In this blog, I’m going to teach you a nifty but counter-intuitive organizing trick: ADDING. People are often disorganized precisely because they love increase; they love adding – from stuff to commitments. So, I’ll teach you how to work WITH this natural proclivity (and 4 things to add) to actually simplify your life.
I love to figure out how to help disorganized people get unstuck. Thus, I’m always looking for the mechanics of HOW. And the answer to HOW TO ORGANIZE is different for each person!
Each organizing project (or set of projects) is unique because each person is unique. The outflow of our stuff reflects a multitude of personal dynamics. One of the dynamics determining our state of order includes an invisible lens we each have regarding accumulation or “adding.”
A lot of us love to ADD to our lives.
- We add stuff. Tons of groceries. A stockpile of “staples.” Duplicates in clothing items. A shoe addiction. Office supplies for the next millennium.
- We add commitments. They join multiple boards. They schedule all their weekends. They either can’t or won’t say no.
I’m not going to get into WHY we ADD in this blog, or even comment on what items it might be good to have “extras” of…but rather I’m focusing on helping those with this natural bent to increase.
To a person who likes to surround themselves with MORE, the proposition of organizing can be scary (and usually is avoided) because it asks the collector to GIVE UP stuff, to live with LESS.
For those who feel good when they “plus up” their supply or their daily life, subtracting can feel depriving. It’s the opposite of what you would think: to get organized, don’t you need to SUBTRACT? Isn’t organizing about SUBTRACTING – subtracting clutter, subtracting stress from your life?
Actually, done right, ADDING a few key things can help you simplify your space and your life!
The organizing strategy I offer to those who feel this way is to ADD instead of SUBTRACT. Adding feels natural – like GAIN- to the disorganized person, whereas subtracting seems like LOSS.
If you’re a collector-of-stuff-and-commitments, this strategy of ADDING will honor how you’re made and help you simplify your life at the same time. We will leverage your adding as a SKILL rather than a SETBACK. Bonus!
Below are 4 things you can add to your life to channel your affinity for adding towards a better outcome and advance your organizing efforts.
The first is about creating margin in your day-to-day life….
ADD Reset Time
Perhaps the easiest thing to ADD to your life is reset time.
If you feel you can barely keep up with the pace of life, ADDING dedicated reset time restores your space and sanity.
You can add reset time to:
- Between activities
- A specific day of the week
- The start of every week
- The beginning of every month
The point of reset time is to s.l.o.w. y.o.u.r.s.e.l.f. d.o.w.n. by setting aside special time to practice orderly habits.
The point of reset time is to s.l.o.w. y.o.u.r.s.e.l.f. d.o.w.n. by setting aside special time to practice orderly habits.
Some people put this reset time on their calendars until it becomes a habit.
FIRST, evaluate the things that create pile-up in your home and space, like:
- A kitchen counter clogged with dishes
- Incoming mail on multiple surfaces
- Books you’ve ordered piling up that you never read
- Nightstands covered in glasses and mugs
- A playroom layered in months of playthings
- The clothes chair in your bedroom that is piled high with “wear-agains”
NEXT, pick one or two of these clogs and institute a remedy. You’ll want this remedy to be simple and doable day-in and day-out.
Here are some of our family’s own daily resets to illustrate how this works:
- Every night, I have the kids reset the kitchen – adding a few minutes of their time to load & run the dishwasher & clear out the sink. This way, we come downstairs in the morning to an orderly kitchen that offers clean dishes. After a few morning put-away chores, the kitchen is ready for another day of use.
- After watching movies, I insist my kids reset the living room – putting the furniture and pillows back and tossing empty snack bags. This keeps a primary “public space” in my home looking attractive. This fractional reset time is essential to my peace of mind.
- Every day I try to sweep through my room and pick up “wear again” clothes from the trunk at the end of my bed and hang them up. When I neglect this reset sweep, my beautiful, vintage-y bedroom starts looking like a flea market. I’d rather ADD some hang-up time than live with accumulation.
- Sundays I reset our family vitamin trays. I am training my boys to do their own vitamins, but for now, I set aside time to load their trays. Related to this reset effort; I set aside the empty vitamin bottles and once a month I make an order from my health supplement
Adding reset time clears your surfaces and your mind. It prioritizes the “flow of STUFF” through your home and immediately begins to reduce visual clutter.
As you can tell, reset time is an opportunity to build habits that support your efforts to organize and clean up.
Habits are done daily, but what about those one-off tasks that need to be done? These can be tackled by adding one organizing action per day….
ADD One Organizing Action Per Day
Now that you’re getting good at rhythmic reset time, try adding ONE organizing action per day to subtract clutter and stress.
Right in the middle of your busy life, demands, and meals, simply ADD one action – big or small – to organize and improve your life.
There are thousands of tiny tasks that often aren’t even noticeable enough to add to a TO DO list. Yet, these imperceptible improvements give us momentum as they keep ADDING UP.
Try for one month to ADD one organizing action per day. These tasks can be a large project broken down into tiny parts, or just mini projects.
Here are some examples of the one-organizing-action-a-day from my own life:
- I reset my shopping bags because I was tired of accumulating wasteful plastic store bags. I gathered all the sturdy vinyl and cloth bags and folded them into one large attractive bag with their seams up, so it’s easy to grab for the bag I want. I gathered all clear produce sacks and my mesh cloth produce drawstring bags into a separate bag. I put the two filled bag-of-bags into the trunk of my car for easy retrieval at the grocery store. Now, I’m not accumulating plastic anymore and making use of the bags I have. Win!
- I relocated my vitamins because the way they were stored in bins made it hard for me to easily see when I’m running low on inventory. I repurposed an old bookshelf for this purpose, and broke them into 3 rows: vitamins, herbs, and minerals/compounds. Then, I stacked like bottles together so I could see how much I have. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – I stored this little bookshelf off one end of my kitchen counter (like an end-cap at a store), so that my supply is located near where I use them. Now, I’m not running out or experiencing expired supplements due to overbuying.
- I combined my jewelry collection with an inherited collection from my mom. This was an emotional project, as dealing with such personal items after a loss is grieving. Yet, at the same time, processing someone’s belongings is also a beautiful way to help mentally process their life and the things they enjoyed. Organizing my mama’s jewelry affords me visibility and access to them, and every day or two I try to wear something that belonged to her; it keeps her memory close.
Tackling one small, likely backlogged project (or one small step of a bigger project) each day provides MOMENTUM in your organizing journey.
At first, adding one nominal task each day may seem like it’s not making much difference in your overall need-for-order. Yet, if you keep it up, and give yourself to each project and let yourself ENJOY it, you will find that these little efforts add up and result in miraculous, life-giving transformation!
Some amazing things are going to happen from your one-a-day commitment….
- You are going to start to feel proud of your consistent, daily mini-efforts
- You’ll experience satisfaction in just a half hour or hour, instead of waiting to tackle a big, hairy project
- You are going to start looking for the next mini project you can do one-day-at-a-time
- You’ll enjoy the benefits DAILY from your DAILY inputs (like using ordered grocery bags).
I can’t wait to hear from you on social media what your daily projects have been and how you’re benefiting in your daily life!
In addition to ADDING reset habits and mini-projects, you can ADD better storage to advance your level of order.
ADD Improved Organizing Storage
Too often, in our burning desire to “restore order” to our lives, we run out and buy organizing bins and baskets and throw them at our mess. Yet, we all know that these hasty acquisitions don’t last long-term.
I am NOT an advocate of acquiring storage UNTIL you know EXACTLY what you need.
Once you’ve understood your organizing problem, ADDING better storage solutions to solve this known problem can make all the difference!
To apply a useful storage solution, you’ve got to know FIRST:
- The problem you’re solving. In other words, don’t find a darling basket and buy it and then bring it home and find some stuff to add to it! Effective organizing means that we ONLY add stuff and commitments when it will help enrich our lives. Abandoned organizing bins piled up in your closet or garage are a sign that you bought before you thought. Start with the problem you’re trying to solve and insist that the product solve the problem.
- The size, quantity, and growth potential of the inventory. For evaluating this, I like to use banker’s boxes and their lids: I can organize everything from paper to stuff into these collapsible, temporary tools. After it’s all sorted, I can then easily see what size bin or divided tray or vertical system is needed. Sorting inventory into like-sized bins helps in the preliminary processing phase to determine the best improved storage solution that will work for you long-term.
- Your visual needs – Put significant thought into adding storage solutions before purchasing. Determine what kind of things you’re storing and whether you will need those items to be visually ready, grab-and-go items (like my open vitamin shelves) or hidden behind closed doors (like auxiliary office supply storage). Your tolerance for mis-matched or unsightly items (like office supplies) also must be considered. Since I need open shelves for my vitamins, I arranged the repurposed bookshelf in such a way that only our family sees into it, but visitors to our kitchen don’t even notice it.
If you start your organizing project by ADDING storage bins you’ll just end up with a closet full of abandoned containers!
Instead, practice restraint by really considering the items that need to be collected and stored together.
In addition to adding reset habits, mini projects, and better storage, you can ADD a non-judgmental partner to support your organizing efforts.
ADD an Organizing Partner
Doing something that challenges you – like organizing- is often most effectively done in community. This is why people love work-out partners. It’s also a reason why some people engage a counselor; having someone to walk you through challenges brings perspective.
We’re incredibly more likely to stick with tasks that are (at least at first) onerous to us if we are supported by someone else.
Whether it’s working out or getting organized, adding a PARTNER to your efforts will increase your stamina and success.
Just having an engaged advocate with you brings energy and fresh eyes to your organizing project.
Professional Order Restorers are like a whole team of people all rolled into one, caring and capable person.
- We are “possibilitarians” equipped with vision for people and spaces
- We’re planners and strategists
- We tackle one project or entire homes or businesses
- We’re “life managers,” fulfilling personal or executive assistant functions
- We are space designers and expert re-purposers
- We’re executors-of-details; we see how the parts make up the whole
- We serve as counselors, coaches, and mediators-between-stakeholders
- We may look like maids as we’re vacuuming out closets and wiping down surfaces prior to reloading spaces
- We’re an outside opinion, a listening ear, a sounding board, and voice of wisdom and reason
- We’re trusted advocates, confidential holders of passwords and keys, and insiders to the family
- We are partners in purpose with Life Reclaimists™ like YOU who need to “restore order”
If you’ve ever wanted to hire a professional organizer, we can help. Call our email our office to learn about our in-person services in the Pacific Northwest and Texas and our virtual services nationwide.
As we wind down this subject of ADDING, I just love how EASY it is.
To the disorganized person, ADDING feels natural– it feels like GAIN- whereas subtracting/letting go can feel like LOSS.
If you have a penchant for collecting and adding layers to your space and life, you will THRIVE by applying these 4 strategies to your life, simplifying as you go! I challenge you to start ADDING reset time, one-action-a-day, better storage, or a organizing partner.
And don’t forget to ADD GRACE for yourself! Keep going– ordering your life helps you reclaim what matters most!
Need help reclaiming your life? I’ve got you! Here are YOUR NEXT STEPS to “restore order”:
- Related to this topic: Vicki’s REfresh article
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