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Posts Tagged ‘organizing process’

Stressed Woman with Headache

Everyone has flaws. No one is perfect. NO ONE (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Beating yourself up for every little thing you do wrong is not going to help your situation. Most of the clients I’ve worked with have very similar thought processes, regardless of the fact that they range in age, gender, socioeconomic background, nationality, and ethnicity. The clients that just need a little jump start to get the ball rolling are different from the ones who struggle and trudge along in one major way – the way they talk to themselves.

I can usually tell by someone’s “self-talk” and the way they explain their situation how they are going to approach the project they’ve hired me to help them with. Client’s who tend to say the following tend to have more success with their efforts:

“I know my situation isn’t terrible, but I am not happy with it. I know it could be better and I just need some help to get it done.”

“I used to be organized but __________ happened and things got hectic. Things have settled down now and I just need to get things back to normal.”

“I’m ready for things to change. I know they can be better.”

Clients who express things in the following way also tell me immediately after that any attempts they’ve made at organizing go awry and they are back at square one:

“This is just too hard. I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know how to be organized. It will never work.”

“I don’t even bother anymore because I know it won’t do any good.”

Though I don’t think it is appropriate in all situations, I think in this one, the “fake it ’til you make it” method can work.

Rather than saying:

“I can’t….” say “I can…” even though you are struggling.

“I don’t know how to…” say ” I will learn how to….” even if you don’t have the answer now – because you can find the answer.

“I wish I had…” say “I will have….” to motivate yourself to accomplish your goal.

“I would like to, but….” say ” I will achieve that, and I will do it by….” and think of things you can do to help you get what you want.

It’s very rare that anyone accuses me of being an optimist. I actually tend to label myself a “hopeful pessimist.” But I have noticed that when I say:

“I can knock those dishes out in a few minutes,”

“I can sort through all the clothes to figure out what to donate with no problem,” or

“I can get everything under control,”

I’m much more likely to get through those projects, even though they are things I really don’t want to do. When I tell myself I don’t have the time, or it will take too much effort to try everything on to see what still fits – well, you would be amazed at how long it takes me to get around to doing those things.

Get a picture in your mind of what you want, and then stop telling yourself you can’t have it. If you want an organized house, picture it – and then get real. Tell yourself you can have an organized house, but don’t stop there. Take out a piece of paper and list when, where, how, and why you can have it. When you start to come up with some solutions, you can change your situation. Don’t settle for “I don’t know how….” If you don’t know how – who does? Take a class, call your mom, hire an organizer. Get help and change that “I don’t know” into “I’ll learn how to.”

While the suggestions seem simple, their application isn’t so easy. If you struggle with negative self-talk and notice that it hinders you from achieving what you want, I invite you to try these things. Be deliberate. Give it a shot – it can’t hurt.


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The hardest part of many projects is getting started. Organizing is no exception. Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you feel pressed for time. Or, perhaps you know where to start but feel overwhelmed by the task. Here are some ideas that I recommend for people who are having trouble starting an organizing project (you can also apply these tips to other kinds of projects):

Pick something already! If you really don’t know where to start and cannot figure out what your priority area is, there is nothing wrong with just diving in and getting started. Sometimes, just jumping in and seeing what you have to deal with will give you a clearer sense of direction or ideas on what priority areas can be.

Tackle the thing that is bothering you the most. Your living room might not be the highest priority in your mind, but every time you walk in and trip over things you just about lose your mind. So, maybe you tackle that before you organize your office. That’s fine! Eat that frog and move on.

Take small steps. Be realistic and don’t set yourself up to fail. If you are standing in the middle of the madness, remember – you don’t have to do it all at once. Clear out a drawer, straighten up your desk, clean out the medicine cabinet, sort your mail and toss the trash. These small steps add up to big results.

Get an accountability partner – or team. Get someone else (or multiple people) involved in the project. A friend or relative might not be physically pitching in to help you, but let them know what you are doing, and what your goal is. Ask them to check in with you. If you feel comfortable, ask them to bug you about it. Let them know you are having trouble getting started. At some point you’ll either (1) get sick of them asking if you’ve started, and so you do so that you can tell them “YES! Now stop asking!” or (2) hate the idea of letting that person down, so you get to work and make them (and yourself) proud! Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to about something like this – which can be very sensitive and private for some people. And don’t choose a friend who is going to email you once and then not think about. Choose an assertive person who is going to call you out on what you said. This person will call you, text you, or drop in to say. Pick that one!

Box and Bribe. I had a client who hadn’t had anyone (other than me) in her place in years. What she most wanted was a welcoming environment to have her friends and family in. To make sure we got everything done in a timely manner, I suggested she throw a party. But to box her in, I had her set a date, create a guest list, and invite people. That’s quite a box! Another (more pleasant) way to motivate yourself is to set up rewards for getting things done. Some people like to set one big reward for the end of the project. Other people find that setting little milestone rewards along the way keeps them motivated. Do what works for you.

This article was featured in The Twenty First Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life and the Carnival of Self-Mastery


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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.


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I spoke at a workshop for women over the weekend. Knowing that most of the audience had probably never worked with a Professional Organizer, let alone hear one speak directly to them, I figured I would just give them some simple information.I take a personal approach when it comes to organizing. Not every solution fits every person, but there are some basics that I suggest to almost everyone.

  • First, start with your goals – what are they? And I don’t just mean for organizing. What do you want to accomplish that you feel like you’ve been held back from achieving? Work on that list.
  • Second, make a list of your priorities. Take the goal list, or other things you know really need to get done. Put them in order from most important to least important.

Once that’s completed, you (should) have a good sense of what you want to achieve overall. At that point, you can probably get started on your project with a clearer head. For example – if you really need to get your dishwasher fixed – maybe you should clear the clutter in your kitchen. If you are looking for a new job in a different field and it might require a different wardrobe, maybe you should do some purging in your closet and dresser. Clothing might be a good place to start if you have lost or gained a significant amount of weight.

The stages are basic.

  • Sort – start sorting things into like groups. Remove everything from the area that doesn’t belong there – take the dishes out of the office, or the kids toys out of the dining room.
  • Purge – get rid of things you no longer need to keep. Make various piles – trash, sell, donate, give back to original owner, keep – whatever is applicable to your situation. For example, I had a client who knew she’d never have a yard sale or put things on eBay, so our piles were trash, donate, original owner, and keep. It was good that she knew herself well enough to know that that “sell” pile would have remained just that – a pile. She would have continued holding on to items she already decided she didn’t want.
  • Assess/Plan -once you see what you have left, what you are working with, you can start to put a plan into action. How much paper do you have? One banker box is practically equivalent to one file cabinet drawer. How much filing space will you need? Did you get rid of a ton of clothes? Maybe you don’t need the closet installation now. Or maybe you can downsize from the humongous dresser that is overwhelming your bedroom. Plan out the best layout for the room you are working on and how you can maximize your space.
  • Organize! Now is when you put your plan into action. If you’ve gone through the steps I’ve outlined, this part is pretty easy – the hard work is over! You’ve already decided where to store your shoes, how to set up your filing system, and how to store the tools in your garage.

Remember, your organizing project is only as difficult as you make it. If you find that you can’t accomplish the project yourself, consider asking a trusted friend or family together (but make sure they aren’t the kind who will pressure you into throwing things out when you really aren’t ready OR if they talk you into keeping everything). If the friends and family option doesn’t work for you – consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you out.


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