Throughout the journey of being a Professional Organizer, I see, up-front and personal, situations that my clients are struggling with. Often I see our clients beating themselves up. They were ready to burn/blow up/throw away — their words not mine — all the things they have stuffed in closets, drawers, and on top of unused elliptical machines.
They’d look at me and do an imaginary comparison. They assumed my life was labeled and colored-coded to the -nth degree. They feared I was secretly judging them.
I want my readers and clients — present and future — to know I’m human too! The only difference is, I’ve had a few more wins in creating an organized life that works for me. Is it perfect? Absolutely not! Actually, I find attempting to maintain perfection is counterintuitive to a productive and happy life (emphasis on happy).
Organizing will never be picture-perfect.
I am always finding new ways to improve my systems. As we go through life, our perspectives change, which means how we do things change. Organizational systems are adaptable. You need to change them if they’re no longer functional.
Let me give you an example.
One evening, a few years ago, I had been working with anxious care on my last box of a miscellaneous pile of papers. The label on it read “Crap to go through by Sept 2015.” It was January 2016 and still in my life. I already recycled about five or six shopping bags worth of paper. About a quarter of my office had been purged and sorted through as a result.
The morning after I looked around my office and realized about 99% of the things in my space had a purpose. It was either useful or beautiful. Things I needed on a regular basis were within reach. Things I didn’t were stored nicely underneath the desk but still accessible.
I purged the things that were no longer functional and kept the items that were. Again, was it perfect? Nope, but it was serving the purpose I needed it to.
Then I had an epiphany.
Is it possible you don’t know what’s keeping you from reaching that level of functional organization? With all this stuff around, how are you supposed to take a step in the right direction?
The struggle is real. So I put together five things that could be adding to your fight against clutter and disorganization.
1. Your things don’t have a clear purpose.
It sounds like a cliché but when you don’t have a clear purpose in life, let alone your day, it can lead to stress. Not only should your day have a purpose, but your stuff should as well.
Take a look at your desk. With many of us working from home due to the pandemic, we’ve had to convert or create a home office space. Are there any items on your desk that don’t belong? Is there anything there not related to work?
The purpose of your home office is exactly that: to conduct work. If it’s filled and cluttered with other things, you’re bound to be distracted.
Having a purpose for each section of your home is vital to organizing. Let’s face it, your office isn’t where you go to relax. That’s reserved for your living room or your bedroom. That’s not to say you can’t set a relaxing mood in your office. A nice potted plant or candle is all you need to fix that.
When you give your stuff purpose, it sparks a need for it. And if you come across items that don’t serve a purpose, perhaps it’s time to let them go.
2. You have too many choices.
How many times have you argued with your family over what take-out place you’re going to order from? How about deciding on a vacation spot?
Everyone — myself included — is met with choices every single day. Some are small while others are massive. Decision-making comes naturally to some people. But many of my clients find a roadblock when it comes to this.
How do you confidently make a choice and feel good about it?
This TedTalk by Sheena Iyengar about too many choices is a great resource. Using fact-based research she reveals how you can make choices easier. This can be applied to both companies and individuals. I love recommending it to my clients.
3. You don’t have enough choices.
You have to set clear boundaries around your time. There’s a lot of things you’d like to get done but don’t. You’ve obligated yourself so much you lack the choices of what to do with your time. You can’t squeeze one more thing on your calendar.
Here’s an idea: Select three to four days a month and mark them as “nothing” days. Block out your schedule. When people demand your time on those days, be straight up. You don’t have to say it’s “me time” but you could say you already have an appointment.
If three to four days is a lot, bring it down to one or two. However many you decide to have, you need those days to refresh. Don't keep drowning yourself in to-dos and obligations. When your energy levels are super low these days will be your time to recharge.
4. You don’t prioritize your time.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person?” Why is that?
Because a busy person is focused on what they’re doing. They have a choice to make. If they’re going to get a task done, they have to do it between things they already have going on. Meanwhile, a person who “has all day” is at the whim of how they feel. There are distractions everywhere. Distraction leads to procrastination.
This reminds me of Parkinson’s Law. This law claims that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if you have 4 hours to do a task, it will take 4 hours. If you have 3 hours, magically you do it in 3. Our focus and priorities about how we use the time change based on the amount of time we think we have.
When you recognize the anchors in your day, schedule things you have to get done around them. You might have to prioritize more than you think. But it’ll bring better focus into your day.
Unless you’re on vacation. Only then should you prioritize between your human needs, your next massage, and when the margaritas are available.
5. Inflow > Outflow
Budgeting is a major issue for many of my clients. I’ve seen some underestimate and others overestimate. The topic of money never fails to be a touchy subject for people. It's essential, yes, but relying on it can become overwhelming and uncomfortable.
Still, I’ve seen my clients have the most trouble with properly budgeting themselves. They explain how they overbuy items and have nowhere to store them. Or they underbuy and make a desperate run to the supermarket when needed.
The cycle never seems to stop. I share some facts about why we overbuy in this blog post.
The most important thing when it comes to estimating inflow vs outflow is to be honest. If you’re spending more than you should, focus on saving in the coming months. Know that it’s perfectly fine to spend money. We earn to reward ourselves. Spend consciously.
I want to note that these five reasons are merely the tipping point. My clients and I encounter some or all of these problems. You might too.
If you find yourself owning too much stuff, one or more of these top five reasons could open your eyes. Never be ashamed of the things you own, but be proud of the purpose they serve in your life.
If you’re interested in discovering the ways organizing can make you re-evaluate your stuff, contact us today. We’d love to help you put the pieces of your life back together. We’ll even have some fun doing it.