Monday, November 10, 2008

30-Day Organizing Challenge: Day 14

Today's goal: Skip the mistakes.

Have you ever noticed that your great organizing ambitions fizzle after a day? It might be because you've been too ambitious, too perfectionistic [Ed. note: Guilty!], or not intuitive enough. Today, we have a new guest post, from professional organizer Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing and president of the St. Louis, Missouri, chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. She specializes in helping those of us who are chronically disorganized and also blogs on organizing on her own site, so be sure to check it out. Questions for her? Comment below and I'll get them to her.

We all make mistakes. Getting organized isn’t a precise exercise and there are lots of ways to approach it. But there are some things people tend to do that will actually undermine their efforts. See if any of these ring a bell:

Mistake #1: Storing things far away from where you use them.

Organizing systems need to be simple and convenient. Store things where you use them. The more steps it takes to put something away, the less likely it is to get put away.

Mistake #2: Buying organizing products before weeding stuff out.

For lots of people, the most fun part of organizing is going to The Container Store (or equivalent) and picking out products. That’s great, but wait to do it until you’ve after you’ve purged your stuff, so that you know what you need. Most of my clients have lots of bins and baskets before I ever get there. And they still have clutter. Save money by buying exactly what you need and nothing more.

Mistake #3: Not paying attention to your piles.

If you have stuff that piles up in a certain place on a consistent basis, maybe you need to use that particular spot for storage. A pile can become perfectly acceptable if you store it in a pretty container.

For example, my husband leaves the dogs’ leashes on the table by the front door, rather than crossing the room to put them away. (I clearly had made Mistake #1 when deciding to store the dog leashes across the room from the door.) The pile of leashes was unsightly. I put a cloth-lined basket under the pile and now it’s an acceptable storage system. If you’re consistently leaving things in a certain place, there’s usually a reason and it’s usually convenience. Rather than fighting it, make it work for you.

Mistake #4: Delaying decisions.

Clutter is nothing but delayed decisions. Don’t pick up a piece of paper and put it right back down because you can’t decide what to do with it. Instead, decide to decide. Make that decision and then act on it. Get into the habit of making decisions about your stuff and you’ll keep clutter at bay.

Mistake #5: Trying to be perfect.

It’s kind of ironic that perfectionism can lead to clutter, but I’ve seen it over and over. Perfectionists don’t want to start the organizing process until they know exactly how they’re going to do it. They feel the need to know what systems they’ll put into place before they even start the process. While the perfectionist waits for the perfect system to materialize, the clutter accumulates. And overwhelm sets in. Rather than striving to be perfectly organized, I encourage you to try to be just organized enough so that you can find what you need without undue stress.

Life is messy; don’t try to make it perfect.

[Ed. note: Man, I feel called out! Janine, you nailed me! Perfectionist, unrealistic organizing plans, etc. But there is one place where I feel like I've made progress:

Today, I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond with my girlfriend, who is going to let me organize her room as my Christmas present this year, and she asked, "What do you think we'll need to buy? What will we need to spend?" I replied that I thought first we needed to figure out what to keep, then we could figure out what to buy.

There seems to be hope for me yet!

What about you? Which of these mistakes do you make regularly? Which have you learned to stop doing?]

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