Getting organized takes effort. It can seem impossible if your goal is to create a space that resembles the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog.
But you might want to lower your expectations. Outside the pages of interior design and furniture publications, most houses are not clutter-free, spotless sanctuaries. In fact, perfectionism and its close cousin procrastination are both obstacles in getting organized. (Procrastination is best defined as becoming too overwhelmed to start or finish a project because we can’t achieve perfection.)
Other obstacles, according to professional organizer Debbie Jordan Kravitz, are uncooperative family members, lack of time or resources, undefined goals and confusion about where to start.
Luckily, “organization is a learned skill,” according to Jordan Kravitz. She says that “many times the disorganization is the result of never being taught the concrete skills of how to get organized.”
Below, Jordan Kravitz, who owns and operates Virtually Organized by Debbie, shares how readers can acquire and sharpen their organizing skills, and prevail over procrastination.
1. Be fussy.
Clutter swells when we acquire more stuff. So “be picky about what you keep,” Jordan Kravitz says. “You need to know what you are keeping it for, and where you will keep it.” She adds that the common reason “just in case” doesn’t count.
2. Go paperless.
Paper is a major source of clutter. To cut your catalog consumption, Jordan Kravitz suggests visiting the website Catalog Choice to remove your address from any publications you don’t want to receive.
Also, pass on print publications. Consider signing up for a magazine’s electronic subscription. Want to save a particular article? She says you can bookmark it or use social bookmarking sites like Delicious.
Opt to receive your bank statements and bills by email. Worried that you’ll forget to pay your bills? Receive an email and a print bill “for the next few months and then gradually fade out the paper version once you make the email reminder part of your bill-paying routine.”
3. Record your time monsters.
How often have you thought that you simply don’t have the time to organize your office or another area in your house? Jordan Kravitz calls anything that sucks up our time a “time monster.” She suggests writing down how long you spend doing daily activities. Once you identify your time monsters, you can deal with them.
4. Work with your habits, not against them.
When we try to get organized, we don’t take into account our daily habits. For example, we might create elaborate organizing systems that we just can’t keep up with. “Many times the reason that organizing attempts fail is that when we try to change our habits we simply meet too much resistance, either from ourselves or from the people we are trying to organize.”
For starters, “Observe how your house looks on a daily basis.” Think about where you put down certain items such as your keys, purse or backpack and the best piece of furniture to organize it.
Working with your habits can lead to a consistently organized space. Take, for example, a family who always tosses their shoes, coats and bags on the couch or the floor when they get home. You might suggest that “each family member take their things to their rooms when they come home and hang their coats in the closet and line up their shoes on a shelf,” Jordan Kravitz says.
Realistically, though, even if it lasts a while, your family will probably return to their routine of dumping and tossing, she says. The fix? “Instead, don’t fight their habits, but give them a designated spot to dump their shoes.” She suggests color-coded bins: “Choose a different color for each member of the family and make sure the bin is not too big, and thus a bottomless pit.”
In general, “Don’t fight what you can’t fix,” she says.
5. Set goals.
“Goal setting is one of the most important steps you can take in your quest to become better organized,” according to Jordan Kravitz. “Without goals, it is very easy to become distracted, and before you know it, you are wandering around from one task to the next, with no direction and no success.”
To set your goal, think about what an organized space means to you. Close your eyes, and envision this space. Do you see a calmer room, “clear kitchen counters” or “no more paper piles”? “Think about what you want to see when you are finally done with all the work. These visions are your specific goals for your projects.”
Next, write down your goals, which Jordan Kravitz says “gives them importance” and helps you “stay on track and on task.” She also suggests thinking in terms of “yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals.”
6. Create a command center.
She writes in a post on her blog:
“A Command Center manages: input (papers coming in), processes (what we need to do with those papers), output (papers going out), supplies and frequent references.”
Put your command center in a centralized place, such as in a kitchen cabinet or home office. Also, use a corkboard or magnetic board for phone numbers, invitations and your grocery list. For more specific tips, read part one, part two and part three of creating a command center at Jordan Kravitz’s blog.
Prevailing Over Procrastination
Since procrastination is a big barrier to getting organized, Jordan Kravitz offers several tips to help:
1. “Break your clutter-busting sessions into manageable steps.”
Many of us don’t start simply because we’re overwhelmed. Separating a big project into doable chunks and tackling each step one by one helps tremendously. She also suggests using a timer for each task.
2. Have an accountability partner.
“If clutter is just too overwhelming, ask for help,” she says. It’s less likely that you’ll procrastinate with another person involved, she adds.
3. Give yourself a reward.
Human beings love reinforcement. If you’re tackling a dreaded organizing task, provide yourself with extra motivation after you’re done, such as “a dinner out, an appointment at the spa or even just a lazy weekend afternoon.”
4. Focus on the finish line.
Ask yourself, “what will be better in [my] life as a result” of de-cluttering and cleaning up? “Keep this uncluttered, relaxing and peaceful space in mind as you work to help motivate you to the finish line.”
5. “Just do it.”
There’s such a thing as overanalyzing. Sometimes too much thinking can lead to inaction. So “Don’t think about it too much, just jump in and get it done.”
Photo by Evelyn Giggles, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). 6 Ways to Get Organized and 5 More to Bust Through Procrastination. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/6-ways-to-get-organized-and-5-more-to-bust-through-procrastination/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.