by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: Each time you put something away, think, "good job, this is helping me become organized."
Decluttering is a challenge. No matter whether you declutter for 15 minutes a day or once a month for eight hours, it is a task that’s more than physical – it’s also mental and emotional. Do I use this? Do I want this? Do I even like this? How often do I use this? Where should I store it?
All these decisions are draining.
But there is that moment when you walk into the house and you see the clear counters and tabletops. You feel a glow of accomplishment. More important, you feel that after all your hard work, life will be different from now on.
A few months later you have guests coming over and you “suddenly” see the clutter that has crept back. You’ve noticed a few things weren’t getting put away and you’ve bought some stuff that you thought would help with your personal goals. It didn’t seem like a big deal. Until now. You grab a trash bag and dash around your home, tossing in everything from the magazines that arrived in last week’s mail to your spouse’s shoes which were kicked under the coffee table. You shove the bag into a closet, to deal with “later.”
Throughout this frantic process of hiding your new clutter, you criticize yourself for thinking you could ever be anything but disorganized.
Is It Possible to Stay Organized?
Decluttering is a challenge. A bigger challenge is staying organized.
I struggle with this myself, personally and professionally. When I see that a space that I helped a client clear is cluttered once again I wonder, Did we keep things that could have been decluttered? Are they buying things without following the one in/one out rule? Did they not connect to the reason why they wanted to declutter and so aren’t really motivated to stay organized?
Why aren’t they maintaining their hard-won order?
I realize that I’ve been wrong about being organized - It's not just an action, it's a mindset.
Change How You See Yourself
I was reading James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits and encountered the line, “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” (the italics are mine)
I kept mulling over this idea in relation to organizing. What if it wasn’t just about clearing the dining room table but about becoming the type of person who wouldn’t think of leaving stuff piled up on the dining table?
I realized that I had to stop focusing on tangible goals - clearing that dining room table - and instead focus on helping create an organized mindset. And, with an organized mindset, it may be easier to make all those decision about your stuff while decluttering.
Focusing on becoming organized isn’t a “fake it ‘til you make it” or “act as if” technique. You can’t think, “I’m becoming an organized person” while stepping over a pile of dirty laundry and believe the statement.
Organized isn’t a finish line to cross. You won’t hang up your jacket and think, “well, there it is, I’m organized” because the next time you wear your jacket, you’ll have to make the decision to hang it up (or not) and then actually hang it (or not).
Acting the way an organized person would act helps make you an organized person.
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