"It's just too much."
"I don't know where to start."
"I can't seem to get motivated."
And the best one: "It's not any fun."
These phrases could be uttered in connection with most any big project or goal - weight loss, smoking cessation, reducing personal debt, and of course - organizing a life. A former colleague of mine had a huge sign in her office that read "Results, Not Excuses", and its common-sense simplicity has stuck with me ever since. So I'm writing today to tell you that getting results does not have to be painful or difficult, and there's more than one way to make progress.
Most of the time I really like to dig into the reasons why disorganization exists in a home or office and learn what's behind those excuses. I find it's the best way to create a lasting change and a system clients can maintain by working with their natural tendencies. That kind of work takes time, but there's also no reason why anyone wanting to make some positive changes can't get started with what I call "Toe In The Water" organizing.
It's really cold in that pool, right? You're standing there in your suit and goggles, covered in sunscreen and ready to go - but jumping in with both feet is just not happening. And so it often goes with streamlining your systems - you've bought (and at least skimmed) a great de-cluttering book, thought about it how great it will be when you can find everything, stared with grim determination at the pile on your desk or in your closet that's absolutely driving you nuts...so what the heck is the problem?
Maybe you just need to cut yourself a little slack. Maybe you just need to test that water and make sure it's safe. So start really small: empty and sort your pencil/pen holder, fold one stack of t-shirts, or sort one week of mail.
And then STOP.
No, really. Step back, and look around. Do you feel a little better? OK, then maybe try one more thing: file a little paperwork, pull 5-10 things out of your closet that you could donate, get all of the expired stuff out of the pantry. Is the water getting a little warmer, a little easier to take?
When I suggest or use this method in my business, many (if not most) times a light bulb pops on at this point. Suddenly an initially reluctant client goes all out and dives right in...32 extra pairs of shoes and all. They start making huge piles for shredding, load up box after box of books - it becomes an organizing frenzy. It feels good to let go of things that have no use in their lives any more.
When you are confused and overwhelmed by organization, it can be helpful to break things down to manageable steps, and no start is too small. The important thing is to just get in the water, and leave your excuses behind.
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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