How to Stay Organized when Everything is a Mess

This month we’re focusing on answering questions about organizing! Last week I wrote about what virtual organizing is, as it’s not a well-known topic. This week, I’ll be addressing another less-talked-about issue. 

Here’s one of the questions I received. 

“I have a chronic illness that fluctuates a lot. I wake up never knowing what kind of day I’m going to have. Is it going to be painful? Am I going to be fatigued? Am I gonna be totally fine?

I want to have an organized life, but it doesn’t seem possible for me given my illness. How am I supposed to get organized and stay organized when I can’t plan more than a few hours ahead?”

What a question! And what a great opportunity to talk about what organizing is all about.

I get the feeling that when I say “an organized life,” what some hear is “a perfect life.” That’s not quite right. Everyone goes through rough patches. Everyone encounters interruptions! No matter how organized you are, there will always be something that doesn’t go to plan. And that’s okay. 

Being an organized person isn’t about being a perfect person who has it all under control. It’s about being adaptable, and learning strategies for managing the tough times when they come. So what do you do when it all falls apart? 

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Home Organizing Systems: An Organized Life

If you’ve put in the effort to organize your life and home, it’s worth knowing how to keep it that way. Knowing how to stay organized keeps the clutter from coming back. Instead of doing a total overhaul of your house once it gets unmanageable, you can use the power of habits to do small bits of work on a routine basis. That’s much less stressful!

Use these techniques to build and maintain habits, and create an organized life!

Non-negotiable Habits

First, you must decide which habits you’d like to incorporate into your life. What daily or weekly tasks are necessary to keep your home organized? These are your non-negotiable habits.

In addition to keeping your home organized, it’s important to take care of you, too! If you’re run down and not feeling your best, it makes it that much harder to take care of anything or anyone else. I’ve come up with 8 non-negotiable habits to build a healthy life.

  1. Get up at the same time each morning to start the day off right.
  2. Practice self care, like meditation and exercise.
  3. Make your bed. It matters!
  4. Eat well, incorporating healthy foods into your diet.
  5. Express love to the people in your life. That helps everyone!
  6. Clear the decks before the end of the day so you’re ready for tomorrow.
  7. Relax into a bedtime ritual, like reading a book or listening to guided meditation.
  8. Sleep at least 7-8 hours a night! Lack of sleep affects all areas of life.
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How to Organize ANYWHERE

I love easy-to-follow systems that let you organize anywhere. No two homes or businesses are the same, and over the years I’ve relied on the I CARE system to help clients get and stay organized. You can use it anywhere–homes, businesses–wherever there is stuff!

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Practical Tips to Organize Your Financial Paperwork: Retrieving Paperwork

The whole point of saving paperwork (as actual paper or digitally) is to be able to refer to it later!. You need to be able to find it, or it’s just clutter! Here are some ways to make retrieving paperwork easy, navigable, and actually useful. 

Labels

Having nomenclature or “naming rules” for your paperwork helps you find things again when you need them. Use categories to simplify your files–but not too much! A file folder labeled “Home Expenses” packed with dozens and dozens of pieces of paperwork in it isn’t very useful. 

For paper systems: Create a hierarchy of categories and subcategories using hanging folders and interior folders. You could still use a “Home Expenses” folder! It just needs to be divided into subfolders like “Repairs,” “Mortgage Documents,” and “Yard Maintenance.” 

A good rule of thumb for folders is limiting the amount of paperwork to 5-20 individual documents in each folder. Any folder with fewer than 5 documents doesn’t need to be its own category. Any folder with more than 20 documents should be divided into subcategories. The 5-20 rule makes for easy retrieval, since you don’t have to sift through piles of paperwork to find what you need. 

For digital systems: The folder/subfolder system works just like paperwork, but you can use fewer levels of folders with digital filing because they are searchable through keywords. With that in mind, naming your files in a consistent, searchable way becomes very important!

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Break it Down

Any large project looks easier when broken into smaller pieces, and decluttering is no exception! Here are three easy ways to break down the decluttering process so you can start with confidence. 

Categories

Categories: Narrowing your focus to certain types of objects is a great way to break through the where-do-I-start anxiety. Whether you’re working solo, with family, or alongside an organizer like me, you can choose a category of item to go through to get used to the decluttering process.

You can choose to focus on one room in your home, or go by item type. When you collect one type of item and bring it all together, you can see at a glance how much you have. I’ve seen it over and over: you had no idea you had seven hairbrushes until you got the ones from the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom, kids’ rooms, and the vanity all together! It’s easier to let go of extra things when you know they’re really extra.

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Your House, Your Rules

Many people feel overwhelmed when they think about letting go of items to declutter their home, but I’m here to tell you that you have more power than you think! Actually, you have all of the power! After all, this is YOUR home you’re decluttering. That means you make the rules. You get to decide:

what goes in it,

how much goes in it, AND

what to let go of!

Imagine your ideal home. What’s it like? Is it cozy, filled with objects you love and display proudly? Is it functional, with everything you need and nothing you don’t? Is it sleek and minimalist, a place where you can think clearly and feel freedom?

How does your ideal home differ from your home now?

I’m asking all these questions to clarify what your goal is when it comes to decluttering. As famed inventor Charles Kettering said, “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” When you know what you’re working toward, it’s easier to see the path to it. Find useful questions to ask about your space, like:

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