Being organized is about having systems in place that allow you to dance seamlessly through your day. If your days are bumpy, getting more organized is a great goal to chase. But before you dive in to the process, ask these key questions to help yourself stay on track:
1. Who or what do you think is organized?
Who—or what—is your standard for organization? Is it your mom? Your best friend? The Container Store? I once had a client who compared herself to a neighbor, a woman she called a "domestic goddess." It’s great to have an idol or a style to work toward, but be careful about trying to meet someone else’s standards. Their reasons for needing to keep order may not be as transparent as you think. So many of us think we should be living a more orderly life. But before you embark on that journey, ask yourself, whose standards are you trying to meet? If someone else set a standard for you, decide whether or not you need to match it or take your expectations down a notch.
2. Are you willing to get hands-on with your stuff?
Our stuff tells our story. Every item—from a family heirloom to a shirt we bought last week—says something about us. I like to think that our things are our traveling companions through life; some of them have been with us a long time while others may have just shown up last week, but they all hold important clues about us. Yes, we can hire an expert to help us sift through our stuff, or ask a buddy to offer emotional support. But regardless of who is involved, no one can or should be making decisions for you about what stays and what goes. To truly get organized in life, you need to be an active participant.
3. Are you willing to devote as much time as necessary?
Getting organized is not an overnight process. While we can power through a closet on a weekend, it takes time to hit all the trouble spots in our lives. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And as our lives change, so do our systems and our things. Bottom line, ask yourself up front, "Am I OK if this is a journey?" "Am I OK if I can’t get this done overnight?" If the answer is yes, you are in good shape. Most people, once they make the commitment, are excited to dive in.
4. Do you need to buy things, or are you OK using only what you have at home?
Organizing products are wonderful. I love them and use them all the time in my work. Today there are countless solutions to meet everyday needs. But the truth is, tubs and bins will get you only so far, and most of us already live with what we need to get the job done. As a coach, I’ve witnessed countless clients reach to repurpose a favorite bag or decorative box for new use in the home. Go ahead and get inspired by what you already have—there are many wonderful ways you can put it to use. (Bonus: This is also the cheaper and more eco-friendly choice.
5. Are you ready to face emotions? Are you willing to embrace change?
Getting organized is known to trigger emotions. I’ve seen more than a few tough cookies shed some decluttering tears along the way. It could be an old T-shirt from a boyfriend lurking in a corner, or a gift from your loving grandma who passed away. Emotions do get caught up in our stuff. But think of it this way: Getting organized is a good way to locate hidden triggers. (If we don’t deal with them now, they will definitely show up later.)
Think of it like a detox for your home and your heart. Just like a juice cleanse pulls toxins from our bodies, getting organized pulls lingering emotions to the surface so we can get them up and out. It could be anger; it could be disappointment or even guilt. But just go with the flow, keep a few tissues on hand, and dive in. Your home will thank you for it.