Summer is officially here. For me, it’s the season of backyard barbecues, beach weekends, and sipping rosé as the sun sets. In addition to these classic outdoor activities, summer is also a great time to tackle some projects that we’ve been putting off. My July calendar is filling up with sessions with busy moms who are taking advantage of having their kids away at summer camp to finally conquer the clutter that has built up throughout the school year. What organizing project tops your list? Maybe it’s de-cluttering and archiving the kids schoolwork and artwork. Maybe it’s finally donating all those clothes you know you’re never going to wear again. Perhaps a garage clean out is in the cards for you? Whatever it is, I invite you to set yourself up for success but avoiding these 5 common organizing mistakes.
1. You’re waiting for the “perfect” time.
Last night on Pinterest, I saw this quote from the actor Hugh Laurie: “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
We all do this–put off tasks or projects, thinking that the perfect time will come along. As Hugh says, “There is only now.” So use this moment to grab your calendar and write in a day, or even an hour block to get started on what you’ve been putting off. Whatever you choose, that’s the perfect time.
2. You buy containers before you start the organizing
When I start projects with new clients, they often ask me if they should come to our first session prepared with boxes and bins and organizational supplies. Great question! The answer is NO. Before we can get to the pretty new boxes, it’s important to first sort, purge, and decide what’s staying and where it’ll live. Only then can you appropriately designate the right containers to help you maintain your newly organized space. The exception to this? Bins for sorting items, but nothing fancy needed here–bankers boxes or even paper bags work just fine.
3. You Invite the Committee
We all have a committee in our head that likes to weigh in, especially at emotional and vulnerable moments, and moments of growth. This committee is probably well-intentioned, but usually unhelpful. It comes from a place of self-protection and preservation, and does not embrace change and growth. During the process of making the hard decisions about what has earned its place in your space and what it’s time to release, it’s common to have a case of the “shoulds.” Ask yourself, where is this “should coming from, and if it’s coming from the committee in your head, who only weighs in out of fear and lack, then acknowledge that and let it go. Only you know if you’re really going to fit into those pants again, or actually take up scrapbooking and finally archive all of that old memorabilia. Be honest with yourself and free yourself from any unrealistic expectations. Thanks but no thanks, committee.
4. You succumb to decision-fatigue
Organizing can be exhausting. It’s a series of thousands of decisions, many of which are emotionally charged, and this process can leave you feeling drained. It’s important to be aware of this and support yourself in the organizing process by either taking breaks to refuel and reset, or by chunking your time based on your stamina. There comes a point of diminishing returns, where what you are able to accomplish or gain from your energy spent is less that what you’re putting into the process. For me, I hit the wall around hour 6, but for most people, that point comes much earlier, so I make sure to build in breaks and food and music to keep up the momentum. When you start putting more items in the “I don’t know” or “Misc.” pile than the “keep” and “toss” piles, it’s a good sign you’ve reached decision-fatigue.
5. You think you need to do it all at once
Any fellow perfectionists out there? You may not want to start what you can’t tie up neatly by the end of the day. I urge you not to let that stop you. Start small. Tackle one area, one space, one category at a time, and chip away as you’re able. Organizing is a process, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes, so ease yourself into it, and just.keep.going.
Good advice Sarah. I find that these same mistakes can also apply to photo organizing.