Stage 1: Clarify what you want
Stage 2: Let Go of what doesn't work for you
Stage 3: Sort like with like and then let go of more
Stage 4: Organize in zones to improve access & create space
Stage 5: Maintain
Don't create anything today that you're
not willing to maintain tomorrow.
Do you find you get organized, but it never seems to last? Do you try different organizing systems and tools thinking this is the one that will work? But it isn't.
The reason that many organizing attempts don't work is that the maintenance required for upkeep is beyond what we are willing to do. Sure you can beat yourself up and say you should do this or that, but I say go with your natural tendencies or at least don't actively work against them.
I've acknowledged that I would rather read a book than fold my clothes (and I certainly don't iron anymore) so I keep my clothing system as simple as I can. And I'd rather be out playing with the dogs than filing my paperwork, so that has to be quick and easy.
Here are questions to ask about your maintenance plans. Think about how much you're willing to do. And be honest and realistic.
What maintenance is required?
Will you need to put the items back after use? i.e. put the hobby & craft supplies away or hang up your clothes.
Will you need to straighten up every once in a while?i.e. file the papers or return items that have wandered.
Will you need to purge old items? i.e. magazines, out-of-date files, clothes you no longer wear or like.
Will you need to clean the area? i.e. dusting, sweeping or deep cleaning.
Are you willing to do the required maintenance?
If not (and be honest), think of other ways to get around it or
get someone else to do it for you.
How often will you do the maintenance?
Will 5 or 10 minutes at the end of your day (or even the beginning) suffice or would longer sessions every week or month work better?
Annual spring cleaning of the home or 15 minute pickup time each day?
Will you wait to sort through the paper piles at tax time or commit to twice monthly filing of statements and receipts?
Back-to-school closet clearing or establishing the rule of one in | one out all year long.
(Reminder: one in | one out is maintenance and one in | two out is progress)
Are you willing to do it that often?
How much time will it take?
Keep in mind we tend to overestimate the time it takes for things we dread and underestimate the time it takes for everything else.
A general rule of thumb is that if you've never done it before then triple your time estimate. If you've done it before but aren't quite sure how long it took — double your estimate. The only time you should go with your initial estimate is when you know exactly how long it takes. But then, that's not an estimate, is it? For more on getting real about time.
Add in extra time if you think you'll get distracted. Better yet, set a timer for 15 minutes and when it goes off, make sure you get back on task (or take a break).
Are you willing to spend that time?
Who else will be involved in maintaining it?
If your partner or kids will use the items you've organized, they will need to learn to return it to its home and take part in maintaining the organization.
Can you accept their help?
If it's beyond their ability, are you willing to spend the time and energy on a system they won't help with?
Can you hire or trade with someone to do the maintenance for you?
Can you simplify the maintenance?
Identify what is good enough. Determine what are the minimum requirements for your system to succeed. It's okay to want it to shine, but if you never meet your basic needs, you'll never accomplish your goal.
Will you trade perfection for reality?
Next Stage 6: Prevent
Stage 1: Clarify what you want
Stage 2: Let Go of what doesn't work
Stage 3: Sort like-with-like & let more go
Stage 4: Organize in zones
Stage 5: Maintain the systems you create
Stage 6: Prevent it from coming in