One of the complaints I’ve heard many times from clients who initially tackled their organizing project on their own is that they feel like they aren’t getting anywhere, they aren’t making any progress, they keep working on the same pile over and over. There could be many things causing this problem, but upon sitting down and asking the client questions, or by doing an initial session with them, I can tell that for most of them that it’s simply a lack of focus.
Approach your organizing with goals in mind. Know what you want to accomplish before you start. Maybe you even have to post reminders to yourself. Perhaps you have to write a note on a piece of paper and tape it to the door. Did you pay all the bills due on the first? Did you organize the bookshelf?
One of the most important things you can do to make progress with your organizing is simple. Pick an area, and stick to it. Finish what you start. Here are some scenarios I encounter often:
Tom and I are in the sorting phase of our organizing. We have started in his office. He takes his coffee mugs and plates to the kitchen and begins to wash them. While he’s there, he figures he might as well wash the entire sink of dirty dishes. Half an hour later, no progress has been made in his offce and our session is over for the evening.
Jane and I are removing all items that don’t belong in her living room. We come across several of her children’s toys, shoes, and clothing items. She puts them all in the kids rooms and starts to straighten up their closet. Now she’s a bit tired of organizing and straightening up. She returns to the dining room, sees no real improvement, feels discouraged and unmotivated.
My suggestion is to have a large basket, or strong grocery bag near the door of the room you are working on. Everything that does not belong in the room you are working on should go into that basket or bag. Deal with it later. Save the last five or ten minutes of your time putting the items in the areas they belong in. If you have the energy to tackle those other areas, go for it! But don’t allow yourself to get distracted from your priority project. You’ll tend to look at that area, think you didn’t accomplish anything, and feel discouraged. You’ll quickly forget about where you spend that hour – running around between rooms doing a little here and a little there.
Here’s an exception to this rule that I typically follow – I had a client who hated filing. But there was plenty that needed to be done. So, we started off our sessions with something that was a bit more tolerant to her – clearing out the dining room, organizing her daughters closet, reorganizing the linen closet. We’d spend the end of the session filing, and we’d file until the end of our scheduled time or until she just couldn’t take any more – whichever came first. At least that way she got something unpleasant out of the way and she could look back and see which projects she could tackle completely and feel a sense of accomplishment.
So, remember, once you’ve picked an area you want to work on, focus your attentions there and finish what you’ll start. You will feel much more motivated when you see how much you can accomplish.