Maintenance is the key to being organised

I’m sure you have all heard ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ said on numerous occasions well believe me it is true!  As an organising expert it is something I regularly discuss when working with my clients and in workshops.

Maintenance is the keySo what does ‘maintenance is the key to being organised‘ really mean?  In my world it usually means that when one works hard to get themselves organised in any space at home or work then it is important not to undo all that hard work over time by not maintaining that space.  It is taking the time on a regular basis to put things away.  The last thing you want to do is for it to become overwhelming and out of order or control again.

Establishing a few daily and regular habits will help you maintain your space without if feeling like a chore.  A little effort can go a long way as you make your home or work space the haven you love and enjoy having less clutter around you each and everyday.

6 tips for maintaining and staying organised are:

  1. Everything in its place – first and foremost ensure all of your belongings have a designated home or storage space.
  2. Put everything away in it’s place – for example put the scissors away in the office drawer not just on the desk or put your clothes in the cupboard not on the chair or end of your bed.  Another example I like to use is washing in the corner of the room.  Believe me it is much easier to take it off the line, fold it and put it away than to do several loads an pile it up in the corner of the room.  In this instance you look at it and think oh no that will take me ages and then before long it just lives there and you end up getting out what you need.  I hear you say “but that’s okay” – well it might be for now but if you keep doing the same thing before long you end up with a pile of stuff that becomes overwhelming and you dread having to spend time on sorting through it and putting away again.  A bit of short term pain is worth long term gain!
  3. Deal with your mail/paperwork daily – process the mail regularly rather than put it in piles all over the place. If you need to put it in a pile have one designated pile and not multiple.
  4. Have a clear desk or place to work – start and end the day with a clear desk.  Take the 5-10 minutes to put or file things away at the end of the day.  You will feel much better starting the next day rather than arriving to a pile of papers.
  5. Create an evening pick up routine – this should be for everyone and could be daily or or if not do it at least do this once a week.  Set the clock for 10-15 minutes and spend time putting things away where they belong.  You will be amazed at how much organised your place is and feels if you do this.
  6. Don’t have spare empty containers lying around – often when we have spare containers around there is a tendancy to just put things in them ie a visitor is coming over so let’s just put everything into the box from the table and bench space.  This makes the space look good may look good but it creates more work and time needed in having to go through all of the stuff in the container.  Often these containers just get piled up and not dealt with too.  So rather than just putting some thing away in the first place you now have the additional task of having to sort through the items and still spend the time to put away anyway.  I can tell you this is a regular thing I see in clients homes – often things are dumped in bags, boxes, plastic tubs.  My suggestion to you is to remove these empty items so you are not tempted to just stuff things in.

Another simple analysis for what I am saying is “Do it now as later never comes”.  In other words it is better to do the 5 minutes of regular maintenance here and now than compared with the alternative in that it will take you longer to get back in control.

Which would you rather do – spend 5 minutes at the outset and put belongings away or take hours at a later time sorting and then putting away?  I know which one I would rather!

Files not Piles – file organisation for everyone

Recently I had a discussion with my son about setting up our home office so that he too can share it.  We were discussing how to organise it when we started talking about his locker at school and how he keeps his notes and homework in a folder to bring home.  The discussion then moved on to how he should store this information at home where I offered suggestions.  He turned around to me and said I will be one of the few students who has ‘files and not piles’.  This really pleased me in that I realised he has been listening to my various discussions with other students and taking this in without my even knowing.

How is your own file organisation or that of those in your family particularly any students in your home?  Do you or they place it in piles around the place or do you actually file it in folders in a cabinet or on the desk?  This can relate to both paper or electronic information.  How are your electronic files are they inconsistently named or are they in easy to navigate folders and sub folders?  Maybe you are better at dealing with paper or electronic information or neither?

IMG_7521File organisation is a life skill that is best learnt as early as possible.  Our children as students need to learn this but don’t worry if you yourself haven’t as yet as it can be learnt.  Information is everywhere and needs to be filed somewhere even if it is the bin!   This applies in our homes, on our desks, kitchen benches or tables, home or work offices and even on the electronic devices we all use.

Generally you are either a filer or a piler.  Piler’s can function well and still be organised and productive.  If you are a true piler then usually youIMG_7522 know exactly where something is within the piles.  For most people that I usually work with, families, students, small businesses the piles however are not following that of a true piler and just end up that way.  Another reason things end up in piles is that people don’t want to make decisions about what to do with it and it is easier just to add to the pile.   The problem with this approach is that they often become overwhelmed and stressed as they can never find things in a hurry and they waste time and effort by shuffling paper around and around.

What I usually do when working with clients it to tailor a filing system that will work and function for them – what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.  The key to conquering your paper clutter once and for all is to use a system that fits your natural way of doing things.  In most cases it starts with the paper and then moves to the electronic aspect as well.

A few key tips to assist are:

  • determining what information you need to keep and what doesn’t – what is important to you and what isn’t (this will be different for everyone).
  • deciding how to treat the information when it first comes in – have one place where it initially goes until you get a chance to go through it.  Without one spot you will create more spots and piles.
  • reducing the amount of paper – can you reduce the incoming flood of paper by opting for paperless billing, unsubscribe from magazines or newsletters (this also includes emails).
  • not leaving information in a pile that keeps getting added to – taking the time to deal with the information on a regular basis – have an established routine.
  • taking action – when information begins to pile up past your comfort zone then make sure you take action rather than let it take over and overwhelm you.
  • having a filing system – it does not need to be complex, the most important thing is to be consistent in what system you decide to use and file in the same way.  Ensure it is labeled by category too.
So what are you now and what do you want to be in the future?  Are you ready to make a change?

Whether you go to school, or not, now is a good time to ensure your home and office spaces are set up for productivity and function for you.  So take the time to figure this out, get it organised, and get back to work or study!

Letting you in on a little secret

As a professional organiser I’m often asked if my home is organised and neat all the time and the answer is a definite NO. Yes my house is generally tidy and I know where everything is but I am human like everyone else and from time to time I too get busy and let things go.

The BEFORE photo you are seeing was my desk at the start of August this year when I returned from my 8 week trip, attending the National Association of Professional Organisers Conference and holidaying with my family in the US and Canada.

My Desk Before and After July and Sept 2014

The AFTER is pretty much what it looks like today. The key difference to being organised is not so much about tidiness (although that is a key benefit) but about having some systems and processes, which means I was able to pull it back. Whilst it might look perfect to you, it is the type of space I know that I need to have to start my working day in order to function and be productive. Mind you during the day I do have papers, folders and notes open all over my desk and it can look untidy again.

At the end of the day I practice what I preach and that is following one of my tips I often share about staying organised and not being complicated. Whether it is the office or home keep it simple and practical so it is something incorporated into your everyday life. For example, start and end the day with a clear desk space; allow those 5-10 minutes to file or put everything away.

You need to find out what organised looks and feels like for you remembering it can be different for all of us. If you are feeling your desk is out of control and not the space you would like to work in then please don’t despair. My advice is to take one step at a time – even if that means spending regular short blocks of time sorting through the information and finding homes for it.

Why not give it a go and see if you can turn your space into an environment that works for you.

If after giving it a go or if you feel you are really not sure where and how to start then give me a call – offices are my thing and I love helping clients organise this space in their homes or businesses.