your jacket over the back of this chair again.”)
So, You Want to Become Organized
Look at the list I asked you to write. You’ve noted actions that an organized person would take.
Select one small action that you want to do daily (sort the mail, hang up your coat, remove the receipts and spare change that gathers in your purse). Decide when you’ll do this (either a specific time – 7:30 p.m. – or after a task that you already do daily – you walk in the house and take off your coat).
You’ll have to remind yourself to do this for a few days and then you can add another small action (ideally one that flows with this series of actions - after hanging your coat, you immediately sort the mail into recycling or an inbox).
Instead of focusing on setting goals that last for a moment (an organized closet, a clear dining room table), consider that habits support your larger decluttering and organizing efforts and its these actions that will help you to become an organized person.
Coming in July 2019 – the free 7-day e-course Distraction-free Decluttering. Sign up for emails to be the first to receive this e-course.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.