Sunday, January 9, 2011

Organizing Tip: Developing New Habits

Many of my clients worry about slipping back into old habits after we complete our sessions. Sustaining order in the house is easier if we establish new habits that soon become second nature.  I try to teach my clients the following habits that are simple and easy to learn.

1. Make your bed. Your bed takes up the most visual space in your bedroom. The simple act of making your bed immediately makes your room look tidy and orderly.

2. Do a quick sort of your mail as soon as you receive it. Most of the mail we receive is junk mail. Immediately toss the junk mail to lesson your load. We keep a recycle bin next to our door so we don't carry the junk mail into our home.

3. Shop your closets or pantry before you go shopping. It's very easy to buy duplicates if you don't have a good sense of what you already own. For example, I have a client who has office supplies coming out of her ears because she didn't know she already had it kicking around in her closet. Once we organized her office, she got a better sense of her office supply inventory. She now double checks her closet before she goes out and accidentally buys duplicates.

4. Continual purging. My husband and I keep two donation boxes in the house - one in the bedroom and one in the garage. When we come across items we don't need anymore, we put them in one of our 2 donation boxes. When we fill up the boxes, we drop them off at our local Goodwill. It's much easier to do this over time rather than carve out a couple hours to devote to purging during our precious weekends.

5. Never leave a room empty handed. There's usually some random object that ends up in a room it doesn't belong in. When you leave a room, take the misplaced item with you and return it to its proper place.

6. Keep flat surfaces empty. When your items do not have permanent homes, it's very tempting to throw it on any available flat surface, and clutter begins to accumulate. Make sure everything has an assigned place so you know where to return it, and if you're more particular like I am, remove the flat surfaces to stop the urge to pile. For example, we had a console in the hallway that was a constant clutter magnet. I got rid of it to force us to properly put things away.

7. Question your purchases. Ask yourself the following questions when you feel the need to buy something - Do you really need it? Do you already have something similar? Where would it go? What would it replace? Remember, we actively use only 20% of all our possessions. The rest of it ends up as clutter.

8. Regular maintenance - I can set up a simple system and organizational infrastructure for my clients that is easy to manage, but the system will still need some regular maintenance in the long run. Ideally, this will only need to be attended to on a weekly or monthly basis. If the system is streamlined and everything has a well defined process and place, it should only take minutes to tidy thing up.

It takes practice to develop these new habits, but in time, you'll find yourself doing these tasks without even thinking about it. Don't beat yourself up if you forget now and then. Life gets in the way, and we get distracted with other priorities, but over time, a little effort everyday goes a long way.

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