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Last week we took a look at the question of WHY we should even bother to organize our lives. Now that we understand the many potential benefits involved, we need to discuss the next step: getting started. It can be a daunting task to say the least to decide to organize your life. How do you embark upon such an endeavor? Where do you begin? When should you start? When will you be finished? These are all important questions and in this post I want to outline some simple approaches to help you ease into a lifestyle of organization.

Adopt realistic expectations

You always hear people say that you should be careful not to set your goals too high. Well that advice applies to organization as well. It can be easy to imagine in your mind’s eye your life organized already, as if somehow all you did was snap your fingers and everything was done. It’s good to think about what you ultimately want, but it’s important to realize that organization isn’t completely effortless and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. If you adopt realistic expectations, you won’t set yourself up for failure.

Set clear goals

You’ll hear me time and time again suggesting the following: make a list! Take a walk through your house and write down the spaces you see that could use a little organization. Run through your day and make notes about how you’d like to change your schedule or how you spend your time. Finally jot down some thoughts about your financial situation. Lists are nice, because you just let the thoughts flow and there is no need to act on anything right away. After you have all your lists made, you have a template to work from as you get started and you are free to decide what to undertake first.

Tackle organization one step at a time

A great way to get burned out quickly is to try to do too many things at once. Of course there’s always room for multitasking and taking breaks from one project to work on another. What I’m talking about here is avoiding trying to organize too many things at one time in too short a time. You run the danger of getting overwhelmed and feeling like nothing is working. You have your lists made, so choose one thing on your list and try to get it done before going on to the next.

Choose methods that best suit your style

You’ll discover many suggestions for how to organize your life on this blog, but it is important to always consider what works best for you. If you try something I suggest and it doesn’t quite suit your style, then don’t be afraid to experiment. And of course be sure to come back and tell us what you did differently so we can all learn something new!

Have fun!

I get a lot of satisfaction and a real sense of accomplishment from the art of organization. Take note of your attitude as you are tackling different projects. Are you enjoying yourself? Are you feeling successful? Not everything will be particularly exciting (i.e. arranging tupperware lids, anyone?), but you should at least gain something positive from the whole experience.

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Yesterday in Organization: Why Bother? (Part 1), I showed you two very different scenarios with regard to preparing an evening meal: one was chaotic, the other was organized. The difference is clear, but how can those specific experiences translate into results in other areas of our lives? Let’s break it down.

When I think of organization, three broad categories come to mind:

1. Space

No I’m not talking about the infinite expanse of stars and galaxies—I’m talking about the (often) infinite expanse of our STUFF. We have homes and we have belongings. Everything we own has the potential to be organized.

2. Money

Ah yes, so this is how we manage to accumulate all the STUFF mentioned above. Money can be organized too, for example in how we handle it, spend it, or save it.

3. Time

We all have on occasion wished for more hours in the day. There are ways to win back some of our time, even if it’s just minutes here and there. But once we secure those precious minutes (or even hours!), think of what we can accomplish! The possibilities are endless.

But why?

Now that we know what we CAN organize in our lives, we jump to the ever-important question of WHY should we do it? Organization takes effort, not to mention time, sometimes money, and usually creativity. Below I’ve outlined just some of the potential benefits of organizing your life.

  • Recouping Resources. First let’s look at a couple of the most obvious benefits. Organizing your life directly leads to saving two of your most precious resources, time and money. Put your kitchen cupboards in order, shave time off cooking meals. Make a better plan for the way you buy groceries, keep a little more cash in your pocket. The list goes on and is virtually limitless.
  • Slashing Stress. Next let’s look at a couple of the less obvious, but equally as important benefits of having an organized lifestyle. Indirectly, organizing your space, money, and time can lead to a noticeable reduction in stress and ultimately an improvement in your quality of life. Who doesn’t want that? In today’s hectic world, stress levels tend to run high and can have a very negative impact on your well-being. Do you want a little more peace in your life? Adopting an organized lifestyle is one way to get you closer to such a goal.

Preparing For Launch

Now of course it’s not as easy as just snapping your fingers and POOF! everything in your life is magically organized. So where do you begin? Getting the ball rolling can be overwhelming, to say the least. In the next post, Organization: Getting Started, I’ll provide innovative solutions to help you kick off your plan to get organized.

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Admit it, organizing can be very tedious, time-consuming, and often difficult. So why do we even bother to try? The prize is in the results we get. Organizing even the simplest of things in our lives can lead to savings in time and perhaps money. Even more importantly, I think that having an organized lifestyle can actually reduce stress. Did I just say, reduce? Yes, I did. While at first glance, many naysayers might dismiss organizing as a cause of stress, I am a firm believer that getting your life and belongings in order will create an environment that only benefits you in the long run. Let’s look at an easy example to help illustrate my point:

Scenario 1: Lifestyles of the Chaotic

Pretend you’re planning your meal for the evening. First you head over to where you store all your recipes and start rifling through endless folders, boxes, and random pieces of paper. Frustrated, you just decide to make something you have memorized (or at least you think you do). You then head over to the pantry to see if you have the ingredients you need. Only finding half of the food items necessary for your recipe, you hop in the car and head to the grocery store. After 30 minutes, you arrive back at home, ready to cook. You begin getting out the cooking supplies you need when you realize the baking dish you want to use is dirty in the sink. Quickly washing it, you then start mixing your ingredients, occasionally wondering if you are using the correct portions. After the meal is prepared and eaten, you tackle the aftermath…a heaping pile of food-encrusted dishes. After rubbing and scrubbing for 20 minutes, you decide to put the leftover food away, heading over to your tupperware cupboard. When you open the door, several lids come flying out at you…it turns out whoever emptied the dishwasher that morning set a booby-trap. After you finally choose a container, you can’t find the lid that matches it. Eventually you just settle for saran wrap and call it a night.

Scenario 2: Lifestyles of the Organized

Again, you are planning your meal for the evening. You get out your recipe binder and choose a food category that you feel like preparing for your family that night. After settling on Soups, you page through the options and pick your favorite tomato soup. You head over the pantry to find the ingredients you need. Since you stock up on common items you often cook with, you have everything you need.
Next you prepare the meal, easily following along your recipe, since it was re-written by you to suit your style. Every time you have a few moments during the cooking process, you head over to the sink to wash some of the dishes you’ve accumulated. After your family has quickly consumed your yummy dinner, you finish the remaining dishes in a few minutes and begin to put the leftovers away. You find your tupperware cupboard, choose a container size and then grab the corresponding lid out of a neatly arranged box of lids. After tucking it away in your fridge, you’re ready to relax for the night.

Reality Check

I confess I’ve painted a rather ideal picture here and I’ll be the first to admit that nobody lives in such a perfect world. However, I think we can all see the stark difference between the two scenarios. If we adopt even just some of the practices of the organized, we can vastly improve our lives, right down to something as simple as how our evening meal goes each night. Looking back, the person in the second scenario saved a lot of time and a lot of headaches. And the good news is, there’s even more to be saved. Stayed tuned for Organization: Why Bother? (Part 2) to find out the numerous ways organizing ultimately benefits us.

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