So you’ve finally tackled that organizing project that’s been hanging over your head for days, months, or years! The piles of paper on your desk are all gone, your filing cabinets have been purged and relabeled with categories that are current, your overflowing bedroom closet only holds what fits, is in style, and works with your life, your kitchen cabinets hold only what you use in easy to find locations, and you have established homes for everything. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
The weight is lifted, and you are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. Now, finally, you get to reap the benefits of all of your organizing hard work! Not so fast, bucko! Just like a fitness plan or a weight loss regimen, getting there is only half the battle. Getting organized is great, but staying organized is better! Whether it’s for your body, your office, or your home, a maintenance plan is crucial to ongoing success. Without a plan in place to maintain your hard-earned, clutter-free space, in a very short time the clutter will pile up again and your organizational efforts will seem like a distant memory. Putting systems into place to keep everything organized and spending just a little bit of time maintaining them on a daily/weekly/monthly basis is crucial. There are two methods for keeping clutter under control that I often recommend to my clients:
1. Set Your Boundaries
When you designate a home (assign a permanent spot) for a category of your belongings, paper included, make a commitment to keep only what will fit into that physical space. It could be a 2-drawer filing cabinet for household paperwork, one pencil cup on your desk for writing utensils, 3 shelves for your sweaters, a specific bookcase for your books, a set of cubbies for your shoes, one drawer for your jeans, or 4 plastic bins that fit into a specific corner of your attic for your holiday decorations. When that space is full, it’s time to stop acquiring or something must go to make room. If you are dedicated to staying organized, be firm in your physical boundaries. “One in, one out” is an excellent way to keep clutter from building up in your home and paper from building up in your office.
2. Establish a “Donation Station”
Assigning a home for the items you will keep in your home or office is important to getting organized. Assigning a home for the items that need to leave your living or working space is important to staying organized. For paperwork, it’s your shredder, your recycling bin and your trash can! For other items, establish a place where things that are no longer needed or used in your home can accumulate temporarily until they can be taken for donation or give-away. Have a large basket or bin in a convenient place to collect items for donation. When that bin is full, set a specific time on your calendar to drop them off at your local charitable institution. Remember that anything that is worn out, used up or not in a condition to be passed on needs to be discarded. You’re not helping a charitable organization by “donating” goods that are broken or unusable. It just places an additional financial burden on them to do the discarding. (The exception to this is torn, stained or worn out clothing – the fabric can be recycled, so feel free to donate them.) If your concern is keeping things out of the landfill, keep that in mind the next time you’re at the cash register about to bring something else into your home, or taking “free stuff” at that next conference, or printing yet another article from the web when you could simply bookmark the page on the website.
Maintaining your organized home and office is a necessary, but easy process if you dedicate just a small portion of time and energy on a regular basis to keep it that way. Setting your boundaries for how much you accumulate and having an established routine for eliminating excess helps keep your living and working spaces in tip-top organizational shape!
“Organization is a process, not a state achieved in one day. Think about it as ‘being organized’ or ‘staying organized.’ not ‘getting organized.'” NAPO Website