Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Organizing Expert's Advice

"Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person."

-- David M. Burns

The above quote was emailed to me over the weekend from a daily quotation site I subscribe to. “Allowing yourself the right to be human” is a good lesson when applied to de-cluttering as well. No one is perfect, so your mastery over clutter will never be perfect. Don’t put off the task because you have feelings of having failed to achieve perfection in the past or over the fear that you won’t ever have the perfect, clutter-free house!

Since we have a program this Thursday evening, August 27, at 7:00 on "Time and Paper Management for the Chronically Clutter Challenged," I thought I would share some of the information that Suzanne Neilson, our presenter, has written for the local papers. One article that she wrote for U.S. 1 brings up the issue I discussed in my last posting, the concept of being chronically cluttered. She suggests that there are certain personalities that live chronically cluttered lives such as creative, concept oriented individuals. She identifies the personality type of the individuals that become professional organizers like herself as being detailed types “who can see through the physical and mental clutter.” These differences most likely keep her calendar full.

She recommends, like many other clutter-control professionals, breaking the task down into manageable time allotments (15 minutes at a time using a timer). She says about de-cluttering for just 15 minute increments, “you can stand it for 15 minutes.” I like that way of looking at it. Just think how often you wait in line for 15 minutes when you are in a hurry, or wait for your food to be served in a restaurant for 15 minutes when you are hungry. You can stand anything for just 15 minutes. And then you can probably stand another 15 minutes after that!! These allotments of time, applied on a regular basis, will help you achieve your goal.

She has some very basic principles that come up in many of her articles – “keep like items together in a way that makes most sense to you” and be ruthless in what you throw away. The first principle is easier if you live alone; deciding how things should be organized based on your own logic. If you live with others, the sorting you do to make sense to you may have to be explained to anyone in your household who does not think like you. If not, you may spend a lot of time moving things back to where you think they should go! This idea of deciding for yourself what makes the most sense it very sound advice. You can try very hard to make yourself conform to one of the systems we have discussed from the many books on the subject, but if it doesn’t make sense to you, you will never be able to stick to it. Give there decisions some thought, but don’t labor over it. Suzanne recommends on your first pass through the piles of clutter, just sort items into labeled piles of like objects and ruthlessly throw away the stuff you no longer need. If you are indecisive, you can put the items you think you might “need some day” together in a box dated six months in advance. Put that date on your calendar and when the date comes up, throw the box away unopened. She points out, “if you haven’t missed anything yet, chances are you never will. And if you do miss one thing, so be it. Life will go on without it.”

After you have done the sorting, you can see what piles you have created and it should be easier to decide where these things should reside permanently. Things should be stored closest to where they are used or needed and in a manner that will be easy to maintain in the long run. Then you need to make it a habit to continually put these items in their designated locations. In an article Suzanne wrote for The Princeton Packet where she talks about ways to avoid spending time searching for things like keys or glasses, she stresses that once you decided where things are to be stored, “self-discipline and training are required, as you actually have to think about this every time and allow yourself no choice other than to set [the items] in their spot first and foremost. Follow that plan and right off the bat you will save yourself a great deal of time and frustration throughout your days.”

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