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First step in organizing: Believe you can

  • Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • Published Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at 2:38 p.m.

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Resolutions for organizing

Organization expert Deniece Schofield offers six resolutions for organizing. She recommends that you choose just one to work on

• Never ever buy something new unless you know exactly where to put it in your home and what you'll use it for.

“We’ve all heard this, probably done this: ‘It’s such a good deal, I couldn’t pass it up,’ ” Schofield said. “But what happens? All those good deals pile up.”

This is particularly true for collectors or bargain-hunters. Before you buy that item, make sure it will have a home in your home, “or you’ll just have more stuff piled up in the corners.”

• Never start today with yesterday’s work.

We’re talking procrastination, the enabler of disorganization and clutter.

“Empty the dishwasher, don’t leave the dryer full of clothes,” Schofield instructed. “It’s all those little things that add up. If you’re in the middle of a project and have to stop, write down where you left off, so you can step right in and pick it up instantly. It helps eliminate procrastination.”

• Eliminate from your vocabulary the phrase “for now.”

“ ‘For now’ becomes forever,” Schofield said. “We say, ‘I’ll put this here – for now. I’ll leave it this way – for now.’ You’ve really got to train yourself to stop saying, and doing, ‘for now.’ 

• Let go of clothes you won’t wear.

“Sort your clothes into three piles: Yes, no, maybe,” she said. “You can hold onto the ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ piles, but give away the others. It’s selfish to hold onto clothes you don’t need when there are so many people and charities that need them.”

• Plan menus.

“What will I fix for dinner tonight?” she said. “That question is always floating around in your brain. Your family is thinking about it, too. You can eliminate a lot of stress, for you and them, by planning menus.”

Planning also allows for shopping for all the ingredients at once and having them on hand.

“I post a list of 10 to 15 possibilities and have all the ingredients available,” Schofield said. “Then, ‘what’s for dinner’ is up to my mood and conditions, such as how much time I have to cook. I can also delegate dinner duties; the ingredients are all ready to go.”

• Ask yourself: Would I let someone walk through my home unattended? What would I hate for them to see? Then, deal with it.

This walk-through exercise can focus your organizing energies.

“If you chose the right resolution for you, it can really make a difference,” Schofield said. “If you can keep that one thing going for four to six weeks, it can become a habit for life.”

A key step to becoming more organized is simply believing that we can do better, whether it’s having cleaner closets or better ways of solving problems.

We asked several professional organizers how they tackle achieving a more organized approach to life and work. Here are their best tips:

• Kristina Fortune Anderson, Vitality Organizing, Eden Prairie, Minn.

The first step to getting organized is to find your big why. What is the deeply compelling reason why getting organized is important to the vision you have for your life?

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, focus your attention on the present moment and take one small action toward your goal.

Whatever you do, don’t criticize, blame or shame yourself for perceived past or current organizing failures.

My best advice for maintaining success is to take imperfect action and course-correct as you go.

• Michelle Thomas and Susan Buesgens, reVision Consultants, Woodbury, Minn.

Don’t overcommit. Take back your time by not agreeing to everything that you are asked to do.

Don’t keep something that isn’t functional or you don’t love. It’s clutter and can be a time drain. Everything needs a home, and less clutter gives you a clear mind to tackle any aspect of your life.

To maintain success, create a calendar and use to-do lists to break down your day into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Extra tip: Start small and celebrate little successes. It will help you stay motivated to continue.

• Kathy Franzen, Project Partners Organizing, Roseville, Minn.

First step: Pick up one item and make a decision about it. Envision what you want the space to look and feel like. But the first tactile action is simply to pick up one item.

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, set a timer for a short time (10 to 20 minutes) and allow yourself to be done when the timer rings. Focus on a small area and try to make quick decisions such as keep or toss. Save the more difficult decisions for after you’ve made some progress and you begin to feel motivated.

Don’t try to organize by yourself when you are pressed for time or tired. Organizing when you are emotionally drained is a recipe for disaster.

To maintain success, spend some time every day straightening up and putting items where they belong. Keep your maintenance organizing to a few tasks. If you save it all for the end of the week (or longer), it becomes a project.

• Christine Daves, Think Organized, Minneapolis

First step: Imagine the space the way you want it to be. Clutter isn’t limited to just the items you see. It can manifest visually, audibly and cognitively. Having too many patterns or colors in a space can exacerbate a feeling of disorganization.

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, give a task your full attention. Having a radio or TV on asks your brain to work double-time when it might not be necessary. Little things like that can build on existing stress. While many people become skilled at multitasking, it is important to consider if that is cluttering your mind.

Don’t take something to another room and get caught up in another organizing project. That’s an easy way to get a house full of emptied closets, which feels chaotic and overwhelming.

To maintain success, have a space for everything. When items have an accessible, logical home, it is easier to put them away and reduce clutter.

Find ways to simplify your processes. That might mean having two pairs of gloves – one that stays in your purse and one in the ice-skating bag. Keep a list of what you need for an outing to the pool with your beach bag. Instead of racking your brain, you merely look at the list. These principles can be applied to almost anything you do.

• Jan Lehman, Can the Clutter, Minneapolis

First step: Determine the root cause of the disorganization. For some, it is obvious, but for many it is the real reason they can never stay organized.

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, we often recommend that you enlist help. The key is to enlist someone who is nonjudgmental. We are hard enough on ourselves – we don’t want someone who is going to add to any guilty feelings.

Don’t beat yourself up and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

To maintain success, have what we call “an accountability buddy” who can keep you on track as you begin your organizational journey. It can take three to four weeks to learn a new skill.

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