For most of us, organizing is a chore. A big, scary chore we put off for weeks, months or maybe even years. We employ a variety of avoidance tactics. Some of us don’t go in to that messy room in our house. Or we throw random items in a closet and pretend they don’t exist (and neither does the closet). Or we walk a different direction so we don’t come face to face with a pile of paperwork, a buildup of boxes or a clutter of unused cords.
Why do we have such a hard time with organization? As Erin Doland, editor-in-chief of the widely popular organization blog Unclutterer.com, said, “No one is naturally organized — we aren’t born with day planners in our hands. Being organized is a skill we learn, similar to tying our shoes and reading.” And some of us learn more slowly than others. According to Doland, it took her years to learn to be organized.
The other problem? Plain and simple, some of us just have a lot of stuff. “The more stuff you have, the longer it takes you to initially organize and maintain your systems,” said Doland, who’s also author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week. Below, Doland shares five effective tips for getting and staying organized.
1. Buddy up.
Just having a friend or family member next to you as you’re organizing can help keep you accountable, motivated and focused, Doland said. Does your sentimentality stop you from getting rid of stuff? If so, have the other person hold each item while you decide what to do with it. Research has shown, according to Doland, that “If you touch the item, you may form an irrational and stronger emotional bond to it.”
2. Time yourself.
The idea of an organizational overhaul is no doubt overwhelming. Plus, how many people really have several hours a day to devote to decluttering? Like any big project, breaking decluttering down into manageable bits helps. Doland suggested using a timer every day to organize. For instance, after having dinner every night, you “set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and unclutter,” and stop after the timer goes off. While this won’t bring instant or dramatic results, “…over the weeks you’ll make significant progress.”
3. “Be well fed and well rested.”
It’s hard to think straight with little sleep, let alone have the energy to lift heavy boxes, find a place for things and want to get started in the first place. “Get a good night’s sleep and then eat healthful meals and snacks over the course of the day. When your brain and body are appropriately fueled, you’ll be surprised by how much work you can get done,” Doland said.
4. Create a routine based on your personality.
When it comes to curbing clutter, one size doesn’t fit all, Doland said. And it makes sense, because we have different personalities and preferences. That’s why it’s important to set up a routine around your own habits and behaviors.
In other words, “Know yourself, and create an organizing routine and system that reflect your personality.” Doland is a self-professed mess-maker. So she takes “30 minutes before bed each night to put things away, clear surfaces, and get the house ready for the next morning.”
If you leave dirty clothes everywhere, except in the laundry basket, “you might need more hampers — one in your closet, one in your bathroom, one in your bedroom — compared to someone who hits the hamper every time,” Doland said.
5. Make organization about more than having a tidy home.
Take advantage of being organized to create or enjoy something bigger. “Being organized and living without clutter aren’t the end game, they’re simply tools to help you achieve the life you desire,” Doland said. She added: “Don’t be organized or uncluttered for the sake of being organized or uncluttered — use these skills to allow you to spend more time with your family or volunteer at your favorite charity or whatever it is that matters most to you.”