When does a human being decide to change? Change anything about their life? When their current way of life just does not work anymore. Arriving at such a contingency point in my life I decided to change too. To do a complete overhaul of a system that was no longer working for me. The earlier system did everything to make me sleep-deprived, diseased, continuously attending to deadlines, yet sitting with an inundated list of outstanding tasks and getting delayed. The earlier system robbed me of my personal life, and my social life seriously jeopardized my mental well-being, and threw my daily routine off-balance in every imaginable way. I was almost pulling my hair because my life was a disorganized mess. So finally, I was compelled to think about how to get organized and be stress-free.
It was then, that I realized, I must re-introduce some amount of discipline in my life, for health, productivity, and personal relationships. And the first step to that was a 180-degree organizing makeover.
When you go about organizing a place or giving order to messy chaos, the most unnerving question that comes to your mind is, Where do I even start?
I had the same question on my mind too. Looking at all the clutter that my home (and my life) was, it seemed like a really daunting and uphill task, and truth be told in parts it was. But then again, if you have no discipline in life, it will affect the quality of your life big time! And I could no longer afford the massive losses that came with a lack-of-disciplined approach to planning and organizing things in and around every area of my life. I desperately needed to eliminate the stress.
Organizing is extremely therapeutic if done right, in a process-oriented fashion. The subject of personal development has been quite a conversation piece lately. Now there are several ways to approach this task. Some attend to the clutters first and some start making planners. I will write about the exact method that I implemented ( and in some areas, I am still in the process of implementing). The more cluttered your life is, the longer it will take for you to plan and organize. It is great if you do have time in your hand, a helping hand, energy/health, a bigger space, and money to invest in organizers. But if you were in my shoes, you would be practically left with no alternatives, but to magically conjure time to declutter, plan and organize, your home, work, routine, and life in general, even without a helping hand, in a very small space, and very little cash to spare. It will help if you have a bigger space and multiple rooms, but if you follow my blogs on organizing, they will also help you to organize very small living spaces. Even if you are on a shoestring budget, this blog is going to come in handy for you. Also, I would divide this blog into different sections like Organization Basics, Home Organization, Professional Life Organization, Maintenance, and Personal Life Organization, so that you can pick these different areas of life separately, and start to organize efficiently.
ORGANIZATION BASICS: THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO ORGANIZE
1. THE MAGIC OF MINIMALISM
Masafumi Nagasaki was a photographer in his fifties when he got fed up with civilization. In 1989, he left his wife and two rumored children and moved alone to Sotobanari, 1-km-wide densely vegetated and unpopulated islet, as he struggled to adapt to modern society in Japan and wanted to be alone on the isolated island. Gradually, he made the completely deserted, Sotobanari his new home and lived there all by himself for 29 years. If you watch the documentary made on this man’s life by Alvaro Cerezo, you will be able to realize, how little we need to be able to survive, and yet have a healthy, happy, fulfilling, experiential life.
What’s all this brou-ha-ha about minimalistic life?
Let’s counter this question with another. Who doesn’t want a stress-free life?
A couple of problems associated with hoarding materialistic possessions are,
a) It will be expensive and exhaustive to move.
b) The maintenance will be stressful and turns out to be more expensive than the original value of your possession. You have a lot more on your plate to worry about.
c)They contribute to consumer waste build-up which may or may not get recycled.
d) And funny but likely, they might get stolen too (while no one can steal your experiences).
e) You must leave all your accumulated material investment back on earth for others to enjoy, at the end of your life.
If you strip your material possessions to bare minimum necessities, and back to what really genuinely adds value to your life, it will make you much happier, and helps you function better. And definitely, it makes your life clutter-free. This is not about getting rid of your stuff. This is about taking control of your life! Thus, as a life coach, how to get organized is one of the most frequently asked questions that I have come across.
2. DON’T INVEST A LOT OF MONEY IN BEAUTIFYING A PLACE YOU WON’T BE USING EVERYDAY
This is something I have learned firsthand. My home is 2000kms away from the city where I am staying, for work. So I make the least effort in purchasing things to beautify my home because I won’t be using them. Everything we buy has its own durability, whether or not we are using it. So I would rather not stock up on things in a place (and engage my money into) where I don’t stay. I am more likely to use that money in getting things, that I might need to use frequently, in a place where I stay. If I store a lot of things in a place I visit barely 3 times a year, all that money I used up to buy them is a waste anyway, if I die because they will remain unused.
3. BEFORE BUYING ANYTHING ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS:
Do you need it?
Will you use it?
Let’s say u walk past a store and see a beautiful designer scarf. But you have close to 20 different scarves already that you do not use regularly. No matter how much you want that scarf you just saw, it might end up being the 21st scarf that you do not use much, and in 3 years’ time has gone completely out of fashion because of its design or something similar. Or your personal fashion might change and you’d have to give that scarf away. So why invest $70 on a scarf you are going to wear maybe 20 odd times at the most when you can invest that money in something far more useful or meaningful maybe? Every time you are using that scarf, it’s close to $4 spent ( not including the maintenance expenditure). With $70, you can make a short weekend solo trip that is going to give you far more interesting memories. Always consider before buying, if you really need it. Excess of stuff does not just make us unhappy. It also causes degradation of our habitat.
Are you going to really love it?
Do u have anything similar?
While you are seeing the scarf on the mannequin and the shop’s visual merchandizers have done a brilliant job of propping it up with the right look/colors/dress that compliments the scarf exactly the way it should, you think you want that scarf. But can you wear the scarf with most of your outfits, or does it go with only a few very selective ones? If it is so, then it’s definitely a bad purchase, as you won’t get to use it a lot. (Personally, I try to maintain a neutral pastel wardrobe, so that most of the accessories I buy, might compliment most of the outfits I have.) Do not buy immediately. Take two or three rounds of the shop. Delay the decision for a day or two. It’s quite a possibility that you are making an emotionally impulsive purchase. The delay will ensure, that you can calculate if u need to use that money elsewhere. And it will also allow you to search your wardrobe and for any other scarf that might be very similar in color or design, to the one you are about to purchase.
Do you have room to store it?
If your home is destroyed in a fire, would u be saving this item?
If you are living in a small space it is likely that you do not have a lot of storage space. If you go on making purchases that you do not need, you will also have difficulty storing them, and eventually your living space will be a disorganized mess of clutter. Let’s say you have bought a dress that is 2 sizes smaller than your current size, then do not make any further purchases till you are able to get into that outfit. This will keep you motivated to get fit. In the meanwhile, invest the money instead, in working on getting into that outfit.
The easiest way to find out whether you need some item is to picture what you are going to do, in case there is a fire or your home is in rubbles or if there is any other emergency and you have to leave your home forever, and you have a maximum of 10 minutes to pick the bare minimum that you need the most to survive. Will you be picking up the stuff that you are buying now, in such an emergency?
4. DO NOT OVERSTOCK
Given everything comes with an expiration date, it is foolish of us to overstock on anything. And by that, I do not only mean perishable commodities. Almost all of us have over-purchased toiletries, make-up, sauces, condiments, packaged food, medicines, and pet food that has been pushed to the furthest and the darkest corners of the closet or the fridge and forgotten. Overstocking ( unless there is a calamity, war, or pandemic situation) not only leads to wastage of money but also occupies areas of the closet that we cannot utilize. Overstocking causes serious issues with closet organization. Do not overstock any item. Always purchase not more than 2 in numbers of the same item, so that, if one of them is used up, and for some reason, you cannot get another immediately, you still have one left in the stock.
5. BEFORE YOU START TO GET RID OF ALL DISTRACTIONS
Before you start organizing, switch off your WiFi and shut down your computer. If something can’t wait, the concerned person will make a physical phone call to you. If your pet/s, or children are always up to mischief, lock them out of the space you plan to organize. Finish your meal before you start so that you don’t end up thinking of food, midway and abandon the task.
6. DON’T TRY TO ORGANIZE EVERYTHING ON THE SAME DAY
It is impossible to properly organize everything on the same day, even if you try. If you think you can, the job will either be very poorly done or you might end up completely frustrated. Divide your organizing plan into smaller bits and pieces. Dedicate 1 to 2 hours every day to effectively organize each of the sectors.
7. MISE-EN-PLACE ( EVERY OBJECT HAS A HOME)
If you take an object from a location, do not put it back in a different location. Put it back in its designated place, so that you can even direct a blind person to look for it and find it! That is the beauty of organization. Also, keep cleaning up as you go. Every object that you use, has a home, and do not misplace the object from there, to keep your home organized all the while with the least bit of effort. Else even after you painstakingly organize everything, your home is going to go back to the chaos post the big bang, in no time. If you are living with other people, who move your stuff around, leave strict instructions with them, and if they fail to comply, separate your living space/room from theirs, and put a door lock on your room, every time you go out. ( I totally mean the latter part. If they are offended, let them be because the hidden cost of disorganization is way more than what you can afford in your life. Once I got my government identity cards misplaced this way, and couldn’t board a flight. )
8. ORGANIZE YOUR HOME ONE ROOM AT A TIME
I cannot stress enough the importance of this one. If you attempt to organize several rooms at the same time, you will go bananas with the multiple checklists that you need to do, for the entire house. The better ( and much easier) way is to approach one room at a time, and make lists of whatever purchase has to be made, and whatever needs to go.
9. SAFETY AND SECURITY
While you are organizing, also do keep in mind a few things. Do not put any valuable close to the entryway. This also includes the keys. You never know who to trust really, with global inflation at its peak. A few weeks ago I had a break-in at my place while I was home! The burglar took whatever valuables were kept close to the entryway of the living room. That included a camera, lenses, charging wires, accessories, a hard-disk drive, and some cash. Never ever make the mistake of keeping valuables ( including keys) close to the entryway. Anyone can pick up your key, make an impression, and put it back. You will never get to know.
10. LEAVE PLENTY OF WALKING SPACE
While you organize and put your storage units, ensure, that you have plenty of walking spaces in your room and elsewhere. If your living space is clogged, so much so that you can’t even stretch or dance or play with your pets, or kids, or do yoga, you are going to be extremely unhappy. If you are not left with much space to move around, consider getting rid of much of the stuff that you do not use regularly, or getting a bigger space ( whichever is more logical and viable).
11. PURCHASE NECESSARY ORGANIZATION BASICS
In order to begin organizing your space, be it home, professional, or personal, you can purchase pretty planners and organizers that will keep you motivated ( usually cute stationeries do that part), and if you don’t want to purchase, you can always get a notepad and a pen and start planning. In due course you would also need to purchase storage units, to effectively sort things. You would also need whiteboards or bulletin boards or mesh boards to keep your entire organization plan viewable in one go. What is viewable is usually achievable.
12. DON’T BUY IF RENTING COSTS U MUCH LESS
If you are not staying at a place permanently, a lot of times renting things can cost you way lesser than actually buying them, and later maintaining them and carrying them with you, wherever you move. And this is just not limited to bigger furniture or heavy electronic appliances/devices. This can also be your dresses and even your storage units! A lot of friends purchase most of the things that they need, from where they are traveling to ( for a short stay of a few months let’s say), and sell them out, donate them, or simply discard them in order to travel light.
13. DON’T BUY MORE STORAGE PRODUCTS THAN U NEED
Do not fall into this trap, of buying more storage than you need just because they looked cute. Remember at all times, your storage units themselves need a place for storage ( your closet) and that place has a finite capacity. Now, to accommodate your increasing number of storage containers you won’t buy another closet, would you? If it comes to that, tomorrow you may need to buy a bigger home! How maddening does that sound?
14. SET TIMERS TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
You can hardly finish any work without procrastination if you don’t set an alarm for it. Organizing may not be your best suit, and thus you might find yourself bored and tired, while you are at it. Always set an alarm for each task, to avoid any distractions while you are organizing.
15. PLAY MUSIC
Play some refreshing music to avoid getting bored while you are organizing.
16. TAKE MICROBREAKS
It is not possible to keep on working for 2 hours at a stretch, especially something that also involves physical labor. Take short 7 to 10 minutes break, every 30 minutes, sip some green tea, watch a few motivational videos, water your plants, read something light, or call someone up( but keep the conversation short), to energize and reach your organizing goal of the day effectively.
17. IF YOU HAVE A CAT OR A PUPPY
A lot of you would agree, that reading or writing an article titled “how to get organized and be stress-free”, is kind of an irony when you are a pet owner. If you have these little devils as I do, you cannot afford to have pretty things on display. Puppy-proofing a home is keeping a lot of things out of their reach ( mostly shoes). For these babies, everything is a chew-toy. For Cats, whatever is kept on an open raised surface ( table, headboard, shelves, you name it !) is worth knocking over! So my work desk isn’t as pretty as it could have been ( I can’t even keep my DIY crafts) because I have to put everything locked inside my closet, including the wireless mouse. My cabinets are all covered, they are not allowed to have open shelves at all costs. The busiest piece of equipment that you will own, is probably a lint-roller if you have a cat. When u have more than one, you are no longer a pet owner. You are a referee.
18. THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLOURS
Unless you are going for a Boho-Maximalist look, it’s always better to choose lighter pastel shades for your walls, the upholstery, and the storage. Lighter colors reflect the light much better and make your room look spacious. Try not to use more than 3 accent colors at the same time, as they are likely to make the room look really cluttered and the space quite cramped.
19. ADDING PERSONAL TOUCH
As human beings, we love to add our personal touch to the place that we inhabit. It is great to add selective artifacts and art pieces that reflect your personality and taste but doesn’t go overboard with that, or else your home would start looking like a dump yard of unrelated objects.
20. THINK LONGTERM
Are you going to stay in your place long-term? What is your lifestyle like? Do u travel frequently? Do u stay alone at your place? In a lot of cases, the best idea might be not to keep plants or pets if you stay alone, or you need to travel frequently, for obvious reasons. Have some practical considerations.
We aimed to make this post, not another “self-help” article, but a thorough organizing guide.
Still clueless about how to get organized? Watch this space for our next few articles where we show you step by step, how u can truly get organized and have a stress-free life.
Do let us know in the comment section below if u liked the post and implemented some of the points mentioned above in your own life. Also, if you wish to see more posts from us with practical life hacks, professional development, personal development, soft skills, and management lessons in the future. To get in touch with a Professional Organizer or a Life Coach, for managing the clutter of your business and personal life, do get in touch with us!
The writer is a Professional Photographer and also a Professional and Personal Branding Consultant. For booking a consultation session, on a no fluff and no fuss personal and professional development routine, that you can easily follow, get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash , Photo by Keenan Beasley on Unsplash , Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash , Photo by Tushar Ranjan on Unsplash , Photo by Henrique Félix on Unsplash , Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash , Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash , Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash , Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash , Photo by Maarten Deckers on Unsplash , Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash , Photo by Blue Bird: https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-putting-bubble-wrap-on-a-chair-7218496/