I've been a professional organizer for 13 years now and continue to learn more about organizing with each project, including my own. I hope I'm a more effective and influential organizer with each passing year. As an organizer, I observe as much as I sort. Reflecting on and learning from the themes that emerged continually bring a freshness to my perspective. I intentionally didn't read my list of 7 Things I Learned about Organizing in 2013 before writing this (but turns out #5 was on last year's list too)! So, I guess that's in important one!
Here are 7 things I learned about organizing in 2014:
1. Organizing is liberating.
I always knew this, but "liberating" is the word I heard most in 2014 to describe how it feels to let go of the things that no longer serve. In the fall I heard a client say it in his basement, then everyone seemed to echo it all around me!
2. It's ok if systems need to change.
I started working again with a client who I helped one year previous. She was frustrated that the once successful system that we had put in place last year was no longer working. Specifically we crafted a morning routine list at work and masterminded a pretty elaborate to-do list, with color coded paper and start dates for each task. It made me realize that my own to do lists looked nothing like they did a year ago. As your life evolves, your habits and systems may have to as well. It is not a sign of failure!
3. One can reap the emotional benefits of organizing long before the end is in sight.
One day it took 4 hours to uncover about 10 square feet of a client's bedroom floor (sometimes I do take on non-office projects). I was pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic and energized she was throughout the session. I asked her something I had never asked a client before: "What did you learn today? What do you now know that you didn't know 4 hours ago?" She answered: "That this could be so much fun. And EASY! I thought this would be agonizing." We still haven't finished yet, but even with hours of digging still ahead of her, she's already benefited tremendously.
4. The most important things we keep are the things that tell our stories.
In November someone asked me if I thought I was overly reliant on technology, considering the fact that I had used Evernote to save my favorite recipes and donate my cookbooks. This question prompted a few weeks' worth of reflection, surprisingly having me take inventory of what beloved objects I will always want to see and touch. I knew there were indeed many, but I had never before been prodded into asking myself why they matter. The full answer can be read here.
5. You never get it done.
Organizing is a process more than it is a state. You don't reach a point where you declare yourself "organized" and stay that way without maintenance. As long as you receive gifts, mail, news and ideas you will need to keep at it. As things flow in, they must flow out.
6. Organizing takes time, no matter who you are.
This year more than any, I've realized how much time I personally spend organizing. It takes very little for my delicate equilibrium of order to be threatened. Just one day's worth of mail thrown on the dining table is more clutter than I'm usually willing to harbor. I don't have a magic wand though, so I endlessly toss, shred, recycle, and donate as much as I buy. It's hard to quantify how much time I collectively spend per week on this, but it's hours, not minutes. I do believe that to stay organized, you have to do this, but don't get down on yourself if you don't have the time, or don't love doing it! If you did, you'd be a professional organizer, and the world needs variety! Go do what you're good at, and hire someone who loves to do what you hate.
7. There's no singular explanation for why people have too much stuff.
Someone asked me at a party: "Why do you think Americans have so much stuff?" My answer: "I really don't know." Sure, we can make sweeping generalizations about consumerism and disintegrating values, but that can't be the whole story, considering I organize for a living and genuinely like so many people who are (or were) stockpilers of cheap made in China crap! The answer she expected to hear discounts the unique histories that shaped each individual's current space. When I hear generalizations like these, I immediately see the faces of the people I know who have or had too much stuff. So seldom (though truthfully, it happens) does the easily accessible explanation of overindulgence come to mind.
If I must call out a common denominator amongst my clients, it's that they all are ready to change. Regardless of their past choices, their tide is receding. Attention to this topic of organizing can either be a disheartening one, further angering ourselves about the Costco-ization of the country, or a hopeful one, showing how we are only ever one less purchase away from liberation. I always tell my friends that there are two types of cluttered people: those who are willing to change and those who aren't. If you're willing to change in 2015, let's work together.
What did you learn about organizing in 2014? Anything goes - the smallest minutiae to the grandest of life lessons.
Comment below please!
Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper. She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking. Reach her at 202.262.1207 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch video lessons on office organizing here. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter & receive your free list of 100 Ways to Organize Your Office at www.theinspiredoffice.com/subscribe.