I’ve heard quite a few parents tell their young children to “use their words,” meaning express themselves with language rather than kicking, biting and screaming. Adults for the most part have grown out of kicking, biting and screaming when things don’t go our way, but we still need to be reminded to “use our words” to help problem solve. Articulating the challenge, problem solving out loud and repeating affirmations are great organizing habits to get into.
One of the trickiest parts of organizing is categorizing, whether it is papers needing file folders or Christmas ornaments. Do you call a folder “Medical” or “Health”? Does the pre-nuptial agreement go into a “Relationship” file or get filed under “Financial”? Everyone’s categories are very personal—the word “medical” might be a turn-off to a person who mostly uses alternative health practices, so they might file even traditional blood work results under “Health.”
Before you make the label for the file or container, talk yourself through how you think about the item. What really describes it? Then make sure you are not getting too specific. When your categories are too specific, maintenance of the organization becomes more difficult.
Also, even though the categories will be really personal, make sure they make sense to someone else. The categories should be clear and meaningful to anyone who uses the system or to the person in charge of your estate when the time comes.
Food in the pantry is fairly easy to categorize. Do you put all cans together or do canned beans live with rice and pasta? It’s amazing how pulled together a pantry can be once there is a designated space for every category. Same with the closet. Do you hang your cardigans with jackets or fold them with sweaters? You will also want to talk yourself through how often you reach for an item. If you’re on a gluten free diet and live in Hawaii, the pasta might go on a high shelf and cardigans might get folded into a bin away from the daily muu-muus.
Additionally, while you are articulating categories and putting the challenge before you into words, remember to keep it positive. Try to language the project as an opportunity. If you find it difficult or tedious, tell yourself, “This is hard, but I’m doing it,” and keep at it. Organizing is an opportunity to find lost items, identify unwanted or unneeded items that might be sold to bring in some money or given away to provide usefulness and joy to someone else. It is an opportunity to lighten up and feel more free, mobile and in control.
Try not to focus on the sad side of letting go or the fact that you may have wasted money or have to add to a landfill. This is not the time to guilt trip yourself for putting a cheese platter you got as a wedding gift into a donation box.
You are making positive changes by keeping only what you love and use. Keep repeating the positive benefits to yourself. The words, “I am” are very powerful, so watch out for language like, “I’m exhausted,” and replace it with, “I’m full of energy and making a lot of progress!” But as personal growth guru Tony Robbins says, affirmations without discipline are delusions. It is hard, but you can do it.