After January’s #OrganizingwithDPRO Challenge, I’ve had questions and messages about how I make organizing look easy (and fun). I get pretty charged up when I organize (especially when it’s not MY stuff), others get bogged down. Why is that? My question to you is: what are the lies you tell yourself about organizing? Do the voices in your head go something like this: “It’s easier for other people”, “I love the chaos” or “I just need to get a pretty box to get it organized.” It’s time to dispel those organizing myths.
Getting organized or beginning the downsizing process is never easy. Nothing in life is easy that produces results, however, once you have tackled the clutter and started the process, I promise, you will feel more stress-free and less out-of-control. This is one of the reasons we often say we need to tame the chaos or control the clutter. But remember, feeling in control does not mean you have to be perfectly organized. You can do this one drawer, one room or one floor at a time.
7 Organizing Myths or Lies You Tell Yourself
Here are a few myths I’ve heard through the years and want to dispel for you – once and for all. I’ve also added a few of the videos from January’s Get Organized Challenge to help you along with the process.
1. I know exactly where everything is…
You may have a clear idea of where to find your children’s birth certificates or doctor’s report but your spouse or adult children may not. If they need those important documents in an emergency will they be able to find them?
Solution: Create a simple filing system where you keep all your important legal documents. You can purchase an accordion folder and place it in a secure place.
You can rent a safety deposit box and keep those documents there. Note that a will or mortgage are kept at your lawyer’s office for safekeeping.
2. But I got this as a wedding … birthday … anniversary… present
We often things out of guilt—we feel sentimental and nostalgic. At times we believe we are betraying a person or who gave us the gift. You must avoid having to feel a sense of guilt when you release an item into the world. Remember, we are not getting rid of the people or the memory, we are solely getting rid of an object.
If you didn’t like it then, you’re not going to like it 10 years from now or even 25 years from now. I once had a client that kept a hideous candle with two lovers intertwined. She had been married for over 25 years and had it hidden in her closet. She said, “I’ve always hated this and was too embarrassed to put it out for anyone to see.” I simply said, “I give you permission to give it away.” That’s all she really needed to hear. Laughingly, I asked her if I could keep it and use it as a prop in my organizing talks. I loved pulling that monstrosity out for all to see and told that story more than once.
Solution: Let it go, I promise they won’t even remember they gave you that gift. If you’re afraid to donate for fear someone will see it (you know you thought that), then just throw it away. Throw out what does not spark joy!
3. I can organize the whole house in a weekend
Let’s be very clear, it did not take you a whole weekend to accumulate the clutter. When you become disorganized or you accummulate ‘stuff’ it likely took years and years and entire lifetimes to get to this point.
If you have an adult child, that could potentially mean 18+ years of stuff. I promise you, it will not take a weekend to do this. Downsizing your home may take months to accomplish. The help of a professional organizers may be able to shorten this (especially if she brings in a crew) but it will not take a few short hours on a Saturday afternoon.
Solution: Plan accordingly. Make a commitment to set aside one weekend a month, a week off from work or chip away at it one room at a time. Setting time limits and adjusting your expectations will alleviate the pressure to get this done quickly.
4. If I get rid of something, I’ll regret it later.
The other adage is I am keeping this for when my kids need it. I must admit, I have been guilty of this reasoning but my children have been quick to correct me and say, I don’t want it… need it… like it. These are simply lies you tell yourself: what if I need it later?
Consider how long you have kept an item ‘just in case’. Has it been months, years, decades? If it has, it’s time to get rid of that item. We often use this criterion when it comes to clothes and waiting for the day that we will ‘lose the weight’. You do not need that one pencil skirt that you wore in your late 20s to taunt you every single time you look in the closet.
Look at it this way, if you do lose the weight, you will be ecstatic at the idea of getting a new wardrobe. You will not want to wear a piece of clothing that is out of style and colour. You will be very excited to organize your closet with your new clothes.
Solution: Keep only what is useful for you, in your life at this particular moment. I guarantee that once you let go of those items that weigh you down, you will feel as if you have ‘lost’ the weight. Before you decided to keep something for the kids, ask them if they really want it.
Another classic example of this is I want to keep the book because I will read it later or again. If you have not read a book in the last two years, you are unlikely to read it in the next. I would suggest you keep only a few books at a time. There are plenty of great places to donate books. Let someone else read one of those great books!
5. I just need a pretty box for my stuff …
My biggest beef with The Home Edit show is that it loves to bring in a bunch of people and a ton of expensive product and then voila, instant organization. I never see them do the hard work of purging, donating and making hard choices with the client. They can’t because honestly, they should not be making choices for their clients on what needs to stay and what needs to go.
Piling stuff into pretty containers and throwing a pretty label on them does not make you organized. It makes you POOR because those containers usually are very expensive, plus they are only hiding things. The chances of you buying something you already have is higher because ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a thing.
Solution: DO THE HARD WORK. Go through all your stuff and make tough decisions on what to keep and what to give away. Make the choices that will help you pare down and keep only what makes you happy.
Then, and only then, buy the containers that will hold the stuff. Write a list (inventory) of what is in the box so you know what is in there. Whether you keep track on a spreadsheet or on a list that resides in the box keep a running tally of what you have.
6. Once I get organized, I’ll stay that way …
The key to being organized is keeping the clutter at bay. It is a change in habit or attitude about the objects in our lives. It means when you buy a new top, you get rid of an old one. It’s the one-in-one out rule.
No matter how hard you try, you will have times when items will come into your home and you will not know exactly how they fit into your life. It is important to find a place (a home) for each item. This will help you maintain the order.
Solution: Maintenance is key. Get into the habit of putting something away after using it. Try to quick 5 minute tidy at the end of the day. Get your children and spouse into the habit of bringing their things back to their rooms/office instead of letting it linger on the kitchen table/the launch pad or the office.
Getting into a routine will be very helpful to maintaining a home. Consider chore charts or marking down on family calendars when areas need to be tidied up (not just cleaned).
7. I can do this myself …
Sometimes we need help but are afraid to ask for it. We want to do this the ‘right’ way but we don’t know which way that is. We also don’t necessarily know where to start. One of the biggest lies you tell yourself is that you can do this massive task alone.
It is never easy to do this alone because the downsizing can be exhausting. The thousands of decisions you have to make for each individual object or the repurpose of a room can be daunting. More importantly, the physical part of organizing can wear you down.
Solution: I will always encourage people to work with a professional organizer either in person or online as a virtual organizer. As a past professional organizer, I can tell you that these people have a knack for seeing the bigger picture and understanding what it will take to tackle the clutter. They are better able to estimate the amount of time that it will take to clear a space if they have worked side-by-side with you. You can find qualified professional organizers in Canada and the United States.
At the very least, ask a friend to help you out or hire a teen to do all the heavy lifting. For a reasonable amount you can get them to load up your car and take the items to the donation centre or city dump. Either way, don’t do this alone it’s way more fun with another person!
Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.