These are common myths that we tend to tell ourselves. They can hold us back, make us feel bad and make organizing harder than it needs to be.
1. I just need to try harder. This is a simple thing… Just do it!!
Not everybody is a linear thinker. You need some linear thinking to do the process; getting the macro view helps to identify what to do first or second or last. You might need some coaching help to identify your vision and how to prioritize things. It’s not about being lazy or industrious, it’s more about how your brain works and gaining objectivity about your own stuff.
2. I could knock this out in a couple hours if I just put my mind to it.
If you usually find organizing pretty challenging, it’s not reasonable to expect you can handle an overwhelming situation in a short period of time. And, if you think a week of solid work would do the trick, can you imagine how exhausting it would be to shift to “organizing mode?” and make it last for days? Be realistic about your time estimates and plan to work in stages.
3. My partner/spouse/children will be absolutely delighted when I get organized.
The fact that someone isn’t experiencing the clutter as a problem might mean they won’t be invested in the solutions. Everyone has a different tolerance level for clutter. If they don’t experience it as an issue, they might find it disruptive if you go and make changes independently. It’s good to do some legwork, but try to get buy-in on what the solution will look like so you’re not imposing your vision on someone else and expect them to maintain it.
4. I need pretty (and expensive) bins to be organized…and bins will automatically make me organized.
Buying containers put the cart before the horse. You need to know what you’re storing, why, and where before you know how to contain it. A shoebox can work just as well as an attractive woven basket. First focus on the function that the container needs to fulfill and then buy or repurpose one that fits your budget and style.
5. If I’m not born an “organized person” I will never be organized.
There’s lots of way to get help: blogs, accountability buddies, or working with a professional organizer. Part of our mandate as professional organizers is to transfer skills to the client that they can carry forward. Even though organizing can be easiest for those who naturally think a certain way, techniques can be learned by just about anyone. Working with a professional can help you acquire those skills.
Give yourself a break and ask for a helping hand. It might not take as much as you think to get past your roadblocks. You’re not alone in this, help is available.
Here are 5 of the most common hurdles we see folks face when trying to shed off things they no longer use and need:
It’s Too Precious for Goodwill
- Find a charity you like and believe in and one you feel really appreciates your donations – it will help ease your attachments and satisfy that need for things to go to a “good” home.
It’s Worth Too Much To Give Away
- Are you sure? What you paid for it and what it’s worth now are rarely the same. Get confirmation from an auction house (usually can text pictures or bring things in on a free appraisal day). If you find out it’s not worth what you thought, you may be willing to just donate. And if it really is valuable you can sell it through a buyer or auction house.
I Don’t Want It To End Up In Landfill
- Try Freecycle, Craigslist, NextDoor for items that are not donatable (particle board furniture).
- Take advantage of the Bay Area’s unique donation options such as Urban Ore, East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use, and SCRAP
- Some things really are trash and we have to accept that. The only way to stop that kind of outflow is not to buy it in the first place!
I Could Use This Someday
- Beware of prioritizing the future over the present. Having a space crowded with “maybe, someday” can keep you from living fully in the present. You need to weigh that cost against the cost of possibly having to replace something if you do actually need it later.
I Feel Guilty Giving It Up
- Ah, good old guilt. So impractical, yet so tenacious! Sometimes it helps to put the shoe on the other foot…would you want someone else to hang onto a gift you gave them solely out of obligation if they really didn’t need or want it?
- Try a little ritual of appreciation to help relieve guilt before releasing an object. For gifts, take a moment and recognize the good intention someone had when they gave it. For other items, acknowledge the pleasure or service the item gave you. For example, to let greeting cards go, our friend Maggie thinks of the person who gave it to her and gives the card/letter/Christmas picture a kiss before she puts it in recycling
There are no rights and wrongs in your own process; as usual, you get to decide how much to keep and what to let go. Beware how much of a project you’re creating for yourself and how much are you willing to do. Keep in mind your larger goal of how you want your home to function and feel and let that be your constant guide!
We may want to get reclaim our dining room table or our linen closet from the throes of entropy. But that isn’t usually enough to get ourselves to make it happen.
Resistance to our goals shows up in different ways for different people… boredom, sleepiness, getting distracted, anxiety, procrastination, avoidance. So how do you get around your own resistance to meet your organizing goals?
Being overwhelmed can stop us in our tracks. We freeze because the project feels too big and scary. There are some techniques to managing that overwhelm. Rather than tackling the whole project, take one small step. How about:
- Working on just a corner of a dining room table or
- Cherry-picking only the catalogs and magazines or
- Moving the shredding bag and recycling bin next to the table
- Removing only the mail that looks critical and leaving the rest for now or
- Doing a rough sort and gathering only large categories of things: for example, paper, items made of cloth, dishes, other people’s things
I don’t have time for this! I’m too busy! There’s other important things to do!
It may be very true that you are busy and other things seem more important. But this project you are looking at must be costing you something or it wouldn’t be bothering you…mental distress, distraction.
- What value will you gain by finishing this project?
- How is this project you’re putting off affecting your daily life?
- What is it costing you in time, money or distraction? …late fees, family arguments, inefficiency?
- Get clear on why you’re doing it
- Schedule a session and see how far you get.
- If you’re waiting for this magical block of time to appear, unless you make an appointment with yourself, you’ll always feel too busy
- Ask a friend to keep you company while you work on it or commit to someone else to make progress
I might need it! I paid a lot of money for it! Someone gave it to me!
We all have these objections. Not valuing your current life as much as you value money you already spent and can’t fully recoup…or letting someone else’s generosity keep you from having your home the way you want it is debilitating.
- Save that resistance for things that are truly hard to come by, not for things that are easy to borrow or replace, like novels and cheesecake pans.
- Ask yourself “Is it really that precious to take up valuable space in my home and my life?
- Is the value of having it on hand worth the everyday cost of keeping it, taking up space, requiring cleaning or care?
- Don’t let the “maybe/somedays” stand in the way of living comfortably right now. How about that specialty appliance that you have been meaning to use…Is that bread maker/ice cream machine/panini press taking up valuable space on your counter or in your cabinets?
- To keep from getting stuck, try dividing the items in question into three categories: “YES” – “NO” – “MAYBE” to maintain forward momentum while sorting
Sometimes our resistance isn’t literal or immediately obvious. Maybe you’re avoiding that pile of papers because you have a huge bill due…or clearing out a space means facing memories of someone who used to be in your life.
Hold that vision of the how great it will feel to have made progress on your organizing goal. The cumulative effect of slight behavior changes can improve the course of your life. Be kind to yourself, some resistance is pretty intense. If you truly get stuck, move onto something else or reach out for a helping hand.
Do you have a room in home that when you walk into it you just say, “Ughh!”?
These are spaces that are enough out of sight and out of mind that they are the perfect spots to accumulate years of random items. Attics, basements, garages, guest room closets, dining buffet bottom drawers … every home has them!
So why bother? For the most part they don’t affect daily life – the few times a year you have to retrieve something from them is a hassle but rarely hassle enough to raise the daunting task of cleaning out the space to the top of your to-do list.
These spaces may seem benign…not a problem, no worry…but they actually do have quite a presence. Spaces that trigger guilt, shame, inertia, and paralysis contain psychic weight. We know this from the decades of working with clients. Our clients almost universally describe the feeling of clearing out old clutter as having had a huge weight lifted from their backs. They had become used to living with the problem and hadn’t realized just how much of a mental burden putting off dealing with the clutter was. Feeling the relief of the cleared, organized spaces made it crystal clear what a weight they had been carrying in the background of their consciousness.
Observe and measure how you feel in each room of your home. The spaces can be as simple as a drawer, a cabinet or an entire room. Identify where you are being drained:
- Where do you find yourself sighing?
- Is there an area of your home that you completely avoid?
- What space triggers a sense of feeling trapped?
- When you want to use a space that’s cluttered, is it a complete hassle to reclaim it?
- Would you be embarrassed for someone else to see the space?
- Does the thought of dealing with it make you want to take a nap … or go on a trip?
Take stock of how much mental weight you are carrying around. Where is your extra weight hiding? Wouldn’t it feel great to be relieved of the heavy feelings of those spaces?
If you’re inspired to get started, choose a small project or part of a room that you can get through in about an hour. Getting to experience that wonderful sense of relief that comes from making progress will fuel your motivation to go further. If you get stuck, reach out!
Unwanted gifts can clutter our homes. How can we deal with the guilt of passing on things we don’t want or can’t use?
The hand knit sweater from Aunt Martha that you’d never be caught dead in…the set of candles from a co-worker that you know you’ll never use…the dishtowels from your sister that she’ll probably notice if you don’t put out…
Now that the holidays are over, take preventative measures right away – don’t let unwanted gifts clutter up your closets and drawers!
It’s The Thought That Counts
- A gift is a show of kindness or love to you, not a contract you must honor
- You can receive and keep the good intention of a gift independent of the item given
The Closer The Giver, The Stronger The Stick
Post-Its® Gifts: from acquaintances or people you know you won’t see or will never be in your house.
- Sending an unwanted item back out into the world allows it to be used and appreciated by someone who chooses it purposefully
Scotch Tape® Gifts: the gifts from friends we like a lot. They may never know you got rid of the item but you will and that alone makes you feel bad.
- If someone really cares about you they would want you to surround yourself with things you love
- When possible, be honest with friends and family about what you don’t like; it helps them know you better
Duct Tape® Gifts: the stickiest. Usually from vey close relatives and friends, AND there’s a good chance they will notice if a particular gift isn’t in use.
- Remember, your feeling about the gift is not a reflection of how you feel about them or how much you appreciate that they gifted you
- If they bring up the gift in question, reinforce your appreciation of their generosity or sentiment while remembering that it is truly is up to you what fills your home
Look through your unwanted gifts and think about how sticky the attachments are. Lighten your gift guilt by focusing on the least sticky items. Picture them being happily used…by someone else!