DID YOU KNOW — ?
- Americans waste nine million hours per day searching for misplaced items, according to the American Demographic Society
- Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in an average home (National Soap and Detergent Association)
- “Crisis” purchases related to disorganization could cost as much as 15-20% or your annual budget ‘” buying duplicates or misplaced or broken items, last-minute shopping at premium prices, unnecessary interest, rush and finance charges on late payments
- Realtors regard ‘˜first impression’ improvements such as decluttering closets to be one of the easiest way to speed the sale of a home and fetch a better price, according to New York State Association of Realtors
Today’s topic on Decluttering will focus on some of the causes and barriers that stop many of us from beginning or finishing an organizing project. We’ll also discuss some practical tips and tricks to motivate yourself to start the process and keep the momentum once you’ve begun. During the initial presentation, I’ll use examples from both my personal life as well as work experience with clients who have exhibited ‘˜clutter’ issues. We’ll acknowledge what are some of the major causes of clutter accumulation, primarily to validate that having clutter does not mean ‘˜I’m lazy’, ‘˜I enjoy living in disorganization’ or ‘˜I wasn’t taught any better’. There are many, many, sometimes complex reasons around the accumulation of clutter. But there is distinction between clutter and someone who has hoarding tendencies. We’ll focus today on working on decluttering areas that have simply begun to overwhelm us vs. the mental illness issues that accompany true hoarding behavior. My background is working with seniors and their families as they transition from a long-time residence into a senior community.
Misconceptions about Organizing
1) Organizing is a mysterious ‘˜gift’ ‘” some people have it, others not so much
2) Getting organized is an overwhelming, hopeless chore
3) It’s impossible to stay organized
4) Organizing is a nonproductive use of time
Sort: Categorize piles, whether paper or other, into different areas, such as File, Shred, Other Room, Follow-up, etc.
Purge: Use the guideline “If I haven’t _______ (worn, read, looked at, needed) it in the last 12 months, I can purge it”
Assign a Home: Identify the room that the item belongs to and where within the room it belongs, i.e. file cabinet, winter clothes storage bag, etc.
Containerize: Place the items into their assigned room and final ‘˜destination’; Continue until room is clear.
Equalize: Maintain the clutter-free space by doing 3-5 minutes daily of space management.
Easy as 1-2-3: Analyze-Strategize-Attack
Analyze: Take stock of your current situation, looking at where you are, where you want to be, what’s holding you back and why you want to get there.
Strategize: Make an Action Plan for the physical transformation of your space, and a realistic time frame for accomplishing it.
Attack: Dive into the clutter knowing your preferred work style and techniques; sort and arrange items for your specific patterns; ensure you’re seeing visible, dramatic results as you work.
Diagnostics: Three Causes of Clutter
Technical Causes can include:
1) Items have no home
2) Inconvenient Storage
3) More Stuff than Storage Space
4) Complex, Confusing System
5) “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
6) Organization is Boring
External Realities can include (but not limited to):
1) Unrealistic workload: You receive over a hundred emails, voicemails, memos, requests in personal and work life; you may also have constant interruptions in your work and/or family environment
2) Speed of Life/Technology: You cannot keep up with the upgrades and changes in technology
3) In Transition: You’re a full-time working mom or dad taking care of an aging parent; you may also have recently inherited household belongings and family ‘˜treasures’ from a parent or grandparent
4) Uncooperative Partners: You live with a spouse, child or family member that could care less about clutter
5) Limited Space: You live in a home, especially older ones, with very limited storage space
Psychological Obstacles can include:
1) Need for Abundance: do you habitually buy things in large quantities?
2) Conquistador of Chaos: do you spend more time organizing and reorganizing than working or having fun?
3) Unclear Goals and Priorities: do you constantly buy more containers and baskets to hold everything?
4) Fear of Success/Fear of Failure: does the prospect of organization make you feel simultaneously excited and anxious?
5) Need to Retreat: does the cluttered state of a room keep you from letting people visit?
6) Fear of Loss of Creativity: do you think organization might squelch your creativity?
7) Need for Distraction: do you love displaying everything you collect so you can look at it?
8) Dislike the Space: are you constantly rearranging your stuff, never satisfied with the system set-up?
9) Sentimental Attachment: does the prospect of getting rid of anything disturb you?
10) Need for Perfection: are you a high achiever who must do everything perfectly?
Zone-Planning Activity Sheet: define a zone, i.e. living room, kitchen, bathroom, etc.
Activity ‘” write down all the major activities that happen in that zone
Supplies ‘” write down all the supplies you have to perform each activity
Storage ‘” Look at all the storage units you already have for each activity zone
Sample Zone-Planning Sheet for Living Room
Activity Supplies Storage
TV Remote, TV Guide, DVDs, videos Armoire w/ drawers below
Music CDs, Cleaning cloths, iPods, headphones Stereo cabinet (sufficient?)
Reading Books, newspapers, magazines 2 bookcases, cedar chest, recycle container
Family fun Board games, cards, knitting supplies, May need storage unit
One of the most important things to remember about Decluttering and Organizing is that it has to fit your personal style, whether in the home or office. Don’t necessarily think the experts’ way is the best ‘” the best way is what WORKS for you. Don’t try to accomplish in one day what may have taken weeks, months or even years to accumulate. We’re all human and are challenged by this at one time or another. Commit to a realistic goal such as “I’m going to get through this ONE pile (of the many) on the tabletop today”. Mentally reward yourself when you keep your commitment ‘” you’ll gain energy to keep the momentum forward.
Supplies You’ll Want:
- Large durable trash bags
- Empty boxes: Give away, Belongs elsewhere, Needs repair, Shred, etc.
- Dust cloth and spray, quick vac, broom, dustpan
- Box of plain manila folders
- Post-it notes
- Pencil and notepad
- Corrugated file boxes
- Label Maker (optional)
- Beverages & Snacks
Organizing from the Inside Out, Julia Morgenstern, Henry Holt & Co., LLC, 2004
Organizing Plain and Simple: A Ready Reference Guide with Hundreds of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter Challenges, Donna Smallin, Story Publishing, 2002
1000 Best Quick and Easy Organizing Secrets, Jamie Novak, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2006
Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life, Jennifer Ford Berry, Betterway Home Books, 2010
Home Organization Online: Cool Websites to help you get organized ‘” http://www.home-organization-online.com/cool-websites.html
The FlyLady.com: an online community supporting each other with tips, working on ‘˜zones’ together, etc.: http://www.flylady.net/
National Organization of Professional Organizers: referrals and information to director of professional organizers in your area http://www.napo.net
For information on Catherine Fritz, Senior Residential Transition Expert, of Together In Transition, visit our website at www.TogetherInTransition.com