So all my neatnik freelancing friends are writing blog posts about keeping organized and clutter free. I love you guys, really, I do, but for some of us it’s not so simple. We have made many attempts at organizing our lives and it just doesn’t happen. While we’re not ready for a guest spot on Hoarders, we’re never going to be Martha Stewart, either.
I’ve never been a neat person. Mind you, I don’t live like a slob, but my mother still shakes her head as she remembers my room.
I’m not embarrassed of the way I live. Our home is always ready to receive company as long as everyone stays out of the office, and I do take time to tidy up each day. However, when I worked in the real world I was the office worker with stacks of papers on her desk and post it notes every where.
You know the type.
Mind you, my disorganization isn’t so bad that I can’t function. I don’t lose key bits of information or forget to pay my bills on time. I just sometimes find myself lost among paper and sticky notes. No one would ever accuse me of having everything in its place.
So why am I offering organizational tips, when I clearly have issues? Because I’m being realistic. I’m speaking to the people who would love to have a neat as a pin lifetyle, but will settle for having clean work surface. My tips for organization aren’t so much about being neat as they are about comfortably managing life or business. It’s being able to work without the clutter getting the best of you.
I’ll say this, when things are too much of a mess I can’t think properly. I can’t focus because I’m distracted. Here are my ways to keep disorganization from being distracting and making the most of your writing time.
1. Baskets and bins don’t Work for disorganized people
Organization experts will tell you the secrets to a clutter free life are to have lots of baskets and bins. Ummm….no. I have the baskets and they’re ever so pretty with their canvas liners and fancy bows, but they don’t necessarily guarantee a clutter free life. There are large baskets for papers and smaller baskets for business cards and pens. The problem is, the baskets become more work after a while. The experts will tell you these baskets and bins will make life simpler and less cluttered. The truth is, after a month or so, the baskets become one more thing to clean out.
Oh sure, my intentions are honorable. For the first week or two I actually make a conscious effort to put stuff where it belongs. Eventually, it becomes too much trouble to sort my things into individual baskets. Instead, it’s easier to put items in the closest, handiest basket. The business card holder? Also filled with bouncy balls, hair clips and and flash drives. The bigger all purpose bins? All purpose is a good term for them because they end up holding anything that falls on the floor.
Baskets don’t make your life easier. Less stuff does.
2. Throw that stuff away…you know you’re never going to use it again
Here is my most important organization tip for you. This is the only one that counts, folks.
Throw everything away.
If you don’t use it, if you have no use for it, if it’s just collecting dust, it’s clutter. Throw it away. You don’t have to waste it, you can recycle, freecycle or donate to charity, just get it out of the house if it has no purpose. If they’re papers that are used on both sides, shred them. If it’s an item that is broken or torn, face reality. You know you’re never going to fix it. It’s been sitting there a year and no one’s made a move to make repairs. Throw it away.
I know it’s painful. Trust me, I know. When I had to toss out my old flannel shirt with the torn armpits and missing pocket I was sad. And it was extremely difficult to throw away the broken computer mouse and the cracked CD cases. I wept for about a week but now I’m at peace with my decision.
3. Reminders rock
So here’s the thing. When you have lots of papers and stuff lying around, the important things get buried. Your options are to clean everything and neatly hang or file the important stuff, or you can leave it all in big piles and create reminders so you don’t lose anything important or miss deadlines or appointments.
I’ll even share a secret – having stuff to remind you to do stuff makes everyone think you’re organized and on the ball even when you really aren’t. When I show up on time to a client meeting or school event no one says, “That Deb Ng is a disorganized person.” No, they say, “Wow, that Deb Ng is always so organized and on the ball because she always shows up at recitals early enough to land the good seats.” Meanwhile, an hour earlier I was in the process of typing up a blog post when my Outlook dinged to tell me to get my butt to school. No one ever has to know.
4. Keep your desk clean
If you’re distracted by clutter, you just have to keep it in a place where it’s not going to get in your way. Chaos can ensue all around you, just keep it off your desk. You can buy all those pretty, pretty baskets and bins to make everyone think you’re organized and stack your stuff in there, or you can get a bunch of shelves. In any event, the cleaner your desk, the cleaner, or, rather, the less cluttered your mind.
5. Unplug your printer
Finally, I’m going to tell you the problem isn’t you. All your issues with clutter and organization aren’t your fault. It’s the darn printer. If you didn’t have a printer you wouldn’t be printing out ten copies of your work to proof all the time. If it wasn’t for your printer you wouldn’t be printing out jokes or news articles to share with your family and friends. If it wasn’t for your printer you wouldn’t be printing pictures and puzzles and coloring pages. Unplug that puppy. Keep it off for 30 days and see if it hasn’t made your life better. I ran out of ink 3 months ago and haven’t replaced it. It’s going to have to happen eventually, but until then, I’m enjoying a paperless office. See how it works for you.
Do you have any realistic organizational tips you’d like to share? How do you stay organized?