As is often the custom, many people make a New Year’s resolution to be more organized. As a professional organizer, I totally understand the desire to get organized.
There are so many benefits.
When you are organized, you know where your things are and where to put them back.
When you are organized, you save money. It’s true! You know what you have so you don’t spend money on things that are already in your closet, on your shelves, or in the cupboard. You can avoid buying duplicates. If you have gift cards, you know where they are and can easily access them when you’re ready to use them.
When you are organized, you have less stress at home. You may have stress at work or outside the home but once you get home, you can relax. If there is a mess, it’s easy to tidy up. If things are out of place, it’s no big deal to put them back where they belong because there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.
How do you arrive at this state of organized bliss?
Decide on a Zone
Begin by deciding on an area or zone on which to focus. Typically, I ask clients to focus on the zone that is bothering them the most. For the purpose of this blog, let’s select the kitchen.
Start by setting your timer for a short period of time. Fifteen minutes to half an hour is probably a good amount of time to begin with. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to start and finish the entire kitchen in a day.
Remove anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen. Put these things in a bag or box to deal with when you’re finished for the day. You don’t want to take time out of your organizing session to figure out what to do with them or where to put these things as you find them.
Pick a zone within the zone. You may decide to begin by clearing off the counters, leaving only the things that support the function of the kitchen. Remember put the things that don’t belong in a bag or a box to be delivered when the timer goes off. It’s important to note that your kitchen counter may serve many different functions.
It is probably a food prep station and a place to keep small appliances like your coffee machine or toaster oven. It may also be a drop zone for the mail. This is fine as long as you have a place to put the mail and that you have a plan for sorting it.
Work your way through the drawers, cupboards, and shelves one at a time. You’ll be amazed by how much you can do in 15 to 30 minutes when you focus on one small area at a time.
Small, incremental improvements are the easiest to maintain.
Inform the others
If you are part of a family, they will need a tour of what you have done and guidance so they can help you maintain the organization. Let them know that the kitchen counters are no longer the place to deposit backpacks, homework, toys or other odds and ends.
Maintain the kitchen before tackling your next zone.
Practice these skills mindfully and before long you’ll discover that putting things away is a habit, part of your routine.
Some chores go in cycles. Thinking about them this way can help you as you work towards being more organized. Chores like laundry and dishes are good examples.
For instance, you put the laundry in the washer, then the dryer (or hang the laundry to dry), fold the clothes and put them away or hang them in the closet and the cycle is complete.
Washing dishes has a similar cycle. You use the cooking tools and dishes, wash them or put them in the dishwasher, either dry them or remove the items from the dishwasher, and put them away.
Everything ends with putting things away.
Even the mail has a cycle. It comes into our home many times digitally. We read it and then we deal with it. We can delete the digital mail, let it sit in our inbox, file it digitally or print it. You know that more mail is going to come in every day. It is a good idea to keep the number of emails that linger in your inbox to a minimum.
Paper mail we can recycle, shred, or file.
Having a good user-friendly filing system is important.
I mentioned that quite often the kitchen counter is a collection spot for paper mail. It has always been that way for me and for many of my clients.
Have a basket in the kitchen in which to deposit paper mail. Make a date with yourself to go through the basket at least once a week. This will keep the basket from overflowing and will keep you current.
Do you get gift cards in the mail? I have often sent gift cards to family members and I regularly come across them when helping my clients organize their papers. Letting gift cards linger in a basket or on a desk is wasting money.
Keep your gift cards together in a clear plastic envelope or a small baggie.
When you are making your shopping list double check this baggie or envelope to see if you have a gift card or a reward card from any of the stores at which you are planning to shop.
Take the gift card out of the baggie or envelope and put it either with your list or in your wallet so that you remember to use it.
Give yourself the gift of getting organized this year so that you save time, and money (use those gift cards) and reduce stress. Where and when will you start? Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.