By Sue Becker
Have you ever abandoned an organizing project before you reached your desired outcome? Many people have great intentions to get organized, but just can’t seem to keep their momentum once they get started. And some people can’t get started at all, even though they may truly desire organizational bliss. Does this sound familiar? I hope these tips will help keep you motivated while you get organized.
Start with a small space. Organize a linen closet, medicine cabinet, or a drawer – a small space that will be fairly quick and easy and give you a sense of accomplishment. That will give you the confidence and motivation to move on to bigger areas. I once worked with a client who wanted to start our organizing work in the cabinet where she kept her food storage containers. At the time it seemed odd that she wanted to start there when there were much more visible areas of her home in disarray. The next time we got together, however, she raved about how thrilled she was to have at least one area in her home she could look at that provided a sense of peace and calm. Tackling a small space might give you that same thrill.
Do it in small chunks. You don’t have to view organizing as an all or nothing proposition. Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and spend just that amount of time working your plan of attack. Before you have time to lose your motivation, it will be time to end the session. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you focus for just a short amount of time.
Give yourself a deadline. I’m not talking about choosing a random date and saying, “Here’s when I need to have this done” (although if that works for you, go for it). I’m talking about scheduling a party, inviting house-guests, or holding an important meeting in your office. Maybe fear of what others will think of your clutter will motivate you to stick with your organizing plan.
Measure your progress. When you have a big goal, like getting an entire room organized, it can be motivating to measure small successes as you slowly progress towards your goal. I have a client who has a large amount of paper to pare down. To keep herself motivated to discard documents that might otherwise be hard for her to let go of, she weighs her discard bag at the end of each session. Her goal is for the bag from each session to weigh more than the bag from the prior session. That encourages her to stay put and get rid of more stuff until she’s reached that session’s goal. Other ways to measure your progress include counting how many bags of trash or donated items you have after each session, or measuring how many inches of closet rod space or shelf space you’ve freed up. Before and after photos can also be a great way of measuring progress – my clients often forget how bad things were before they got started, so photos serve as a great reminder.
Make it fun. Play beat the clock by setting a timer (see “Do it in small chunks” above) – see how many shelves you can clean off, how many inches of paper you can plow through, or whether you can get the counter cleaned off before the timer goes off. Play music you enjoy – whistle (or sing) while you work. Make it a social event by having a friend or organizing professional work alongside you. Working with someone who’s non-judgmental will give you focus and energy to make the process more fun and productive than if you work on your own.
Plan a reward. Choose an activity you might otherwise have felt guilty about doing when your organizing project was hanging over your head – have dinner with a friend, get a massage, read a book. It can be very motivating to have something to look forward to. I would caution you against using shopping as your reward, though, because that may be what caused or contributed to your clutter and disorganization.
Be accountable to someone. Tell someone about your goal to get organized and ask them to help you stay on track. This technique works very well with my clients – I have them e-mail me daily about their progress (or lack thereof) which helps with their awareness and motivation. Be sure to tell your accountability partner what they should do if they don’t hear from you – how often should they gently remind you to check in with them?
Good luck with your organizing project – I’d love to hear how you keep yourself motivated.
Sue Becker is an internationally known professional organizer, author and speaker who has helped thousands of clients live more stress-free and harmonious lives by removing obstacles such as clutter, disorganized paperwork, and poor time management. Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and has co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on local and national TV. Find her at http://www.pilestosmiles.com or call her at 630-724-1111
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