Want to get organized but don't know where to begin? Maybe you're feeling defeated because you've seen your cleanup efforts quickly undone in the past. Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life, offers advice on how to get―and keep―your world in order. Use these six smart tactics to win the war you wage against your possessions.
1. Identify the job at hand.
If you want to be more efficient and know where to find your belongings, you need to get organized. If you feel weighed down by too much stuff and crave a new phase of life, you're a candidate for shedding some possessions.
For organizers: Evaluate what you want to de-clutter and design a system that suits the way you think. For instance, if you're organizing spices, perhaps lining them up alphabetically isn't the most workable system. You could divide them into baking spices and savory ones, or store the ones you use most on a shelf above the stove, and others in a cabinet.
For shedders: "Nobody likes to get rid of stuff," says Morgenstern. "In order for your changes to last, you need a meaningful goal." Envision how your life will improve with less clutter. Think about what you're trading all those doodads for―freedom, mobility, peace of mind―and what you can fill your life with instead of clutter. Use these thoughts as motivation.
2. Involve the family.
"Hold a meeting and talk about what's working and what isn't," Morgenstern says. Try to come to a consensus on why shedding or organizing is a worthwhile task. Even if your loved ones don't want to participate in the later stages, include them in the planning. Adds Morgenstern, "The chances of everyone maintaining the new system are much greater if you involve them."
3. Choose the right starting point.
Begin by tackling the room where you spend the most time. "That way, you'll enjoy the rewards more," says Morgenstern. "Your life will improve."
4. Break it down.
Identify smaller tasks within the larger project that you can accomplish in a few hours. For instance, putting DVDs back in their cases could be one task, while organizing them could be the next day's. Trying to finish everything in one sitting can leave you feeling defeated―so can working for several hours and quitting without completing a job.
5. Enlist a friend.
"Whether you're shedding or organizing, it's physically demanding," says Morgenstern. "You have to bend, reach and move. Then there's the mental labor, evaluating what to keep, figuring out where things will fit." A helper can lend a hand with the heavy lifting and also will be more objective in the sorting process. Plus, the time will fly by―and the task will be more enjoyable―if you can share memories with a friend.
6. Plan for maintenance.
It's important to get into the habit of putting your possessions back in their new homes. Decide in advance whether you're going to tidy up before you leave the room or before you go to bed at night. "I like to think of it as setting things up for their next use," Morgenstern says. "The next time I'm looking for my stapler, it will feel so good to find it where it belongs. It's like a little gift to yourself, and it's very motivating." Whenever you're tempted to leave a mess until the next day, remind yourself of all the time and effort you spent getting the room in shape.