When to organize?

One thing that I feel the need to impress upon my organizing clients is that organizing is not a one time thing. As much time and energy we as we put in to the initial organizing project to get your home where it needs to be, that is not the end of it. Any system needs upkeep. You don’t expect to buy a car or a house and never have to fix anything, right? Well, you organization is the same way.

Lives change, needs change, better systems evolve or are discovered. And, at the very least, we need to do some upkeep on our system. Now, if any system needs to be reorganized every few weeks, it’s probably not the best system. But the best systems need to be “touched” once in a while.
Some systems work best when that system is… systematized in terms of how often you do. Most function best when we find the time to spruce them up when they need it. I’ll give you some examples of both from my life.
I actually put on my calendar (schedule with myself!) every January to go through my files in my office. I weed out the old, make files for new categories that have been born in the last year, and gather all of my tax documents to be ready for that favorite time of year. I go through my receipts and save the ones that I need to keep for larger ticket items and toss the rest. When I started doing this, I was in the habit of keeping too much stuff, so it took a long time. Now, even with my personal and business stuff it takes less than half a day in the office of listening to my punk rock favorites and sorting papers. Of course, I always get a good night sleep, have a good high protein breakfast, and get some exercise, either before as as a break in the middle. It is wonderful to go in to the new year so free of extraneous crap and refreshing my knowing of where everything is!
I have a million examples of things that get organized when they need to be. I think the guiding principle is to recognize when things start to fall in to bad habits. So, when you have trouble finding something in your closet, that is the ideal time to put “organize closet” on your list of things to do and perhaps schedule a time to get it done.
We have a wonderful 1920’s home that we love, but haven’t had the ability to update much since we bought it 2 1/2 years ago. The kitchen is lacking in space, to say the least. So I have what I call “dry storage” set up on an antique baker’s rack in the corner of the dinning room. It has all my flours, sugars, grains, baking supplies, large stock pots, canning equipment, etc.
It has been annoying me for some time. But last weekend it became an acute annoyance when I was having trouble finding on thing because the area had gotten somewhat cluttered. To be honest, I was having a stressful, down day and the clutter of that area was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So I took a break from the cooking tasks I was doing and reorganized the entire rack, something that hadn’t really been done in 2 1/2 years. It took me about 40 minutes.
I threw out a ton of stuff that I had been holding on to for “What if’s” like me needing bread flour to make my own bread from scratch. Yes, I’m a former professional chef and I entertain a lot. But, I have two children under 5. I’m not EVER making fresh bread. So I let it go, among other things. The result is a more organized, pared down area that better serves its purpose and makes it easier to find the things that I do use. And, to be honest, it just feels really good to look at it and have it be a source of order in my life rather than chaos.
I think the lesson here is that we have recognize the tipping point in any organizational system. The one was solid (more or less) for more than 2 years. I’d say that’s an awesome system. But it still need some love. And, if you keep up with the love of your various systems when they demand it, you are likely to avoid feeling like the whole house is falling apart at once.

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