By Debra Siegel
People often ask me how long it will take to complete an organizing project. And my first response is “How long did it take to collect the clutter?” But are the two closely connected? We are always consuming and bringing items into our spaces whether it’s groceries, clothes, toys, magazines or our kids schoolwork and art projects. What do we do with all of that stuff on a daily basis? Some is consumed or tossed but most of it is added to the piles we have cast aside with the intention of going through it “one day.” So for many, organizing is something you do when you get completely overwhelmed and can’t handle the clutter anymore. You don’t need to wait for that to happen.
If you want to stay in shape physically, you know you can’t just work out once every few years. To really reap the benefits, it has to become part of your daily routine. Organizing is no different. Of course the initial process of purging and setting up systems is a little labor intensive and time consuming, but the maintenance should not be. If you spent just a few minutes a day dealing with your stuff, it really doesn’t pile up.
Try these ideas:
- Put kids schoolwork and art in a box in a convenient location (usually wherever they keep their backpacks). At the end of the week/month or whenever the box fills up, empty it and then move special items to a “keepsake box”. When that fills up, go through it.
- Never keep more than 3 months of magazines/1 week of newspapers. When the new ones come, toss the oldest, even if you haven’t read them. If you haven’t gotten to it by now, you probably won’t and having them pile up just adds stress to your life.
- When you buy a new item of clothing, take one out and keep a give-away bag going until it is full.
- Clean out your refrigerator at least once a week or right before you do your grocery shopping.
- Before your kids birthdays and the holidays, have them get rid of some older toys that they no longer like to make room for the new stuff.
Think of your space as a revolving door, you need to take out as often as you take in. Health and happiness are about striking a balance and an organized space makes it a happy place.
Organizing is an ongoing process like getting into shape, eating healthy and good parenting. You need to always be working at it, learning more and refining your skills. You are never really finished. It’s a process that requires commitment but if you stay on top of it, you should never have to do the “heavy lifting” again.
So the answer to how long it takes to get organized is, a lifetime, but it’s worth every clutter-free moment.
Debra Seigel is a professional organizer. She teaches her organizing techniques to people looking to change their lives.