Forget about sparking joy.
When it comes to clutter, there are a couple different schools of thought.
One holds that creative people are naturally messy, and that in fact, being messy is a sign of creativity. These people like to trot out that Albert Einstein quote, “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Whatever, Einstein. I’m not even sure that’s a real quote.
As someone firmly in the anti-clutter camp (or at least, in the aspiring well-organized camp), I don’t appreciate the insinuation that my mind is empty. My mind, like my desk, is not empty; it is orderly. I much prefer this quote, by Gustave Flaubert: “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”
It’s a new year, and if you, like me, are on a never-ending quest to be more organized, it’s the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and get your act together. But don’t worry: you don’t need to KonMari your life and discard every possession that doesn’t spark joy. You can get organized without using any special method, ordering a new shelving system, or buying a book.
Start with these seven simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a more orderly 2017.
1. Get enough sleep
Don’t think sleep has anything to do with being organized? Think again. When you’re sleep-deprived, it’s impossible to keep track of anything. You’re fuzzy and exhausted, and it’ll be all you can do to get through the day. Forget about being efficient or imposing order on your world. You’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of anything else. Sort out your sleep issues – insomnia, sleeping pill addiction, a too-packed schedule, your late-night social media stalking habit, or whatever – and then tackle your organizing challenges.
2. Think small
Many people, myself included, tend to take on life with an all-or-nothing attitude. We’re going to get our whole house sorted out, start waking up at 5am and become super peppy morning people, train for a marathon, and turn our entire lives around. This never works. Take it one step – one small step – at a time. Organize one bureau drawer. Clean one closet. Clear off your desk. That’s enough for the day. If you set your sights too high, you’ll only set yourself up to fail. Baby steps are your friend.
3. Be nice
No one is meaner to us than we are to ourselves. I’d never hang out with someone who said half the things to me that I say to myself. For example, when I’m slogging through a closet organizing project, I have to stop myself from thinking that I’m a lazy, hopeless slob who doesn’t even look good in any of these dumb clothes I’ve accumulated, anyway. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re facing down a mess of your own making. Be a friend to yourself, and the job will go faster and be easier. Tell yourself you’re beautiful, and that you smell good. Play nice.
4. Get real
Why do you have a giant bag of knitting needles and yarn, when you can’t remember the last time you knit anything? Ditto that juicer you never used. (Face it: going on a juice fast was a bad idea anyway.) Much of the clutter we accumulate belongs to selves we once were, or once thought we should be. Do yourself a favor and get real about this stuff: you don’t need it. If you haven’t used/read/watched/worn something in the last year, maybe two, you’re never going to. Give it away, sell it, or throw it out. Getting organized means being honest about who you are.
5. Bribe yourself
While you’re cleaning out closets and drawers, don’t forget to stop and do something nice for yourself. Take frequent breaks between your baby steps, and indulge yourself a little. Get a manicure. Heck, get a pedicure too. Interrupt your weekend housecleaning for a hot yoga class, followed by a fancy cocktail with your bestie. Take yourself to a movie in the middle of the day, or stay home and Netflix the night away. If you don’t take breaks, you’ll burn out. And what’s the point of being organized if you don’t stop to enjoy life?
6. Have a tangible goal
Lots of people say they want to be more organized. But what do they mean, exactly? Being organized means something different to everyone. We all have different standards, and different levels of tolerance for disorganization and uncertainty. So make sure you set clear, concrete goals for yourself. That way, you’ll know when it’s time to celebrate your achievement. Want to keep your desk clear at work? Great. Just want to set one baby step goal of making your bed every morning? Even better. You can do it!
7. Throw more parties
This is a great way to force yourself to whip your apartment into shape. Send out the invitations before your place is ready: now you have a countdown to keep you motivated. It doesn’t have to be huge or fancy; a last-minute gathering of friends is fine. Make it a potluck – it’s less work for you. Buy flowers and twinkly lights and make your space cozy and festive. Curate a Spotify playlist and roll back the rugs so people can dance, or cue up your faves on Netflix, pop some popcorn and have a viewing party. The point is to enjoy your space, have fun with your friends, and feel good about all the things you’ve done to create a steady and well-ordered life – so you can be fierce and original in every other way.
Image via favim.com; GIFs via dailymail.com, vh1.com, wifflegif.com, giphy.com and tumblr.com.
Comment: What’s your biggest organizing challenge?