Do you ever feel as if you should already know how to get organized? That somehow organizing is a gene and you missed out on it? If so, you’re in good company. Often when people call to inquire about my organizing services or online workshops, they feel funny reaching out for help because they think shouldn’t I already know how to do this?
As someone who has read countless books and articles on organizing, attended numerous organizing and time management seminars, spent hours upon hours in client’s homes and in my own implementing various organizing solutions, I know for certain that much of what I know about organizing I have learned. Yes, I have always been interested in organizing—even as a child. But one thing I know for sure is that because of the knowledge I’ve gained through years of learning and taking action, organizing is much more natural and efficient for me now than even just a few years ago. Today organizing seems more instinctive for me than ever before, but it’s because of things I have learned and done through the years, not because of something I was born knowing how to do.
I remember that after Jay and I moved into our home fourteen years ago, our kitchen needed an organizing intervention. One week, my mom came to visit so I took a day off from work in order to tackle the kitchen. We started our organizing session with a trip to Organized Living—a container superstore (a.k.a. the candy store, if you know what I mean). With shelf risers and drawer dividers in hand, we went home and started organizing my kitchen, beginning with the pantry. We removed everything from the pantry and placed it on the kitchen counter and table. Then we sorted. We pitched expired food items (those that had managed to move with us from the apartment just a few months earlier). Eight long hours later (after frequently looking at each other saying Why is this taking so long?), Mom and I had the pantry put back together.
Yes, the pantry was more organized than when we started, but there are many things my mother and I—two naturally inclined organizers—didn’t know then, that I know now. In short, organizing the pantry wasn’t an intuitive process for us. Today, I could organize this pantry in less than half that time, and with much better results. And this isn’t because I’ve had some sort of surgery to replace my missing organizing gene; it is because since organizing the pantry the first time I have made an extensive study on the topic of organizing, and acted on what I’ve learned.
If you feel as if you should already know how to get organized, here are some ideas to help you let go of this erroneous belief, and get busy taking action.
Consider why you feel you should already know how to get organized.
For some people this feeling is caused by witnessing an inherently organized friend or sister—someone whose home is ultra organized and someone who makes the end result look really easy. Maybe your mom has always kept her home super organized and you’re wondering how you missed out on that particular family trait. Perhaps you have an organized spouse, or he grew up in the family of someone who appears to have been born with the organizing instinct. Whatever the reason, or whoever the person is who’s made you believe that organizing is an inborn skill, the important lesson is this: these people, in some way or another, learned how to get organized. They didn’t pop out of the womb and begin placing things in orderly arrangements, just as they didn’t pop out of the womb knowing how to walk or talk.
When you encounter someone who appears to instinctively know how to get organized, reframe your thinking and ask yourself, “How did they learn to do that?” and then explore how to follow the same steps they took. This question is really powerful because it helps you embrace the fact that organizing is in fact a learnable skill—and it helps you begin to pave the path of your own organizing journey.
Recognize that you can learn how to get organized, just as others have.
People who look as of being organized is effortless have simply already learned how to get organized. As I mentioned above, today organizing is quite instinctive to me. But remember, this is what I do nearly every day of my life. When I worked in the corporate world, organizing people and projects was always one of my core responsibilities. Since starting simplify 101, if I’m not in someone’s home organizing, I’m writing about it, talking about it on the phone with coaching clients, or teaching it in my online workshops. My approach to organizing appears effortless because of years and years of learning and most important of all—doing.
Recognize that most everything we know we learned in one way or another.
Ask yourself this question: What did you “just know how to do” without someone else’s guidance? If you have children, did you just know how to raise them or did you model your actions after your parents, or friends, or even books you read on the topic? If you have children, what did your infant know how to do when he or she came into the world? Mine didn’t come into this world knowing how to do much, nor did I know much about how to take care of my little babies when they first arrived. My desire to care for my babies was an instinct. But my knowledge of how to do basic things like change a diaper or even how to nurse my babies wasn’t an instinct. I learned these skills from friends, the nurses at the hospital, and from reading a slew of books on how to care for an infant. If knowing how to take care of an infant or raise a child isn’t an instinct—could organizing be?
Explore ways to learn how to get organized.
If you want to be more organized (and you’ve now embraced the concept that you really can learn how to do this), boy, do you have options! You can pick up a book on organizing or read blogs and newsletters like this one. The simplify 101 website and blog are loaded with articles and tips on a variety of organizing topics, and there are countless other sites devoted to this topic.
You could also take a class at a local community college, or you could sign up for an online organizing workshop. You could ask an organized friend to teach you what she knows, or share with you how she learned to be organized. Or you could learn directly from a professional organizer. Many organizers will come to your home and work with you, or you could explore coaching—an option which puts you in the driver’s seat, and therefore, learner’s seat when it comes to taking action. Look for an organizer who is willing to teach you and guide you through the process of figuring out what will work best for you.
Action is your best teacher.
Whatever approach you choose, recognize that your end goal isn’t learning how to get organized; it is being more organized. Give yourself permission to take action and try different techniques and ideas. Even if some of them don’t work perfectly on day one, the process of taking action and trying an approach will be your greatest teacher of all. Continue learning and taking action until organizing becomes a habit—something, it appears from the outside looking in, you know how to do instinctively.