Do you organize to organize, or do you organize for results? I asked someone this question recently in the middle of their session, and it kind of stopped them in their tracks. They had been describing a fairly complex idea that included setting up times on their calendar and making several lists and checking in with me for accountability and, and, and... Missing in their organizing equation was what all of this work was supposed to do for them.
Sometimes when I'm working with new clients, and we're not quite used to each other yet, and they don't totally know my philosophy, there are some interesting expectations. Sometimes they're thinking I'm going to do some sort of Marie Kondo-like move on them, or tell them to get rid of everything they own, or - and this is the one that gets me - show up with lots of products and supplies that will answer all of their problems. Not to mention a pocketful of my best tricks or hacks for organizing success.
Aside: I really dislike that word - "hack." To me, it implies that you can trick or outsmart a process, circumventing the uncomfortable work that may be needed to make progress. As if I could wave a magic wand and give someone a two-sentence solution for conquering years and years of clutter. Also, it puts me in mind of something my long-deceased cat used to wake me up with in the middle of the night. But I digress…
If you are accustomed to reading or looking at lots of organizing advice and ideas, it's easy to get caught up in the systems or products that are used. Buying the latest gadget or set of pre-printed labels can seemingly get you where you want to be. But as I outlined in a post about L.E.S.S. long ago, no system will work for your stuff until you work with your stuff first. You can't know what you'll need in terms of a system until you understand what you need it for.
The other piece of that understanding is keeping in mind what you ultimately want out of the process. Do you want rooms and storage spaces to look clearer and lighter? Do you want to get out of the door every day more easily? Maybe you want better control and a clearer head, or to be better prepared for an upcoming life transition. Why did you decide to organize in the first place - what was the point?
There are some cool products and ideas out there, some really excellent ones. I know someone who is still making great use of a paper and file organizing system that was produced and marketed over 15 years ago. They understood what they wanted it to do, it worked and has stood the test of time. I love velvet clothing hangers - they work for me, and my closet is always in better-than-average shape as a result. But, as is often the case, I have questions:
Lots of people (including me) have shunned resolutions in favor of things that are more meaningful to them, like words, phrases, or themes for their year. Sometimes they write mission statements that help them to give their year some shape, and provide support to the goals they want to achieve. It's more expansive, and less punitive, to state that "2020 is my Year of Intention" than it is to say that your intent is "By God, I'm just going to force myself to exercise every single day!" Coming up with a word or phrase may get you closer to the why of it all, too.
Here's something: try writing out a simple statement that expresses what you want to get out of being more organized this year. What's it going to do for you? If you're up for it, please share your thoughts in the comments.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?