The first step to any project is clearly identifying the scope of the project. Specifying what your aims are as a closed project will help you to know when it is complete. However, you don’t need to drill down into the details as you’re outlining your project.
“Getting organized” is not specific enough. Equally, a list a mile long with specific instructions such as “Create 43 hanging folders, each labelled with 3.5 inch tabs with 20 point Arial font with the following labels… and filing all the loose paperwork into those folders, being sure to purge any utility bills older than…etc” is probably too much detail at the beginning of a project.
Here’s how to identify the scope of a project.
Choose an area to organize. It can be as small as a drawer in a bed side table, or a shelf in a closet. It could be as big as a whole room. (Again, “organize the whole house and the garage” is a bit too broad).
Imagine how you want the space to be at the end of your project, and make that your goal. You might want to specify that all horizontal surfaces are clear or with a certain number of decorative items remaining, or perhaps that all like objects are together, or that you only want one of each of the types of objects in the space. However you choose to state it, someone else should be able to come into the space and say, “Yes, you’ve done it!”
Know what you will do with the items that don’t belong in that space before you start. Dealing with these items should be part of your project – as long as they don’t expand the scope of your project. For example, you might need to move some items to the garage from the room you are organizing. If the new space is organized, then go ahead and put those things away. But if it’s not, it’s okay to put them in a holding place until you can organize them there. (See last week’s blog post about the domino effect
.) The point is to come back to the project you started, not to get distracted by another space.
One of the biggest concerns people have when they start an organizing project is where to start. We call it the domino effect.
There are some clothes in the home office that need to go to the bedroom closet, but the closet is stuffed, so we’d need to make some space in there to put the clothes away. There’s some sporting equipment in the closet that really should go in the garage, but there’s no room in the garage unless we put the bulk supplies in the pantry. But the pantry had a few boxes of paperwork that used to be for current paperwork, but that are now so stuffed that you can’t fit any more paperwork in there and the stuff in the boxes is kind of out of date and could either be recycled or archived in the home office, except there’s no room in the home office unless we take out the extra clothes that should be in the bedroom closet ….
It’s like a slide puzzle. And we want to do it with the fewest moves possible.
Start with making sure you have some space in the room you are working in. So purge (recycle, donate, return, sell) items you know can go. If you need instant gratification to give you some momentum, focus on large items you know you don’t want so you clear the biggest amount of space in a short amount of time.
Stay in one space. Resist the urge to start moving things in other areas. That way your effort will produce the biggest visible return.
Once you’ve cleared some space, you can use the space for one category that makes sense in that space. Sometimes that is nothing, and that’s okay.
To extrapolate, to start any overwhelming project, start with a small do-able piece. The start is the most important part. It’s easier to keep up momentum.
What was the last thing you did that was worth remembering?
If you’re struggling to come up with something recent, perhaps it’s time to reconsider how you are going through life. Usually it takes some action on your part to make something memorable happen. So let’s start with this question, “What would I like to remember at the end of the year?” Now lets get to how to create goals to make that a reality.
If you feel overwhelmed looking at your life as a whole, use a wheel of life to look at different areas of your life and what to create in each area of life. Use the pdf as a guide. wheel-of-life-example-and-blank
Start with how things are now. Mark on the wheel how satisfied you are with how much time you are spending in each category. Notice that this can vary for each person. So for one person, spending time with family is very important. They spend about 30 hours a week with family, but still want more. They feel 85% satisfied with the time they are spending with family. Another person finds family time less important, so even though they only spend about 5 hours a week catching up with family, they are 100% happy with the time they spend with their family. So it’s not about how much time you spend in any one area, it’s how satisfied you are with that amount of time. Your aim is to be 100% happy with the amount of time you are spending in each of the categories.
We’ve all been there. Task A should be done today, yet when we get to the end of the day, it’s not done, again. Yet there are people who seem to be always getting things done. A common phrase of advice is “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Why is that? What do people who get things done have in common? And how can you learn from them in order to be as productive?
So you have a task that needs doing, but it doesn’t get done. Sometimes we experience negative self talk about it.
Or we make excuses about it.
But what would it be like if, instead of focusing on the failure, you focused on what you could do about it?
Picture this. It’s 25,000 years ago. You pick up the sharpened stone you use for skinning animals and add it to the pouch you sling over your shoulder. It also has some animal sinew in it that you use for fire starter sticks. You roll up the hides you slept under last night and strap them to your back. You have a basket handy so you can collect berries on the way. It’s time to move to winter quarters. Your extended family moves with you.
Life was simple. Hard, but simple. There were no greeting cards, pictures, extra clothes nor shoes. No accumulated memories of a life time. No households of stuff when relatives passed away. There weren’t any books nor piles of paper, no projects – completed or not. There were no electronics nor thousands of accompanying accessories. There was no myriad of sporting paraphernalia. Nothing to declutter.
There was what you needed to survive. That’s it. Maybe you carried a small carving as a token or good luck charm. But mostly what you loved were your family and the experiences you shared. You carried virtually nothing to your grave.
Fast forward to today. According to research done in 2000, the average US household has tens of thousands of items in it.
I’m not suggesting that we go back to cave man days. Life is much more comfortable now, and more complicated. We spend a lot more time organizing our stuff – and getting overwhelmed by it.
So what do you do if you’re overwhelmed by your stuff but you really want to declutter? The number one priority is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. So how do we let go?
Having an organized closet means it’s much easier to get dressed for the day or a special event. No rummaging for that top that goes especially well with those pants. No double (or triple) buying of the same type of outfit. No taking 30 minutes to put the perfect outfit together (unless you can’t make up your mind about what to wear!)
The six keys to an organized closet are simple.
Key 1. Decide your style
Keep your style simple so you can mix and match items in your closet. Wear clothing that suits your body type, your profession, and your hobbies/ personal activities. If you are not attracting the right clients/significant other/friends and you think your wardrobe could be to blame, consider hire an image consultant (we know a great one!).
Key 2. Purge
Donate or sell clothes you don’t wear, no longer fit into, or are worn out. Rule of thumb for everyday clothes is if you haven’t worn them during the season they are appropriate for, then it’s time to let them go. At the end of a season is the perfect time to purge clothes you haven’t worn that season. If you haven’t worn them this year, you’re even less likely to wear them next year. You have a few options for selling clothes, but it’s usually only worthwhile for designer clothes that are lightly worn. Search for your nearest consignment store, or donate items to Goodwill, or other charities. (We use Clothes the Deal to donate no longer needed business clothes to those in need).