Whenever we find ourselves in one of those rare (and beautiful) organizing modes, we purge and arrange everything until we have achieved the "perfect" system. Flash forward a week or month or year, we are distraught over how we got so disorganized again. It becomes harder to find things, clutter creeps back and takes over our surfaces, and we are left with the mess we fought so hard to keep away. Why is it so hard to stay organized?
It all begins with our habits, both the good and the bad. If we neglect the steps to maintain our efforts, getting organized and finding a place for everything is all for naught. Yes, it is important to start with an organizational system that will work well for you, but even the most optimal systems will fail if they are not maintained. So here are a few simple ideas that once turned into habit will keep almost anyone organized:
1. No task is complete until everything is put back into its place. This is the most difficult habit to form because we are creatures of (bad) habit and prefer convenience above all else. Following this rule is especially difficult when multiple creatures abide in the same abode! But as I mentioned before, this idea is the entire basis for keeping our stuff organized. The faster one masters this habit, the easier staying organized will be.
2. A few minutes a day keeps the clutter away. As a part of a morning or evening routine, taking time to put things back in their place helps to maintain organization. Clear surfaces, put dirty clothes in the hamper, unload the dishwasher, sort the mail, recycle items, quickly purge a drawer or cabinet, etc. If done regularly, 15 minutes can be ample time to get all things back in order. For some, it works if they think of organizing maintenance as a household chore - something that isn't necessarily pleasant, but definitely necessary. Note, the more often you put stuff back in the first place, the less time this routine takes (see number 1). On a bigger scale, set aside time to periodically declutter closets, drawers, cabinets, and so on before they get out of hand.
3. Find a system for the inevitable. There is one thing that can sneak up on even the most organized person - PAPERWORK. This includes mail, bills, magazines, flyers, invitations, memos, and so forth. Maybe it's football/soccer/basketball season and laundry will increase exponentially, or an upcoming work deadline will require longer days at the office, so dinner will need to be planned ahead. Whatever the inevitable is for you, take the time to setup a routine for dealing with it - that way, when the time comes, you will have a greater chance of staying organized.
4. Change the system. Sometimes the first attempt at organization isn't 'perfect.' That's ok. Just reevaluate and try again. Sometimes we set something up for how we want to be and not our actual tendencies. For instance, we create a system that requires a lot of folding when we actually hate folding clothes. We all go through different stages of life, and our organizing systems need to adapt to us, not the other way around.
5. Be mindful of what comes into a space. Often we absent-mindedly bring items into our spaces that we do not need or use. Always ask if an item adds value to your life before bringing it into your home - diligently guard your efficiency. The more aware we are regarding our stuff, the easier it becomes to keep ourselves organized and clutter at bay.
There were not a lot of 'how-to' tips in this post and that was on purpose. The key is to give you the reasoning behind organization and apply it to your life. There are plenty of ideas on how to organize a closet or kitchen or garage out available to you - but here, I want to show you how to think like an organized person, whether you are in an office, dorm room, apartment, loft, small home or dream home. The principles stay the same wherever you are! And remember, regardless of one's method of maintenance, it is worth mentioning that the less you have, the easier it is to maintain.
Here's to staying organized!