Sunday, May 29, 2005

Deciding Where to Begin

Tip of the Week, May 22, 2005

Getting organized presents a number of challenges big and small, from choosing what to keep and what to toss to trying to determine where things should be stored. One of the biggest hurdles often comes at the very beginning of the process: when faced with a disorganized desk, room, or house, how do you choose where to start?

There's no magic spot that works for everyone, but the ideas below can help you find the point of attack that works for you.

Option 1: Take easy street
In many organizing projects, there are simple tasks and more complex tasks. If you're faced with a large or multi-part organizing project, starting with the easiest task might be a good way of seeing some results and gaining the motivation you need to keep moving forward.

For example, when contemplating a house-wide project, try starting in an area that's slightly disorganized but has at least some general systems and storage solutions in place. Clear out any clutter, make changes to the systems if you need to, and give the room a good cleaning; it'll look great, you'll see results relatively quickly, and it can serve as inspiration as you move on to other parts of the project.

Option 2: Get the hard stuff out of the way
On the other end of the spectrum, you might consider attacking the most challenging part of your organizing project first, and then moving on to the easier tasks. This is a good way to go if you find yourself motivated by challenges or if you'll have help in the early stages of a project (a professional organizer, family members, or friends, for example) that won't be available later.

Starting with your biggest challenge--your most cluttered room, for example, or the closet that's packed to the hilt with stuff--can bring a great deal of satisfaction and can reassure you that all other parts of the project will be comparatively easy.

Option 3: Go for the biggest annoyance
Sometimes one specific area in your home or office--or even one pile on the floor or a table--can be so frustrating that it's the main motivation to get organized in the first place. Dealing with this annoyance first can be a great way of ridding yourself of some stress and bringing momentum to the project.

Focusing on your annoyance point and making a commitment to get and keep it organized can also help you develop the habits that make organizing easier and less painful over time: the ability to stick with a task until it's done, the habit of doing very small tasks right away, and the habit of regularly sorting and weeding the stuff that tends to accumulate throughout the home and office.

Option 4: Start with the most visible
Finally, if you often have guests in your home or office, or if you're simply sick of looking at a particular area of disorganization (such as the front hallway or the kitchen counter), start with the most highly visible part of your project. You'll get to enjoy looking at the results over and over again, and you'll also get to rid yourself of whatever stress might be caused by the thought of other people seeing your space in disarray, which in turn may be a good source of motivation to stick with the rest of your organizing project.

Figure out what's motivating you to get organized, and then choose one of the options above to help you determine the best place to start. Wherever you begin, be sure to take the time to enjoy your successes and be inspired by the changes you make.

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