In honor of today being the first anniversary of making Clever Girl Organizing my full-time job, I thought I’d share a bit of a secret with you:
Sometimes, I’m not so organized.
I was talking with some friends the other day and mentioned I’d been cleaning out my closet. They said, “I can’t believe you’d have to clean out your closet! Isn’t your house perfect? You’re an ORGANIZER!”
The truth is, I’m not perfect. Being an organizer doesn’t mean I don’t have to work hard at getting and staying organized.
I cleaned out my closet because I happen to be going to a place to donate professional women’s clothing and knew that, even though my closet is neat and orderly, I had things I could part with, and I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Since there wasn’t another pressing reason (like not enough space), it was something I’d let slide. I ended up living with things I didn’t need to, just because there wasn’t a more pressing reason not to live with those things.
But it got me thinking… how often do I do things that someone might say, “But you’re an ORGANIZER!” and the fact is, I’m not perfect? I thought I’d share a few RECENT examples, like just last week, to share just how normal even an organizer is. I’ll tell you a few stories from my week.
1) I went to The Container Store last Tuesday to check out their latest inventory (hadn’t been there in a while) but mainly to buy one or two new stacking plastic drawers to add to the three I have stacked already. I bought them (and a few other things), got them home, and realized I had totally bought the wrong ones. They were way bigger, rounded instead of square, just wrong. A more organized person would have taken a picture of the drawers before heading out (I mean, I went in to look at them “to be sure” before leaving the house…. it would have KILLED me to take a photo?).
1a) When I went back to The Container Store on Friday to return them and purchase the right ones (mission accomplished, by the way), the cashier was having an issue completing the return correctly, because I had apparently ONLY PAID FOR ONE of the wrong ones and hadn’t noticed, and effectively stole the second one, accidentally. A more organized person would have looked over their receipt after paying for a bunch of stuff. When she asked me what I wanted to do with the second one, I said, “Well, I guess let you put it back on the shelf, where it belongs?”
2) (This one reads like a math word problem… sorry!) My husband has a meeting in a couple of Fridays in Montpelier, VT, a two hour forty-five minute drive from our home. We were planning on going to our NH place that weekend, and it would only be a two-hour drive for him to go straight from Montpelier, rather than 2:45 home and then another 2:45 to NH. So, I suggested, “Hey, why don’t you just drive directly from VT to NH and I’ll take the Concord Coachlines bus up that day and meet you in NH? It’ll just take an hour and a half for me to take the local bus to the T, take the T to the bus station, buy the ticket in advance, then the 4-hour bus ride to NH, and you can meet me downtown to pick me up when you get to NH.”
That all sounds reasonable, right?
Then the next day, I had a “Eureka” moment.
“Um, I was thinking about my plan. How about I just go in the car with you to Vermont, I keep myself busy for an hour, and we drive to NH together?”
No idea why that didn’t occur to me, but fortunately, my organized part of brain saw the error of my disorganized part of the brain and spoke up. My first solution, the first one that came to mind, was kind of a horrible one. With distance and time, the right solution came to me.
3) I’ve spent the last few days cleaning, dusting, prepping for overnight house guests coming on today. Aside from normal “get ready for guests” cleaning that anyone would do, I had a whole bunch of projects from the last couple of months that just had fallen into a coma, it seems. I had:
- a pile of unbroken down boxes that I’d been storing to help a client move (but turns out they don’t need them)
- piles of tax filing paperwork that were neatly stacked but not yet filed on a guest bed
- three bags of “to be donated” stuff that has been in my house at least a month, probably more.
It took the imminent arrival of guests (who, by the way, probably don’t care one bit about how my house looks) to get some of those tasks moved to completion, rather than stay in the seemingly-permanent limbo they were in. Sure, it’s better now, but, without motivation, how long would I have let them stay like that??
4. Seriously, where the &%#!& is the whisk attachment for my Braun stick mixer? I’ve been looking everywhere for it. (Oh, don’t worry… I went old school and hand-whisked, which, by the way, took less time than I WASTED looking for the attachment in the first place.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, I think all three stories highlight that being organized is something we all have to work at; it isn’t just magical. It’s something that, even if we have a “knack” for it, we all have to work at it. And it also means that ALL of us, even the ones who feel all hope is lost, can follow some simple rules to help make progress in this area.
Lessons that I have used with all of my clients, and that you can use, too:
1) Being organized is a system, and systems take work. They require a needs analysis, a design, an implementation, and an audit to see if they’re working (those all sound fancy, don’t they?) but, at the end of the day, the only reason a system works is that you USE it. Otherwise, it’s just a solution lying NEAR a problem, cluttering up your mind and space, rather than solving a problem.
2) Everything should have its place. And everything should be put back into its place. This also means, and I’m looking at you, Handy Boy (my husband). Spouses and other people who share the space need to know where places are, too.
3) A little external motivation can go a long way. If you’re the kind of person who rallies for a big reason, then create a big reason, if you need a kick in the pants! If you know you’re good at getting the house in order if someone is stopping by, then invite someone to stop by! If it works, use it.
4) Planning is our friend, even if it means an extra moment or step is involved. Measure, take pictures, jot things down, whatever works, do it. As we get older, our ability to remember things seems to evaporate more rapidly every day. Even though I’ve always “had a great memory,” I can no longer rely on that skill set. Poof. It disappeared. STOP fighting your new reality, and get systems and support that help you be successful.
5) Take a step back and think. Sometimes, the quickest answer isn’t the best answer. The best solutions we come up with involve us being able to step back and see the bigger picture. Think on things a little bit, and share your ideas with others. Brainstorming is an awesome way to get the perspective of others and to help see a problem in a completely different light. (Hey, a good way to put that one to work? How about hiring a professional organizer, who can help you think through things a bit more clearly? 🙂 )
Hope there are a few lessons in here you can use right away… and keep RE-using, because they work!