Sunday, December 20, 2009

Organizing and resolutions

I’ve been writing a lot about why January is such an appealing time to take stock of one’s life and feel the freedom to make some changes for the better. Many people’s resolutions involve organization in some form, such wanting to manage their time better, deciding to clear out a closet, wanting to finally finish a long-delayed project, or having a garage sale. 

I highly encourage people to add organizing to their list of resolutions (or their to do list), but to do it in a highly specific way. Don’t put “get more organized” on your list. Put something like “go through file cabinet and shred anything that isn’t needed anymore” (or maybe a few things like that). That is a tangible task that you’ll know if you’ve completed. I strongly advise you to put an action verb into each resolution. By taking action, we make change. If our resolutions are intangible, we can’t have the satisfaction of pointing to something and saying, “I accomplished that.”

When it comes to change and making our lives better, fear is something that holds a lot of people back. I implore you to not let that happen to you. In my profession, I meet a lot of people who are paralyzed with fear. Calling a professional organizer is a huge step for them because they’ve done the very serious emotional work of preparing to make a major change.

People can be scared to hire a professional organizer even when they know they need to because if they have a professional come in and make changes, they worry that even then they won't be able to change themselves, or they won't be able to maintain it. Once they have the professional help, if they can't keep the organization up, they feel they've failed. So they avoid that step entirely.

I hate the word failure, because to me it implies the end of something. I think every time we don’t succeed entirely at something, it creates another opportunity, not the end of the road. Not maintaining organization is a problem, but attacking the problem head on is the first step to change. You can’t be afraid of something that might or might happen in the future.

So take action. Put action verbs in your resolutions for the new year. Declare that you will go through your closet and get rid of all the clothes you don’t wear, you will recycle all the plastic containers in your pantry that don’t have matching lids so they won’t be spilling out every time you open the cupboard, you will hire a professional organizer to come in and help you with your filing system because you just won’t/can’t/don’t have time to do it on your own. Good luck!

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by sflovestory

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

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