10 Steps to Really Get Organized

It’s been 10 years now that I have been working as a Professional Organizer. On a day to day basis, I get caught up in my clients’ lives, listening to their problems, helping them create a plan to get organized and to achieve their immediate goals. So every once in awhile, I have to take a step back and look at what all these “disorganized people” have in common. This helps me focus on simple solutions. Let me summarize some common problems I see and steps you can take to really getting organized this year.

1. Set Priorities – You’ve got to clearly state what your priorities are. Not only with your big goals for the year, but with regard to what you need to get organized.  Most disorganized people focus on the little things they think HAVE TO get done but in reality, they miss the big picture. Often, they consider everything to be a priority. Once you say yours out loud to someone else, write them down to stay focused.

2. Take the Time – Organizing is first a project, then it’s a process. It probably took you many years to be in the disorganized state that you are. Don’t expect to dig out of it in 3-4 hours, even with a professional’s help. Plan on at least 8 hours per room and then you’ll have to develop daily & weekly routines to get everything back to order. In the long run, organization will save you time.

3. Focus – Pick a room or a category and stick with it. Once it is complete, move on to the next thing.  Your results will be far better if you do one thing at a time than if you do a hundred things in a rushed fashion.

4. Accept that you will have to change – I love clients that give me a long list of what WON’T work for them in the initial meeting. While it’s good to know your style, if you want to change your surroundings, you’ve got to change your habits. Be willing to try something new in hopes of new results.

5. For a dramatic change, take everything out of a room or off your desk. – This forces you to choose the most important & favorite things and only put those things back in the room on back on the desk. Basically everything else can be tossed or put away. Disorganized people tend to fear the big clean out and start only in small areas.

6. Make quick decisions  – Every piece of paper does not require a 10 minute explanation. Paper falls into 1 of 3 categories:  TO DO, TO READ, TO FILE. Anything else is trash. Same goes for clothing & household items (keep, donate, trash)If you keep that in mind your sorting will go much faster!

7. Put items where you will use them – Don’t focus so much on leaving everything out so you can see/remember it. Also don’t focus on shoving everything into little cubbies. You have to place items logically so you can read, react, and use them.

8. Organize papers into categories, then handle them. – Some people believe that reacting to every piece of paper as you see it is cleaning off your desk. But if you put a stack of “To Call” papers together, or “To do on computer” work together you will actually be more efficient with your time. Organize first then DO.

9. Limit what comes into your home – If paper work is your nemesis, stop the junk mail, subscriptions, etc. If you have tons of clothes, vow not to buy anything new until you clear out all closets and clothes in storage. The more you have, the more you have to organize.

10. If you hire a professional organizer – Remember that he/she is there to help you get yourself organized. Don’t rely on them to do things you don’t like to do. It’s your life and when the organizer leaves, you are going to have to live it on a day to day basis. Set up simple systems that you can maintain.

Which of these steps do you find the most difficult to do?




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