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Organizing from the Inside Out

Happy Monday! Okay, so we don’t always celebrate Mondays (unless it’s a holiday). But often Mondays are beginnings. The beginning of a new job, or a new project or even a new healthy way of life. There are many avenues to a healthy life. Today I’m going to touch on the mental health that comes with an organized work space.

pigs-in-hats
I am definitely not the most organized person, not even close. I really don’t stand a chance living with three kids, three guinea pigs (lots of cavy paraphernalia), two sugar gliders, a crazy golden retriever who spreads her toys about the house, and a husband who means well but has no problem sitting amongst dirty dishes and clutter. But what I’ve found is that if I can organize a part of my world, I am a more productive person, which makes me a much happier person.
Notice that I did not say clean. I said organized. They are two different things. You don’t have to love cleaning to organize. I love Julie Morgenstern’s description in her book, ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT. She says that the goal is to be able to know where something is right away. As long as you have a system where you can retrieve something quickly, without wasting precious time hunting (which is what I did this morning to find her book under my bed), then you have organization.

organizing
So what makes Julie’s way of organizing different and effective? She analyzes first before plunging in and wasting money buying organizational paraphilia that doesn’t fit your space or life style. I’m a plunge-in type of person, but Julie made me stop and think first. And it works!

Here are a few basic steps and how I implemented them. I suggest starting with your writing area or business area. Not a whole room at first but just your desk.

1. Analyze – look at how you have things set up currently. What works? What doesn’t work? Write it down (really, write it down – it helps).
What works for me:
I always know where my passwords are written down. It’s a small brightly colored phone book I keep in a little drawer of my desk.
Lamp, white board with pens and calendar are within reach.

What didn’t work:
Too much clutter – knickknacks that remind me of my books are cute, but too many becomes just clutter, too many stacks of paper, things piled on floor since my desk is small, poorly utilized filing cabinet.

2. Strategize – Create a plan of action for wading through and transforming your space. It takes time so work that into the plan. Either a Saturday or plan to do a little each day, but be realistic on how long it will take (my small desk area took about 6 hours which I broke up over several days).

3. Attack – Julie uses the SPACE formula which is:
Sort
Purge
Assign a Home
Containerize
Equalize

Sort – Julie says it is critical to pick up every single piece in the area. Don’t ignore the pile in the corner. Sort it all. Identify what is important to you and that space. Does it belong there? Does it help you do the function in that area? If not, it goes somewhere else. Also, group similar things so you can containerize properly later.

Purge – have bins for trash, donate, or relocate within your house. This can be difficult and Julie writes more on the psychology of purging. It can be the hardest part for some and the easiest and most liberating for others. I fall somewhere in the middle, but I do feel “lighter” when I get things out of my house.

Assign a Home – Julie talks about the Kindergarten model of organization. Every space should be set up like a Kindergarten classroom. The teacher has specific locations for different activities (art, reading, computers, etc). It is pretty easy for the kids to know what activity should happen in each area based on what is stored there (crayons and glue in the art area, books in the reading area). Every location in our homes and offices should be set up the same way. If you want the top of your desk to be for writing, the pile of bills needs to find a new home.

Containerize – How many of you have bought containers to organize and then ended up not using them because they didn’t fit or work? I have several in a stack in my bedroom. Ugh! But I’ve now learned to measure areas and look at what I’m going to store there. THEN I go to the dollar store and buy bins and baskets. Julie uses the Kindergarten example again. Teachers will have a bin just the right size for 20 pencils, not 10 pencils because there are 20 pencils to live there. A too small bin brings on overflow and frustration. And if a system is frustrating or difficult to use, neither a kid nor an adult will use it.

Equalize – About 2 weeks after you’ve organized your space, take a lunch break to evaluate how things are working. Are you following your new system? Is something frustrating, time consuming or difficult? It’s important to smooth the rough spots and adjust. Our lives are dynamic and our spaces need to be too. If things change, the system may need to flex to that change. So make sure to include “tune-ups” in your quest to keep an organized area running smoothly.

I’ve organized my desk according to Julie’s plan. And yes, it works better, however I need to keep using the system for it to continue to work. When life gets busy I find myself dropping things next to my desk instead of placing them in the nice file folder I created that’s sitting just two steps away. After a week of dumping I have to step over piles when I stand up from my desk. Sigh… But I’ve found that with my systems in place, I can usually clean things up within a half hour. All in all, I think organization is possible, even for someone scattered like me.eleri-organized

Do you have any tips for creating and maintaining an organized space? Do you think clearer in an organized space or do you prefer the creative chaos of clutter?

Ready to take an organization test? Choose one of the items below and see how long it takes you to find it. How well did you do?

1. Recipe for a dish you cut out of a magazine but haven’t tried yet.
2. Your child’s vaccination record.
3. A pair of garden gloves.
4. Notes from the last conference call you had with your editor or agent.
5. Your aunt’s phone number.
6. Needle and thread.

6 responses to “Organizing from the Inside Out”

  1. Rita Henuber says:

    1.Only thing new I try is restaurants.
    2.Gave them to my kids ages ago.
    3.In the gardening cabinet on the back porch and the shelf in the garage.
    4.No aunts.
    5.Desk drawer, travel case and dressing table.
    Now can I find hoards of other stuff I’ve put away for safe keeping? They are truly safe because I can’t find them.
    I did recently purge PC files that made me feel good. Also gave household items to those who lost theirs in the hurricane. Watching an episode of Hoarders motivates me to clean and organize.

    2+
  2. Interesting quiz!:) I need to work on #4. The rest, I know where they are. It’s the writing stuff (notes from conferences, workshops, etc. and old manuscript printouts) that gets stuffed into the few cupboards I have dedicated to my writing career. Sad, I know. But when I had Kid #3, I gave up my office. Haven’t had a chance to reorganize since, and it’s been 7 years. (Yikes.) It’s been on my agenda for a while now! Sigh. I WILL get to it, though!

    1+
  3. Great idea to post this before the holidays hit us. Being unorganized will frustrate the hell of you.

    Sadly, I’m probably the most organized person I and my family know. I’m not OCD, but my children will tell you if they need to find the most unused item, I’ll know exactly where it is.

    Following Julie’s steps will mostly definitely help.

    1+
  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    I’m good on your numbers 1-6 (substituting the pets’ vet records for kids immunization records) but my home office is an utter PIT. I promised myself after quitting my day job nearly a year ago – where does the time go? – that I’d clean and organize my office, but honestly, it’s messier than ever.

    My big organizational coup this year was a RUTHLESS paring down of my clothing, accessories, and jewelry, and the contents of my closets. I’m now familiar with every consignment and thrift store within a 40 mile radius, and made a metric buttload of charitable donations this year. It’s awesome looking into one’s closet and knowing that whatever I choose, it FITS.

    1+
  5. GREAT POST!!! I try to stay organized or it drives me crazy, but I rarely stay that way for long. Before I start a book, I MUST completely clean and organize my office. But by the time I finish said book, it’s a disaster zone again, mostly from stack of mail and books.

    My problem is I put things away and then forget where I put them. Ahhhh, the perks of having an adhd kind of brain.

    0

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