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Maintaining Organization

I often wonder why some clients are able to maintain their newly organized environments and some aren’t. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with whether or not they have children, or how many; whether or not they work outside the home or their income level. Childless non-working clients with household help, such as house managers, housekeepers or even personal chefs, can have as much trouble maintaining organization as a working single mom. So what makes the difference in being able to maintain a newly organized space?

First, being involved in the organizing process is the key to success. Organizing isn’t one of those chores that can be done without the input of the person who uses the space. It’s not simple housekeeping. How the person thinks, learns and works must be communicated throughout the process in order for the systems, such as filing and storage, to work in the long term.

The person organizing also has to allow for some growth. So often, people put unrealistic limits on how little they will bring into their newly organized space in the future, whether it be clothes, paperwork, magazines, books or what have you. Allow for a bit of growth — a little extra space in the bookshelves and the closets — so that you can avoid being overcrowded once again in a year’s time. That said, too much stuff coming into the home will still be a problem, so growth has to be carefully monitored.

If you sort your mail over the recycling bin, you’re on the right track: Junk mail doesn’t even make it through the front door. If it never enters the house in the first place, it can’t muck you up later, and that goes for things like impulse shopping purchases, junk food or that cute little kitten that is up for adoption.

“Quality, not quantity,” tends to be the mantra of highly organized people. My personal hero David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” uses a beautiful fountain pen that costs hundreds of dollars; my guess is that he doesn’t have 57 ball-points from various hotels and businesses rolling around in his center desk drawer.

There’s nothing that can derail your sense of order like losing control of your calendar. Too many commitments can clutter your life just like physical objects can. Consider each appointment or commitment carefully before booking and try to use only one master calendar so that you avoid double-booking yourself. If you do start to feel overwhelmed, book time in your calendar to do your daily maintenance and to give yourself some breathers during the week to stop and regroup.

People who are able to maintain organization either constantly battle procrastination or tend not to be procrastinators. For example, organized travelers unpack immediately when arriving home. Letting unpacked luggage linger in the hall is sure to disturb your organizational bliss. Handle the laundry, put away the toiletries and — voila! — back in business in no time.

Another habit of organized people is that they spend 10 minutes to one hour each day just putting things away. It’s not the sexiest part of keeping your house in order (that would probably be shopping for gadgets and containers), but maintenance is a very large part of being organized.

Just because you buy the leotard doesn’t mean you’re a ballerina, and it’s the same with being organized — just because you own a labeler doesn’t mean your filing system is in great shape. It takes focus and work, a little every day, but the rewards are worth it.