How often have you hit the January sales at places like the Container Store and bought a bunch of products, determined that THIS time you would get and stay organized? How many times have you promised yourself you would get your home organized once and for all, only to find the clutter has creeped back in seemingly overnight?
First of all, please know that you are not alone. It is very common to try many times to get organized without success. Similar to how it may take many times to quit smoking or to lose weight, getting organized is often achieved only after many attempts.
Getting organized is difficult, because so often we focus on making changes to our space (eg. buying more containers, rearranging the living room) when what we really need to do is make changes to our thoughts and behaviors. If we can change our thoughts, then we can change our behaviors. If we can change our behaviors, then we can change our outcomes.
Here are some examples of thoughts, behaviors and the outcomes they create that keep us disorganized:
1. Thought: “I should save this old margarine container, because it might be useful to store something some day.”
Behavior: You save all of your old margarine containers.
Outcome: You end up with no room to store useful things in your cupboards, because they are too full of things you are afraid to throw out. You might end up leaving the useful things out on the counter because there is no room in the cupboards. Now you have no counter space either.
2. Thought: “I will leave this sweater out on the table to remind me to return it to the store.”
Behavior: You leave the sweater out on the table, along with other visual reminders of errands you need to run.
Outcome: Your table looks cluttered because of the reminders you have left there. This makes it difficult for everyone to eat at the table at the same time. Furthermore, the visual reminders don’t work, so you reap the consequences of neglecting to do important things.
3. Thought: “I’m too tired to put my clothes away after I get dressed for bed, so I’m just going to leave them in a pile on the floor.”
Behavior: You heap your clothes in a pile on the floor every night before bed.
Outcome: Your bedroom looks messy. You don’t feel relaxed in a messy bedroom; you feel stressed and frustrated instead. Sometimes you even feel embarrassed. And you don’t always have certain clothes clean and ready to wear when you need them.
If we become scientists of ourselves, we can ask ourselves, what is the current condition that is bothering me? Then we can analyze what pattern of thoughts and behaviors got us there. Sometimes we can figure this out on our own. Other times we need a trusted friend, a professional organizer or a counselor to help us figure it out.
The key is to Know Our Thoughts and Behaviors. Only then can we start down the path of getting organized once and for all.