Glossy magazines at the grocery checkout line promise “order in a hurry” with their quick tip articles. It’s so tempting to take this shortcutting advice since we all want to find the silver bullet that will bail us out of our mess. But have you ever noticed that those shortcutting solutions never last?

If you long for lasting change, you will need to replace the band-aids you’ve been trying for an organizing process that works.

The Process Principle™ is the focus of this second installment in my series “Getting Organized for Good.” As much as we want to remedy our disorderly life with a shotgun approach, I think we all know deep down that long term change comes with time.

Organizing is not a set of activities as the magazines (and even a lot of books) would have us believe. It is not something that is executed in five and fifteen minute bursts.


True organizing is a discovery process.

It is something that we embrace as a lifestyle, not a frantic event at the point of crisis. Authentic organizing is a fluid, natural, revealing process in which you discover solutions that fit with your environment and lifestyle.

We don’t become disorganized in a vacuum. There are many contributing factors to our harried lives and spaces. In order to get organized for good, you will need to discover the iceberg beneath the surface of your messes.

You will need to objectively peel back the layers of your chaos to discover the precipitating causes of your disorganization.

You’ll need to evaluate not only the use of your space, but also how you manage your time, tasks, and information as well.

Your organizing problems cannot be resolved long term without examining your habits, which are likely contributing to your clutter. In short, a good organizing process BEGINS with zooming out and investigating what has been going on behind the scenes.

Instead of settling for the temporary appearance of order, compliments of the “quick fix,” I encourage you to begin your organizing journey committed to a process that will deliver real results.

What does that process look like? Well, let’s begin with what true organizing is NOT:

A faulty approach to organizing is:
  • Stashing things out of sight
  • Tidying up to achieve a “neat” appearance
  • Waiting until critical mass to take action
  • Endless attempts of 5 minute fixes
  • Activities you do once a day to “clean up”
  • A one-time overhaul followed by the expectation that it will “stay that way”
  • A goal you “arrive” at, never having to address it again
  • An end in itself; the outcome of a beautiful space
A viable, lasting organizing approach is:
  • Digging out of backlogged accumulation
  • Pruning your environment and schedule of clogging elements
  • Establishing and sticking to systems
  • Breaking through old habits and practicing new ones
  • Ongoing choices to uphold order in your life
  • A lifestyle you embrace and maintain daily
  • A means to an end: making room for the important things in your life

We’re so used to using products, tips, and tricks to address our disorder we may likely be confused about what an organizing process would entail. We are used to immediate fixes and we don’t know how to follow a process. Here is some insight into the nature of organizing as a process instead of an activity:

The three-fold nature of The Process Principle:

1. A Discovery Process: Imposing a solution that you read in a book might seem like a speedy way to get to “organized,” but often it short-circuits the organizing process.

Instead of settling for cookie cutter solutions, a discovery process aims to uncover the best solution for you, your family, your job, your season of life, and a host of other considerations.The-Process-Principle-Iceberg

Using keen observation, a discovery process taps into what’s going on below the surface. Rather than focusing on simply eliminating clutter, a discovery process looks beyond your clutter to see the floor plan, traffic pattern, possibilities, and constraints of each space.

A discovery process also takes into account the people living in or using the space. A discovery process widens your view to see the whole picture.

When you use The Process Principle as a discovery tool you can discern how your space can actually support your priorities for your family and your life.

2. An Organic Process: As scary as it might sound, a good organizing process develops as it moves forward. That’s right, even a professional organizer doesn’t begin a process knowing exactly how it will turn out!

One of the most frightening but liberating facts about organizing that I have learned “in the trenches” is that you have to get comfortable letting a project take shape over time. That’s not to say that you can’t envision how the space is going to turn out, but you may need to wait for some solutions to present themselves.

3. A Self-Awareness Process: If you are constantly facing the need to organize, you may need to investigate what is really going on.

If you are continually buying things, a shopping addiction may be the bigger issue than a need to “organize” your belongings.

The-Process-Principle-Self-ReflectionIf you are creating a dramatic crisis all the time or overbooking your schedule so that you’re never home, you may need a reality check that no amount of organizing activity will address those issues.

A self-awareness process must be undertaken as part of your organizing journey if you want to stop the cycle. Until you get serious about leaving your baggage at the curb you will likely drag your self-defeating habits into a disorganized future.

If you can embrace organizing as a process, you will give yourself an enormous gift. The Process Principle will liberate you from the defeat of backsliding and unrealistic expectations. A good organizing process reveals the bigger picture, develops organically, and uncovers greater self-awareness.

If you practice organizing as an ongoing process (instead of a frustrating, hit-and-miss activity) you will begin to enjoy a lifestyle of greater order, ease, and freedom.


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