Get a Habit

How do they do it? These people that seem to have everything together, the organized ones, can stump those of us who are not as naturally inclined to neatness. Why is it that some people appear to have everything in order while others are lost in clutter chaos? I would argue that it comes down to habits. There are certainly other variables in life that affect being organized such as stress, personality, environment, health, etc., but having the right habits is the key to being successfully organized. What are these habits though? Can they be learned? With some patience and effort, yes. The following is my list of ten habits (although there are many more) that will guide you on your way to becoming more organized.

1. Give everything a “home.” Each item you own should have a designated spot. For example, I always hang my coat on the same hook; I consistently put remote controls back under the television set; I place the scale back on the bottom left cabinet shelf in the bathroom. If you discover that you cannot find a home for something, perhaps it is time to reevaluate its presence in your life. Today, for example, I could not find a single place to stash a few boxes. Time to recycle! Moreover, don’t have junk spots or miscellaneous filing. Your things will get lost and forgotten. Just remember: your things always want to go “home.”

2. Return items immediately after use. Put things back in their home spot right after you are finished using them. For example, if you use the scissors for a craft project, put them back in the utensil holder the minute you know you’re done with them. If you are cooking or baking, return each ingredient after you’ve measured it out. When doing your laundry, put your clothes away the minute they are fresh out of the dryer. When you’re finished watching a movie, immediately put the disc back into the case and onto the shelf. By doing little things like this as you go along your day, you are saving yourself from big clean-ups later. If you are not used to putting things back promptly, this habit can seem annoying and frustrating at first. It will feel like a lot of work. However, the more you do it, the more natural it will become and, soon enough, it won’t annoy you any longer. You just have to put in the time and patience to train yourself. You can do it!

3. Do not become emotionally attached to material possessions. I know that this one is easier said than done, trust me, I am still holding onto some things myself. Learn to let go of the belongings that are no longer of use or value in your life. For example, when I was six years old, my granny passed away. We (she) had been working on sewing clothes for my barbie dolls and many of the outfits were left unfinished. I held onto that box of unfinished barbie doll clothes until some time in my early 20s! It was a rather large box as well, taking up valuable space all those years. When you begin to have numerous possessions that make you feel emotionally attached, you can see how easily space can be gobbled up. And for what? To collect dust! Try and understand why you are attached to something and then ask yourself these logical questions: Do I ever use this? Is it valuable? Do I love this for what it is? Based on your answers, you should be able to discern whether to keep, sell, donate, or discard the item.

4. Purge and donate regularly. Organized individuals regularly assess their belongings to determine whether or not they are needed any longer. If you haven’t used something for over a year – consider purging! Also, question your knickknacks. For example, I have so many figurines, stuffed animals, dishes, candles, vases, art, movies, etc., that have built up over the years. I asked myself: Do I really want these items? Do I get any kind of benefit or enjoyment from them? The answer was no so it was time to donate. I was able to significantly cut down on my knickknacks and keep only the most sentimental and aesthetically pleasing.

5. Regularly declutter. Take some time each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, to clean-up and sort your things. This prevents huge messes from forming. Train yourself into making this a habit.

6. Stick to what works for you. For example, don’t go out and buy twenty different kinds of shampoo. You know which one is your favourite – so stick with that one! Having a bathroom flooded with bottles creates chaos and clutter. Keep what works; the rest is excess.

7. Pay with cash. You are less likely to indulge in buying more junk if you use cash more often. When you have your credit card, it’s easier to keep adding items to your stash. However, when you see your hard-earned, cold hard cash get plunked down, you tend to be more protective of it. Paying with cash makes you think more before you buy.

8. Make your bed. This might sound silly, but it’s actually a very organized way to start your day. It only takes a couple minutes to do and then you are primed for organizing for the rest of the day. You also won’t be tempted to throw things on your nice, clean bed.

9. Keep the essentials. Save only what you need and get rid of the rest (unless it is very sentimental or valuable). Make lists of your belongings (a list for each room) and write down how often – if ever – you use them. If use is rare, it’s time to reconsider! The less you have, the easier it is to stay organized. As I always say, purge, purge, purge!

10. Do the work. Being organized involves staying on top of things and putting in the effort. You could have every organizational device known to humankind and still be a mess if you don’t do the work. The good thing is, the more you do it, the more natural it will become. It can even be enjoyable!

Happy organizing!

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