Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yikes, I’m disorganized! Where do I start??

As a professional organizer, I hear this one a lot. As in, “I’m so overwhelmed by this pile of stuff in my basement I don’t even know how to begin making sense of it!” A disorganized space, as with other aspects of life, can feel so out of control that you feel like you can’t make a dent without devoting some serious time and energy. Of course, it’s my job to come into that same space and bring order to it, but I’m here to tell you that you too can tackle your own problem areas without giving your whole life over to the project.

Here are a few tips to nudge you in the right direction:

  • Just start somewhere. It’s easy to talk yourself out of diving into the basement project by mentally reviewing the piles of stuff and everything that has to happen to get it from its current state to what you picture as its finished state. Start with one piece of the puzzle, and you’ll be amazed how eventually, all of the pieces will fit together.

  • Move methodically around the room. Once you have decided to begin the project, pick one corner of the room and go from there. In our imaginary basement, tackle the shelves of paint, household cleaning products, and automotive supplies. Take a careful look at what is still usable and donate or toss the rest. Once that section has been thinned out and only that which you’re actually using remains, continue moving clockwise around the room doing the same sort of thing.

  • Don’t bite off too much at a time. Start with an hour, and reward yourself once that hour is done. I find that a time increment like this is easier than saying “Today I’ll organize every photo I’ve ever taken” because the latter can more easily get overwhelming. When you organize with a time goal in mind you are more likely to feel successful, and thus more likely to continue working on the project.

  • Maintain the order you’ve created by taking the time to put things away rather than just dumping them in the middle of the basement. Also, continue to evaluate why you’re keeping what you’re keeping. If you’ve decided that you’re done with tennis and want to spend all of your time playing golf, now is the time to sell or give away your rackets rather than have them take up valuable storage space. Another “spend time now to save time later” practice with big benefits is to spend 15 minutes when you get home putting away the cleaning you picked up on your way home, hanging up the suit you just changed out of, and recycling the junk from the mail you just brought into the house. By doing this you will more easily maintain an organized space and won’t have to spend double the time down the road.
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