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Choosing to Live an Organized Life

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It is that time again—another New Year is here. It is a time when many people will set New Year’s resolutions. “Getting Organized” is the third most frequently set New Year’s resolution. It is something so many desire for their life, yet fail to take the necessary steps to live an organized life.

Organizing is about creating and maintaining systems that work for you at home and at work on a daily basis. These are systems that must be maintained continuously if you want to live an organized life. I like to compare “living organized” to “keeping in shape.” If you have weight to loose, you may go on a diet and exercise. Once the weight is gone, you have to continue to work out to “maintain” your new look. Eliminating the clutter from your life is no different—you can eliminate it, but if you do not maintain your new organizational systems, the clutter will re-appear.

Let’s take a look at a couple of real life examples to help explore the concept of maintenance:

Example 1: At a recent event I spoke at, I was asked the following question:

“My home-office is constantly a mess. I just get the piles cleared off my desk and new ones appear. I’ve tried everything, purchased products and nothing seems to work. My kids and husband don’t help at all, as they just put their stuff wherever they can find a space. What is my problem?”

My response: There are potentially two issues here. The first could very well be that the family members have not been advised of “mom’s organizational systems,” and therefore have not bought into using them, or they have been advised and just do not use them.

The second could be that when a new system is created or products purchased, that regular use (maintenance) is not applied for at least twenty-one days—the amount of time it takes to form a new habit—and that’s why it feels like the system does not work.

Example 2: In my book “Eliminate Chaos…The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life,” I discuss the importance of “maintenance.” One of the projects we featured in the book was that of a client who had a challenge “maintaining” her once “organized” office.

After the initial organizing work had been done, it was up to the individual to file her papers, pay bills and in general put things in their place in the office when finished with them. A couple of years passed after the initial work to organize the office.

Somewhere along the way, the system broke down and it once again needed to be organized. This person is intelligent and a successful business owner, yet for some reason a part of the system was not working for her.

We identified two areas where the system broke down:

Bill Paying System:  It was difficult for the client to not “see” her bills. We made a minor adjustment from having them in a folder on her desk, to keeping un-paid bills in an open basked on the desk.

Filing:  Papers breed Paper. If paper is allowed to accumulate on a horizontal surface for any length of time, it is very easy to continue adding to it.

Using my PAPERS™ method, one of the following decisions can always be made regarding paper:

Process it

Act on it

Pass it on

Eliminate it

Read it

Shred it

And if you must keep for future reference it—File it!

In this scenario, the paper shredder was broken and so papers began to quickly pile up and became overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed regarding any of your organizing systems, it could be for a variety of reasons:

1. You do not know how to say “NO”

2. You over-promise

3. You procrastinate

4. You set unrealistic time frames to complete projects

5. You waste time focused on things that really do not matter

Rather than setting a New Year’s resolution this year to “Get Organized in 2007", set the intention to live an organized life. A part of the process to living an organized life is the desire to change—this is the first step.

Remember, organizing is a “process” not an “event.” You will need to work at this a little each day. Just as with exercise, it is recommended that you get 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Spending the same amount of time each week on maintaining your new systems will help keep the clutter from re-appearing.

If you can answer “yes” to any of the 5 reasons listed previously for feeling overwhelmed, perhaps the first step to living a more organized and peaceful life would be to:

1. Learn to say NO—Practice with me now: “NO” “NO” “NO” Doesn’t that feel great?

2. Recognize the priorities in your life. What really brings you the most pleasure? Eliminate those items you “think” you should do and concentrate on what brings you the most joy.

3. Stop procrastinating. If it is that important to you, don’t allow yourself to make excuses any longer.

4. Give yourself a break and give yourself enough time to complete projects in a realistic amount of time. This may mean a bit of additional planning or starting something sooner, so that you do not feel rushed at the last minute.

5. Focus on what matters most—your children, your significant other, your work, (you fill in the blank), and don’t forget about you!

Many times the clutter and chaos in your home and life is “not about the stuff.” The “stuff” may simply be the result of a bigger issue. Perhaps this year, the first step to choosing to live an organized life may be to look at the big picture.

© 2006-2007 Eliminate Chaos, LLC



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