Reader Question: From Disorganization to Organization

source: sindesign
source: sindesign

I promised Chele a couple of weeks ago that I would share some tips for developing habits of organizing for someone who struggles with disorganization and isn’t sure where to start.

I think an important key here is to remember that it will take time. Do not beat yourself up for not being able to make all of the changes you want right away! To be honest, even though I’ve always liked things organized and been super organized professionally, it took me more than five years as a wife and mother before I developed the habits that really make me feel like I’m on top of my home organization (for the most part). It was a hard road!

Here are four tips for getting started:

Start Small

Choose the area that most drives you nuts and focus on developing a habit in that area. If you’re like me, you may feel like you should jump in with both feet and try to change all of your habits at one time (after all, what good is making one little change if the rest of your life is still disorganized?). However, it is exactly this kind of thinking that will stop you from ever making any changes at all. It’s virtually impossible to make several major changes at once, and you’ll likely end up discouraged and not accomplish anything.

What area of your home or life do you think will have the biggest impact on the way you feel? Which area bothers you the most? Whether it’s your laundry routine, the stack of dishes that you leave in the sink every night only to have to face it in the morning or the clutter hidden in your bedroom closet, choose one small area to start and focus your energy there.

Set Achievable Goals

Once you’ve chosen the area that you want to tackle, lay out an ideal plan for what you’d like it to look like. What habits do you want to form in that area? What would that closet look like if it was organized?

I love written lists, and I often write things down just to clear my mind and process my thoughts, so I strongly recommend that your write down your goal or vision to start. Having it written down provides you with a concrete outline that you can use to motivate yourself and measure your progress.

Take the First Step

Now that you know what habit you would like to develop or what room you’d like to organize, an obvious but often neglected step is to simply get started. It’s often said that a habit takes 21 to 30 repetitions or days to take hold. If you expect perfection from the start, you’re going to fail. It’s important to just get started and keep pushing forward even when you don’t succeed.

For example, if your goal is to have a clean sink each evening, a la Fly Lady, make the decision to clean it up that first night and then do it. Do it again the second day. If you skip it on the third night, do not give up. Simply make the decision the next day that you’ll do it, and then follow through. Keep going until it becomes a habit.

On the other hand, if your goal is to clean up a space — and keep it that way — rather than to develop a daily habit or routine, I would encourage you to just jump in and get started. You may not get it all done in one day, and you may not be completely happy with it when you’re done, but each step is a step in the right direction, and you’ll never get to your goal if you don’t start!

Keep Going

Once you develop the first habit or organize the first area, set your sights on another habit or space and follow the same steps all over again. As you meet your goals, it will get easier and easier to develop the same habits or organization in other areas. It won’t happen overnight, but focus on what you accomplish each step of the way rather than what isn’t perfect.

If you’ve gone from being unorganized to organized, share your best tip for making it happen. What one area could you make changes in today?