This Is Where You Organize Your Mind and All of the Shit You Have Accumulated
I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t organizing come after cleaning? (It’s totally OK if you weren’t thinking that. But now that I’ve mentioned it, you’re thinking it, right?) Here’s the thing: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to clean and keep things clean. For anyone not naturally inclined toward neatness, the idea of getting organized, let alone staying organized, is overwhelming enough. But it’s the key to getting a truly clean house, and I have a feeling you might already be more organizationally inclined than you think.
Let’s start in your kitchen. If I asked you to think about where you would find your cutlery, I’m willing to bet that it’s in an organizer, separated into forks, knives, and spoons. This is the perfect example of a simple organization system that you are already using, and you don’t even know you’re doing it. What I’m getting at is that you already do have areas in your house that have a sense of order to them, where you have a system of what goes where, and that means you have the capacity to extend that organizational skill set elsewhere—even everywhere! It might feel like a lot to think about getting everything into its right place, but even if the only place you’re organized is where you keep your forks, you’re already doing it a little bit. I bet you have proof of your abilities all around you.
If I asked you to locate any item in your home, wouldn’t it be great if you could you find it with ease? Imagine having a home for all those pens you “didn’t steal” from work or being able to find a safety pin when you need one last minute. Imagine being able to find the spare batteries you’re sure you have somewhere instead of borrowing them from your remote or digging through the junk drawer. You know the one, we all have one: It’s where you have to push past the old takeout menus, past all the electronic cords you have no idea what they’re for but you can’t throw them away ’cause one day you might find out what mystery device they charge, past the spare piece of paper with someone’s number on it and you can’t remember who it is but you might need it someday, the free toothbrush you got from the dentist, a three year old ChapStick, to maybe, just maybe, find a battery, but it’s a AA when you needed a AAA. All that work and now you’ve disturbed the ecosystem of the drawer—so much that now you can’t get the damn thing closed.
I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t she just say that if I know where to find something, it’s organized, at least a little? It’s true, I did. But here’s the thing about that drawer: When you find a battery, does it always work? Or is it an old one that’s out of juice that for some reason you chucked back in there instead of the trash? There is a fine line between having an organizational system that works for you and having a messy dumpster fire of a drawer. Beware of that line.
When it comes to tools to get organized, the list of things you absolutely need is pretty short:
•A gallon of determination
•A shit-ton of focus
This Is How We Do It
(I hope you’re singing this, not just reading it.)Start Small and Live Large
I’ll tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to organize your entire home all at once. That’s unrealistic, overwhelming, and definitely not how I roll. We are going to start small. Our first goal is to pick a section: one room, one cupboard, one shelf, or even one tiny little drawer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, start small. My aim is to set you up to succeed. As we’re just starting out on this organizational journey, I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Once you conquer your first small goal, it will give you a sense of accomplishment that will prove to you that you can do this. It will also allow you to move at a pace that works for you. If I asked you to organize one drawer in your kitchen, that would seem like a doable task; but if I asked you to reorganize your entire kitchen, you’d probably get an overwhelming tightness in your chest. If we break it down, section by section, one drawer turns into two, then three, then a shelf, then a cupboard, and before you know it, the kitchen is done, no need for the overwhelming tight feeling in your chest.
When setting a goal, you want to make it SMART! You’re a smart cookie, so make your goal SMART, too.
S—Specific: What do I want to accomplish? Target a particular area for improvement.
M—Measurable: How will I know when it is accomplished?
A—Achievable: How will the goal be accomplished? Is it actually possible to achieve it?
R—Realistic: Can you feasibly achieve your goals using the available resources?
T—Timebound: When do you want to achieve this by?
Let’s break down SMART goals so they’re not so boring-presentation-at-a-work-conference:
•Specific: Pick one section of your home to organize. Start with a small drawer, a small shelf, that top cupboard, or perhaps, if you’re feeling adventurous, your entire closet. Whatever the section, be detailed and clear about what you want to accomplish and stick to it.
•Measurable: Let’s stick with the drawer example: It’s a small space, so it’ll be easy to know when you’re finished. Once everything in it is easy to access and find, meaning no more shuffling the mess around just to get the damn thing closed, stay on track.
•Achievable: Make sure the space you choose to organize is achievable. If the thought of cleaning out your closet all at once makes you feel overwhelmed, then pick something smaller, perhaps just your T-shirts. That’s more achievable. Make sure you are in the right mood to tackle the section you have picked. The more you achieve, the more motivation you’ll have to keep the ball rolling (and you know I love balls).
•Realistic: Ask yourself, Do I have all the tools I need to complete this project? If it’s a drawer, maybe you need a drawer organizer; if it’s a closet, maybe you need shoe boxes; if it’s the dreaded Christmas decorations in the basement, maybe you need storage bins. Whatever the section, make sure you have the necessary tools needed on hand and ready to go before you start. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through to go to the store to get the items you need, run into Brenda while you’re there, end up having a thirty-minute catch-up about how the kids are doing and then suddenly realize you need to get home and make dinner and no longer have time to finish the task at hand.
•Timebound: This is the big one, the real cause of our anxiety, because it’s something we never feel we have enough of. Make sure you set aside the time to start and finish the task. This means, be strict and give yourself a deadline. If anyone knows distraction it’s me, so if you only have an hour, perhaps today is not the day to do the entirety of your closet. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through because you have to pick your kid up from basketball practice and then come home and help your other kid with their science project that you just found out is due tomorrow. So perhaps an hour is best set aside for a drawer, or if you’re feeling courageous, perhaps two drawers. Make the time that fits the space you want to tackle, pop on some tunes, and get it done.
Copyright © 2023 by Melissa Dilkes Pateras. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.