Start simple and forgive yourself

Published 5:59 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

January is National Get Organized Month.

It’s probably named that because, if you haven’t already ditched your resolution list, on the top of many people’s are aspirations to be more organized in 2010.

Or maybe you didn’t even attempt to put that on your list. You’ve tried before and failed. You might think you just don’t have it in you or that you actually function better in clutter.

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Either way, being more organized requires undoing years of learned habits. It isn’t easy.

“We really encourage people to start simple,” said Kristen Hartman, co-owner of Key Transitions in Suffolk, which helps people organize their homes and businesses.

“If you’re going to set goals, make them achievable. And remember — they’re not for your mother-in-law or talky neighbor down the street. They’re for you and your family.”

Setting impossible goals like having a house that looks like the ones inside Better Home and Gardens just isn’t practical. Start small with things like having an organized sock drawer, getting clothes off the floor or reducing car clutter.

“Setting unrealistic expectations is probably the one thing that leads to the greatest disappointment,” Hartman said.

Once you know what you want to do, develop a system that makes sense. Figure out what the most practical way to achieve what your goal.

“I have one client who wanted to get the laundry off the floor,” Hartman said. “The system for that is putting laundry hampers where the children take off their clothes – not in the bathroom, because the kids don’t undress in the bathroom.”

Next, you’ll want to create a schedule. In the case of the laundry, try to get the clothes in the hamper every day. If you’re organizing a sock drawer, do it every time you put your socks away. The key is to set a schedule that fits your family’s lifestyle.

“If you’re running to two soccer practices and a baseball practice a day, keeping a calendar on your wall might not be the best idea,” Hartman said. “Even if you have 24 hours and a staff of 10, if it doesn’t fit in your lifestyle, it won’t work.”

If you have all these steps in place and things are still falling through, it could be because you lack the glue that holds this system together — self-discipline. Even if you have the best intentions in the world, unless you discipline yourself, breaking your years of bad habits won’t happen. Setting up an accountability system with your family may be key to your success.

It’s also important to remember that changing your habits won’t happen overnight.

“It takes 30 days of repeatedly doing a task until it becomes a habit,” Hartman said. “While you’re still developing habits, be forgiving to yourself.”