Personal Growth

6 Keys to Get and Stay Organized

A friend recently had a house fire. She forgot a pot of soup broth on the stove. Her last memory was of the broth gently boiling. Hours later she returned to find her home filled with black smoke. The family has since moved into a hotel and the house is in the process of being steamed and scrubbed.

Ever optimistic and in the middle of the chaos, my friend found a silver lining. She told me that often she wished her house would gently tip sideways and all the contents would fall out, leaving a neat and empty home ready to start over again – and so she could see what was in there! In the midst of working and raising a family it seemed there was more in the closets and corners than she had time to deal with.

No one ever says: I’d like to be more disorganized. We all crave our spaces to make sense, to be functional, to allow for the ease of living and working. That is what getting organized is really about: more time and space to do the things we need to do and want to do.

No one, and not likely a force of God, is going to tip our home, office or workspace on its side to allow us to start over – and we certainly are not wishing for a fire. But my “house- tipping” friend hit on a few key ideas when it comes to getting organized.

Here are 6 key ideas to help you get and stay organized.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to take stock

No matter where we are on the organizational spectrum, it is never too late. If it feels overwhelming, we are not alone. Even the most organized individual has seasons of, “Oh my goodness, this is out of control – where do I start?”

Take out the stuff

Over time we accumulate stuff. We might need to take it out and see what our drawers or file folders really hold. Sometimes we find hidden gems. Often we are a little surprised to find that we still have items that are just taking up space.

Assess what is of value

After we take a look at what is hidden away, it is necessary to ask what purpose each item serves. At one time it may have been useful or valuable to us, or maybe we just never put it away or tossed it out. If we don’t need it, use it or love it, then it might be time to find it a new home.

Find a place for everything

Once we have taken stock and decided what to keep and what to get rid of, we need to have a place for everything. No guessing where the scissors are – they have a spot. No looking for ongoing projects – they have a place. No searching for that important file – it has a home. No surprise closets.

Don’t neglect the upkeep

Maintenance is key in keeping things organized. Spaces, like muscles, naturally atrophy if we don’t keep checking in and making sure they are being well used.

Be kind to yourself

If you are feeling overwhelmed and in the midst of disarray, ask yourself, “How long did it take to get here?”  You may not get organized in one day. You also did not arrive where you are without a back story. Recognize that change takes time.

Finding yourself in a bit of chaos can be about life being full and the pace in fast forward. This doesn’t mean we are disorganized or lazy. In fact, it might just mean we have been doing other things – so don’t feel bad. Besides, guilt is not a productive emotion.

Decide on one thing to do or change, and then it is no longer up for deliberation. Choose carefully. It may be small; in fact it is often the smallest changes, if consistently followed, that have potential for large impact. Maybe you are even bold enough to write it down or tell someone.

And as you begin, do not let the following “stay disorganized” myths trick you or derail your efforts.

Common Myths that Derail Our Efforts

“I’m not the organized type.”

Sorry, there is no type. It is a choice; organization requires energy and on-going commitment – no biological dispositions get us off the hook.

“I tried it and it did not work.”

The reality is that being organized includes maintenance. It not a one-off kind of behavior. This myth is like saying I tried healthy eating once.  It is easy to give up. Try, try, try again.

“I don’t want to be thought of as cold.”

Some of the most organized people I know exude warmth. Being organized doesn’t mean you have cut out your heart and replaced it with a clock. In fact, organized people often plan their homes and workspaces so they can invite others in and have comfortable places to linger, share and collaborate.

“I will lose my spontaneity.”

Organized people do schedule the things that matter most – priority work projects, exercise, hobbies and family time – and they also have lots of time for leisure. Being organized might give you the wiggle room to be more spontaneous, not less. It might help you find the paint, brushes and easel. It might give you a few hours on the weekend to go exploring.

Remember, getting and staying organized is not about being a minimalist or following the newest organizing scheme. Organization is not about uniformity – it is about functionality.

Wendy Loewen, Trainer
ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance
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