If you're reading this as it goes live, you may have just made New Year's Resolutions related to organization. If not, you still have goals, personal or professional, that are either related to organization or would benefit from a more organized space, home, or office. Once you've decided which space to focus on, how do you begin? What's the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success? We'll tell you. The best part: it doesn't cost a thing.
Your Environment Affects Your Mind. Your Stuff Matters.
If you've read anything I've written or followed me for long, you've heard me say this before. And you'll hear it again. Your environment affects your mind. Your stuff matters. Our lives are negatively affected by disorganized, chaotic surroundings, and women feel it more than men with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
So whether it's a New Year's Resolution, a breaking point, exhaustion, or a new series on Netflix - whatever your motivation; whatever brought you here - it's time to take back control of your home and get organized.
What Does it Mean to Be Organized?
There are many misconceptions when it comes to organization and being organized. Some people believe you need to buy certain expensive systems or that you need to trash and donate almost everything. That you have to be a minimalist. That you can't keep your fantastic collection of shoes. That there are certain things you should keep and certain things you should donate or discard. That you have to follow a certain set of directions exactly. That there's a solution that works for everyone. That it's your fault that you're not organized.
The truth is that being organized looks and feels different for different people and different families in different spaces. There are two parts to being organized: (1) Being comfortable in your space, and (2) Being able to find things when you need them.
Being Organized means
Each person's situation is unique. What works for a single owner of two dogs in a tiny home is different for what works for a family of six in a large home. If you've tried organizational systems before and they haven't worked, you may feel like a failure. Most likely, it's just not the right system for you. There is no magic system!
What is Clutter?
I bet you know clutter when you see it. Or when you feel it. Clutter is anything we don't need, want, or use that takes our time, energy, or space, and destroys our serenity.
Clutter is anything we don't need, want, or use
Clutter is what we want out of our space and out of our lives. It's what causes problems and stress and arguments and frustration: the extra things that serve no positive purpose and manage to pull our focus and cause overwhelm and frustration just by being there. This is what needs to go.
Why Visualization? Why Not Just Start Organizing?
Have you ever assembled a piece of furniture without instructions or any idea what the final piece actually is? Ever put together a puzzle without the finished picture? Ever assemble a kid's toy without knowing whether it's a bike or a playhouse? At best, it's not easy. At worst, you're setting yourself up for failure.
It's the same with organizing your space. If you don't know where you're going, how do you know when you get there? If you don't know how you want the final room to look and function, how do you know what goes and what stays?
Visualizing the space before you begin unlocks something critical to success. You can visualize and plan while you're doing other things - driving, taking a shower, cleaning your home, doing laundry - and when you actually get to the organizing and decluttering, you already have a head start. Beyond that, visualization helps the organization process in four areas:
Organization starts in the mind. Thoughts become action and action becomes reality. You can organize your entire house in your mind before you touch a thing! Before you go to bed at night, think about how you want to feel in your home. Mentally walk through it. As you sleep your subconscious brain will keep working.
Let's put it into practice so you can see how it would work.
Visualize Your Problem Space
The key to getting what you want is (1) knowing what you want, (2) visualizing it completely done, and (3) feeling how you will feel when it’s finished.
Think of a space in your home that doesn't function or look how you would like. It can be a large space like a garage or family room or a small space like a closet or small bathroom. It could be a portion of a larger space that you want to have an independent function, like a craft nook in the family room, a home office in the extra bedroom, or a woodworking area in the garage. If you're just starting out, are feeling overwhelmed, or you're just wanting a smaller project, you can think of a cabinet or shelf or drawer.
Now take a deep breath and close your eyes. Your problem area is now your ideal space. Imagine yourself opening the door to that room or area and seeing a clean, welcoming, and organized space exactly how you want it.
What do you see? Which colors? Which furniture? Is there something on the walls? How are the floors? The surfaces and countertops?
Imagine spending time in that space alone or with family and friends. How do you feel in the space? Happy? Peaceful? Elated? Inspired? Relaxed? Comforted? Safe? Satisfied?
Take one last look around the room, taking it all in. One more deep breath. Open your eyes and say aloud: "I want this for my life!"
Now while you still have that vision and those feels in your head, grab a pen and paper and record what you saw and felt. What did you see? How does the space make you feel? If it helps, take time to sketch your prefect space. Lastly, list what needs to change to get you there. You can use a pen and paper, your computer, or download and use our Envision Your Perfect Space Worksheet.
1. Decision Shortcut
Decluttering and organizing involves many decisions. A LOT. So many decisions. Any time you can take a shortcut and make a decision more quickly, you're saving your time and your brain. You'll be able to make more decisions in a shorter amount of time and get to your goals more quickly.
If you're stuck on whether an item or piece of furniture should remain in the space, go back to your vision: look at your notes or your sketch. If this item or furniture says in the room, does it move you closer to your vision or farther away?
If the bedroom in your vision is calm and inspired by the sea, your Mötley Crüe poster may find a more fitting home somewhere else. If your extra bedroom is going to double as a playroom, the office supplies go, but the Legos stay.
As you go through your belongings, you will be pulled in a multitude of different directions. Memories, hopes, guilt, and frustration can distract you from moving forward. It's easy to get lost in what an object represents to you. By keeping your vision in mind, it's easier to refocus when an object or memory pulls you off task.
If you get particularly stuck on a particular item, put it aside. You'll regain your focus by using your vision to decide on other items. Once you exercise this muscle more and more, it gets stronger and that particular item won't have the distraction power it once had.
3. Shared Vision
You have a family room and a family. The mom wants a relaxing place to do her crafts and hobbies. The father wants a place to invite his friends over to watch football. The kids just want another playroom. So, what belongs in the room? The football clock? Knitting needles? Dinosaur puzzles?
While I don't have a magical answer to what the purpose of this room should ultimately be, having a shared vision of what you as a family want from the space is vital to success. If there's a way to combine the visions, great! There may also be ways to use different parts of the home in different ways. Maybe there's a finished room in the basement that would make a great spot for a man cave or a nook with great lighting for knitting.
Whatever you decide, deciding as a family what you want and need for the space will cut down on arguments and distractions, making the path to a functional space you all love much more clear.
If organizing your space was super easy and stuff was just stuff, you wouldn't be reading this, and I wouldn't have a job. Decluttering and organizing are not easy or simple. You will get tired. You will get frustrated. You will want to quit.
When you start to feel discouraged, go back to your vision sheet. In a particularly challenging space, post it on the wall or take the time to make a vision board that you can continually reference.
You Can Get Organized
Get started now. Get started today. Think about your space.
Create your vision and hold it in your mind. Write it out. Draw a picture of your success.
Take a good look at your space how it is now. Take pictures. Pictures help us remove ourselves from spaces that are familiar. They can give you just enough distance to see it differently.
Create a path: what needs to change? Your space should be for the person you are becoming now, not the person you were in the past. You deserve better. You deserve a space that works for you.
Your space should be
When I was learning to ride a bike, I was told to stop looking at my hands and the front wheel and look where I wanted to go. If I looked at a tree, I was going to hit that tree.
Organizing is the same. You will get distracted by your belongings (your hands and the front wheel) and by future projects you expect to be particularly challenging (that tree), but if you refocus and look where you want to go, you will get there. And it will be amazing.
Would you like to live a more organized life? Contact us today to get started!
I'm Jen, a professional organizer ready to help you take charge of your space, free up your time, and lead a more organized life! (Read more about me here)