4 Steps to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Start Getting Organized

How to start organizing

You had a busy week and got behind on tidying up your home. No biggie!  When you're only a week behind on putting things away, just spend some spare time this weekend and you'll be back on track, right? That should work in theory but in real life that’s not always the case.

When you don't have spare time, one busy week can turn into busy weeks. Then weeks turn to months and months could turn into years, it snowballs and gets your whole life outta whack!  The cluttered space doesn't only affect how you feel in your home. Oh no... it doesn't stop there. It clutters up your mind too... even when you’re away from the mess.

You may even feel guilty for not having it all together.  Sound familiar? Don't worry, you're not alone! It happens to everyone at some point in their life. If your goal is to make being organized the norm instead of the exception, use the following steps to get started.

Watch the video blog

Watch the video blog or read on, which ever method of consuming information is better for you.

Step 1: set aside 15 mins 

The very first thing is to book time for yourself every day to work on this.  It doesn't mean you're going to be organizing in that 15mins. Some of that time is going to go towards coming up with a plan to tackle the space.  But before you can even do that, you must give yourself the time to do it.

To make time try giving up some time wasters like watching Netflix, playing video games or spending too much time on social media. If you aren’t spending time doing that, try to wake up 15 mins earlier or go to bed 15 mins later.  Get creative, you deserve 15 mins a day to do something that’s going to end up giving you more time in the long run.

Set an alarm to go off on your phone to remind you every day that it’s time to organize for 15 mins!



Step 2: get in the right mindset

Mindset can make or break your success. That’s why I ended up dedicating a whole chapter to that topic in my book Your Home: Organized because your mindset really is that important.

The kind of mindset you need to get into is a growth mindset, which is the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed. When you take on a growth mindset approach, you know that your intelligence and abilities are malleable.

Pay attention to your self-talk

Instead of saying: 

"I'll never be organized.", "I'm such a slob, I can't do this."

Try saying: 

"I'm not as organized as I want to be yet, but I'm making progress today.", 
"Organizing is hard for me, but when I put in the time and energy it becomes easier."

Get accountability

Set a timeline and final goal date for yourself and ask a friend to keep you accountable. You can also get accountability by online communities like my organizing peer support facebook group. A place for people working on organizing goals to teach, learn from and encourage each other.

Reframe your thoughts about organizing. 

If you think organizing is hard, annoying or you just plain don't enjoy it.  Find ways to make it fun for you, so you'll actually do it.

One of my favourite ways to make a game out of it is to take before and after photos at the start and end of organizing sessions.  I find it’s so much easier to see the progress that way.



Step 3: get focused

You need to know what you want and why you want it, David Allen's Natural Planning Model works perfectly for this:

Natural Planning Model

Define the purpose and principals.
Why do this? (purpose) What rules do you want to follow? (principals)

Envision the outcome
What would wild success look like? Get very specific, details matter.

Brainstorm ideas
What things can you do to make wild success happen? List them out in no particular order, right now focus on emptying all your ideas out of your head and on to a paper.

Prioritize and find the next action
Once you've jotted down all the ideas you can think of, prioritize them. Then, figure out the next little step that you can move forward on.


Example of the Natural Planning Model:

Project: Organize kitchen pantry.

Purpose: 

I want to organize my pantry because in it's current condition, it's really hard to access anything. That makes me not want to cook or bake. I'm doing this because it will make me feel better and make it easier for me to cook dinner and make baked goods. It'll save me money from ordering in food or buying junk food.

Principals:

  • Must stick to the budget
  • So I won’t get stressed out, I’ll take my time and ask for help when I need it
  • It should be ready by June since I want it to be easy to cook when my mom visits.

Outcome:

My pantry will be easy to access.  I'll be able to see everything all at once.  All packages will be put into functional and cute jars with labels on them.  It will be easy to label so when something runs out and I use the jar for something else it'll be hassle free.  I'll cook and bake more often because is easier to get to all my ingredients. I'll feel a sense of pride every time I open up the pantry doors.  Everyone in my family will know where things go and will be able to keep it organized too.

Brainstorm:

  • Take a before photo
  • Take the after photo
  • Look for inspiration on Pinterest
  • Use the gift card I got for my birthday for the container store
  • Ask my friend Cathy to help (since she has such a nice and organized pantry)
  • Research pantry organization books
  • Get rid of all the expired food
  • Draw out a sketch of where each food group is going to go in the pantry
  • Set aside time to do it
  • Look up labelling ideas
  • Ask John to fix the spice rack
Prioritize 

Before Organizing Day 

  1. Ask my friend Cathy to help
  2. Set aside time to organize the space (when Cathy is free)
  3. Look for inspiration on Pinterest (before organizing day)
  4. Research pantry organization books
  5. Draw out a sketch of where each food group is going to go in the pantry
  6. Ask John to fix the spice rack
  7. Look up labelling ideas


On Organizing Day
 

  1. Take a before photo
  2. Get rid of all the expired food
  3. Use the gift card I got for my birthday for the container store
  4. Take the after photo

Next Action:
 

  • Call Cathy and ask her for help, if she can, ask her when she's free then book the organizing day
  • Make a Pinterest inspiration board to start pinning ideas to


Step 4: pick a place and just start

Starting is more important than starting in the perfect place. So pick a spot and start organizing it. Don’t over think it.  Pick a drawer to start on, or if the drawer is blocked by a bunch of stuff, choose the path to the drawer. Zone out the room into sections and only focus on one zone at a time.  

Set a timer for 15 mins and do as much as you can do. If you still feel like going after the 15 mins, then keep going. If that’s all you can do that day, that’s fine, just pick up where you left off tomorrow.  Regardless if you spend 15 mins or more, you’ll come back for 15 mins each day until it’s organized.

So what do I mean when I say just start?  I mean start sorting like items together in the space you decided to start with. Put writing tools like pens, pencils and markers together, shoes with shoes, shirts with shirts, you get the picture.


Here's are the basic steps of organizing:

S.P.A.C.E.

S: Sort like items together

P: Purge items that are trash or that can be donated, only keep things you use or spark joy

A: Assign homes for the remaining items.  This means deciding where they “live” when they are not in use.

C: Categorize with labels. Label the homes of the items and if they are in bins or containers label them too.

E: Establish routines to maintain the organized space

Just like not tidying can slowly snowball and trickles into all aspects of your life, so does tidying just a bit each day. Try these 4 steps today and get organized! 

Free Printable

To help you get started here's a link to get free printable worksheets of these 4 steps.

If you’re looking for direct support from me to help with your organizing goals, get in touch with me.



Kathleen MacAinsh, Professional Organizer

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3 comments

Kathleen MacAinsh

Thank you for the encouragement and kind words, Janet and Linda!

Janet Barclay

You may be new to blogging, but you’re clearly not new to organizing! These are great pointers.

Linda Samuels

Congratulations, Kathleen, on writing your first blog post! You shared a lot of great information for thinking about and engaging in the organizing process. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part because the end goal seems so far away or challenging. Making the steps as tiny as possible and building from one success to the next can be enough to get us going when we’re stuck.

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