In the past, I would set goals year after year to "get more organized" or "keep our home clean" or "manage my time better". I would jot those items down on a list with great intentions and within days, weeks or months, completely fall off the wagon. The problem wasn't the passion or urge to want those things, it was the lack of direction. It was that I was being far to broad with my goals and was not being realistic about what it would take to accomplish any one of those things.
It got me thinking, what was I doing wrong? Are others struggling with the same desire to "get organized", but losing steam weeks in? What can I do to stop making these empty goals and start celebrating what I am doing right?
For as long as I can remember, I have had fantasies of clutter free surfaces, relaxing days and dust free floors. But it is important to realize that a) those things do not happen without work and b) I can't do it all and finally c) I will kill myself trying.
There is such an important balance that has to take place within ourselves in regards to dividing our time doing things we "need" to do and "want" to do. If we only work, we will lose steam and become frustrated and aggravated over time. It is important to make the time to do things we love and be sure to enjoy our homes. But too much play and not enough attention on the home can cause things to quickly fall apart and prevent more fun from happening. I have always struggled with the ability to divide the need to get something done with just kicking my feet up and cuddling in to watch a good movie. I have had to train myself that good enough is OK, that no home is perfect and that I have to find ways to inject my passions and hobbies into my household chores. Why was I trying to be it all and do it all? There is no enjoyment in that. The goal is to organize to save time and money and then spend the rest of my time enjoying life.
So now each year I think of a few things that would make our lives run a bit smoother, and focus on those items first. Writing this blog has really helped me plow through more and more each year than I ever would have in the past, which I am super grateful for. And although I personally do heart to organize and would also call it a bit of a hobby, I know not everyone feels the same way. Hopefully some of these tips will help you achieve your organizational goals in 2015, regardless of how much time, money and excitement you have to get things done.
1. Be Specific!
The biggest mistake one can make when resolving to get organized each year, is to resolve to be more organized. It is extremely important to select specific areas of your life or home that you would like to focus on. Without sounding like a downer, organizing is not something you can get done in a weekend and then be done with for the remainder of the year. As your life changes, as the seasons change and even as new items enter your home, it will result in the need for some sort of organization. So stay aware that it is OK to never be done.
So start small, and select no more than three items that you wish to organize in 2015. Yep, three. If you get those done, you can add more, but don't add to your list until you have checked off your top three. See! Three is much more achievable than that infinite, general list of just becoming more organized. You can do it!
If you are having trouble deciding what to focus on because you feel frustrated and unorganized in multiple areas of your life, start with items that will make the biggest, immediate impact on your day-to-day routine. Ignore the storage room, ignore the junk drawer... select areas that you see and touch frequently. Think of things that may be costing you the most time and money. That is where you should begin.
(Still not sure where or how to start? Check out my post on that subject specifically here.)
2. Make a Plan!
Now that you have an idea of the three items you are going to focus on this year, write them down! Keep them in the front of your planner or pinned up on the fridge. Think about specifics for each project; how much time it will take, how much storage you will need and your budget for the project. And then write those things down as well.
Select the first item on the list and schedule time on your calendar to work on it. Take into consideration any help you may also need to schedule; which may include asking a friend to sort with you or having your parents watch the kids while you work. Add your project schedule to your calendar and do your best to set realistic goals and timelines.
3. Remember - Less is More!
People tend to think that baskets and storage bins will solve every organizational problem. However, the reality is that letting go of items, decluttering, and clearing out spaces of the excess, is where we find the biggest wins. Every successful organizing project starts with a blank slate, and when half of the items are sent off to the donate pile, you are already better off than you were before the project started. Now you have less to store, less to rummage through, less in your way each day and more room. Never purchase storage until the very end of your project, it is one of the last things you should do. And if you are having trouble letting things go, create a temporary holding cell where things live for a month or two before heading off to your local donation facility.
4. Get Excited!
Many people don't tie together the words organizing and exciting, but there are many ways to get yourself a little more stoked about your upcoming project:
- Think about organizing projects you have already accomplished and remember their impact. Celebrate what you know you can do.
- Find inspiration! This is different for everyone, however, common places to look for inspiration are blogs (showing real projects done by real people), Pinterest, magazines, watching a TV show or movie, or even visiting a friend.
- Tie in something you are passionate about. Love to read? Listen to a book while you sort. Are you a movie buff? Turn on Netflix while you work. Do you love to scrapbook? Make your own tags and labels. Avid DIYer? Build and paint your own storage solutions. As much as I love to organize, my biggest motivator is finding ways to make it pretty, so that is what I do!
- Create a reward to strive for. An ice cream date? A song download? A trip to Starbucks? A relaxing morning off? Having something special to look forward to at the end is always the icing on the cake.
5. Problem Solve!
The other night I got this giant itch to do a full house purge. It stemmed from cleaning out the kitchen, at which point I found things I forgot I had. Filling three large boxes with items to donate made me realize that if I could fill a few more, then I would have enough to do a spring garage sale. That excited me to go through the entire house to find things to sell and get rid of. I went through closets, drawers, storage spaces and bins. I was on a purging spree, I was being ruthless, I was questioning everything I touched and it was feeling amazing!
This process didn't cost me anything more than my time. My spaces instantly looked and felt bigger and more organized, just because I removed so many items. I didn't proceed to go purchase storage or replace those items. I was just happy letting go. There is something very freeing about it.
So where does problem solving come in? The thing that tends to take me by surprise over and over again, is that I am always able to find things to purge. So this time, I looked at the items in the pile and I really assessed the reasons that they were not working for me any longer. Of course, some things just didn't fit our lifestyle any longer or were items that the boys had outgrown. Our style evolves and certain furniture and clothing items no longer made sense. And then there are the things that were purchased impulsively. The items that were never returned to the store even though I had no intention on keeping them. There were things that didn't fit any longer or were looking old and worn. Some items were purchased because they were "trendy" at the time yet no longer felt appealing. Some things were gifted to me and some items I was trying really hard to make work for us and they just weren't. If I hadn't seen it, used it, or touched it within the last few months, into the boxes it went. And as much as purging feels freeing and exciting, it can also be a wake up call and make your stomach ill thinking about the waste. Taking time to reflect on the items you are touching is an important part of the organizing process that many of us often overlook. I will raise my hand as being guilty of that.
Part of my problem solving led to creating my organizational resolution for 2015. I want to prevent these types of full house purges from happening in the future. I know some purging is always necessary and unavoidable. But some could definitely have been prevented.
My goal this year is to stop shopping at Target (again). I realized that a lot of the items I was OK letting go of, were items purchased at Target or big box retailers. I would purchase an item impulsively (because seriously Target's new home lines always suck me in) and eventually I would tire of the item because I would begin seeing the same stuff over and over on my favorite blogs. The same vases and candle holders. The same pillows and rugs. I know this is the nature of the beast with what we do, but I really want a home that is unique to my family and reflects our style. I also want a home containing things we want to enjoy for long periods of time and that have special meaning. I don't want a home filled with things I don't feel sad about donating or selling. So to prevent those items from entering my home, my resolution is to find new places to do my grocery shopping and home decor browsing (where I can't decide at the last minute that I am madly in love with a tealight holder). Give me the strength to stay away from the big red bullseye. This won't be easy.
I also created a list of items I am NOT allowed to purchase in 2015 (pillow forms, picture frames, pens, lotions, decorative boxes...) because I already have enough on hand to get me through the year. This may seem silly, but sometimes a good reminder is in order. There were specific themes I found while analyzing my purged items.
Finally, I am going to avoid shopping online. The internet is a prime way to be impulsive because it is just so easy to click a single purchase button without leaving the comforts of your home. But then when things show up at the door and don't fit, look right or the quality is not there, it requires work to return those things. And that is what happens to me more often than I would like to admit. The quality is not what I would expect and then I am left disappointed and working to get rid of it. It would be much better for me to head out, explore new places and physically touch and try things out before bringing them into our home.
So aside from a few personal resolutions, my biggest organizational resolution this year is to be much more intentional with the items I am allowing to enter my home. To have less purging sessions because I was able to make better choices the first time around. To explore multiple options prior to selecting a piece of furniture or even a new blouse. To take my time and not rush on purchases for the sake of finishing a project, a room or getting a post done for the blog.
Now that I have spilled my goals, I would love to hear yours! Did you make a resolution to be more organized in 2015? What is the first project you plan to tackle?