My Organizing Formula: Small Goals, Big Rewards

4 min read

My Organizing Formula:  Small Goals, Big Rewards

Getting and, more importantly, staying organized is one of those goals that never gets accomplished for me. I can never check that box off my list, and it weighs heavily. I'm forever coming up with ideas for organizing and streamlining at home, but have realized that there are too many moving parts, most of which I do not have control over and a variety of personalities who may or may not care if they can find anything inside the junk drawer.

But, this fall I started to feel a stronger compulsion to cleanup, organize, and get a fresh start. And I did make some progress. One day I started by heading to the farthest corner of the basement and looked at one counter. I threw away unused, 2-year old Bar Mitzvah invitations (saving one for history), and got rid of all the cards for thank you notes had been written. Voila – an empty counter! Then I opened a drawer in the built-in desk – it was full of pens, papers, half-used journals, and some other potentially usable things – and for me, that is the problem. I look at a 95% used roll of 10-year old scotch tape and think that I will use it when I wrap a present – or that old pair of pants that don’t fit exactly and are not in style – why not save them for a day when we are painting the basement? . Well – somehow, and for some reason, I finally broke free. I threw away the tape. It unleashed the beast. I spent a day and a half in solitude over Thanksgiving and purged (I guess everyone else was watching football or trying not to be assigned a job). I sent 10 bags of clothes (the big ones) to Goodwill (and recorded all for my taxes), sent out several bags of hand-me-downs and hauled out what felt like tons to the trash. I cleaned closets, drawers, old work files, tossed DVDs and videos from when my kids were in preschool, and I think I vacuumed the garage. I even cleaned out my sock drawer and put in old cookie tins to organize it (not working that well, might need to revise). I inspired, maybe guilted, my husband to organize the “art” room (AKA, the furnace room, work shop, Costco paper towel holding area, tennis racket warehouse and suitcase storage area). He was even inspired to devise a new way to hang up the suitcases so that we are crawling between studs and digging under the stairwell every time. And it was awesome! I walked through those rooms, and I could breathe.

So, in case you get motivated, here is my Top 5 List to get you started –and they don’t cost any money or involve DIY storage solutions.

  1. Purge – and be brutal. Most of us just have too much stuff (I watch the Tiny House show on HGTV in awe and don’t quite believe that they are not storing all their belongings in their parents’ basements). It feels better to give as much as possible away. There are always schools looking for donations, neighbors with younger kids who could use the bucket of Legos, coat drives, and the drop-off lane at Goodwill. But toss the trash!
  2. Be Transparent –in our house, out of sight means out of mind. Keep things in view- in Ziplocs and clear bins- or very clearly labeled (with big labels and fat markers like in a preschool).
  3. Re-gift-cycle – I gave away almost our entire library of children’s books – except for a few favorites – as gifts to friends and family. A little note inside about how much you loved this book makes it extra special (of course, only do this if they are in good shape)
  4. Take Small Steps. Keeping life neat and organized is a challenge for many of us (me!), but I would love my house to be in shape for an impromptu dinner with friends without the 30 minute sweat- provoking cleaning sprint. The idea of cleaning out your entire house is overwhelming. Instead go for smaller goals: a drawer here, a cabinet there, or a single pile. When you are watching TV or talking on the phone, pick a spot , grab a trash bag, purge and reorganize.
  5. Reward yourself. After completing even a small project, take a step back and look at the clean surface or closet and be proud. Give yourself a pat on the back, a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of wine and go do something that you enjoy. Remember that this is a work in progress, and, often, it is not the highest priority. No one gets hurt if the clutter remains a little longer .

Have at it and Enjoy
–but only if it will help you to breathe.
Next up - National Linen Closet Day - Remember QuickZip folds flat!