Thinking about getting organized can often be overwhelming. Like any big project, it feels much easier to accomplish and far less daunting if you can break it down into manageable pieces.
Organizing should be looked at from beginning to end. Impulsively we might want to ‘fix’ a space by shopping for an inspiring new piece. Often when bringing back something that looked great in store, whether it be a piece of furniture or a storage piece, we find it simply doesn’t function as it should at home.
Here is my simple four-step P.L.A.N.™ to get organized which looks at the process from beginning to end to help make sure the energy you invest will pay off. Consider enlisting help if you find yourself stuck in one area and unable to move forward.
Identify the purpose of the space – both what you want to do and how you want to feel. Aim for five or fewer activities. Find words to describe the atmosphere of the room – serene, energetic, calm, homey, minimal, lived-in. Articulating your vision is important for it is your guide through the other parts of the organizing process. If you don’t start here, you are not clear about what you’re aiming for.
The challenges here include deciding between competing priorities and, if you live with others, competing styles. Often, it is an over-looked discussion but it is also helpful to make sure everyone is on board in creating and sustaining an environment in which you can all thrive.
Once you have your vision, you will want to let go of items that don’t support it. When you let go of possessions you liberate both your space and your mind.
The process of liberating includes
- Sorting: to know what you have
- Editing: to identify what to keep
- Divesting: to remove items that don’t belong
For many, this is often the hardest part of getting organized. There are many reasons we hang onto things. None of us are immune! I sometimes have conversations with myself to let things go. (I still have ceramic beer steins from my high school and universities.)
For each activity, create a zone to house furniture and storage related to it. Place items in your space so that they are comfortable to access and are well-preserved. This means paying attention to the nature of:
- The space: such as size, shape and architectural features
- The item: such as size, weight, fragility, perishability
- Your preferences: such as fold vs. hang, pluck vs. rummage, hanger vs. hook
Challenges include moving to the Arrange stage too early in the process. If you’ve ever had bins and baskets that don’t work, this may be why. Also, it is important to remain self-aware when shopping. The lure of fashionable form may be regretted if function has been overlooked.
Creating order is one thing. Maintaining it is another. We all have different tolerance levels for chaos, so it is important to develop habits that suit you. This may mean cleaning your desk at the end of every day, or clear the clothes off the chair in your room every three days.
The challenges here is the belief that once set up, a system should work forever with no effort. This is not true. Systems should be designed to work with you, so if you have been thorough and honest in assessing your preferences, you’re more likely to achieve quick success. It’s also easy to forget to devote time to restoring order.
If you find things getting out of hand, or if you experience a life transition, it’s a good time to revisit the P.L.A.N.™
PRODUCTIVITY TRUTH: Vision is your guide through the organizing process. Start here to achieve your goal.