One of the most discouraging and demotivating experiences is backsliding. You spend all afternoon clearing off your desk, and two days later it is a mess again. Are you doing something wrong? Below are some bad habits which are in conflict with maintaining a productive environment. By eradicating these behaviors you will reap a long-term benefit from your next organizing project.
BAD HABITS TO BREAK:
Keeping too much.
Most common of all is the mistake of keeping far more than we need. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, 80% of the stuff we keep we never reuse. Do you doubt this? Consider the articles you’ve ripped out and never read again, or the books you’ve read the first chapter of and never returned to. How about the clothing you’ve kept “in case you lose 10 lbs?” Less really is more. Fewer items means less time spent moving, storing, cleaning, stepping over, sorting through and keeping track of… which translates into more time to do other things.
Making it difficult to put things away.
If it is hard to put something away, we probably won’t. Any storage location that is high up, under other objects, requires heavy lifting, necessitates crawling on hands and knees, or is otherwise difficult to access is one that doesn’t get used. Sometimes the simple act of having to remove a box’s lid is enough of a deterrent to keep us from putting an item away! Of course, we need to use the spaces we have, and not all of them are easy to get to. However, we should strive to make regularly needed items as easy to put away as they are to take out. Thoughtfully consider the items you have lying about and ask yourself why you haven’t put them back. Is it because doing so requires a Herculean effort? If so, find a new space.
In an effort to make spaces look “tidy,” we often pile items on top of each other. This is a bad idea. In essence, stacking means we hide one item underneath another. We lose track of what is in the pile because we have no way to identify it. Consider time spent rummaging in a junk drawer to find the scissors, or time wasted looking through a stack of papers to locate the one we require. In drawers, always use dividers for like items (these can be as simple as small cardboard boxes!) Paperwork is always better filed than piled. If you need to keep some papers on your desktop, store them in a vertical stacker or in labeled folders in a magazine file.
Failing to allocate daily time to restore order.
It is tempting at the end of the day to crash and “deal with it in the morning.” The problem is, the next day typically requires us to hit the ground running with no time for putting items away. Cultivating the habit of restoring order daily is a gift you give to yourself. It won’t take less time if you defer this activity to another day. In fact, in all likelihood, today’s items will get buried underneath tomorrow’s, meaning the task of restoring order will now take longer. Instead, allocate 15-30 minutes each day to put items away. If you regularly restore order, you will never get a colossal mess, and the task will feel less intimidating. (If you are facing the colossal mess now, you have a different issue. Consider hiring a professional organizer to get a system in place.)
Breaking bad habits is hard, but they can often be pushed out of the way by creating new ones. Whether it be getting rid of stuff, creating easy-access storage, setting up filing or allocating daily time to restore order, a new routine will bring lasting results to your space.
Submitted by Seana Turner, Founder & President of The Seana Method