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.