Why Organize With Mindfulness?
“And this mess is so big, And so deep and so tall, We cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!” ~ Dr. Seuss
Mindfully organizing your home is a powerful way to bring more ease and joy into your physical and mental space. Instead of forcing you to adhere to some external criteria of how your home “should” look or how your closets “should” be organized, mindful organizing helps you to create your own criteria for how your space is organized.
One compelling reason to make time for organizing is to create space for what is truly important in your life. Most agree that the most important things in life are not your stuff! But stuff can get in the way of living a life of fulfillment and ease. Many of the folks we work with feel they cannot go out and engage fully in life with so much STUFF hanging over their heads.
Have you ever gone on an organizing blitz and noticed how good it feels to know where things are? The mental-physical connection between you and your stuff explains why organizing makes you feel so good. Releasing physical objects and activities that no long bring you joy eliminates not only physical clutter but “mind clutter” too.
If you’ve ever had a sinking or heavy feeling when entering a disorganized room, you have experienced the effects of “mind clutter.” Even stuff that can’t be seen takes up space in your mind. If you have been unhappy for some time about disorganization in your life, you may feel that you don’t even “see” the problems any longer and that they have no effect on your mental state. But even if you’re not aware of it, it takes mental and psychological energy to pretend disorganization and clutter don’t matter.
Experts agree that physical clutter can take a toll on your happiness and create “mind clutter.” In 5 Reasons To Clear The Clutter Out of Your Life, psychology professor Susan K. Whitbourne cites the following reasons to eliminate clutter:
- Low subjective well-being
- Unhealthier eating
- Poorer mental health
- Less efficient visual processing
- Less efficient thinking
Whitbourne writes: “… cutting through the clutter can benefit your physical health and cognitive abilities. Start getting out that trash bag, whether virtual or physical, and you’ll soon feel better able to enjoy your surroundings while you think more efficiently and cleanly.”
Why Organize, Mindfully or Otherwise?
My 27 year old son often asks this question! There are many more reasons why organizing is worth your time and energy. When your home and office are organized, there is less chance that you will:
- Make duplicate purchases
- Waste time looking for things
- Miss payments
- Need emergency repairs
- Miss opportunities
Instead, you will:
- Be able to consolidate trips
- Have no need for off-site storage units
- Be available to spend time with those you love
- Be prepared for projects and events
- Have less missed opportunities
- Experience less anxiety
- Get more sleep!
Being organized can save significant time too, which allows you to make more conscious choices about where your energy goes.
In Why Work with a Professional Organizer? we outline a few of the many benefits of organizing (which apply whether you are organizing on your own or with a professional!). There’s a connection between living in disorganized, cluttered spaces and feeling unfocused, claustrophobic and overwhelmed. Thankfully, it is possible to approach organizing as sacred work and learn how to address the challenges that arise when you assign meaning to the things that you own.
Once you are clear on your reasons for taking time to organize, what are the benefits of organizing with mindfulness? Isn’t organizing hard enough without adding this extra layer? Not at all! Mindful organizing, though it requires more presence and awareness at first, will actually make your organizing efforts more effective and offer more lasting results. You will learn much more about simple and practical ways to apply mindfulness to your organizing efforts as we go along, so keep reading!
The first step towards making any kind of change is to actively notice people and objects in your life. Social psychologist Ellen Langer has done fascinating studies on the power of our beliefs to shape our biology. In an interview with Krista Tippett she shared that the “practice of actively noticing new things is mindfulness.” She suggests the simple minfulness practice of sitting at the dinner table with someone you have known for years and observing them as if for the first time.
You can apply a principle called the beginner’s mind to your organizing challenges and see obstacles as stepping stones to a deeper understanding of yourself and your things. Shunryū Suzuki, a Zen monk who helped to make Zen Buddhism popular in the United States, offers us this perspective:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Mindful Decluttering & Organizing is a resource you won’t want to miss. Pam Holland’s pleasant personality, calm demeanor, practical good sense, objective questioning, and patient discussion combine to fill a particularly thoughtful and effective toolbox of resources. She shows up promptly ready to work, dives right in, and doesn’t let you get away with procrastination!
Before & After Organizing Gallery
Find YOUR Organizing Why
Over the years, we have been asked countless times, “How do I get my house organized?” The answer depends on a variety of factors and we will cover many of them here, but one key question we begin with is “Why do you want to be organized? Why now?”
The first step in mindful organizing is to identify your whys. Begin with your personal whys, and if you wish to include others in your household, pick up a copy of our budget-friendly e-book on working with others in your household to create a shared vision.
Inner Work Exercise: Answer the question “Why do you want to be more organized?”
Don’t overthink the question: just pick up a piece of paper and capture 5-10 feeling words that express why you long to be more organized. Whatever words or images come to mind will be the “right” ones, even if they don’t make sense at first.
Below are answers that clients and workshop participants have shared over the years. Do any of these resonate for you?
- To make more time for the really important things in life
- So I know what I have so I don’t buy more than I need
- So I can find things when I need them
- So my housemates can find things when they need them
- To reduce friction in the household
- To eliminate or reduce mind clutter
- To create a healing space in my son’s former bedroom
- To make my son’s closet more functional
- To create a place for my son to play
- To create a meditation space
Some of your reasons will be similar to those listed above, while others will relate to your specific goals. I suggest that you include both general and specific reasons for organizing in your list and then focus on one specific goal or project to begin with.
By identifying your personal whys for organizing, you have just begun to approach your organizing project mindfully. See, it’s not so complicated after all!
What Is Mindfulness?
“Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is a word that was normalized in the U.S. and in Britain by the Beatles. When the Fab Four travelled to India to meet with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, many young people in their formative years became aware of meditation and mindfulness. Even unlikely celebrities like Howard Stern are converts!
Yet what mindfulness actually is can be hard to define. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Mindfulness involves non-judgmental attention to present-moment experience.” There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some achieve this non-judgmental state by practicing yoga or meditation, but it would be tricky to do yoga or sitting meditation while organizing! But it is possible to pay attention to your breath and to remain attuned to your feelings and your body’s needs while organizing.
To practice mindfulness while organizing your home, you are called to turn your attention to what’s happening right now: to what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what your five senses are telling you.
This is not always a comfortable thing to do. You might find that tuning in to your true feelings while organizing brings up anxiety, a sense of overwhelm, or judgmental voices from the past. Can you move through these uncomfortable feelings and is it worth the effort? Science says yes!
By acknowledging your feelings and “giving them a voice” you will find that they have less power to control you. Research shows that staying present through difficult times can actually decrease your resistance to a difficult task.
If you find that your uncomfortable feelings are too much for you to handle at any time, consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional. The National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychological Association are good resources for locating mental health professionals in your area.
Whether you choose to organize on your own or with the support of professionals, integrating awareness or mindfulness into your organizing strategy can offer long lasting results.By using #mindfulness as a tool to #organize your home, you will be able to tune in to your #intuition and inner wisdom to determine what is right for you at this moment in your life. #organizing #declutter Click To Tweet
How to Organize with Mindfulness
“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.” ~ Tony Robbins
Now that you are clear on your unique organizing why, you are better equipped to determine how to organize mindfully.
Your home is as unique to you as your fingerprints, and the objects you keep in your home are there for a reason. But some of these once logical reasons may no longer be helping you live your best life or be your best self!
Attachments to things might continue due to overwhelm, stress, guilt, shame or other uncomfortable feelings. This is very normal, and nothing to feel bad about. If you’re in such a situation (and let’s face it, almost ALL of us are at some time or other!) mindful organizing can help.
We encourage you to approach home organizing with gentleness. If you are constantly criticizing your efforts, you will be unable to see the progress you make. As humans we are wired to look for danger. This means that we have a tendency to focus on the negative rather than celebrating how far we’ve come.
If you are a client or workshop participant, mindful organizing means that our carefully chosen and highly trained organizers assist you in doing more than just surface tidying. We compassionately guide you in exploring the deep reasons why you have clutter and what it represents. This means the solutions we offer have a lasting effect. If you have a trusted friend who is non-judgemental and patient, they may be able to support you as you move through the layers of feelings that arise while organizing.
Too long, didn’t read? Learn how to organize a messy house in 7 simple steps here.Your space CAN and SHOULD support and enhance your life, rather than detract from it. #organize #declutter #mindful Click To Tweet
Be Clear About Your Vision
“You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.” George Lucas
Use your organizing “whys” as a guide as you create a clear vision for your spaces.
A simple way to get in touch with your vision is to answer this question: When I say “organized,” what images, words or feelings come up for you? Write down the first 10-12 word that come to you when you envision your organized space. If you respond best to images, draw your vision or express it in color or shape. The important thing is to capture the feelings you wish to experience in your organized life.
If you are unclear on what you want for a particular space, try our free My Clutter-free Life Review worksheet. Print as many copies as you like to use for different rooms in your home and to allow others in your household to capture and share their visions.
To create a combined vision with others in your household, you will find guidance and resources in our e-book: All in the Family: Clutter and Your Primary Relationships
Once you are in touch with your vision for each space (which will grow and change as you do) you can implement the following proven techniques and strategies and get down to the nuts and bolts of organizing. Without a vision you will be stumbling in the dark, and though you may make a limited amount of progress, you are likely to have to redo much of your well-intentioned work.
Using your clear vision, it is time to make a plan! You will need to devote concentrated time to achieving your organizing goals and you may benefit from the support of professionals, friends, or others in your household.
Organize At Your Own Pace
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are many wonderful quotes about slowing down, and one great one is from our friend the turtle: “slow and steady wins the race.” Why is this so? Because when we hurry, we often make mistakes or decisions that we later regret.
Organizing is no different! You let things get disorganized due to overwhelm, lack of time, lack of confidence in our skills or other good reasons. Then in frustration, you throw things in a box, only to discover later that something of great personal value can no longer be located. Take heart!
Though it’s great to set aside large blocks of time to mindfully organize your space, most of us lead very busy lives. Instead you can make steady and satisfying progress by giving focused attention to an organizing task in 5, 10 or 15 minute increments. Consistency keeps you moving forward, so try picking a regular time each day or each week and make an appointment with yourself to work on a small organizing challenge.
If you know that finding time to organize is your biggest challenge, learn how to make progress in short bursts of time in:
And, yes, it IS possible to organize your home or office slowly and mindfully, despite what some best selling authors will tell you! Hint: How to declutter if you’re not Marie Kondo!
Regardless of which method of organizing you choose, it is encouraging to note that even small increments of time dedicated to organizing will add up quickly. Promise!
Organize In Your Own Time
“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol
In our workshops and when working with clients, we invite you to reflect on when you are most productive. To support you in thinking about thi squestion, we use our free printable worksheet Your Inner Clock. You can use the same tool to become more aware of your inner clock and become more conscious of what times of day you will be the most effective.
After completing the worksheet, notice how your daily habits and routines apply to disorganization in your life. You may find it useful to have a small notebook or binder in which to record your observations. Or you might create a note on your smartphone to document your progress and stumbling blocks. Once you have clarity about when you are most productive and energized, you can gain control of your time and life by scheduling specific times to move towards your organizing goals.
Random Acts of Organizing
You undoubtedly organize regularly without giving it much thought. Whenever you hang up your clothes rather than tossing them on the chair, you are organizing. But sometimes you may suddenly feel energized to organize some aspect of your home or life. This is often a result of feeling “I just can’t take this anymore.”
I am prone to unplanned fits of organizing in the morning. These organizing spurts usually don’t last more than 15-20 minutes, but they commonly address some small thing that has been annoying me for some time. If you feel inclined to organize in the early morning, you can take advantage of the impulse by getting up 15 minutes earlier or choosing to take a few minutes to prepare for your day the night before.
Pro Tip: Beware of doing morning organizing without being mindful of your time, as you may make yourself late for work or skip your morning exercise routine, which is not a sustainable or healthy pattern. Learn more in our post Where Did the Time Go? How to Mindfully Manage Your Time.
If you are a night owl, you may be more inclined to tackle organizing projects in the evening. If you observe your patterns and notice this tendency, integrate this time into your evening routine so that you do not lose sleep or “get a second wind” and work until the wee hours of the morning.
A timer is your trusted friend when doing planned or unplanned organizing, as it can keep you from working too long and suffering unpleasant consequences.
3 Ways To Organize Your Home with Mindfulness
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” ~Tony Robbins
What is the best method for organizing your home, and how do you start? You will need to put in some sustained work in order to make your vision for your space a reality. You may have already read books, purchased organizing products and even tried a variety of different organizing approaches, but are still dissatisfied with the outcomes. If so, organizing mindfully can help.
If you are a linear thinker, it can be helpful to have a plan or a list of the action steps that you feel will be needed in order to reach your goals. Once you have your list(s), you can then tune in to how you feel in the present moment to determine the best course of action for you. If lists don’t work for you, try a mind map or use sticky notes in a three ring binder with tabs. One of my clients kept all of his to-dos on sticky notes on pages of looseleaf paper organized into a three ring binder. He had a section for work, a section for home, and a section at the back for completed tasks. The stickies got moved around frequently according to shifting priorities and were moved the the “completed” section after he was done with them. He also had a someday/maybe section for ideas that could not be implemented right away but felt important to review from time to time.
We can’t emphasize enough that there is no right or wrong way to organize your home. The system of organizing that works for you may be one of the three outlined here, one you make up on your own, or a hybrid comprised of the best ideas from all of the systems you have studied or tried.
Number 1: How To Organize Room by Room
This is a great approach. With this method you choose a room in which to begin. You might start in the kitchen, then the dining room, then the living room, etc. It can help you make steady progress to have boundaries like these, such as: today I am ONLY decluttering the kitchen. It keeps you focused and prevents you from getting overwhelmed by other rooms in the house.
Pro Tip #1: Have a transit bag or box to collect things that go elsewhere in the home rather than dashing from room to room putting things where they belong.
Pro tip #2: Break it down! Once you choose a room or an area in a room that you are enthusiastic about organizing, break that project down into manageable steps.
You might tackle one cabinet at a time, one shelf at a time, or one drawer at a time. In Three Clever Ways to Transform Your Closet, we share specific tips and examples that can be applied to any organizing project.
For more tips on how to break down a big goal into small tasks, click here.
Number 2: How To Organize By Category
Organizing by category utilizes the very first rule of organizing: put like with like. The good news here is that you learned how to do this back in kindergarten! Just as in kindergarten, you can organize by type of object as well as by color or shape.
Many folks automatically organize a closet by grouping all of their shirts together, all of their pants together, etc. Others prefer to have outfits picked out ahead of time for ease of choosing what to wear. Some prefer to organize by color.
One of my clients associated certain colors with days of the week and organized her clothing using that framework. Her color choices are based on the Waldorf system of education and they are:
- Saturday: blue
- Sunday: white
- Monday: purple
- Tuesday: red/pink
- Wednesday: yellow/beige
- Thursday: orange/brown
- Friday: green
This client never struggled with deciding what to wear. She travelled often and packing was a cinch. Though this strategy may not be your cup of tea, for my client it created freedom and saved time.
When organizing by category, use broad categories at first and then create subcategories in a second pass. The organize-by-category principle can be applied to any type of object.
Below are a few examples of organizing by category:
How to Organize Clothes by Category
- Get all of your shirts together.
- Separate the shirts into 3 categories such as long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts and anything else.
- Choose one of the subcategories (let’s say long-sleeved shirts) and subdivide using any other criteria that is meaningful to you, such as dressy or casual, favorites, occasionally used, etc.
How to Organize Books by Category
- Begin with broad categories such as:
- Reading for pleasure
- Subdivide your categories further: you might sort wellness into exercise, diet, meditation, etc. It doesn’t matter how you categorize your things, as long as the divisions make sense to you and anyone else who may be accessing the collection.
Pro Tip: Once you see how much of each category you have, you will have a much better idea of how and where to store each category.
How to Organize by Category In Your Kitchen
In the kitchen you might begin to organize by category by getting all of the bowls together, all of the storage containers together, all of the cookware together, and all of the kitchen linens together. You might then refine the categories by sorting out small bowls, most frequently used bowls, bowls with or without lids and so on. Be creative and don’t be shy about tweaking systems that are not working for you or for others in your household.
Pro Tip: Once you have all of a particular type of item together, you may find it easy to edit your collection by donating or discarding duplicates or items you no longer use or love.
4 Steps for Refining Each Category Following a Broad Sort
After doing a broad sort in each category, continue to organize by following this process:
- Pick the treasures from each category
- Identify the ones you use often
- Edit out items you don’t love, don’t use, or that are broken or worn
- Organize what remains (the treasures, the most-used items and the rest)
Pro tip: Once you see how much of each category you have, you will then have a much better idea of how and where to store each category.
It is not always possible to store everything of a particular category in the same place, but you can make choices based on function to further support your organizing process.
Number 3: How To Organize by Function
To organize by function, you make choices about where to store things based on where they are most often used.
When organizing by function, it is helpful to think about primary and secondary storage. At your desk, your primary storage areas would be those within arms reach. You will want to have your most active papers and office supplies close to where you work. You might find it helpful to think of primary storage as “prime real estate.”
Secondary storage might include a closet or file cabinet where you keep resource materials that are infrequently used. Your laminator or label maker might be kept in secondary storage unless you use them on a regular basis.
How to Organize the Bathroom by Function
If you have room to store all of your towels in the bathroom, you are one of the lucky ones. Otherwise organize by category (washcloths, hand towels, bath towels, bath rugs, etc.) and organize them in a linen closet (secondary storage.) No linen closet? Consider a basket, a small wire shelf unit or even a small bookshelf.
Some folks like to keep all of their bed linens in a linen closet (secondary storage), while others may choose to keep the sheets for the guest room in the upper shelf of the guest room closet, while keeping the sheets for the master bedroom in an under the bed storage container. Choose a strategy based on personal preference or available space. Whatever you decide is “right!”
How to Organize the Kitchen by Function
Organizing by function is particularly helpful in places where you do multiple tasks at the same time, such as in a kitchen. Having the spatula and pot holders right next to the stove makes the cook’s job much easier. In small spaces you may need to be creative and make use of walls, insides of cabinets and even ceilings.
To make use of your ceilings in a kitchen, you might choose hooks to hold pots and pans.
To make the most of your drawers in any room, you can use small containers or drawer dividers to keep like with like. These three kitchen drawers are organized using an eclectic collection of dollar store containers and a bamboo drawer organizer purchased at the Container Store.
Pro Tip: Measure spaces prior to shopping for organizing solutions. I keep a note in my iPhone with measurements of spaces for which I need organizing solutions. Then if I stumble upon a bargain or just the right tool, I will be able to tell if it will meet my needs.
Shelf expanders, though they are more commonly used in upper cabinets, can be used in both upper and lower cabinets to create additional storage space. See below I have used a shelf expander to make space for more cookware in my very small kitchen. I have even used a shelf expander in a rolling storage cube to keep beverage glasses next to the couch.
There are many products that will allow you to use the insides of doors or cabinets to create additional storage space. Sometimes you don’t need to buy anything at all. You can use a nail to hang a bag of rags in your laundry area or a hook to hang a pot holder near the stove. Or you can simply place boxes on their sides to make use of closet up space on a budget.
Another example of keeping things handy is the use of three containers to hold winter gear by a front door. In the spring and summer, the inexpensive tags can be easily changed and the containers can be used for other purposes. In the summer, one of the bins is repurposed to hold a birding book, binoculars, a pack of travel tissues and a container of spray sunscreen. The winter accessories can be moved to a secondary storage area until needed.
How to Organize your Home by Function Using Stations
Another strategy borrowed from our preschool years is the idea of creating stations for particular activities. You remember the stations in pre-school, right? You read here, you play with blocks here, you learn about colors here, and so on.
You can create stations in your kitchen or any other room to make things easier to use and find. We can also benefit from creating designated spaces for special activities. One of my virtual organizing clients is working on making her meditation and reading “station” less cluttered to support the meditative state of mind she wishes to have in that space. Stations are particularly useful for families with children, but the technique can be used by anyone. One of my clients with ADHD loves to cook and has made excellent use of stations in her kitchen.
We encourage you to be playful when organizing and experiment with different options without feeling that the choices you make today must be final. Organizing is a process and you will enjoy it much more if you take it lightly. Recognize that these are not life and death decisions and treat organizing like a game or a puzzle.
How Long Will Mindful Organizing Take?
“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but through perseverance.” ~ H. Jackson Brown
I wish there were a simple answer to how long it takes to organize a home or even a room but unfortunately there is no magic formula!
We go into detail on the factors that affect organizing timeframes in How Long Does it Take to Organize a Home? The chart below includes estimates from professionals in the organizing field to give you a ballpark of how much time it generally takes to organize specific areas of the home.
Shocked by the estimates above? I know. But the disorganization didn’t happen in two days or two weeks! So it is unrealistic to think that it can be transformed in a short amount of time.
These are just estimates, and your progress in any given area may be much faster or slower. The good news is that organizing gets easier as you build your organizing “muscles.” You may make painfully slow progress at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can sometimes feel like a snowball rolling down a hill.
And remember, if you don’t have the luxury of concentrated blocks of time to organize, try the manageable approach of organizing in five minutes or less!
How to Organize Your Home When Your Efforts Have Failed
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein
If mindful organizing is your goal, the best way to get good results is to build on what works! If you have tried an organizing technique and it has worked for you in the past, try it again, or apply similar principles to your current challenges.If #mindful #organizing is your goal, build on what already works! If you are organized in one area of your space, apply the same principles to disorganized or cluttered areas. Click To Tweet
If what you have tried in the past has NOT worked, that’s okay too. There are plenty of techniques to choose from written here, or you might start by tweaking your system or doing the exact opposite of what you did before!
Case Study: How to Tweak Your Organizing System
One client wanted to keep her partly worn workout clothes handy until she was ready to wash them. She was tossing them on top of a desk in her bedroom. The “system” was working in that she knew which clothes were half-clean, but we decided that the system could easily be tweaked and improved.
In a virtual organizing session, we developed a no-cost new system for storing the clothes that freed up the top of the desk. Since the final step for the half-worn clothes was to go down to the laundry room, the client brought up a laundry basket and placed it to the right of the desk. After our session, she went through the clothing on the desktop and made decisions about what to launder and what to keep for exercising or household chores. The client later mentioned that a bonus of the new system was that the basket limited how many clothes could pile up, unlike the top of the desk where clothes could pile higher and higher!
We decided that a good way to support the client in maintaining her new habit was to place a few decorative items on the desk so she wouldn’t feel tempted to throw clothes there again.
Is it Time to Try Something Different in Your Organizing?
If you notice that the logical plan of keeping your cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink is not helping you keep the upper and lower levels of the home clean, you might create a tote to hold commonly used cleaning supplies. The tote can then travel with you throughout your home.
Is it Time to Try Something Different in Your Productivity?
If you have tried working with lists and it makes you tear your hair out, try a mindmap instead. A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. To give you an idea of what a mind map might look like, take a look at this health-related mindmap.
I like Mindmap.com’s definition of mind mapping: “Mind mapping is a highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain. Mind mapping is a creative and logical means of note-taking and note-making that literally “maps out” your ideas.” You can make a mind map by using a piece of paper, a poster board or a whiteboard. Trello is a popular online tool for making mind maps.
As students of productivity know, getting information out of your brain is the key to avoiding overwhelm and getting things done. David Allen, the author of the best-selling book Getting Things Done, says “Your mind is for having thoughts, not for holding them” Allen also says “There is usually an inverse proportion between how much something is on your mind and how much it’s getting done.” Allen, and many other experts, recommend using lists or mind maps to organize any project that has more than one action step.
A simple organizing project with just a few action steps might be to get new shelves built for your garage. Your action steps might be to:
- Decide what you wish to store on the shelves
- Research which type of shelves to purchase (fixed, adjustable, etc.)
- Find a time to do the work yourself or hire a professional
I recently spoke with my accountability partner and after we broke down a goal of hers into just four action steps, she realized that she could get it done within two days. Breaking her project down into concrete action steps helped her to see that it was not as difficult as it seemed. Breaking any project down into action steps provides clarity and offers you an opportunity to estimate how long each step will take. Then you can schedule times to complete the action steps or get the support you need to do so.
Not a believer? Try identifying the action steps for a particular project by listing or mapping them out and see what you think. By organizing your projects in this way, you release the need for your mind to hold onto the details, freeing it up for higher level pursuits.
Is it Time to Try Something Different By Getting Help?
If you have tried organizing on your own with limited success, try getting support from a friend or a professional. Your time is valuable and you cannot get it back once you have spent it. This CBS Morning news segment illustrates how having professional support can help:
Still feeling stuck? Do not despair: we offer many practical tips and inspiration for mindfully organizing your home on our award-winning blog and in our monthly newsletter.
Check out these two posts on mindfully organizing for a taste of what our blog has to offer. In 50 Ways to Fold Your Towels we offer insights into doing what works and Three Clever Ways to Transform Your Closet will take you step-by-step through the process of organizing a closet.
When To Begin Organizing
If you feel overwhelmed because your home is disorganized, it can be hard to know when and where to start!
There is no time like the present to begin mindfully organizing. Many people put off starting organizing projects because they don’t feel “ready,” or worry they don’t have the knowledge or tools to “do it right.” Avoid perfectionism and adopt one of our favorite mottos: “better done than perfect!” As you know by now, you don’t even need special containers to get organized. This content along with your inner wisdom could be the only guidance you need to make a start.
We encourage our clients to make organizing a part of their daily lives. Like healthy eating, exercise, or meditation, getting and staying organized is a lifestyle choice that is greatly supported by organized habits. There’s no magic formula for getting organized, it is simply a matter of choosing to do so and mindfully working at it. Setting a clear and positive intention for yourself and setting a timer as you begin an organizing project will help you to stay focused and on track.
Organizing During Transition
Sometimes people feel satisfied (or satisfied enough) with their homes and don’t feel any urgency to organize or change until they face a transition.
Transitions that may call for a reorganization of parts of your life include:
- Expecting a baby
- Caregiving for a sick or failing family member
- Life as an “empty nester”
- Accommodating several generations under one roof
- Joining or combining households
- Death. A particularly challenging transition that is nearly always accompanied by grief.
- Downsizing or Rightsizing
Transitions are a natural part of life, and it’s normal to expect some chaos as you navigate uncharted territory. The more you can organize your home and mind before unexpected or planned transitions, the more smoothly the transitions will go! During times of transition, self-care can become hard to achieve but is critically important. Learn more about how to prepare for transitions here.
Being gentle with yourself will make it easier to stay mindful throughout the process and will minimize any sense of overwhelm or inadequacy.
Jump on the Rightsizing Train
“Happiness is the place between too little and too much.” ~ Finnish Proverb
Baby Boomers, the generation defined by the boom in U.S. births following World War II is still the largest segment of the population, though this is expected to change as of 2019.
Downsizing can certainly happen at any time, but is usually associated with a move to a smaller space. You can engage in rightsizing even if you are not moving in order to enjoy life to the fullest in your space right now. Ciji Ware, the author of Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most explains rightsizing this way:
“Rightsizing is an approach to simplifying your surroundings while keeping what you need or cherish most. It’s a process, not an event, and practically speaking, it leads to simplifying and decluttering, organizing and storing things properly so you can find what you need when you want it. It can even result in redesigning an entire home environment for the way you live now – or aspire to.”
Read the rest of the CJ Ware’s Rightsizing Credo here.
Rightsizing may mean adding an addition to your home in order to care for a family member. Or it may mean moving to a home that offers most of the living on one level in order to prepare for a time when stairs become difficult. We recently moved into a larger home that offers opportunities for hosting house concerts and is a two block walk from a lake that is home to bald eagles and a myriad of other birds and wildlife. When we moved, I had not heard of rightsizing, but when I read Ware’s book I thought, “Yes, that is what we did!”
You may find it helpful to reflect on what rightsizing might mean to you at this time in your life, or to ponder what it could mean to you as you move through the many different stages of your life.
If the idea of rightsizing appeals to you, it can be helpful to create an incentive for yourself by planning a small gathering at your home, or even inviting one special friend over for tea. One client wanted to have her book group meet at her home and we supported her in getting her home in order to make that possible. Let’s explore more about using deadlines to support your organizing efforts.
The Power of Deadlines to Motivate Organizing
Many people contact us when they are preparing to move. A few really wise ones call a year prior to their planned moving date. Others are forced to move due to unexpected circumstances and do not have the luxury of time to make decisions slowly and mindfully. After we have decluttered and organized the home, it feels like a shame to sell it and leave without enjoying it!
I had this feeling when my husband and I moved. Though we did not do major renovations, we fixed some small things that had been lingering for years. So, let’s play a game of pretend. Spend 15 minutes walking through your home and make note of things you would do if you were moving soon. Now consider actually doing just one small item from your list in order to enjoy your space more now!
It seems that we all need deadlines in order to help us buckle down and get organized. I recently had guests in from out of town, and having their arrival date on the calendar helped me and my husband move forward quickly with projects that had been languishing on our list.
What might you do to create a deadline in order to motivate you to organize your home?
Move Forward to Declutter with Mindfulness
Each day is a new day and offers opportunities to reframe and reorganize your thoughts and your life. We hope you are eager to gently experiment and explore some of the ways that mindfulness will support you through each step of the home organizing process.
Noticing and giving space to the thoughts and feelings that come up as you create order in your home will help you to design personalized systems to offer you comfort and delight.
Learn more about how mindful home organizing works on our Mindful Organizing Process page. It outlines the six steps we work through with our clients during both our hands-on and virtual organizing sessions.
Organizing is often physical work, and being mindful of your body will ensure that you take breaks when you are hungry, thirsty, or ready for rest. When you feel overwhelmed, taking a few deep breaths or changing activities for a time will calm you. When you feel uncertain, closing your eyes and listening to your heart speak can help you decide how to move forward.
Want to see the decluttering and organizing process in action? Watch this 1 minute 5 second timelapse video!
Only you can decide whether mindful decluttering and organizing is an approach that you would like to explore and apply, but we are here to support you with resources through our award winning blog, our monthly newsletter and our Facebook community.With your inner wisdom as your guide, you’ll be able to answer questions about your most cherished goals and values, and to #organize your home with #mindful awareness. Click To Tweet
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” ~ Dr. Seuss
We hope you are now feeling more confident, inspired and capable of decluttering your home with mindfulness. Letting go of that which no longer serves you creates space for fresh energy, new activity and joy to enter your life.
By now you understand how mindfulness supports the process of decluttering, and you have the tools you need to approach your clutter using a variety of methods. We encourage you to bookmark this page for inspiration and reference!
If you wonder if you might benefit from professional guidance, take advantage of our free no-obligation 20-minute consultation. You’ll come away with even more clarity about why and how to tackle your clutter.