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One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to get organized. Organized in your home, in life, on your calendar, and in your finances. So many people feel disheveled and disorganized in every area of their lives — and when you can’t see the trees from the forest, you’re easily overwhelmed.

That’s why my absolute best tip for getting organized is this: do just a little at a time.

Just like you eat an elephant one bite at a time, so, too, do you organize your life one day at a time, one thing at a time. If you feel disorganized, you didn’t get that way overnight. So don’t expect to get organized overnight. Or even in one week.

I’m honored that Mandi of Organizing Your Way asked me to contribute to her 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010. Each day, a blogger is sharing his or her ideas about a specific topic related to improving your life and setting goals for the year. So today’s goal — getting organized.

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Get Organized

Here are a few additional tips for tackling that organizing project on your list.

1. Think about the why behind the what.

Let’s say that one spot in your kitchen gets the brunt of the paperwork, and more often than not, you see more piles in that space than counter. I have one of those spots. Why is that? Is it because it’s easy to access? Is it in a central location in the home?

Mull over some of the psychology behind your decisions as well. Do you toss your bills in a desk drawer as they come in, only to find them three weeks past their due date? Maybe you’re scared to face your finances. Perhaps you’re dealing with some guilt.

Get your journal, and write down the areas in your life you want to organize. Be specific — don’t just write “the house,” write “the kids’ craft cabinet,” or “under the bathroom counter.”

Then, write some of the reasons why you think these areas are the most disorganized in your life. Tackle the reasons behind your disorganization, not just the disorganization.

2. Involve other people.

Tackling an organizing project with your spouse or kids is more fun, it holds you accountable to finishing it, and there’s a better chance the organized space will last longer (who wants to be responsible for screwing up a group project?).

But if your family is reticent, approach a friend about keeping you accountable, while doing the same for her organizing to-do list. Together, set a date for tackling your individual tasks, and when you’re done, celebrate with a coffee date.

3. Don’t wait for perfection.

Photo from The Container Store

I drool over organizing supplies — perfectly matched labels, canvas boxes in seasonal colors, divider trays for every possible supply. But these things are expensive. In fact, they can become just more stuff to hold your stuff.

You don’t need fancy equipment to get organized, so don’t wait until you can afford them. Reuse glass jars to house pantry items. Washed yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese containers are great for craft supplies. Cardboard file boxes work well for clothes out of season. Cover them in scrapbook paper, if you want them to look pretty.

4. If in doubt, throw it out.

I am not a hoarder. In fact, I tend to veer the other direction — I’d rather get rid of something and have to buy it again than hold on to it for years for no apparent reason.

If you’re hemming and hawing over something, there’s a good chance you don’t need it. Put it in your “donate” box, and see how you feel. If, a few hours later, you’re regretting that decision, get it out — no big loss. But if it feels good to get rid of one less thing in your home, then you’re good to go.

Always have a “maybe” box in your home. If you’re not sure whether you need something, put it there (and put the box out of sight). If you haven’t retrieved the item in six months, you don’t need it. Out it goes.

5. Expect organization to be part of your life.

Photo by Angus Stewart

It’s disappointing to spend a week organizing a closet, only to find it disheveled in three months. If you’re not careful, it could make you not bother organizing at all.

Accept the fact that managing a home means organizing it regularly. It gets easier and faster the more you do it, because you’ll keep less stuff and you’ll recall where things are. So don’t be discouraged when you organize. Again.

6. Use helpful resources.

Okay, so it has to be said — I wrote an e-book about organizing and decluttering your home in about ten days. It’s not written to be your final organizing approach to your life; it’s simply a motivator to jump start your more organized life with a ten day home overhaul. Check it out.

Organizing Your Way is an excellent blog with practical, down-to-earth tips on organizing. You’ll be inspired by Mandi’s great ideas.  Read more of her thoughts today on getting organized for 2010.

Keep “perfection” magazines to a minimum. I love flipping through Real Simple as much as the next gal, but those photos aren’t real. They’re designed and staged by stylists who are assigned projects to showcase advertisers’ products. It’s fun to look at, but don’t fool yourself into thinking those photos should be your organizing goal.

That said, keep an idea book going with both decorating and organizing ideas you like. Whether they’re from a magazine, a blog, or just a picture you’ve sketched, it’s easier to apply these ideas when you can find them in one place (and it’ll help you declutter your magazine stash!). A simple binder with clear sleeves for paper works well.

Is organizing one of your New Year’s goals? What’s the area in your life you find most difficult to organize?


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