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It's Normal to Backslide — Here Are Some Professional Tips To Get You Back on Track

Professional organizers come into your home and take note of your home's challenges. They help you create systems that work for you and your unique lifestyle. When they finish you’re feeling supercharged in your newly organized space. Then they leave to help the next client.

Flash forward three months. You notice things are getting messy again. You think this isn’t your fault — it’s the organizers. Clearly, they didn’t do a good enough job teaching you how to be more organized.

Backsliding is when you relapse into bad habits. You stop putting things away or maintaining an orderly home. You let clutter pile up on surfaces and you keep saying you'll deal with it later.

When this happens, the professional organizer is often to blame. Why? It's not their fault. Organizers cannot be held responsible for a client’s backsliding.

What are the main causes of backsliding?

Backsliding doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a week or more for your bad habits to slowly creep their way back into your life. Sometimes you have a bad day and can’t be bothered to put something away. One bad day isn’t going to undo all the organization you’ve done to your home.

Jeff Olson, the author of the best-selling personal development book, The Slight Edge, breaks it down like this. He says certain habits, like working out and cleaning, are “so easy to do and so easy not to do.” He repeats this phrase throughout the book. Why? Because it separates successful people from unsuccessful people. Successful people do the things that are easy to do — all the time. Unsuccessful people don't do the easy things.

It’s easy to maintain an organized home. It’s also easy not to maintain an organized home. One bad day is not going to completely upend your house. It’s having a bad week, a bad month, a bad year. It’s the consistency you need to look out for.

Not sure what could be attributed to your backsliding? Here are some common causes.

Your perfectionism is taking over.

After the professional organizer finished, your home never looked better. In fact, you can say it looked “perfect.” But perfection doesn’t exist, in any form. If you try to emulate what the organizer did and make it perfect, you’ll grow frustrated when it doesn’t match. And when you grow frustrated, you’ll grow exhausted from trying, and then give up.

You don’t write anything down.

There’s a reason paper planners are so sought after even though we can do everything on our phones nowadays. It’s because writing tasks we have to remember down is the number one way to remember them.

Creating a schedule and putting it down on paper will give you a higher chance of starting and completing that task. So, if you haven’t already, get yourself a notebook and make a list of all the things you aren’t doing to keep your home organized.

You aren’t putting items back in their homes.

You and your organizer created a system that works for you. Together, you found homes for every item in your house. But once the organizer left, you didn’t bother putting those items back in their home at the end of every day.

You set your keys down on whatever surface you happened to be standing next to instead of on the hook by the door. The next day you can’t find them and spend 20 minutes searching your house. By not putting things away in their home, you’re creating visual clutter that could’ve been avoided.

You procrastinate straightening up.

All of us are busy. We’re balancing work and family all while trying to find some me-time. You might be running a business or juggling three virtual meetings a day while homeschooling your kids. Life doesn’t care that you just organized your home. It’s going to throw things at you whether or not you’re ready.

When you’re busy, you might see a little bit of clutter on the kitchen counter and decide to leave it there. “I’ll deal with it later,” you think. But later comes and goes and tomorrow the clutter is still there. In fact, it’s grown!

Procrastination, like perfection, is the leading cause of backsliding. Not to mention, it stops us from doing many things we’d like to accomplish. So the next time you see some clutter where it doesn’t belong, straighten it up. Use the time to give your brain a rest from the constant running around it does.

How to prevent backsliding

Be honest: Are you guilty of doing anything I mentioned above? If you are, don’t panic. We’re only human and backsliding happens. You know the saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” When you’re learning to keep an organized home, you’re doing exactly that.

Thankfully, there are ways you can prevent backsliding. It’ll involve a little bit of work but the rewards are worth it in the end.

  • Follow the one-in, one-out rule. This is a golden rule in the field of organizing and it’s important to follow it. If you purchase a new black knit cardigan, look through your closet. Do you have another black cardigan in there? Donate it.

  • Clean one room or area at a time. Don’t feel like you have to clean your entire house every single day in order to stay organized. Focus on one room at a time or, better yet, one area at a time. Work on the entryway today and your closet tomorrow. Wipe down the entertainment center on Thursday and tidy up your workspace on Friday. Break it down into manageable tasks.

  • Implement a nighttime cleaning routine. When you create a cleaning routine, you’re bound to stick to it. And if you only have one thing a day to clean, it can easily be completed in 10-15 minutes at night. Instead of lounging on the couch, scrolling through social media, use the time to clean. You’ll feel accomplished and as a bonus, you’ll feel less stress going to bed. Make this routine fun by creating a playlist or listen to your favorite podcast. Catch up on an audiobook. How about practicing a new language? Marrying two routines together can make it even more productive!

  • Keep on top of paperwork. Paper clutter is something that piles up fast. My best advice is to deal with it as soon as it comes into your home. Deal with mail right away. Recycle any that’s junk. Create a “Pending” folder and put all bills in there. Keep it by your desk so you see it every day. The faster you deal with paper clutter the less it’ll pile up.

  • Resist impulse purchases. This is by far the hardest rule to follow. Stores purposefully line registers with enticing items they want you to buy. Don’t! If you find yourself staring too long at a possible impulse purchase, ask yourself these two questions: Do I already have something like this? Do I know where I will store it? If you answer no to both of those, leave it at the store. If you answer yes to one and no to the other, leave it at the store. You should only purchase the item if you’ve answered yes to both questions. And I promise you, that will rarely happen.

  • Work together. Get your family involved. Don’t think you have to maintain your newly organized house by yourself. Delegate certain tasks to your family. Take some of the weight off of your shoulders. This will help teach your kids the importance of organizing. Set up a rewards system and watch your entire family work together to keep things tidy.

Don’t forget to forgive yourself

The final step to prevent backsliding is learning to expect it. As I mentioned earlier, life will get in the way. You’ll have busy days where you won’t be able to complete your evening cleaning routine. Trips will come up. Family members will get sick.

Do not think of yourself as a failure if you aren’t able to clean the area of your home you said you would do today. Even professional organizers have days or weeks where we have to deal with things out of our control. We backslide too.

Use spring cleaning as a reset. Tell yourself once you’re done organizing, you’re going to create a maintenance routine. You’re going to create a set of rules to follow in order to keep your home in order. Remember, you might not be doing everything I listed above but whichever ones you are, you should focus on.

And if you’re still concerned about your home becoming the disorganized compound it was before, take a step back. Take a couple of deep breaths and when you’re done, contact us to schedule a free discovery call so we can map out the next steps.

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