It’s the start of a new year, some say the start of a new decade, and many of us are making our New Year’s resolution. As a professional organizer I often hear people say that their resolution is to get organized. In fact, the month of January is called Get Organized month by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Specialists (NAPO). Is getting organized your resolution for 2021?
If getting organized is your resolution, think about why you want to do this. It is always easier to tackle something difficult or to change a behavior when you understand your reasons why. I have a series of questions for you to ask yourself. The answers will guide you as you drill down to determine your motivation to get organized.
What do you want to organize?
There are many different things to organize.
Do you want to organize your space? Maybe, you need to define how you use your rooms and then determine the kinds of things that will stay in the room. Are you using the rooms in your home differently now? Do some rooms serve multiple purposes? Keep the things that support the activities which happen in that room and then consider reorganizing or repurposing your furniture.
Sometimes you can use a piece of furniture differently in another room. I moved a chest of drawers out of a bedroom and into the family room. Now I use it to hold my wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, ribbon, and tape.
If the way you use your rooms is working, the problem may be that the space is crammed too full of stuff. Ask yourself if removing the clutter will do the trick.
Organize your belongings (including paper files) by keeping what you use and love and either selling, donating, or recycling, shredding, tossing the remainder.
Perhaps you want to organize the way in which you spend your time. This involves taking a close look at your routines and habits. You know you can never really save time, but you can maximize what you accomplish in the time you have available by streamlining your routines and creating a better flow in your day. Doing this will make you more productive and it will feel as if you are truly saving time!
Ask yourself how will you know when you are done?
The answer to this question will depend on what you have decided you want to organize. Creating new routines and habits to make the best use of your time can take time. Current research tells us that it’s best to focus on changing one habit at a time. And, that it takes about six weeks for a new habit to become ingrained.
Decide which habit to work on first, second, and so on. Be gentle with yourself as this will take time. Practice your new habit mindfully. The more you can practice, the sooner the habit will become ingrained. Then move on to the next habit. Focus on changing or incorporating one habit at a time.
What are the measurable results you want to achieve?
Are you wanting to organize to save money? People save money when they don’t go out and buy something, they already have but can’t find. This includes shopping from your pantry before going to the grocery store.
Know what you have in your home or at least, be confident that you know where to look to find out what you have in stock.
Having an organized home can bring about a sense of peace and calm to you and your family. This reduces the feelings of stress, overwhelm and anxiety.
Also, when you have less stuff to take care of, you can spend more time doing the things you want to do.
These are all measurable results. Which of these appeal to you?
Who else will benefit from this organizing project?
Think about who else in your family or household will benefit from your resolution to get organized. Take a minute or two to write down the impact this will have on the way they operate in the home. Do you want to involve them in the organizing process?
Why do you want to do this now?
Has something happened that makes it important to begin this organizing journey now? Are you just fed up with the disarray in your home, your schedule, or your life and the new year is as good a time as any to start?
How will you accomplish this goal?
If organizing a space is your goal, consider creating a scope and sequence project plan. Break the project down into small, measurable steps of action. Think about what needs to happen first.
You may want to reach out to a decorator, painter, carpenter, or other skilled professional to complete certain steps along the way.
A professional organizer can guide you as you reduce the clutter in your home, create new routines or as you organize the way in which you spend your time.
Do you have a deadline?
Is getting organized something you want to do as a life-style change? If this is the case, it is an on-going journey. Something that will be with you forever.
If you’re organizing a space, you may want to have it completed by the end of January or February or some other arbitrary date based on what else is happening in your life.
Saying that your New Year’s resolution is to get organized is one thing. It’s easy to say. The next step is to take action. Answer the questions and determine your reasons for getting organized, and then set a course of action for yourself.
If working with a professional organizer sounds like it would be a good starting point for you, give me a call to schedule a free 30-minute conversation.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane specializes in residential and home-office organizing and working with people affected by ADD, hoarding challenges, and chronic disorganization. Please contact Diane for a free 30-minute phone consultation. Click here to read more blogs on this topic.
These are excellent questions! I love the one about knowing when you are done. We need to set goals with clear boundaries so we don’t forever carry the guilt of “I should have done more.” Be specific, set a time, and then celebrate your accomplishment. If you want to do more, set a new goal, with a new date. I also agree with your “six weeks” statistics. I used to hear 3 weeks, but for me, that always felt too short.
Thank you, Seana. It’s great to set goals and have plans when we get organized but I think it is equally important to know when we will be satisfied.
The quality of the questions we ask determines the quality of the result. You included so many great questions here. Perhaps the most important ones have to do with the why or reason you want to get organized. When I speak with a potential client, this is one of the answers I’m looking for. The why is closely tied to motivation. And without a good solid why, it’s challenging to sustain the motivation needed to get from where you are to where you want to be. You also made a point about only tackling one habit or change at a time. I’m with you on that 100%. It takes a lot of energy and focus to change one thing. If you take on too much at once, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There can be positive spillovers when one new habit automatically creates another new positive pattern. Let’s say you decide to find a “home” for your keys that you always lose. You spend the time to create that habit. And in the process, you realize that “home” is also a great place to keep the eyeglasses that you frequently misplace. So now the effort to solve the “keys” issue effortlessly solves the eyeglasses problem too.
I love the idea of the spillover effect! You are so right! One new solid habit often opens the avenue for solving other problems. Thank you, Linda.
You give excellent advice in this post. Thank you. I love that you mention focusing on your new habit. Focusing is key when wanting to change something. It may eventually be automatic, but you need to be conscious of what is going on and the new change right now.
Absolutely right, Sabrina. Paying attention to that which you are trying to change is the only way you will be able to modify or incorporate a new habit.
I love that you put having a deadline in the article. It helps you say “done for now”. If the project is one that goes several weeks I also like clients to put in benchmarks for the different tasks they are performing to get them to their “done”.
Thank you, Jonda. You have to know when you have done enough to be satisfied. You can always come back and do more another time.
You ask great questions here. I think people (including me) don’t always put enough thought into their goals and their whys.
Thank you, Janet!
You’ve taken such a smart approach here. By asking yourself the questions you’ve suggested, you become more accountable to what you want to accomplish. Having a goal with a deadline helps to manage and think through our projects.
Thank you, Ronni. I completely agree. When you start an organizing project first knowing why you are doing it and then having a deadline you increase the likelihood of completing the project to your own personal satisfaction!
These are superb questions, Diane, not just for individuals to organize themselves, but I think that professional organizers should take note and incorporate these questions into consultations (and revisit the answers during ensuing sessions). I ask some of these, particularly the “Why now?” but focusing on the measurable results is a gold standard question. As always, what you’ve written is super-smart!
Thank you, Julie!