The Brownberg household is currently caught up in New Year’s resolutions. While I am more in the “start now and don’t save it for a date on the calendar” camp, it feels like a natural time to take a fresh look at what’s working and what’s not serving us well. 

I crave organization. I love to do it. I love to admire the work I have done. My family would tell you that I’m flat out cranky when I feel unorganized with my time, my tasks or my stuff. 

Every time I set my goals, 75% of them have to do with being organized in these areas. And every time, I end up frustrated because it feels like they didn’t last. The closet was organized, but then we bought more clothes. Then we got busy and had to forego hanging the shirts by sleeve length and color. (Gasp!)  Soon, it feels like the entire day spent organizing just last week or last month was all for naught.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the trenches of pursuing organization that can help you stay the course and keep your sanity:

1. You will never be as organized as you’d like.

Friends, I was forty years old before I realized that organization is a journey, not a destination. My outlook for 2020 is going to reflect that. I’ll stop saying, “I organized my makeup drawer”, or “The Tupperware is finally organized.”  Instead, I’ll acknowledge that my life is in a constant state of organizing and the work is never complete.

Today, I may work on organizing my time. (Google calendar deserves its own post, coming soon.) Tomorrow, I may just work on organizing breakfast. (Investing in the time and supplies needed to pull that off is the only thing that can keep me from devouring every potato chip in the county before 11:00am!) The process may look a little different each day, and that’s okay.

Work-in-progress glasses provide a much healthier view of our lives. Once we accept a change in perspective in one area of our lives, it often bleeds into other aspects. All of a sudden, what started as a two degree change in direction has led us on an entirely different trajectory. 

2. The more you organize the more you organize.  

In thirty-ish years, I have probably spent a solid month of my life (not counting sleep) organizing something. Here’s where those of you would don’t mind a hot mess will say, “What a waste of precious time!” Sure, you know exactly where your favorite “going out” top is when it’s at the bottom of your laundry basket, and that it only needs three minutes on the fluff cycle and a spritz of body spray to smell acceptable again. But I go crazy operating this way.

The mental energy that goes into keeping up with the mess is far more than the time that actually goes into organizing it. Newsflash: You aren’t going to get ahead of it either! But the more time you spend organizing, the more it becomes a way of life. You’re also less likely to have to tear your life completely aparts for days on end to get back to ground zero.

We purposely close our office between Christmas and New Year’s Day, only popping in when it’s unavoidable. In the span of a week, we hosted a holiday and had eight basketball games over five days. But we carved out one day to break down Christmas decorations and do some post-holiday organizing. In less than 7 hours, I made it through a coat closet, two linen closets, my dresser, my vanity drawers, my closet and the laundry room. (The laundry room warrants kudos alone. It serves as the overflow pantry space needed to feed seven people!)

I know I was able to clean out these seven spaces in less than a day because of habits I’ve adopted over time. Small steps add up to great progress.

 3. Stuff will take up emotional space- if you let it.

I have friends and family who really like stuff. I like my stuff, too. But occasionally I make a sweep, clearing out the knick knacks and boxing them up. I put them aside in the basement and don’t get rid of them right away. Most of the items were purchased or gifted intentionally and have added something to our home. I need to be ready in order to get rid of them.

Honestly, I have never once pulled those treasures back out of their boxes. The stress relief that comes with less clutter in our physical lives always prevails. Our minds and souls feel less cluttered, and that trumps hanging on to “stuff”.

Great Grandma Judy will not be mad that you don’t have her vase on your counter. But if you love her vase, find a great place to store it and put some flowers in it on occasion.  If you haven’t gotten it out in a few years, maybe it’s not adding to your life and you’re ready to let it go. There’s no gold star for how much stuff you keep that other people thought you should enjoy. 

The bottom line is that getting organized is a verb, not a place. Start by cleaning out one drawer, clearing one shelf, or decluttering one coffee table. Pick one spot or space and begin. Then stand back and admire your work like I do and move on to the next one. This will help you develop a mindset of progress and practical habits. These add up to a big impact over time.