How Organizing Compares To Dieting

No surprise that after a season of over-indulgence, two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions are: 1. to lose weight and 2. to get organized this year!

As a Professional Organizer, and as someone who has always watched her weight, I have noticed that the two objectives have a lot in common. So I thought maybe one can tackle both goals by applying similar strategies.

We all know that you can lose weight by taking the “fast & furious” approach. If you cut down your diet to liquids, carrots & celery and run a couple miles every day, in two weeks you’re bound to see some results. Likewise if you take the time to throw out half the clutter in a room, re-arrange the items that are left, put up shelves with bins or whatever you need to contain your possessions, you will have an organized room, even if the rest of your house is a disaster. We’ve all seen it on TV. And I think we can all imagine what happens after the dramatic make over. Visit those people or those rooms in a few months, and they’re right back where they started. So what strategies can help you sustaining the long-sought-after goals of being in shape and organized? I came up with five common principals that seem to be the key to success in these areas:

  1. You have to set realistic goals – Deciding what you want is half the battle. Are you shooting for an ideal weight or size? Or do you want your whole house organized? In each case, it didn’t take a month to get to this position so it’s going to take a long time to get out of these positions. It’s best to set interim goals that are realistic and measurable so you feel motivated to keep up with the progress however slow it might feel. For example, “I am going to hang all my clothes in my closet and whatever doesn’t fit, I will donate.” Or, “I will stop eating fast food for the next three months.” Achieve these little goals that will help you work towards the big goal by the end of the year. Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in a month for that high school reunion. And don’t expect to have your whole house organized in a weekend. You’ll just set yourself up for failure.
  2. Daily routines will help you maintain – All the new shiny equipment in the world can’t help you if you don’t have healthy routines. I’ve seen it many times. Someone buys a new weight bench thinking, “This will help me get in shape.” Someone else buys a desk or closet “organizer” and thinks, “this will help me get organized.” Wrong. Only you can get yourself in shape and only you can get yourself organized. The equipment can help you, sure, but first you have to decide what you want and how you’re going to get there. Then buying the appropriate equipment will make sense. We’ve all heard the basic routines of dieting: eat healthy foods and exercise every day. For staying organized I recommend straightening daily, cleaning weekly and cleaning out certain areas on a seasonal basis. It’s also good to involve your family or whoever you live with so you’re not trying to do either resolution alone.
  3. Only put in what you will use – The more you shop, the more you have to organize. And the more you eat, the more you have to exercise. It’s a pretty basic concept. If you don’t put it in, you won’t have to take it out! In other words be particular about what you eat and what you buy. Both should be useful and should make you feel great. Other than that your just stuffing yourself and in the end you will not feel good about yourself or your environment.
  4. In all things, balance – As with the crash dieting you can’t be too extreme. You have to have a balanced diet just as you have to have a balanced life in order to be organized. The best example of a balanced schedule is one that is color coded. You can do this with many applications, including Google calendars. If you designate a color for work, exercise, family time, education, etc. you can see how balanced or not your weekly & monthly schedules are. Just as a healthy plate is full of color, so is a healthy schedule. And if there is no room in your schedule or no room on your plate – your simply doing or eating too much! So trim it down to reasonable portions.
  5. Reward yourself appropriately for reaching your goal. You can’t go out for a huge meal to reward yourself for losing weight. Just like you can’t go shopping to fill up a closet that you just pared down. Remember, “All things in moderation.” Reward yourself with a new dress or suit for getting to your ideal weight. And reward yourself with one decorative piece for organizing a room in your house. And that’s it. Don’t over-indulge or the cycle starts all over again!