What does it mean to be organized? Is it having a tidy closet where everything is in its place?
A neat desk that makes you more productive at work? An efficient schedule that lets you easily check off the items on your to-do list? Plenty of time to spend with your loved ones? A well-defined list of life goals? Actually, it may be all of the above.
“Being organized means feeling caught up, in control and generally satisfied with how your life runs on a day-to-day basis,” says professional organizer Monica Ricci of Catalyst Organizing Solutions LLC. “Organization isn’t perfection. It’s the ability to enjoy your life, run your life smoothly and handle the little things—and sometimes big ones—that come up without having everything else fall apart.”
Professional organizer and life coach Suellen Germani of Creative Order agrees, adding, “An organized life is a life that allows you to be more balanced—to have a good balance between your relationships, family, career, health, spirituality and self-actualization. It’s about putting your time and energy into the things that nurture you and help you move forward.”
Often, what holds you back from moving forward in life is clutter. And there are more types of clutter in your world than you probably even realize. Learning to identify and tackle this disorganization will allow you to simplify things and pursue that which makes you the happiest.
When evaluating an item, Suellen Germani of Creative Order recommends asking yourself these questions:
Do I love it?
Do I use it?
Is it broken? If yes, will I fix it?
Does it still fit? If yes, is it comfortable?
If you answer yes to all, she says, “then the item may have earned the right to take up valuable real estate in your home or office.”
If not, consider trashing, donating or selling it.
“I believe that our physical environment affects our mental state, and organizing your physical surroundings enables you to think more clearly, focus on your priorities and live more effectively,” Ricci says. “When you make improvements in one of those areas, it helps in the other. Keeping your physical surroundings organized enables you to think more clearly, focus on your priorities and live more effectively.”
While it may seem daunting, getting your home or office organized is feasible. Certified professional organizers Leslie Walden and Barbara Skutch Mays of It’s Time to Get Organized recommend starting small. “Start in a small area, such as a closet or even a kitchen drawer,” Walden says. “It will give you a sense of accomplishment—now you know you can do it.”
Whether it’s a large or compact space, Walden and Mays suggest sketching the area you’ll be working in and indicate where categories, such as shoes in a clothes closet, should go. After sorting all of your items into broad categories like “books” or “clothes,” subcategorize them into even smaller groupings. And don’t be afraid to discard items.
Leslie Walden and Barbara Skutch Mays of It’s Time to Get Organized recommend not only putting meetings, events and all other activities in your planner as soon as you find out about them, but also doubling the time you think something will take to give yourself some breathing room. They also suggest using one planner for keeping your schedule organized.
Time management often goes hand-in-hand with the concept of being organized. However, getting the hours in your day under control takes more than simply putting appointments on your calendar (although that is an important step). There’s an entire decision-making process that you must go through first to declutter this part of your life.
“There are so many options for how we can spend our time,” Germani says. “There are always going to be more options than you have physical time to spend. Time is our only finite resource—we can’t create more time. So it’s a resource we have to be judicious about. And anytime you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.” Therefore, it’s important to choose wisely and engage in those activities that you’re passionate about.
According to Ricci, clarifying what’s important to you is paramount in dealing with time clutter. “Time management is all about having clear priorities, knowing how long things actually take and setting boundaries to allow yourself ample time to complete the high-priority tasks on your list.”
“Relationship clutter is made up of the things that we’re holding on to—the things that we’re tolerating and the things that we’re resenting.”
—Patty Binns Farinola, PF Coaching
Between your home life and your business life, you manage countless relationships daily. In some cases, a relationship actually may be a stumbling block on the way to happiness. Personal coach and relationship expert Patty Binns Farinola of PF Coaching reveals that, whether it’s a personal or professional relationship, problems often can be fixed simply by identifying your own needs and making constructive requests of the other person. “We have to learn to set boundaries and make requests—not demands or complaints—when necessary,” she says.
And in some cases, you may even need to resolve to let go. Farinola explains, “When it comes to relationships, you have to ask yourself, ‘Which ones source me, and which ones drain me?’” The answers may lead you to address the issues in one relationship while letting another one fade away. Whatever you decide, the result will be the same. “You will feel so much lighter,” she says. “You’ll be surprised at how much energy you were using up—energy that you can use to focus on being happy. It’s all about taking charge and being responsible—you’re in control when you have the ability to respond to your life rather than react to it.”
Start your journey
“Being organized is not a destination—it’s a journey,” Germani says. But how—and where—do you start? Which type of clutter should you take on first? Germani believes that you first need to figure out what is causing you the most discomfort or worry. If it’s a messy environment, begin there. If it’s your schedule or a troublesome relationship, focus your efforts in that area. Just remember to stay the course. “Organizing your life feels overwhelming to many people, but it is doable as long as you are motivated,” Mays says. “Once you understand the process, you realize that you are capable of changing your behavior.”
As Ricci says, “By taking action to get your life organized, you’re creating space for happiness and personal power, which fuels you into yet more action, putting an upward spiral into action. Stripping away the extraneous things—relationships, obligations and distractions—is a great way to begin knowing yourself better, to discover your gifts and to make mental room to embrace how fantastic you really are.
Check out these books and Web sites for organizing tips and motivation:
• Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
• Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
• Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh
• Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
• Online Organizing, www.onlineorganizing.com
• National Association of Professional Organizers, Georgia Chapter, www.napogeorgia.com
• Your Life. Organized., www.monicaricci.typepad.com
• Better Organized, http://betterorganized.blogspot.com