Oh boy, you really did it this time. You pulled absolutely everything out of your clothes closet, and laid it all out on the bed, the dresser, and the floor. You not only found clothes you hadn’t worn in anywhere from 5-10 years, but also the package of hangers you just knew you had bought six months ago, a bag of DVDs you meant to take to Goodwill, and the Candyland game you bought and hid for your daughter’s birthday (she graduates from high school this month).
And then you were so exhausted, overwhelmed, and ticked off that you stopped. Maybe you haven’t even been able to sleep in your bed in days.
OR…you got excited about finally “getting organized” in your home office, and started grabbing stuff out of filing cabinets and drawers. You got to looking at old receipts (“Why the heck did I buy six boxes of highlighters?”), the insurance policies from 2003 (“Am I supposed to keep these??”), and old holiday cards you couldn’t bring yourself to pitch (“It has a picture of my second cousin’s kids and their Shih Tzu - should I really throw it away?!”).
And then you were so exhausted, overwhelmed, and ticked off that you stopped. Or maybe you even just wandered away, found a plant to water and never returned. You’ve been paying bills at the dining room table ever since.
How do you dig yourself out of an organizing hole? How can you take some simple steps to let go of the feelings of stress, frustration, and yes - shame - that pop up? It’s time to get busy and clear up what the best of intentions caused: more clutter.
I think the first step is to realize that the clutter was there all along, you’ve just finally brought it all to light. And that’s a good thing! You are learning what really exists behind all of the sweaters and in the bottoms of drawers, and uncovering some patterns (see my post on “LESS Is More" to explore this idea more fully). The second step is to make peace with the fact you bit off more than you could chew. Trying to make up for months of “just putting” things in the closet or garage in one afternoon is not realistic. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and change your approach.
Make Your Plan
It’s time to take a deep breath and recognize that you need to make a more careful plan. Let’s return to our closet example. You basically have two choices: cover a smaller area with less time (just the shirts, or just your shoes, in an hour), or cover the whole area with more time (work through everything you pulled out in an entire day or weekend). I often suggest the first option, because it can give you some quick satisfaction and inspire you to keep going the next chance you have time to work. And are the days and weeks of staring at the mess really easier than just digging in and addressing the problem for an hour or two? You might be surprised at what you can accomplish if you take the pressure of finishing the whole thing off your shoulders.
The Whole Shebang
That being said, maybe you need more of a reward than finally being able to sleep in your own bed or work at your desk again. If you take a whole Saturday and get things in the office back in order, tell yourself you can invest in that nice print (or finally get your diploma framed) to perk up the wall behind your desk. Another option is to call for help. I’ve had many a client reach out and tell me they thought they could get through a project on their own, only to get totally stuck. Well, that’s at least one reason why professional organizers exist. Having a calm, unbiased, experienced professional to walk you through to completion can make all the difference. It's often a huge relief to have the support, and you get the added benefit of someone who can guide you away from making the same mistakes again in the future.
Have you ever gone awry with an organizing project? Were you able to work your way through it? If not, don't just ignore the clutter - make a plan that gets you back on track.
Sara Skillen - I'm a Certified Professional Organizer®, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. I'm also an Evernote Certified Consultant. I love to help people from all walks of life get organized and productive - and I'd love to help you, too:
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