September is Self-Improvement Month! What a great time of year to re-focus on ourselves. As the days cool and shorten, it’s the perfect time for looking inward. Now is a natural point to assess our goals, make adjustments and create plans to carry us through the year end. We may want to declutter a personal space, set up a workable filing system, or finally organize a photo collection. Of course, self-improvement can encompass any area of our lives such as health, relationships, career, volunteering or education. How do we get started and make progress and maintain momentum? The best way I know is to choose a small improvement and go for it! Don’t be tempted with grandiose ideas that could lead to frustration but be realistic, honest, and practical. The purpose is to make changes that will improve the way we feel about yourselves. The changes can make us stronger, wiser, or more capable of dealing with everyday struggles. Thus, time spent on self-improvement is never wasted. What small self improvement would make a big impact on your life? Are you ready to make it happen?
Sooner or later, with just about every client, we come across a box of old car stuff in the garage. You know what this looks like: a dusty, neglected, cardboard box full of things that came out of an old car. Maybe it resulted from cleaning out a current car. This stuff languishes sometimes for years. As a result, people go without sunglasses, snow brushes, coupons and other favorite items because they forget that the box exists. Eventually these necessities are replaced out of desperation.
It’s only one box! Hopefully! Don’t be afraid of it! Sort it out right now. You’ll feel better knowing it’s done. You might even find those favorite sunglasses or a missing check! Begin by sorting things into two piles: 1) RELOCATE elsewhere and 2) REPLACE in the car.
Does mental illness cause you clutter stress? Here are nine tips to help overcome inertia and achieve your decluttering dreams.
BECOME AWARE OF YOUR SITUATION – How did this happen? When did it begin? What is the cause? What’s going on? What are you feeling? Are there other things that need to be fixed before decluttering begins?
COMMIT TO GET STARTED – decide today, now, you will begin on your journey to improve your living space.
SET GOALS – if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to know whether you’ve arrived.
START SMALL – expecting large results is a recipe for disappointment, stress, negative feelings. Plan bite sized tasks on your calendar and stick to them.
STAY POSITIVE – celebrate little accomplishments to keep motivated and maintain momentum. A journey begins with just one step. Baby steps ARE progress.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK – when you backslide. Every day is a new beginning, don’t give up.
SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH SOMEONE – a friend or relative who will listen to your successes and struggles. You will feel supported and accountable.
GET HELP WITH PHYSICAL LABOR – if you are challenged with energy or strength. Another person can work under your direction to do the heavy lifting.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP – in a therapist and/or professional organizer. A professional will hold you accountable and motivate you in the initial steps at the very least.
In the previous post we saw that depression and anxiety can contribute to clutter in the home. Further, clutter can make depression and anxiety feel much worse. Here, we describe how you can begin to take action to reduce clutter. As the clutter decreases you will feel better – less stress, more confidence to handle things, happier with your environment and more calm.
What’s the first step? The first step is to become aware that there is a problem. The next step is to reach out for help. Neither is easy but both are necessary. If you feel comfortable, talk to a therapist, friend or relative about your desire to declutter. If this is not possible or if you have already tried without success, you should contact a professional organizer.
Yes! In my experience it does.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, I am sharing some thoughts on the connection between mental health and disorganization. My hope is that readers find this post hopeful in their efforts to organize themselves or to help a loved one get organized. I speak primarily of anxiety and depression here but other mental health issues are linked to disorganization as well. It is probably no surprise to readers that mental illness affects most areas of a person’s life and organization is no exception.
When the signs of spring begin to pop up I, for one, feel motivated to open the windows and do a little spring cleaning. Spring is a time for new beginnings, so why not honor the season by lightening up your home? Bring in some fresh air, declutter and clean. Couldn’t be bothered, you say? Spring cleaning also supercharges you. By investing the initial energy you will get more back in satisfaction, motivation, gratitude for you space and your life, and a greater sense of calm. Let’s focus on clothes closets.
Clothes closets hold all sorts of things from current clothing and footwear to memorabilia, suitcases, unused gifts, framed art, miscellany, linens, and things whose fates are as yet undecided. If you have a closet that is too jam packed to function properly, then declutter. If you struggle to find what you’re looking for, then declutter. Or if you are just ready to spiffy up a closet, then declutter. How to begin? Here are seven easy steps. Let us know how you do!
First, choose a closet to declutter. Select the one that is most annoying or one where you know many things can easily be weeded out. Often the closet itself will help you decide. Which closet is talking to you?
Second, have a goal for the end result. Will the closet be functional, orderly, pretty, spacious, or neat? Envision or verbalize the goal before beginning the decluttering project. If you don’t know what the finished product is supposed to look like how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Third, develop a game plan. Write down tasks and dates or at least have the steps in your head. The purpose here is to be realistic in order to avoid giving up halfway through or getting sidetracked or running out of time. Consider whether you have all day to clean the closet or only an hour here and there? Is your energy boundless or do you work best in small bursts. If you are enlisting the help of someone else, when are they available? Plan estimated blocks of time on a calendar.
Fourth, gather supplies such as donation bags, trash bags, markers and labels, bins with lids, boxes, friend or other helper.
Fifth, now that you know what to declutter, have supplies on hand, and have a plan it’s time to begin. There are many ways to attack a closet. Some people recommend pulling everything out, sorting, reducing and replacing in an organized manner. Theoretically, the entire closet is completed in one fell swoop. However, this method can be overwhelming. It can lead to be a bigger mess or, worse, to frustration. It is definitely not recommended for people who are easily distracted. I suggest focusing and completing one section at a time. I firmly believe that success breeds success. Do one area well and then you will be energized to attack another area.
It doesn’t really matter where you begin. You know yourself and your closet best. Start with a shelf, hanging clothes, or stuff on the floor. If time is limited, plan to address just purses, accessories, shoes, winter jackets or slacks. Wherever you choose to begin, complete that one section before moving on. Estimate how long the task should take and set a timer to stay within your available time.
The decluttering task is simple. Sort things into two categories: KEEP and NOT KEEP. (The NOT KEEP pile can be further separated into trash, move, donate, sell, and give away boxes at this point or at the end, see below.) There is much popular advice about decluttering clothes: keep what you love, keep what brings you joy, choose only 33 items ... the list goes on. My advice is to be realistic and honest. Just go through and weed out anything that you don’t wear or use; damaged or stained clothing; scratchy or ill-fitting clothing; shoes that aren’t quite right; and gifts that you never liked. Recall your goal (or vision) as it should help you make difficult decisions. If you feel attached to clothing that you will never wear that’s okay, but limit these items to only a few. Store them in the back of the closet or in a memorabilia box on a high shelf out of the way of everyday access.
Regarding the NOT KEEP castoffs: practice efficiency over complexity. Whether you’ve chosen one destination or as many as six, the distribution of castoffs must be quick and easy. Anticipate in advance where you will bring each bag and when. Try not to be overly choosy where things will go or who will be using them. Speaking from experience, this is where many people get bogged down. Simply think that someone else will enjoy having your donations and let go.
Sixth, if you like – pretty it up. Wipe down surfaces or paint the walls. Purchase new hangers that are all alike. Buy decorative boxes for memorabilia. Find clear plastic bins to organize similar items. Invest in shoe racks that look nicer or work better. Install extra hooks or buy organizing products to handle specialty items.
Seventh, sort and label in a way that makes sense to you. Sorting options are: color, type, activity, or season. Delineate hanging sections with separators. Label shelves along their edges, hang a tag from wire shelving, or use a sticky note on the wall. Labels reinforce in our minds where to put things and where to find them again quickly.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Even if only a portion of the closet is completed consider it a success. More can be done at a later date now that you’ve taken the first step. Rejoice in knowing that it will be easier to find things and put things away. Feel proud that your spring cleaning is underway.
photo More closet. by motherAWESOME (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The New Year is a great time for new beginnings, setting goals and feeling hope for the future. Here are five steps to help you succeed with your resolutions this year.
1) Set a clear goal, one that is realistic. For your resolution, the goal must be one that YOU really want to achieve. Take time to explore why you want to make a change. (If you are okay with the status quo then don’t bother with this exercise!) Let’s take decluttering the house. Many of us have this goal but why? Do you want to know where your keys are located at all times? Do you want your house to feel more comfortable? Do you want to reduce the overwhelming visual clutter? Do you want to be able to invite guests to your house without being embarrassed? Do you want to clear the house so your mind feels less jumbled?
2) Confirm your goal. Write down your resolution. Create a vision board. Share your intentions with others. Get a buddy. Use a goal-tracking phone app. Make it real. This confirmation acts as your motivation so it must be inspiring.
3) Have a plan. Next, develop a plan that will get you to where you want to go. It can be in the form of a project management sheet, a mind map on paper, a detailed vision board or a specific plan in your mind. It must have two clearly described parts:
Part One: tasks and a timeline so that you know you are on track,
Part Two: a contingency plan (list of alternative actions) that you agree to follow when you encounter a difficult period. Say, during your project to declutter the kitchen, you experience a life crisis. You feel unmotivated to pick up, clean, or put anything away. This pre-existing contingency plan gives you a predetermined list of minimal tasks that will keep you on the right track until the crisis is over and more time can be committed again. (Like having extra healthy snacks on hand when you are dieting!) Even small decluttering activities will make you feel successful in the moment, for that day.
4) Practice flexibility: Keep in mind that you should be kind to yourself. If you lose your willpower one day remember that each day is a new beginning. And you may forgive yourself for one bad day in order to move on. Also, be willing to modify as necessary. A goal is not written in stone. Try to avoid the all or nothing mindset. Compromise on the scope or speed of the project if necessary. Think about it. Achieving part of a goal (or releasing perfection) is better than nothing. There is more respect in modifying than in giving up!!
5) Lastly, try to create a maintenance plan. At some point, hopefully, the goal is achieved. Celebrate but don’t become lax. Because what will happen? The gains will be lost and you will feel worse about yourself than before you began. How to maintain the uncluttered space? Ideally, good habits were formed in the process of achieving the goal. Remember to revisit the original motivating ideas. Confirm how good you feel about yourself for achieving the goal. Continue to follow the new habits. Pick up one area every day. Continue to keep keys in one location. Periodically check in with your support buddy. If the goal was worth doing then it is worth maintaining.
In summary, the New Year is a great opportunity to plan a resolution. The increased daylight and energy will augment your efforts. You are the only one who can make a positive change for yourself. Aren’t you worthy of positive things? And, of course, if you need extra motivation to stay the course - give us a call!
Use the New Year’s wave of energy to organize your space. People have done it for many years as they set New Year’s resolutions, gathered paperwork for taxes or simply celebrated a fresh start by doing something out of the ordinary. As the days begin to lengthen and the sunlight grows stronger take advantage of this natural increase in energy. What can you do? What would make you happy? Want to have all the holiday decorations put away? Want a decluttered purse? Want to be free of an overstuffed inbox? Want a cleared countertop? Want to stop misplacing your cell phone? Ready to clean a closet? Ready to clean a shelf in a closet? What improvement would make your space more comfortable, less cluttered, more energetic or more calm? Opportunities abound from small areas to larger longer range projects. However, I advise starting with a small area in order to achieve quick success. Choose a task that will make a noticeable difference once completed. A psychological perk is that small successes build confidence to do more. Don’t wallow in crafting a major plan or agonize over choosing the best place to start. If I asked you to think about a small organizational project that would make your life better – what would you answer in two seconds or fewer? Select a finite task that will make an impact but will also be doable and realistic. Imagine how good you will feel once it is done. Then get started.
Here are some ideas:
- declutter one kitchen drawer, get rid of the unnecessary things
- select five items from your closet that you never wear, donate them
- pair up the socks in one drawer, say good-bye to the singles
- reduce a stack of magazines by half, recycle the oldest ones
- put away unused items from a kitchen counter
- clean out the trash in your car, organize the remaining items
- sort through linens and toss the oldest that are no longer used
Resolve to complete your one selected task today. What could be better than the satisfaction of having already accomplished a New Year’s Resolution?
Carol Martin-Ward, encouraging practical ideas for easy organizing