How to Organize Without Getting Overwhelmed & Maintain Your Calm

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As a professional organizer it’s easy for me to say that I don’t get overwhelmed when tasked with an organizing project. I maintain my calm because I’m doing what I love to do. I love to teach my clients how to organize without getting overwhelmed. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we over think the problem. When you take a breath and plunge into an organizing project you maintain your calm by following a few simple rules.

First let’s talk about how to organize without getting overwhelmed then I’ll give you the few simple rules to follow to maintain your calm.

Create Your Vision

Use Pinterest or create a vision board by cutting out pictures from magazines for your project so you have a sense of how you want the result to look and feel.

Pick your project

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you walk into a room or a house and decide to organize the entire space. Think about one small area that you want to organize. Make that one spot your project. This is how to organize without getting overwhelmed.

Know the Reason

Understand the purpose of this project. Are you making room for something you’ve purchased?  Do you need to remove some clutter? Or, is this space a mess and you want to organize it so you can find the things you keep here?

Do You Need Supplies

Assess the space. Decide if you need drawer organizers or containers. If yes, empty the space, sort the items, and then measure carefully. Take the time to clean the space while it is empty!

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Please note: Do not shop before you sort the space. Often people end up with more containers than they need or the wrong sized containers when they shop first. Organizing before shopping helps you organize without getting overwhelmed.

Next Project

When you are finished with that organizing project move to the next project. You may have multiple areas that you want to tackle. Work out a logical order of progression to get the entire project organized without getting overwhelmed.

Another Note

As you move from project to project you may find that when one space becomes nicely organized another space becomes a disaster area. Hold your vision in your mind’s eye and give yourself permission to accept the mess. Remind yourself that this is a work in progress. You will attend to that space when the time comes.

Simple Rules to Maintain Your Calm

Remember to breathe. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we look at a pile of stuff and wonder what on earth we are going to do with all that stuff. Take a couple of minutes and focus on breathing.

Reflect on your vision and release the things in the pile of stuff that do not fit your vision.

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Set your intention and remember the reason that you are organizing the space.

Use a Timer

Set the timer on your phone for only 10 – 15 minutes. Work on the organizing project for that amount of time. When the timer goes off, stop organizing. Go do something else. Using a timer for short periods of time helps you organize without getting overwhelmed and maintain your calm.

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The project will be there when you return to it. If you want to, you can take a short break and then work for another 10 or 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish when you focus on organizing.

Accept Good Enough

Let yourself be done when it is good enough. Avoid aiming for perfection. Life happens and as perfectly as you organize a space it will never stay that way. The truth is that organizing pictures on Instagram, Pinterest, and in magazines are the only spaces that stay that way indefinitely. Someone, maybe you, will go into the space take something out and mess it up a little in the process.

The good news is that when you create a nicely organized space it can always be put back in a minute or two.

For more tips on figuring out how to organize without getting overwhelmed and maintain your calm sign up for my newsletter or reach out to me to schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.

11 Comments

  • Ah yes, I agree with all of this. I think knowing your “why” is so important. It actually helps me make decisions. If I know I’m trying to clear the guest room because company is coming over, I have that goal to keep my eye on when I come across a tough decision. Would I rather hold onto the old sweaters in the drawer or have a clear drawer for my guest? I need to pick one priority. I do relate to getting one space in shape and having another explode. Especially during this time of stay at home, I feel that there is a lot more “stuff” around because more people are here!

  • Just looking at the photo you included in this post makes me feel calm. I love all of the suggestions you shared for reducing overwhelm and increasing the sense of calm during the organizing process. You made an important point right at the beginning. As organizers, we enjoy doing this work, so we don’t necessarily get as overwhelmed when organizing as our clients do. The other aspect is that we less emotionally attached to the items that are being sorted and edited. So again, it’s less overwhelming for us. Doing the things you suggested like breaking the larger project into smaller ones, clearly defining your why, and remembering to breathe, are terrific advice.

    I’ll add one more to your great list- Patience. Remember that it took some time to get to the current state, and it will take time to change habits and your environment. The journey will be worth it.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. Yes. Patience is an important element. Patience with the process and patience with yourself.

    • Melanie says:

      Love this! There are so many stages along the way for people to be proud of. The progress is more important than the “finished” often because nothing is ever really done. Organization is truly a way of life. Your approach is very kind and positive. Thank you!

  • Starting on small organizing tasks really does help to build your confidence. It helps one to move on to organize larger more complex projects. Patience is key. Taking the time to do a before and after photo of the small project shows you where the area came from and how it looks now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Small is always best! It is a great idea to take before and after pictures. A picture (as they say) is worth a thousand words!

  • I align with so many of your suggestions. I’ve always thought that by taking a project and breaking it down into small manageable parts is the best way to tackle something that’s overwhelming. Also, working on a part of the project is doable.
    I’ve used a timer (kitchen timer) to get started. Setting it for just 10 minutes. You can do anything for 10 minutes and when the bell goes off stop. I found that worked and my client would keep going!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Ronni. You know, I’ve done this with clients also – set the timer for a short amount of time – and found that because we make so much progress during that short amount of time, they are motivated to keep going. The trick is to stop before the motivation runs out so that you’re wanting to come back to the task the next day.

  • It is certainly easy to get overwhelmed when organizing a space. I like to remind clients of their goal for the space and we talk about how what we are doing is moving them towards their goal.