When someone asks me to work with them to find more time I begin with a very specific question: “What for?” It’s just like having more space, what you will do with it is important to know from the start. Do you want more time to get more things done, or to do things that you never make time to do? How will having more time fulfill you and your goals or relationships? One of the ways that might help you to figure this out is to begin with a “brain dump”, list everything that you have or want to put on your to do list. Then, begin to sort the to do items into 1 of 4 categories: Things I don’t want to do, but have to do. Things I don’t want to do, and don’t have to do. Things that I want to do and have to do. Things that I want to do, but don’t have to do. Are you beginning to see a pattern and the possibility of items that you can delete or delegate? Effective time management is about decision making, making choices, and creating more time for the things that are important to you.
What is your goal for decluttering and organizing your space? You want your space to align with your needs, that’s your starting point. Then you can begin the decluttering process and remove what is not needed in that space. Clear surfaces look nice but they also need to be functional. Identify what you will want to use a specific space or surface for…serving food? Working on arts and crafts? Once you determine that, you can gather what you will need to organize and store in or near that space. Go ahead, use the space! After you use it, get into the habit of clearing it. Store the materials and supplies where you created specific “homes” for those items. Grow your space to create and live an abundant life!
It’s “Thorough Thursday”! Once a week, pick one project where you want to do deep organizing. Professional Organizers are trained to help their clients move from the broad, big picture (macro approach), and then, to the specific and detailed approach (micro). You will have more success if your are doing this, too. Let’s use a medicine cabinet as an example. MACRO: First, take everything out of the cabinet. Quickly throw out empty containers and expired items (not prescriptions, more about this later). MICRO: Sort items that you use on a daily basis and need easy access to then place them back into the cabinet. Items that are used less often can be moved to a drawer or another cabinet. Disposal of prescriptions is important to prevent medication from getting into the wrong hands or polluting our water systems. Here is a helpful resource for prescription disposal: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm
It’s “Thorough Thursday!” That means that even though you organized that space you want to go back on a regular basis to assess it and maybe, tweak it! Is it still working for you? If the general system is working, then you can organize on a deeper level. For instance, you cleared the counter and now it’s time to go through the drawers or cupboards. Maybe you cleared most of your email inbox and now it’s time to declutter your email folders. Follow up consistently, systematically and thoroughly. Let’s declare it “Thorough Thursday”!
As a Professional Organizer I get calls for help about tackling hard projects…piles of paper, objects, photos, and even items cluttering the email inbox. It’s not a question of whether or not it needs to be organized. It’s a matter of how and when. With help from a professional and time dedicated to the project, it becomes manageable. Make any organizing project manageable by breaking it down into smaller mini-projects. Then tackle it every Tuesday, for instance! TIP: Organizing and maintaining on a regular basis is worth the time.
Being organized is as much a feeling as it is a way of behaving. The best way to diminish piles of paper and stuff is to act on it. Try my “1-at-a-time rule”. Select 1 pile. Start at the top and act on that 1 item only. Make a quick decision…keep or not. If you are going to keep it, set it aside. If you are going to get rid of it, put it in one of the following immediately: trash recycle shred donate sell Go to the next item in that same pile until the pile shrinks, or is gone. Don’t let yourself get distracted by putting things where they belong, just set it aside and keep going on this pile, only. The first step is this, the sorting and purging process. Make it a “Move It Monday”!
Here are 3 guiding principles that you can post in a visible place and use to help you get out of feeling overwhelmed from the clutter in your life: A little bit of organizing is better than none. Set yourself up for success. Expect that you will go off course. A little bit of organizing helps you to see success more quickly and feel less overwhelmed. Doesn’t it feel great to start and finish a project? Don’t try to tackle an entire room. That can create a feeling of being overwhelmed and keep you from starting. Instead, clear out a specific space like an all purpose (aka junk) drawer. Set yourself up for success means that you want to learn to accurately estimate how much time something will take you. If you cannot complete a project or task in one sitting, it’s better to break it up into smaller increments. Rather than think you can reorganize an entire room in 3 hours, schedule an hour to work in one part of the room and see how much you accomplish in that time. Off course? Of course! Life is always changing. The key to effective organizing is to first have a system in place. When something unexpected happens to derail you from optimal organizing habits it’s easier to get back on track if you know where it all belongs. If you share the space, it allows everyone to put things back as well.
At Outside In Organizer and Makeovers one of my organizing mantras is, “love it and use it”. There is nothing “wrong” with keeping the things that you love, use or wear. When organizing and decluttering you want to set some reasonable ground rules and avoid the pitfall of making excuses for why you “can’t” let go of items. Use means current use, not “I might need it someday”. Unless of course “someday” happens within the year! If you are keeping an item that is stained, broken, or missing a part, try to set a date to take it to be “fixed” so that you can use it. If you don’t do this within that time frame, let it go. Consider how long you’ve been “planning to fix it!” These are more effective ways for you to get rid of and prevent clutter: First,take stock of everything that you have and keep it visible. Does seeing it all feel overwhelming? When you gather everything from a category into one place and see how much you have it makes deciding what to keep and what to let go of easier. Second, you can create a display of items so that you remember to use or wear all of them over time. If after a couple of months you see that you are not using them, you can let go. Third, rotate items from the back of a deep shelf or cupboard to the front so that you can remember that you have them to use, consume, or wear. When in doubt, remember your goal is to be organized and clutter-free.
It’s not compact, digital, or pocket-size but it is smart. Whatever your preference is is always up to you and determined by your needs. The real question is, “what information do I need to have with me when I am on the go?” See if these ideas help you answer what to organize next: Health, medical information and contacts – to take to physicians, labs, therapies, hospital, urgent care Child or adult care information, emergency contacts – for when you are at work or traveling Banking and insurance information – in preparation for an emergency Confidential information such as passwords and pins – same Job, salary history – when applying for loans Education history – same Housing history – when applying for new housing, a mortgage Warranty and repair information including expiration dates – when scheduling repairs Automobile maintenance records – when you go for your service appointments
Organizing for your health and safety will provide you with greater peace of mind. First, consider having all of your information in one easily accessible place whether it is digital and/or paper. Second, be sure that your emergency contact and/or health care proxy has access to, and a copy of this information. Remember to always send them an updated version. Third, and very important in the process of organizing your records, update the information on a regular basis. When you change supplements, prescriptions, dosages, doctors, insurance plans, or receive a different diagnosis it’s time to update the information. TIP: bring your copy of your wellness records with you to every appointment and exam including your general physician, dentist, and specialist. This will help you answer the questions that they ask you, remind you to note any changes they recommend, and to track the dates of your last appointments or exams. Here are additional ideas for what to include in your organized records: Current diet, food restrictions Current exercise regimen including type, frequency, duration Allergies or sensitivities Sleep routine including the times that you go to sleep and awaken List of questions for your wellness provider The format is less important than the gathering and updating of the information. A 3-ring binder works as well as the right app as long as you establish and use your system! P.S.-this system will serve you will in the event of a disaster, when you move, and if you are traveling.