Surprisingly Simple Secrets to Stay Organized at Home
by Anita Agers-Brooks
I call myself messy-organized—yet, I have a reputation for getting things done. Most people think I’m highly organized. If they only knew. Ever feel that way?
Sometimes I’m as much a puddle as the ones overwhelming me in my house. Anyone relate?
Yesterday provided a perfect example. Maybe you’ve had a morning like mine.
At first, things were going well. A steaming cup of fresh brew in hand, I tapped the word ‘Fearless’ on my white mug, as I began my morning Bible reading. Though my to-do list was long, spending time with God under the crest of a rosy dawn scented by the clean air of an overnight rain gave me a deep sense of calm—until the ping broke my concentration.
An early request from a friend, urgent in nature, followed shortly after by a cascade of three other unrelated texts. I hurriedly responded to each. A serenading sparrow reminded me that God was waiting for me to finish our time together. I inhaled full and slow, then settled in.
Barely back in the groove, my digital calendar sent me a bleep, I’d forgotten the deadline for an important writing project. Plus, I needed to review my presentation for an upcoming speaking engagement, and I’d penciled in a household re-organization effort. I scanned the disarray around me and groaned. In an instant, my peaceful mindset transformed. I thought, it’s gonna be one of those days.
Not only did I have work deadlines, but my house needed attention. Bad.
I felt anxiety begin to creep through my veins. How was I going to deal with the unforeseen crisis and chaos of normal life, and get my house organized? Calgon, seriously take me away!
Since I was out of Calgon, and the work wasn’t going to do itself, I decided organization was the best place to start. So I thought about what I do when I find myself in a similar predicament, where the household piles are piling up, and the work pressures are building.
Then, I knew where to start. With some surprisingly simple secrets that make this messy-organized gal look organized at work, and would translate well at home.
- Brainstorm. It’s strange, but the simple task of getting information out of my head onto a piece of paper or computer screen gives me a sense of relief. It’s as if by keeping those needs bottled in my head, the pressure intensifies. Not only do I have the task to worry about, but with a mental list, there’s the added weight that I might forget. When I document, I often find things are easier to tackle, and not nearly as overwhelming. The act of writing things down diminishes paralyzing emotions. To brainstorm, I simply write as much as I can remember as fast as I can. If I miss something, then it’s as simple as returning to my list and adding later.
- Turn the television off and the radio on. (Unless the organizational project is a mental one. In that case, silence might serve you better.) It’s amazing how much time, energy, and productivity is whisked away by the distraction of a TV program. On the flip side, energizing music can take organizational efforts from boring to restoring.
- Psych myself out. I choose the first most important thing I need to do, and I tell myself to give it five minutes of focused attention. I could opt out five minutes in, but what I find is 99% of the time, once I hit momentum, I continue on until the task is complete. The start is the biggest hurdle I face.
- Start with something small. In the case of my house, an entire room can feel monumental, so I start organizing a corner, then I move to another corner, and another, until I finally finish in the middle. By breaking bigger tasks into smaller bites, the sense of accomplishment in each tiny step energizes me to take the next one. (When following this procedure, don’t give yourself permission to move to another project until your corner or small space is finished.)
- Keep your word. Remember when I told you I have a reputation for getting things done. Years ago I made a commitment to honor Ecclesiastes 5:5, which says, “It’s better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” I think many of us struggle with this one, but when it comes to close friends, family and ourselves, too often, our promises mean nothing. What this means is if I tell myself I’m going to organize weekly, especially when I go to the trouble of putting it in my calendar, then I need to honor that commitment to myself. Otherwise, the weight of guilt will keep me from accomplishing more.
How does a messy-organized person keep it all together? It’s quite simple really, I stay organized at home the way I stay organized in the rest of my life. For someone like me, often over-worked, over-stressed, and over-tired, I need fast, effective solutions. I suspect I might have a few kindred spirits out there.
The key is action. Do something—even if it’s small. Too much time and energy is wasted worrying about what we need to do and how, versus just getting started. And finally, repeat often. Consistently scheduling time for organization will save you much chaos and confusion later. With the right strategy, you might even have time for a Calgon bath.
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