Organizing Your Life

I need to get organized is a thought common to many people. We all know it would help, but hesitate because getting organized often seems like an overwhelming task that will take forever to accomplish. Organizing your life - and even more important, staying organized - may not be as difficult as you think.

Organizing your life can be overwhelming. Especially when you realize that to truly organize life, both physical organization and mental organization must be accomplished. But don't get discouraged. Instead, focus on the fact that now is the time to make your life better, with a little more organization. The key is to start small and organize one thing at a time. (It is your choice whether you want to begin with the physical or mental aspect.)


Organizing Your Life - Organizing a Space:

A step-by-step method (Repeat as needed):

1. Choose an area to organize.

List all the areas in your life that could use some hands-on organization. This could include organizing your closet, organizing your kitchen, organizing your office, etc.

After making this list, you may feel even more overwhelming. But remember, procrastination hasn't helped so far. Pick one and get started.

2. Reduce the excess.

A quick review of the area to be organized should result in being able to get rid of some - or many – items. Things that are rarely used, duplicates, outdated, broken or trash. Always have a very large garbage bag handy when organizing any space. It is also a good idea to have a large donate bag, or an area to place items that will be given away. (Tip: A garage sale might be appropriate. But keep in mind, it too would have to be organized.)

Reducing the volume of what has to be organized is actually a good way to start feeling you are making progress. (Another tip: Keep those bags available, because this is only the first reduction of excess.)

3. Create a ”most important” box or area.

These are the items (utensils, tools, materials) that must always be readily available. For now, just place these items in a separate place.

4. Create major groups. Sort by similarity.

When organizing a clothes closet, this could mean seasonal or by type (jackets, shirts, shoes, etc.)

When organizing an office, this could mean supplies, books, resource / reference material, etc.

5. Create sub-groups, if needed. And again, reduce the excess.

Decide which major groups need to be divided further. For instance, if you don't have many shoes and you want to keep all of the ones you have, you're done with that group.

For other groups, sort again by similarity - and once again reduce the excess in each group.

For instance, if clothes were sorted by season, sort them now by type. Or, if sorted by type, now sort by season. But keep the clothes in their major group area.

Office supplies could be divided into computer supplies, all types of folders, all types of writing instruments, etc. Resource / reference material could be sub-divided into groups that are regularly used and groups that are occasionally used.

Note: How groups are created will depend on individual needs.

6. Create sub-groups for the sub-groups, if needed.

Sometimes, sub-groups may need additional sorting. For instance summer shoes could be grouped into sandals, dress and casual. (For those with 200 pairs of shoes, this would probably be a good idea.)

If there is a large amount of resource/reference material, it could be grouped by subject or type.

Putting some items into a long-term storage grouping could also be a way to further sub-divide groups.

Continue to sub-divide until all items are in a realistic group. (Keep it simple and don't go overboard. For instance, paper clips made in China don't have to be separated from paper clips made in Germany.)

7. Re-visit the "most important" box or area.

Re-visit the most important box or area and decide whether or not it should remain separate. Now that all other items are grouped and sub-grouped, could some or all of the items be put in other groups?

If this box or area is to remain a separate group, put it to the side again.

8. Develop an easy-to-use storage system.

Clearly label each group, if not apparent by looking at it. Quick identification will save time in the future. Consider a variety of label and storage options: Color-coding, different types of boxes/containers, shelving, etc.

Gather groups that are used often and place them in an area with easy access.

Put lesser used and long-term groups in more isolated areas. Be sure they can be accessed when needed, however.

If there are many, many sub-groups in many, many areas, it might be a good idea to write down, or catalog, where each group can be found.

9. Consider reducing the excess an ongoing event.

Determine the value of anything added to a group. Is it a duplicate? Is it a replacement? Can another one – or two – items be eliminated?

10. Evaluate your organizational plan.

Look at your plan periodically to be sure it is still working. Can any of the current groups be sub-divided, cleaned out, eliminated or moved to long-term storage? Should additional groups be created? Adjusting the plan from time-to-time will be much easier than starting the whole process over again.


Organizing Your Life - Organizing Yourself:

Schedules and Life in General:

The previous section addresses the organization of things and space. And most would agree that organizing these areas will result in less stress and the more productivity. To fully organize your life, however, goals must be set and priorities established. Therefore, setting goals and developing the basic life skills needed to achieve these goals are an even greater step toward less stress and increased productivity.

Your schedule should reflect your goal plan. Consider eliminating schedule items that are not part of the plan. Also consider eliminating items that could – or should – be done by someone else. Wanting to help out is one thing; adopting someone else’s goal plan is another.

There will always be things you have to do that you don't particularly want to do. Problems can arise, however, when most of the items on the schedule are things you don't want to do. Practicing assertiveness will increase the likelihood that your needs are met. It will also allow you to set boundaries and be able to say no when appropriate.

Once a clear plan is established, flexibility and balance are very important. Since no plan is perfect, mistakes and setbacks will happen. Expect them and be prepared to work through them. In addition to various goals, organizing your life will also involve balancing relationships (work, family, friends) to the best of your ability.

Trying to keep every goal and every relationship a top priority every minute of every day is, in itself, an impossible goal. At any given time, your focus should be on the one that is most important. And keep in mind, that this is not necessarily the one that is demanding the most attention.

In reality, organizing your life is an ongoing project. But every step that is achieved will increase your confidence and determination to keep going.