Monday, December 26, 2005

No Need to Get Rid of the Old First - Trust Me!

I want to share this information with everyone because it seems to be a recurring subject of discussion with my clients and people I speak with, in general, about organizing.

A lot of people feel that in order to get started on current organizing tasks, they need to organize the past stuff first. And this is not only untrue, but also will prevent you from starting your organizing projects.

Here are some examples to help clarify what I mean:

Situation #1
o You want to set up a new filing system but your filing cabinets are filled with old paperwork. You want to go through these papers to decide what to keep and what to throw away but you know this is going to be a huge undertaking. You feel that you cannot start the new filing system until you weed through all of the old stuff first.

Not true! You can start a new filing system at any time without going through the old stuff first. Actually, this is the best time of year to do this since we are almost at the beginning of a new year.

Take everything in your filing cabinet and put it into file boxes. Put it aside and mark it as a project that you would like to do. Then commit to taking some time at regular intervals to go through the file boxes and make decisions about this old paperwork. But this is the key: keep to this commitment. Even if you just take 15 minutes per day, you will work your way through these boxes. But if you just put them away and don’t get to them, they will just add to or begin your clutter.

With these old files out of the filing cabinet, you are now free and clear to start with the new system. When you set up your new filing system, my advice is to keep it as simple as possible. File things alphabetically and label the file under what you will think of when you look for a particular item. For example, if you want to find your auto policy, what would you think of? Auto? Insurance – Auto? The Insurance Company Name? It may be that your first choice may change somewhere down the road but that is o.k. If you find you are looking for a particular item under another name, then just change the name on the file. It’s that simple! It will be a bit of a work in progress but one thing you will know for sure is that any paper you are looking for will be in that filing cabinet.

Situation #2
o Every (or almost) every room in your home needs to be organized. You don’t know where to begin. You don’t see the point in organizing one room when the others are in such disarray so you do nothing at all. Or when you start organizing one room, you can’t even stand to look at the others and it depresses you. Or when you bring something that belongs in another room, there is no where to put it so why do this??

Relax. . . .Breathe. . . The simple answer is change your thinking and you can change your life! The first thing to realize in this situation is that this is a work in progress. It is not humanly possible to get all areas of your home organized at one time so the first thing is to change that train of thought.

Start with the room that is causing you the most stress. Decide how you will use this room (what activities take place there) and only keep items in the room that pertain to these activities. Then, get boxes or bags for:
1. Things to give away
2. Things to throw away
3. Things that belong in another room

When you start to organize the room, do not leave the room to put things where they belong. This will only get you off track. That is why there is a box designated for these items.

Once you work your way around the room and fill these boxes with the appropriate items, you can then remove them from the room you are working in. And here is another important reminder: do not let the condition of any other room deter you from what you are doing. If you have items that belong in the kitchen, but the kitchen needs to be organized, put those things in there anyway. I know it will not feel right but trust me, you must do this. Just keep focusing on the room you are working on and remind yourself that you will get to the other rooms.

Then go back to the room you are working on and you will be left with what is to be kept in this room. Now you can find a home for what is to be kept in the room and you will be able to determine if you need any storage containers or furniture to house these items.

Keeping focused is very important because it is very easy to get distracted by other things that need to be done. Just take it one step at a time and you will achieve your goal.

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