Every time the calendar flips from one year to the next, millions of us resolve to lose weight, quit smoking or reduce debt. But have you given much thought to getting your house in order? Are you tired of staring at all of those boxes crammed with clothes you haven’t worn in 10 years or with toys your kids haven’t touched in five years?
Here are 12 tips to help you get your New Year off to a well-organized start.
1. Start Small.
Simply put, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
“People usually make a resolution that says something like, ‘I’m going to get my home and office totally organized this year, and I will never misplace anything again’,” said Maria Spetalnik, a professional organizer in the Washington, DC, area. “This is not only unrealistic but would take so long that they usually run out of steam before they even see results. Then they are frustrated with themselves and have often created a bigger problem than they started with.”
To prevent that frustration, Spetalnik said, make resolutions like, “I will do my shopping using a list rather than trying to remember what I need.”
2. Use One Calendar for Everything.
Kim Oser, a professional organizer in the Washington, DC, area, said your calendar must be portable, whether it’s in paper or digital form. That way, you can mark down appointments and other calendar-worthy events when you’re on the go.
3. Establish Daily, Weekly and Monthly Routines.
“Creating routines to accomplishing tasks will make sure even the mundane things get done around the house,” Kostelny said.
For example, make your bed daily, pay your bills weekly and clean out your wallet monthly.
4. Set Manageable Goals.
Either at night before or in the morning, jot down your three most important tasks for the day, Oser said.
“There may be more than three but these are the three things that must get done,” Oser said. “It allows you to build them in to your day rather than panicking at the end of the day.”
5. Divide and Conquer.
Rather than taking on a massive organizing project, break that project up into pieces, like getting the corner of a room into shape, not the entire room, said Beth Giles, a professional organizer in Portland, OR.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that a room can be transformed into an organized area in a matter of minutes,” Giles said. “Most rooms or offices do not become disorganized overnight but rather over months or years, so it will require hours or days to work through the contents of a space and restore its order.”
6. Find a Home for Everything.
7. Stamp Out Piles of Mail.
Every time a piece of mail or any other paper comes into your home, act on it right away, and then either file it or pitch it, Izsak said.
8. Enlist Help.
Delegate organizing tasks to every member of your household, said Donna David, the New York City organizer.
“Everyone needs to be involved,” she said, “and take ownership of completing their responsibilities.”
If you and your family lack motivation, consider hiring a professional organizer.
“That person will not only de-clutter your home, but bring some sanity to your life,” David said.
9. Make a Long-Term Commitment.
Organizing doesn’t end when you’ve completed the first sweep of your home. Organization is an ongoing process, said Beth Giles, the Portland organizer. For instance, you’ve regularly got to pick up stuff around the house and put it in its proper place.
In addition, you’ve got to be flexible with your organization plans.
“Just as our lives and schedules continually change,” Giles said, “the way we organize our homes and offices will also need to be re-evaluated and changed.”
All sorts of technology is available to simplify home organization. For instance, a company called HomeZada produces home management and organization software. The online software lets you create a home inventory, set up a home maintenance calendar, manage home improvement projects and track household expenses—all in one place.
11. Track Your Progress.
“Mark down each day that you make successful strides toward keeping your resolutions,” said Bob Sadowski, marketing manager for PR and social media at ACCO Brands Corp., which sells At-A-Glance, Day-Timer and Day Runner calendars. “Put a big red ‘X’ over that day on your calendar. By seeing the chain of success, you’ll be motivated to keep it going.”
12. Celebrate Your Success.
“Set monthly milestones where, if achieved, you can treat yourself to something fun,” Sadowski said. “Make it a fun reward, like a night out to enjoy dinner and a movie.”
Why Resolutions Fail and How to Keep Them
Now that you have made it your goal to get organized, you need to be determined and disciplined enough to follow through.
Traditionally, we’ve placed so much emphasis on the idea of starting over that failure often leads to guilt, shame and just wanting to throw the towel in altogether.
Plus, resolutions might not be all that beneficial to our emotional health.
According to Psychology Today, out of the 45 percent of Americans who make resolutions, more than half fail at the one-week mark, with another 40 percent failing at the one-month mark. Even worse, those who fail reported lower self-esteem, sadness and even depression.
Remember Negative Reinforcement Produces Bad Results.
As expected, the top resolutions involve correcting “bad” behavior: lose weight, stop smoking or drinking, stop spending so much money, stop procrastinating, etc. Most of the time, it seems like our resolutions are framed as punishments rather than steps towards positive life changes.
But this doesn’t mean that the intent behind behind those resolutions are bad. However, if you are having trouble keeping to your resolutions, it might be time to start rethinking how you frame them.
Rather than focusing on correcting bad behavior, try reinforcing or emphasizing good behavior. It’s a much more positive and motivational way to remind yourself that you are working towards betterment, rather than being disappointed every time you fall short or make a mistake.
If you are struggling to keep your organizing resolutions, here are some ideas for positive, reaffirming New Year resolutions that may still help you be a more organized person—just without the pressure. And remember: You don’t ever have to wait until New Year’s Day to make a change in your life. That step can happen at any moment – it’s just up to you when to begin.
13. Keep Investing in the Relationships That Matter.
We live in a time when it is so easy to communicate, regardless of physical distance.
The old excuse of “I just don’t have time” doesn’t really hold up anymore. So, call your parents. Make an effort to stay in touch with the friends who you see yourself growing old with. Plan deeply memorable bonding experiences with the people close to you, whether it’s a camping trip, road trip, dinner date, or even a weekly workout session and snack afterwards. You will find that, in the process of investing in the relationships that matter, the toxic or meaningless ones naturally fall away. And that’s for the best.
14. Give Yourself Some Space.
Space can come in many ways, whether physical, emotional or mental.
Maybe you’re someone who is always saying “yes,” who helps others so much that you lose time for yourself. When you overreach and give too much of yourself away, you can start building resentment for others and feel depleted, stressed and helpless. Instead, teach yourself to say “no” when it counts. That’s not you being selfish, it’s just you giving yourself some much-needed space.
Or maybe space comes physically. Maybe your home is so cluttered and disorganized that it’s affecting your personal life. (Clutter increases stress, decreases productivity, drains your wallet, can be harmful to your health, and jeopardizes relationships with loved ones.) Make a dedicated effort to treat your home and health with respect, whether it’s getting storage, reorganizing, or selling/donating what you no longer need.
Whatever “space” means to you, don’t feel guilty for giving it to yourself.
15. Take Care of Yourself.
Losing weight, stopping vices, getting more sleep – these all fall under the umbrella of simply taking better care of yourself. But rather than seeing these resolutions as things you’re forbidding yourself to do (or taking away from yourself), try thinking about them from a perspective of love and self-care.
16. Treat Your Time and Energy With Respect.
Procrastination, excessive social media usage, laziness – all of these things affect your time and energy. To combat procrastination, I personally like to think of “present me” doing a favor for “future me.”
Another highly effective method is the Five Minute Miracle: perform a task that moves a project or action item forward, that takes less than five minutes to complete. Research shows that once you start something, you’re much more likely to finish it.
17. Forgive Yourself.
One of the biggest things getting in the way of accomplishing goals is the “all or nothing” mentality.
Basically, you have to do everything perfectly, or it’s not even worth trying or finishing. This approach often surfaces in health and fitness; for example, if you slip up and eat a cupcake one day during your diet, the entire day is a wash. The all-or-nothing mentality tells you to give up and continue eating haphazardly for the rest of the day, and instead start over again – perfectly – tomorrow.
For the majority of people, the all-or-nothing approach does not work. Instead, remember that your journey is a long one, and that conditions do not have to be perfect in order for you to make small progress. Focus instead on doing the right things more often, and forgive yourself when you fall short or slip up. Don’t give up if it’s not perfect – just recognize your mistakes and move past them. That’s where true progress comes from.