Organizing, Redesign & Staging

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Repetition Makes the Organizer Grow Fonder

I often find myself saying the same catch phrases time and time again while working with clients. While I'm not trying to be repetitive, there are just some basic principles and tips that I find are important enough to keep mentioning.

  • Just because you have it, doesn't mean you have to use it -- this applies to containers, space, closets, furniture, storage accessories. People sometimes feel compelled to keep things or systems either because they've bought it, used it in the past, it exists, or for emotional reasons. If something does not work for you, don't use it!
  • When in doubt, throw it out -- while this may seem extreme, in 99.9% of cases it holds. If you don't think you'll use something or don't know where the piece goes, get rid of it. Things that offer no use to us are clutter, and can be given away to someone who will use it or can be tossed.

  • There's only 2 options: less stuff or more storage -- let's be honest, if you are having a problem with storing belongings, there really are only two things you can do. Generally, increasing the storage (i.e. building another room or closet, adding on, or buying more furniture) is not always realistic or in the budget. Better to start of reducing your inventory (purging) then utilizing existing storage more effectively.
  • Do you know what is in there? How long has it been there? -- Think about the box that's been on the top shelf or the stuff in the attic. If you haven't accessed the container in a while, and furthermore don't know what is in the container, seems to me that the contents are not that important. Be prepared to get rid of it, and use the space more effectively. Don't use the "someday I might..." excuse.

  • There's only three things you can do with paper: File, Act, or Toss -- again, I like to boil things down to their simplest formula. The Toss category is easy -- the harder part seems to be getting used to a system for Filing and Acting. Filing including both short-term and long-term files, and Acting is anything you need to do (i.e. invitation RSVP, catalog order, bill paying). Address mail and incoming paperwork accordingly.
  • If items are important to you, they should be displayed or stored with respect, not stuffed away or in a box in the attic. It is amazing what people have in boxes, tubs and in storage, all dusty or wrapped in paper (sometimes not knowing what the exact contents are), but then they see the item and tell me how important the item(s) is/are. How important can it be if you're treating it like that? Have sentimental china? Use it or display it! Want your daughter to have a set of family heirlooms? Give it to her now.
  • Just because you've had it that way/done it that way, doesn't mean we can't have/do it another way going forward. Think outside the box. Try something a different way -- nothing is etched in stone and we can change it back if it is not working. This applies to furniture layout, household systems and routines, and use of space.

  • It didn't get like this overnight; it's not going to get fixed overnight (which is a variation of "it took you X years to get like this, it is not going to change in X days"). I have to reassure clients that things don't change without effort, progress and adapting new habits and routines. Like a diet must become a lifestyle, organizing is a habit that must be learned and applied to daily life. It definitely takes work, but is SO worth the effort!

  • What's the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of it? In all my years of organizing, I've never had someone say that they regret getting rid of something. Between buying a replacement, finding it online, or realizing you can live without it, you generally can function after getting rid of items. You may even find it liberating! You have the power over your things, not the other way around.
  • Procrastination is really just postponed decisions. I didn't come up with this gem, but I really like it. Often people become stuck in indecision because they find the decision of 'keep or get rid of' difficult. Hence they choose to keep clutter in order to reduce anxiety. Those of the deferral mindset are guilty of the great set-aside. Ultimately, once you face the decision and move on, you'll feel so much better. Plus, that's my job to face procrastination head-on and make you deal!