Productivity 104: How To Be Organized

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Productivity 103: Maximum Efficiency

Have The Right Mindset Before You Start

  • We all have Zones where we live out our lives
    • For example, we have a Work Zone, a Daily Zone, an Important Things Zone, a Storage/Later Zone, etc.
    • If we cannot keep track of things, the Zones become smaller and smaller
    • Eventually, if we do not combine our Zones physically together, the Zones will become really tiny
    • When the Zones are smaller than we are naturally comfortable with, that is the definition of disorganized
  • Disorganization causes even more disorganization
    • To be disorganized physically affects your mental state, and vice versa
  • Organization is not a one-time effort, it is a constant state of maintenance
    • However, if you are coming from a disorganized state, it will be a large effort to start!
  • Treat it as something that needs to be done, not just something you feel like doing
    • The peace of mind, comfort, ease of access and simplicity of lifestyle caused by organizing are always worth it
    • The worse it is, the more you need to do it
    • Learn to emotionally disconnect from your possessions as you work through them
      • You are holding onto every item you have right now because you believe it will attain some means of happiness, success or wellness for someone
      • Broken items are only good if they can be fixed, repurposed or thrown out
  • Moving things around will inspire or distract you, so keep a notepad for inspiration and thoughts to stay focused on the task at hand
  • When you are putting away items in different areas
    • Always keep similar items together, especially if you’ve resupplied when you didn’t need to
    • Have every item categorized as a separate unique category
    • Make sure it’s an easy and accessible system for you, since you will need to maintain the system by yourself later

Look At What You Will Need To Organize

  • Take the area you want to go after and have triple the surface area to allow yourself room to organize
  • Bring cleaning supplies with you as you go, since you’ll be finding filth
  • Start with something small, and then work up to bigger projects
  • As you clear out areas you will notice clutter coming back slowly
    • Pay close attention to what is causing the clutter and make proactive efforts to fight it
  • Eventually, you should want to have every part of your life organized

Focus On One Area At A Time

  • Clear enough area to allow piles to be strewn around everywhere
  • Look at the area, and imagine where things should go
    • Get a “vision” in your mind about what it will look like
    • If you are inexperienced in this, it will not be an accurate vision, but do it anyway
  • Pull out one section entirely, then start into it
    • The reason you should pull out everything is because sometimes you may be inspired to use a section for a different use
  • While everything is out, think about ways to store items on the wall or ceilings to free up space

Focus On Only One Item At A Time

  • If the item is supposed to go back into the place you pulled it out from, put it back
    • When storing, use plastic bins for everything that stays and cardboard boxes for everything that goes
  • Use only two to four major groups to put each item into
    • To go back into the area that was just cleared
    • To go to somewhere else in this area that hasn’t been cleared
    • To go to somewhere else entirely
    • To be gotten rid of or sold
  • When labeling and putting back a finished group, sort the items by how they are used
    • Put the items that are most regularly accessed in the most convenient locations
    • Store seasonal or rarely used items in the top, back or bottom of storage areas
  • Work with one piece at a time, and learn how to become methodical and systematic in your process
  • Be ready to get rid of things, since you have more stuff than you thought you had
    • If you feel sentimentally attached to it, ask yourself why you feel strongly connected to it
    • Most things you’ve held onto has been based on the concept of how much it was worth
      • To part with it, look at its current worth and ask if it has really been adding value to your life of that amount
    • Giving things away will usually make you much happier than holding onto it for a nonexistent rainy day
    • Sometimes you see a possible future need, which needs to be measured against the cost to your energy and resources to store it
    • Unless an item is regularly consumed, like toothpaste or toilet paper, there is no need to have duplicates of it
  • Organizing when you haven’t been organized is a test of endurance, not skill or brain power, so plan accordingly
    • The entire organization process can take days or weeks, depending on how bad things have gotten

Tips For Specific Spots

  • Immediately seen areas
    • Don’t let entryways, bedside tables, counter-tops and other surfaces become storage areas
    • Remove everything that isn’t ready to leave the house
    • If a spot constantly has practical items thrown on it, don’t put decorations on it as well
  • Drawers
    • Consider installing contact paper, depending on what is in the drawer
    • Use small baskets or dividers to make the most of available space
  • Basements/Attics
    • Avoid storing anything on the floor of the basement that can sustain water damage
  • Bedrooms
    • Don’t permit any clothing to sit on the bed or be draped over other furniture
    • Put any dirty laundry into a hamper or basket
    • Avoid shoving items under the bed where dust can build up, unless you put them in shallow plastic tubs
    • Downsize your clothes
      • In reality, all you need as far as clothing is concerned is
        • A nice dress (for women)
        • 2 jackets
        • 3 skirts (for women)
        • 3 sweaters
        • 2 dark pants & 2 jeans
        • 3 coats
        • 1 white button-down shirt
        • 2-5 t-shirts
        • 5 pairs of shoes
        • 7 sets of socks and undergarments
        • Work-only clothes
      • If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it
        • To find out what you really wear, hang all of the clothes with the hangers facing to the back, then invert the hangers as you wear them
    • Store out-of-season garments and extra linens in suitcases, storage bins or vacuum-seal bags
    • Store shoes in hanging racks or bag-storage systems
    • Instead of putting things on the floor install a shelf
  • Living Room/Dining Room
    • Take off any items from flat spaces
    • Clear off the dining table
  • Under Sinks & Bathroom Cabinets
    • Keep the supplies arranged where it is convenient from every bathroom
  • Kitchen Shelves
    • If the kitchen is packed with too many cooking utensils, look at the last time you used any particular one
    • Consider getting rid of duplicate or extra flatware and dishes
    • Throw out unmatched plasticware and other plastic containers
  • Pantry
    • Get rid of old food and put the oldest food in front
    • Convert bulky boxes of cereal and pasta to airtight plastic containers that can be stacked
  • Recipes
    • Don’t be afraid to throw out bad or mediocre recipes, especially now that the internet is around
  • Filing Cabinets
    • Keep separate categories for the files that are proportional to the number of files being stored
    • Shred important documents that are obsolete
      • Financial data can be shredded after seven to ten years, depending on the context
    • Get a scanner and external hard drive to minimize the amount of paper you need to keep
  • Computer File Systems
    • Keep all of your personal documents in one easily accessible place if possible
    • Make as many folders as you need to sub-categorize what you have
    • Remove any computer programs that are taking up too much space
  • Online Archives
    • Clear out your email inbox regularly and unsubscribe from weekly newsletters
    • Remove social media connections you no longer connect with
  • Automotive
    • When you are finished emptying out everything that doesn’t need to be there, put some emergency supplies in the back
  • Clothing Drawers
    • Fold the clothes neatly, and keep the types of clothes together
  • Nightstands
    • Only keep out the things  you use daily on the nightstand
  • Art & Hobby Supplies
    • Keep the hobbies separate, even when they overlap
  • Accumulated Mail
    • Work through each letter individually
    • Take photographs of ideas, then throw out the papers
  • Desks
    • Keep all of your papers in proximity to your desk
  • Important Papers
    • Categorize it in a way where any of the papers can only be in one obvious place when you need to find it
  • Sentimental Items
    • Keep things sorted in a way that lets the memory stay
    • If it’s a very large sentimental item, consider taking a piece off of it as a memento
  • Holiday Storage
    • Have separate boxes for each holiday, labeled for easy access
  • Garage
    • The ultimate goal is to remove your low-value trinkets to allow your expensive car to stay in the garage
    • Keep balls and other small items away from the parking area by putting them in a mesh sports hammock
  • Back Yard
    • Though the back yard may straddle cleaning or landscaping instead of organizing, there is still a need to keep it looking good

Keep It Up!

  • Organizing things is a completely different skill than staying organized!
    • Spend five minutes each day looking over a room to ensure it’s organized
      • If it helps, tape a picture of each room when it is cleaned to the wall
    • Make your bed every day
    • Wipe down the dining table after every meal
    • Don’t let clothes pile up where they shouldn’t go
    • Don’t let clutter stay out for long
    • Avoid using convenient flat spaces as permanent spots for items
    • When there are multiple people in the home, consider putting each person’s clutter in a specific sorting bin
  • Learn how to build things that are necessary to improve the flow of storing and retrieving
    • Install shelves into places like the garage
    • Put ceiling and wall hooks up to store some items off of the floor
  • Make sure that you never get more than you can really use
  • If you have a problem hoarding, then your problem is tied to your happiness, not your possessions or organizational skills
  • Systematically go back through everything you own at least once a year
Next: Productivity 105: How Creativity Works