I Organized But It Didn’t Last…Why?

Organized Office

Today, May 17, is Pack Rat Day. To properly honor this day, you should not discard anything because it may be valuable, justify to yourself why you keep everything and go to some garage sales to get even more stuff!

As a professional organizer, I prefer order.

We have Too Much Stuff! Things keep coming into our homes. But very little goes back out. Over time storage areas like basements, garages and attics fill. Next, closets and cabinets get jam-packed. Then hallways, stairways and floors become covered with more things. The house has gotten out of balance. Even worse, the home is unhealthy because tripping hazards abound and clutter prevents proper cleaning.

It’s spring which, to many, means spring cleaning. But cleaning should take place after organizing your home. First you want it to look and function how you want.

So what’s the difference? Organizing is not cleaning. Cleaning is what maids and housekeepers do. What’s the big deal anyway? You can organize yourself, right?

Amy spends a few hours in her bedroom picking up things from the floor and all horizontal surfaces, and putting them away. She finds a couple of items she no longer wants which will be donated and tosses a few things in the trash can. She feels great! But a few days later, the room is messier than before. She doesn’t understand why organizing didn’t work for her.

Simple. She didn’t organize. She only decluttered and neatened. Among other things, without doing maintenance she reverted to her usual habit of leaving things where they landed. If it were as simple as Amy thought, everyone could do it.

Jon was tired of his stuff spread all over his house. He knows things should be in containers so he buys several and goes home. He discovers his things don’t fit in them the way he envisioned. He’s frustrated and decides that organization doesn’t work.

He failed to recognize it’s not the bins that create order. It’s about the person, measuring what’s being contained and getting appropriately sized containers that will work.

Decluttering is just the first step. Then comes organizing what’s left by implementing systems that work for you, knowing basic organizing principles (such as grouping similar items – keeping like with like), identifying homes for things, having the right tools, creating zones for different activities, developing new habits to replace those that don’t work well, overcoming barriers and proper maintenance techniques which include neatening.

To help my clients get organized, there’s quite a bit I must assess. Why now (has something changed?), what are the client’s goals, style preference, personality, underlying (psychological) issue(s) causing disorganization, ability to make decisions, ability to let things go, learning style, paper or electronic, ingrained habits, DIY or need support type, and so on.

So you see it’s not as simple as people may think. I customize everything for each client because what works for one person may not work for another.

I showed a former business client a system that involved using a legal pad of paper where the pages flipped over the top. At our next session I asked how the system was working. He said it wasn’t, didn’t know the reason and therefore didn’t use it. Why, I wondered. I’d successfully used it many times. I put on my thinking cap and asked a few questions. It turned out he liked paper pads that opened book-style, like a journal. Aha! So I tweaked the system to work for him. A seemingly unimportant difference can make or break the use of a good system.

Working side by side with my client, I teach principles, skills, tools, habits, maintenance and so on they need to know in order to get – and remain – organized.

Now that you have more insight into the process of organization, you can decide if this is something you can do yourself or should get help from a professional organizer. If you want to reach your goals and get results that last, call me for a complimentary discovery call (215.540.9401).