When I first met Debbie, I was intrigued by the notion that there was a correlation between the amount of clutter we have in our lives and the amount of stress we experience.
After leaving my corporate career behind to take a sabbatical in 2015, I used the time to ask myself some difficult questions. What truly makes me happy? How might I make a meaningful contribution to the world?
And do I really need all this stuff?
I began to read more about minimalism, and made some significant self-discoveries after reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel (and behave) when my surroundings are tidy compared to when they are not, and there’s not doubt that I’m more productive when I can find what I need easily.
And as it turns out, our level of organization may indeed have a direct impact on our health. A study released earlier this year found that cluttered kitchens may lead people to snack more, suggesting that stress may reduce our ability to exercise self-control–and also cause our waistlines to grow.
It’s not such a stretch to consider how this might also play out in other areas of our life.
Debbie Rosemont, owner of Simply Placed, a professional organizing and productivity consulting company based in Sammamish, WA, shared some of her organizational insights with me.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your clutter, please read on.
Q: What are the some of the costs of disorganization?
Debbie: The costs of disorganization are numerous and can be quiet significant. When we have clutter, can’t find what we need when we need it, can’t follow through or be on time with our appointments, promises, and commitments and drop the ball on our responsibilities, it can negatively impact our relationships, health, self-esteem, finances, work/business and peace of mind.
The average American wastes an hour a day looking for things they know they have, but can’t find. That’s a lot of time! And as they say “time is money.” Many people also waste money by buying duplicates of things they have, but can’t put their hands on, or by paying late fees on bills when they don’t have a good system in place to do so on time. We’ve had clients complain of lost revenue in business when things fall through the cracks, they miss appointments, or don’t follow through in a timely manner on sales opportunities.
“The average American wastes an hour a day looking for things they know they have”
Disorganization can also be stressful and when prolonged or chronic, can lead to health issues. Disorganization can also keep us from reaching our goals. For example, someone may have a goal to lose weight, eat healthier, fit in more exercise into their life, etc., but they may not know how to organize their schedule or set up their physical environment in an organized way so that they can be successful with what they’d like to accomplish.
It can also impact relationships. When someone has to work late, yet again, because they are disorganized, and they miss out on family dinner, an important event or activity, or have less time for the special people in their lives, relationships can suffer.
Q:What are some helpful organization strategies for someone just getting started.
Debbie: First, clear clutter – let go of the things in your space or your life that aren’t adding value, that you don’t need or love, or that are keeping you from finding what you need when you need it. Pick one area to start in, sort items to put like with like (so that you can see how many of something you have), determine what your goals for the space are, what you’ll use the space for and how you’d like it to function, and then determine what physical things you want and need in that space to accomplish those goals. Let go of the things that don’t fit the purpose or aren’t serving you well. Make space for life!
“Make space for life!”
Once you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, organize the things that will stay. Everything should have a home. Keep like items together. Keep things close to where they are used. Keep the things you will use most often, the easiest to access. Think about flow and systems. How will you use the items in the space. How will things move in and out of the space. Create zones so that items related to a particular activity in the space are kept together.
Do the same with your time and schedule – consider your values and what is most important to you. Block time for priorities and what matters. Clear the clutter (saying “no” to some things is in fact a time management strategy). Group like tasks/errands and work together for optimal efficiency.
Q: Do you have any tips for staying organized once we’ve invested the time and energy into creating a productive space?
Debbie: I do! This is where establishing habits comes into play. Once you have set up an organized space or made some decisions regarding some new time management strategies, maintenance and routine are key.
To keep your space organized, practice daily habits such as putting things away once you are done using them (back into their “home”). Decide that when you buy or bring something new into the space, you’ll do so knowing that it is needed, or replacing something you already have and employ the “new one in, old one out” rule. Put time on your calendar to review the space and things in it periodically (semi-annually or annually) to do another clean out and reorganization, considering what your needs are in that point in time. Organizing is a process, not an event.
“Organizing is a process, not an event.”
Q: What suggestions do you have for people that are overwhelmed by their email inboxes?
Debbie: This is so common. The volume of email we receive these days can be very high.
The first thing I would recommend is to do what you can to reduce the volume coming in to your inbox. Unsubscribe to lists, newsletters or retailers that you no longer find value in the information they send. Create a rule or filter in your email program to take selected emails and “file them” right into the proper folder, skipping your inbox completely. Send less to receive less. For every five emails we send out, we get three in return. That means we need to really ask ourselves if an email is necessary before sending it out. Be judicious about using the cc: and bcc: lines, as well as using the “reply all” button.
To clean out and keep up with the email in your inbox, process it, don’t just “check” it. Processing it means making a decision that moves it out of your inbox (so you don’t have to re-read the same emails again and again). Delete it, forward it on if someone else needs it or should handle it, do it if it takes just a minute or so to deal with, file it in a reference folder, or put it in your task management system. All of these decisions will get it out of your inbox. Your inbox doesn’t function well as a to-do list or as storage; don’t use it for either reason.
Q: How can Professional Organizers help with productivity.
Debbie: A trained Professional Organizer can ask you the right questions to learn about your productivity challenges, personal preferences, style, personality, goals, resources, strengths and current habits so that they can teach you systems, strategies and habits that will work for you to optimize your productivity. They are an objective party who will help you save time, money and stress. You can benefit from their experience, education and passion for productivity by not having to do it on your own or guess at what might work for you.
Most Professional Organizers or Productivity Consultants will begin with an assessment to learn where they can make the biggest difference for you. From there, they will consult with, coach and train you to be more efficient and effective with your space, time, talents and team. They will provide strategies, hands-on help, and accountability to ensure that you reach your goals and get results.
We’ve been thanked by numerous clients for giving them the gift of time, improving the quality of their life, positively impacting their bottom line, and greatly reducing their stress. We love hearing success stories from our clients!
Do you need some help in the organizational department? Learn more about Debbie Rosemont’s services by visiting Simply Placed.
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