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Organizing Myths – WGXC Radio

Magazines tell us we can clear clutter for good and books tell us that if we don’t love our toilet plunger that we should get rid of it. I’m telling you that there aren’t any hard and fast rules for organizing.

“If I use the popular KonMari method, I’ll never have to declutter or tidy again!”

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing phenom, who claims that her clients never backslide nor need her help again after she has taught them her techniques. In my experience, working in American homes, decluttering is a constant. Things are always coming into our homes and therefore some things will need to go out.
There’s the initial process of getting organized, but what follows is even more important and that is the actual practice of maintaining an organized space or life. This means when you use something, like let’s say the hot glue gun for a crafting project, you need to put the glue gun back where its home is. If you’re trying to keep your paperwork in a more organized fashion, that means filing papers and sometimes going through your papers and editing out what you no longer need because it’s become outdated or irrelevant. I want to believe in one and done tidying, but I’m afraid that is a different kind of magic — one that rarely exists.

“I’ve always been disorganized and am late for everything so there is no hope for me.”

Organization, productivity and time management are skills, not inherited genetic traits. Some of the people who thrive at organizing spaces, paper and projects tend to think in a linear, rational and logical pattern. They are detail-orientated, have good pattern perception and facts rule, therefore the left side of their brain may dominate. Right brain thinkers tend to be artistic, creative and emotional types of people. They’re great at imagining the big picture, appreciate fantasy and might be impetuous.

Organizing is more about creating habits, problem-solving and the repetition that’s needed to master a skill than it is about your inherent way of thinking. In the long run, it’s all about the willingness to change and reasonable expectations. If you constantly joke about being late to your own funeral, then you have subliminally set the expectation that you will always be late. If you are open minded, interested in learning and can commit to trying to create new habits, the sky is the limit, no matter how old you are.

“If I buy lots of organizing products, then I will become organized, let’s go shopping!”

Buying anything before the edit, purge and sorting phase of getting organized means you will probably end up with products that don’t fit spaces geometrically, stylistically and you may not even need them in the first place. You probably have enough bins, boxes, trays and other stuff to hold stuff, but you won’t know it until you go through the edit, purge and sort phase — and then there’s usually this nifty pile of empty organizing goods. Organization aids can help you get motivated, but they don’t do the hands-on organizing magically and can actually add to clutter if not implemented correctly for your situation.

After you’ve sorted into categories like toss, recycle, donate or sell, then you can see exactly what you’re keeping and if you actually need something to keep it in. You might find you can repurpose an older TV stand into a shelf for a home office or use vintage suitcases to store linens in for the guest bedroom; neatly stacked they are quite attractive.

“Only handle it once – OHIO, so I can’t touch something twice, arrrggghhh!”

Only handle it once. This “rule” can really throw a wrench into anyone’s organizing and productivity efforts as it causes confusion and fear. Some productivity experts think that the OHIO rule is great for dealing with some things like paper and emails, the idea is to just do it, don’t defer the task. Granted, shuffling papers from one place to another without making a decision about them or taking action isn’t very efficient, but it is often times just the way thing are.

For a lot of people the OHIO rule is paralyzing. What if you make the wrong decision about what’s in the file folder you’re holding? Should you keep it, toss it or shred it? What’s wrong with this technique is the word “rule.” There aren’t any rules to organizing! If only handling it once makes you more productive like RSVPing immediately to an invitation or recycling junk mail the moment you step into your home, then great, but don’t let it dictate your organizing efforts. Perhaps you thought you wanted your clothes sorted by color, but then found it was better for you to have things categorized by season. Do what works for you.

“If I’m going to do this, it’s going to be perfect, just like pictures in a magazine.”

There is no one way to get organized and one of the biggest mistakes people make is a sense of perfectionism. Very few people have their homes or offices in such amazing shape that it’s picture perfect and imagine the pressure you would be under to try to maintain such a standard. When people ask me if my home is perfectly organized and super clean, I answer honestly. No! It’s not a priority to commit to that level of exactness. There are times when I can’t find what I’m looking for and more times than not when there’s a coating of dust on my bedroom bureau.

Homes and offices are in constant flux — stuff coming in and stuff going out. Having good systems to deal with the stuff is key, but it’s inevitable that some stuff might fall through the cracks. That’s when it’s time to tweak the system, try to improve on things, so dealing with that stuff will be easier in the future. Finding a happy medium should truly be your goal. I can tolerate a little dust on the surface of some furniture, but I can’t tolerate disorder in my kitchen or a bathroom that doesn’t practically sparkle. Identify what you can and cannot tolerate. Strive for progress, not perfection. Not only are we all works in progress but our spaces are as well.

“It’s obvious we need more space, time for a bigger house!”

It’s not always about the amount of space you have but how you utilize it. Depending on how things are being kept, you could keep adding square footage and still not feel like you have enough space. As with most organizing projects, the first step is to edit and purge any of the belongings in the space you want to improve. Identify if you actually use the items, need the items or love the items. Then it’s time to evaluate how you’re using the space itself. Could you use upward space better? Would shelving help? Could you use back-of-the-door racks to hang things like coats or scarves on? Could things that are spread out be pulled in a little and stacked?

“I don’t have time to get organized!”

Then you can’t afford to continue to waste time being unorganized. We waste countless hours of time looking for lost possessions, wondering where we put the “this and that,” going out to the store to buy more of something we already own but not knowing where it is in our home. If you feel stressed out about the idea of committing time to trying to be more productive about your belongings and your schedule, then you’re probably a prime candidate for getting organized. It’s an initial investment but one that sets you up for success in the future.