The Clutter Coach


Getting organized – or how to get motivated

Cynthia EstesBy Cynthia Estes, Mountain Democrat columnist
Mountain Democrat - February, 2011
Reprinted with permission of the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA

I love Christmas, and I’m still reminded of that everyday when I look out and see Santa and Rudolph sitting on the patio. But this is February and Christmas is over, you say?  Well, I could blame my partner Jim and his trusty friend Barry, who put plastic Santa and the red-nosed one up on the rooftop before Christmas, but after Christmas only got them down to the patio and not the rest of the way to the basement where they belong. So, why do I just keep looking at them every day instead of just taking the two minutes to pick them up and move them myself? I’m just not motivated, and I guess Jim’s not either. So I thought if I have trouble getting motivated to put things away, maybe you do too. Let’s see if we can find a solution together.

Do It and the Motivation Will Come-
Are you waiting for the motivation to strike before you start de-cluttering? As we all have probably experienced, it may never come on its own. You might think that all professional organizers are self-motivated. However, this organizer has to make herself start, motivated or not. Once I’ve made progress, I’m motivated to continue.

Do it until it becomes a habit-
Do you brush your teeth everyday? What motivates you to do it? Is it because it’s fun? (If it is, you must be one of those disgustingly “happy” people!). But it’s probably because you know the consequences of what will happen if you don’t. And also because you do it regularly it’s become a habit. Just like brushing your teeth, once you “practice” de-cluttering on a daily basis, it too, will become habit. I’ll show you what works for me…

Make an appointment with yourself-
Do you usually keep the appointments you make?  Then why not make an appointment with yourself to de-clutter everyday? You can start with a few minutes and build it up. Pick a time of day to de-clutter when you think you could keep it up on a regular basis. Block out that time period for de-cluttering on your calendar. I prefer to start de-cluttering when I go through my mail, and then take it from there. I start with the mail, otherwise it’s one of the first places to become cluttered. After a month or so, de-cluttering will become a habit, and you’ll do it naturally.

Reward yourself-
Everybody likes rewards so why shouldn’t you give them to yourself? Make a list (yes, right now) of 10 small things you would like to do or buy.  Wouldn’t a hot bubble bath with scented bath crystals and candles be a great reward for cleaning out one of your drawers? Or a do-it-yourself manicure with a great new nail color might motivate you to sort and put away your mail everyday for one week. Try trading with yourself: for one half hour of de-cluttering, give yourself a half hour of reading your favorite magazine, gardening or whatever it is you love to do.

Make imperfection your goal-
Did you know that perfection is the highest form of self-abuse?  Believe it or not, many of my clients with the most clutter are perfectionists. They tell me that they can’t get motivated to start organizing because they know that they will never get it “perfect”.  As Mark Victor Hansen (the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) says “Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” Most people are surprised when I tell them that their organization goal should be according to their own standards, not mine. I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I just want a comfortable level of organization that’s easy to keep up.

Speaking of easy, Santa and Rudolf finally made it “home” to the basement today and it only took only one minute.

Cynthia Estes is a Professional Organizer, owner of Uncluttered for Life, and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Uncluttered for Life serves clients throughout Western El Dorado County. 

Call (530) 957-2975 for a free 20 minute phone consultation and estimate!