Often with clients, I will hear “I used to be so organized” or “I don’t know when it got so disorganized”. This is very common and mostly caused by a change that has occurred; a marriage, a child, a new job, no job, a divorce, a disease, all cases of change that make your old way of doing things obsolete. For example, I was hoping to file my business taxes this afternoon while my toddler napped. However, I have some documents in my office upstairs which just happens to be past her bedroom. There is no way that I will risk waking her up by walking past her door. Therefore I need to change the way I previously managed my office space in order for me to stay organized.
If your situation is not as easily fixed or there just isn’t time to organize here are some steps I would recommend so that you don’t get caught in a situation where you can’t find anything or you feel overwhelmed by the clutter.
1) Don’t beat yourself up. I have had clients who stress out so much over the fact that their home is not perfectly organized that it caused them to feel badly about themselves. Take a moment, breathe, and then move on to step 2.
2) Prioritize by dealing with the here and now. Set up a triage station to deal with incoming items, this should include writing utensils, paper, documents necessary for the situtation, and some way to sort documents (folders, binders, envelopes). Depending on what the situation might be start by labeling folders for incoming items and keeping those folders in a quickly accessed location. For example if you are in the midst of a legal situation, I would start by labeling the folders Legal and Financial. This way those documents can immediately be found without having to sort through everything. I also use check file folders like the one pictured above to keep appointment cards and business cards. This allows for quick access with the idea that eventually you will be inputting that information into your address book and calendar. But if you aren’t able to do that you at least have the information in one place.
3) Set up sorting boxes for items that can be addressed later. I use the cardboard storage boxes that come in packs of ten (See Top Four Organizing Products). Label the outside of the box with the final destination, for example To Be Filed, Garage, Kitchen, Basement, Toy Room, Bedroom, Office, Photos etc. Try to only have one box per final destination in order that you only have to look in one box for an item.
4) Remeber the end goal. This is only a temporary solution and the end goal is to no longer have the sorting boxes. If you find it difficult to figure out what to do with some of the things you have kept ask yourself “What do I use this for?” If you can’t answer that question then ask yourself “Would it be okay to let this go?” You might find that some things you hold on to are things that hold you back.