By: Bridget Baker
We wonder what our life would look like if we were just more organized. Would we have Pinterest-perfect homes? Would we be more successful or more fulfilled? When we think about getting organized, it often gets pushed back further and further on our list. We know we would feel better, but we don’t know where to start.
I think we have it backward. We think we just need to get organized, but it really begins with letting go and starting to explore life with less. I don’t just mean less “stuff” in the sense of physical items, but less on your to-do-list, less to worry about, or less urgency; less that gets in the way of being present in the joy around you. You don’t need to raid the Container Store for more storage systems; you may find that when you let go of what you don’t need, you won’t need to buy anything new at all.
This process of getting organized begins with decluttering in order to get to a place where there is less to worry about, less to have to clean, and less to manage. Be gentle with yourself in this process, but know that it will take diligence and perseverance to sift through what’s not essential, to get to the heart of what is. Rather than organizing what you have, take a look at what you really need first, and then getting organized becomes much more straightforward.
I am one of those people who actually likes to organize and have since I was young. I used to label my dresser drawers and tell my Mom to clean her room. This led to a career as a Professional Organizer, helping people declutter their homes and make space for what they wanted to create. Through decluttering, I turned a hall closet into a photography studio, a garage into an art studio, and a storage room into a guest room. There was hidden square footage in people’s homes, and when we got rid of what wasn’t important, we made room for what was.
Do you have a closet filled with clothes you never wear? Those extra clothes in your closet are causing what’s known as decision fatigue. Too many choices actually have us feeling like we have “nothing to wear,” when in fact we just may have clothes that we either think aren’t adequate or don’t fill our lifestyle or personality. Be straight with yourself here. If you’re not wearing it, let it go. Someone else can get much more joy from an unworn item than it will be collecting dust in your closet. You don’t need more clothing racks, shoe bins, or storage baskets — you most likely just need less clothing. It may work to set a rule for yourself here that to buy something new, you have to get rid of something old.
Do you have a kitchen with gadgets galore (cue “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack here), leftover from wedding registries, failed canning experiments, or lofty goals of making your own yogurt? If you are not using them, they are getting in the way of the items you do use and are causing visual chaos when you go searching for a thing you actually need. You may have even found yourself buying duplicates, thinking you didn’t have a wooden spoon, and then see you have several of them. The best way to get organized is to pare down first, rather than to think you need to buy a bigger house so you can just have more “cabinet space.” Less stuff means less to organize in the first place. Keeping counters cleared and items put away makes cooking and cleaning up even more effortless.
Is your office an archive of old materials and former careers? Are you saving files and folders from old businesses or jobs that no longer apply to what you are doing currently? If you really want a record of the past, scan those files digitally with your phone, store them online, and set your office space free. Giving yourself breathing room creates a more peaceful and present you, and keeps you focused on what is essential.
Start by focusing on what you want and what is important to you, and let go of what doesn’t match that or what gets in the way of that. When you let go of old or outdated versions of you, then you can make room for what you want to create next.
You can then get organized, and choose to stay organized. Keep clutter at bay by establishing some ground rules, either with yourself or your household. Clean up after you make a mess right away. Make your bed every day. Think twice before buying something new. Do clutter clearings weekly, monthly, and yearly and create a routine around organization, so it becomes a habit.