People often ask me what the secret is to getting and staying organized. The truth is, there are a number of "secrets." Over the next few posts, I'll go through some of the methods I use when helping people to get organized.
One of the first steps with every organizing undertaking is to purge the items that you own. While it's not true of everyone, many of us have way too much stuff. Of course, there are any number of reasons why this is true. I don't want to cross over into "therapy," but it's never a bad thing to analyze why you seem to accumulate too much stuff. The better you know yourself, the more successful you will be at maintaining the organizing you work so hard at.
One of the big reasons why many of us have too much stuff is the ready availability of lots of inexpensive (or expensive!) great consumer products. Where our mothers or grandmothers may have used a bar of Ivory soap in the bathroom, and a few pots, pans and wooden spoons in the kitchen, we now have dozens of specialized cleansers and scrubs crowding our bathroom counters, and a kitchen filled with special, one-use gadgets!
All this stuff is one of the reasons we feel overwhelmed by clutter, and underwhelmed by the lack of tranquility in our homes. You do know, of course, that there's a multi-million dollar industry whose sole purpose it to get you to buy stuff! So don't be too hard on yourself. But learn to resist as much as you can. It can make you feel very in-control to not fulfil that urge to buy all the time.
All that being said, we do have plenty of stuff we need and want. The goal of organizing is to create a peaceful, uncluttered environment where you can find what you need when you need it. Usually, an inevitable step in achieving this Zen-like state is to purge some of the items you own.
Some rules of thumb for getting rid of items are painfully obvious: if it's broken or you never use it, get rid of it! Other "rules" take a little more time to wrap your mind around: Do you really need a garlic press you use twice a year when you can just use the flat side of your knife?
Oftentimes, the knowledge that you spent good money on something stops you from saying goodbye to it, even when you know you should. I always remind clients to think of the joy it will bring someone else who (hopefully) really needs it when you donate it to charity. This has a lot of appeal, and often makes it easier to purge.
Of course, the exercise of getting rid of things should also help you stop and think when you are about to buy something! Where will you put it and how often will you use it? If you aren't sure, think twice before spending your hard-earned money.
On the flip side, accept that it is OK when something has done its job and is ready to go. Although your overall goal is to reduce the need to purge, you haven't failed when you send items to charity. Getting rid of extraneous items should continue after the initial organizing project. A trip to your local Goodwill should be a regular errand in a well-organized home, particularly when you have kids who outgrow items constantly.
Now don't be surprised if you end up wishing you hadn't gotten rid of something. I always warn clients that you WILL have a moment when you kick yourself for sending something to charity. But this means you have done a good and thorough job! Odds are, if you truly need it, it can be replaced... or more likely, you can live just fine without it.
Finally, rest assured that you will LOVE the fresh, calm feeling of a less cluttered home. Clients always tell me that it feels so great to unburden themselves of too much stuff that they continue to purge and declutter new areas, even after I have left.
And this, of course is the secret: that wonderful feeling you get from your newly organized home is your best defence against spending your money on stuff you don't need.
In my next post, I'll talk about the next step in a great organizing project.
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