We’re increasingly surrounded by the stuff. Stuff to be sorted in the kitchen cupboards, in the wardrobes, on the desk, stuff to be done tomorrow, next week, by the end of the year, ad infinitum. And if truth were told, a great deal of this stuff in our lives is not absolutely essential and could in some ways even be holding us back.
It has become a common and universal drive to fill space, as if conquering space is indicative of success, whether this be physical space (filling our homes with numerous contents, furniture and the latest electronic devices), mental space (berating ourselves for not having enough things to do, be, see etc…put your hands up if you’re one of the masses who have an eternal ‘to do’ list?!) or even auditory space (where we become used to noise of any sort becoming preferable to – heavens forbid – silence.)
It takes a bit of time and effort initially, but being better organized actually gives you back time that you would have otherwise spent on searching for or deliberating over stuff. Once our lives are in better order, it is somewhat beautifully ironic that this then allows us more time to be spontaneous. Streamlining your life and all that it consists of will then endow you with more time to dedicate to yourself in fulfilling those wellness goals. Rather than sweating the small stuff and feeling inundated, you’ll be expending energy positively and more assuredly and will feel like you are ‘getting out more.’
So let’s just take stock for a moment and work out how to get some of this stuff sorted.
“The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.” (Anon.)
Despite being physically intangible, time is one of life’s most precious commodities and one that we never seem to have enough of. We can’t increase the hours in the day so we need to learn to manage what time we do have more effectively. Once we suitably structure our time on a daily basis it becomes easier to prioritise.
Getting into the habit of using a diary or calendar and also mapping out a weekly schedule displaying hourly slots will help you see more clearly how your time is being apportioned. Allow yourself to delegate when you are feeling pressed for time (and wishing there was more than one of you) whether this is asking the kids to tidy up after themselves or requesting help from a colleague with a task at work.
Once your time has been planned more efficiently you're in a better position to tackle the material stuff. You don't have to be a Feng Shui advocate to know that clutter can be a source of chaos. And before a chorus of defensive voices reproachfully declare that their clutter holds great value for them, let me just define what clutter is for the purposes of trying to get organized. Let's identify clutter as the stuff that, upon reflection, you have come to acknowledge is neither fundamental, functional nor aesthetically pleasing. (And I am not about to suggest that the miniature clay owl with one eye that your godson made you be tossed out either. There is always a bit of room permitted for sentimentality!)
A legal secretary once gave me some great advice about dealing with paperwork, “You pick it up. You deal with it. Then you move on.” Simple, and yet many find themselves submerged by paperwork that is placed in numerous piles: the to-pay-by-the-end-of -the-month pile, the to-file-once-I-decide-where-it-should-go pile, the I’ll-look-at-that-again-towards-the-end-of-the-week pile. You get my drift.
Setting up a well-prepared, compartmentalized filing system will not only save considerable time in the long run, but will ensure that you’re not stressing out over the one piece of paper that you can’t find but need RIGHT NOW! (Yes, we’ve all been there.) With each piece of paperwork that will inevitably and regularly come your way, absorb its contents and determine right then and there whether you need to file it away in a designated place, pay it, copy any of its information into a diary, or dump it directly in the recycling bin
Empty out all the contents and give the shelves a good wipe. (A plant-derived, multi-purpose spray available at most supermarkets works wonders without leaving any overbearing scent or chemical nastiness.) Discard anything that has passed its sell-by-date. Investing in transparent plastic containers to store certain food items (e.g.: flour, biscuits) means that you’re not rifling around trying to find the right ingredients to bake something only to encounter a half-packet of stale crispbreads that you’d forgotten you’d purchased before Christmas. Dispose of any rarely used, harsh chemical household cleaners that may be filling the cupboard space under the kitchen sink. (Check with your local council who will inform you how best to dispose of these safely.) There really is a lot to be said for good old bicarbonate of soda, white wine vinegar and lemon juice.
Clear out your closet by donating any unwanted items to charity, or if strapped for cash, sell on ebay or hold a garage sale with other unwanted things that you may have accumulated over time. A useful rule to live by with clothes and accessories is ‘one in, one out’, i.e.: when you purchase something new, remove an item that has been sitting redundant in your wardrobe or drawers. If it hasn’t been worn within the last two years because you’re waiting to either a/ drop a dress size or b/ for that particular style to be acceptable fashion-wise again, chances are that it’ll probably still be waiting to be worn for another decade and you won’t miss it if it’s gone.
If you love to find time to cook and prepare food, then the following will be a welcome suggestion. If not, do persevere here as lack of organization with what you eat can mean you’ll be piling on a few more kilos whilst losing a few useful dollars here and there by buying too much in the way of fast food and takeaways. Plan any meals that you will be eating at home for the week ahead. Keep a grocery list template on your computer that lists all the main foods you shop for. Print this off whenever you do your main grocery shop, highlighting everything that you need for that week. Putting aside an hour or two at the most each week to prepare some foods (e.g.: roasting veggies to add to salads, making and freezing pizza dough) will see you economize on time and money whilst keeping any unwanted extra kilos at bay.
Magazines and Books
Now this is where I come across as rather hypocritical, advising people to gather up any books and past periodicals either to box up for charity or recycle in large piles, whilst yours truly holds onto scores of ‘Elle’ and ‘The Face’ magazines from the Eighties and hopes to one day have enough books to fill a library room. If (like me) you are reassured by acquiring masses of journalistic reference material, keep the magazines in date order and pass on any books which have made little impression on you and which you wouldn’t be inclined to lend to a friend to read.
Get Sorted - Action Plan
- Make a list of the order in which you wish to tackle any areas in need of organizing.
- Ask yourself what you want from the process. Maximize space? Reduce the amount of cleaning? Decrease the quantity of belongings?
- Give yourself a timeframe for completing each area.
- Try to complete one area before moving on to another.
- Perhaps recruit a ‘sorting assistant’ (friend or family member) whose opinion you trust and value.
If you’re in a bit of a quandary about whether to let go of a particular item, ask yourself the following:
- When was the last time it was used?
- Do I really need it?
- Do I find it in any way appealing?
- Would I truly miss it if I no longer had it?
- If I keep it, can I find a place for it?
Getting sorted and improving your organizational skills is about making the most of your time and simplifying your surroundings. Very few of us want life to be any more complicated than it can be prone to. Stuff happens. Just don’t let stuff get on top of you.
Georgie Drury founded online personal trainer, health hub and wellness monitor Springday to help people set and achieve their health and fitness goals. She has helped thousands of Australians get 'well-thy' - and stay that way. See what all the fuss is about at www.myspringday.com.au