Organizing Wisdom

Do it badly!

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, at least to start. 

As a recovering perfectionist, I have learned to get started on a project even if I don’t have all the pieces together. Sometimes just puttering, tinkering or moving the parts around will help me sort out my brain enough to give me an idea of how to tackle a project.  

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a project indirectly by doing something else. This could start by picking up around the house or folding laundry. I joke to my husband that sometimes the time to clean the house is when I’m avoiding another project! I think it has to do with quieting your mind with something mundane or rote, like folding laundry, that relaxes you enough to let the creative stuff unfold and the problem solving begin.

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Giving yourself permission to do something badly also helps you find enough energy to start a project like organizing the garage or the spare bedroom. Doing something simple or mindless creates a momentum that will carry you through the next step of digging into the main project.

In any project, you will not achieve perfection by doing it perfectly. Perfection, or pretty good—which I REALLY like—happens in layers. If done in layers, then the pressure to do it “right” is off and you can more easily see what the situation calls for. I call this the first pass and it can start with garbage or recycling. Usually this is easy and it will give you some quick satisfaction. You are getting things moving and you have measurable results. “Look everybody, I made FIVE bags of garbage!”  

Start with one area of the space and get rid of anything that is broken, ugly or dirty. Decide what your criteria is and then apply it, but the broken/dirt layers should go first. 

Then jump to the absolutely “must keep” layer. Sometimes, you have to get rid of what you don’t want before you can figure out what you do want and how you’re going to keep it.  

If you’re in the garage and you like gardening, this could be the hose, rake and basic gardening tools that you decide to keep. If, however, you’ve decided to give up on growing tomatoes, then get rid of the tomato frames. If you’re in a condo and you have a lawn service, then get rid of the tools, except maybe a leaf rake and a snow shovel. Groups like the Vietnam Veterans of America will take it all away, easily: 

The challenging layer maybe the in-between layer. That would be those things that may be useful, but not necessarily to you. If possible, give those things away. The harder choice is the “maybe I’ll use it some day” group of things. Here you have to apply some specific criteria, like, “When was the last time I used it and how likely am I to use this in the next two years?” If the likelihood is slim, then let the object in question go and relieve yourself of the responsibility of maintaining one more thing.  

Sorting out the things with emotional ties can be even trickier. Once upon a time, I was holding onto a large black shark kite with the thought of flying it on the beach with my kids. However, 10 years ago during renovation, my husband took it upon himself to pitch it in the Dumpster. I was ticked off at the time but chose not to dive in after it, but I’m still mad at him. I console myself with the thought that I will get another when my kids have kids in a few years, but I then understood how my clients feel when dealing with stuff that has no intrinsic value but an emotional attachment. Good luck treading those waters.

In closing, please keep only what you can use and make sure it has a home. Also consider using containers as much as possible to manage it neatly and easily. Get started, even if you do it badly–the next day, you will get it right or even pretty good, which is a good place to be!  

Happy organizing!
Andréa Deinstadt, is a professional organizer who helps families create peace in their homes and reduce the stress during life’s transitions.Contact:; 914.391.8816

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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