“I’ve spent time organizing, but it doesn’t stick.” Why STAYING organized is a whole different ballgame.

It’s a familiar scene: you’ve spent hours/days/weeks getting your space organized. You’ve read the newest book on saying goodbye to clutter. You’ve ushered items to the charity of your choice. You stand in your newly-organized space and vow that it will never become cluttered again! You have warned your family that you are all now “reformed clutterers” and that it is their job to help you maintain your newly organized life.

Fast forward 2 weeks……you stand in that same space, worried that it is starting to look a bit cluttered. You do a bit of neatening, and you feel better, again renewing your vow to be organized.

Another 2 weeks, and things are really backsliding. You vow to spend the weekend getting your space “back in shape.”

The weekend comes and goes, and you throw your hands up in despair that you are not meant to be organized. Sigh.

Does this hit a little too close to home? Let’s explore some things to consider if this cycle looks familiar.

Reading a book about organizing can be great information, but it might not help you tune into your personal style of organization. There are some different forms of organizing that people generally fall into. Are you a “Put Away” kind of organizer that feels best when everything has a place, out of sight? Or maybe you are an “In-Sight” kind of organizer, that needs to see the things you have, otherwise, you forget they exist? You could also be a combination of the two. Maybe you like your books displayed, but your shoes behind closed doors. If you have read a book that recommends doing the opposite of your natural organizing tendencies, you will not be able to sustain it. It could mean that you should choose clear storage bins, rather than ones that hide your items. Or baskets, rather than closed bins.
Organization is not 100%, it is a cycle. Give yourself permission to set aside time each week to “freshen up.” I have a visual representation of this cycle in my head. It might sound silly, but it is a Jellyfish. Imagine the Jellyfish gently floating in the water, cascading down as its “head” or “bell” is relaxed, like an open parachute. Then, it contracts and shoots upward, moving in the direction it wants to go, just a little further than its last contraction. Then it again softens its bell and floats, until it propels again. Over and over, a little further with each cycle. I see an organizing session as the compression. It is when you are making change, or neatening up a space. Once you have reached the goal for that organizing session, you can relax a bit, enjoying the ride, knowing that you will again contract when the time is right. For me, I contract on Sundays. The kitchen gets cleaned, papers organized, laundry put away, all as we prepare for the busy week ahead. Throughout the week, our stuff seems to expand in every direction, but I can float, knowing that Sunday is coming. Some weeks, I contract every evening before bed. And some weeks, the contraction doesn’t come on Sunday and is put off for another day.
• If you have done some organizing, be sure to check-in with yourself after a short period of time to assess whether your solutions are working for you. This gives you permission to adjust before things really backslide. If you are working with a Professional Organizer, make sure that part of their service is offering some check-ins after your hard work together. Sometimes knowing that you can modify your solutions can make the difference in feeling empowered, rather than feeling guilty about your recent backslide. I’ve often set up one system, used it for a few weeks, then changed it altogether once I check in with myself and admit that it isn’t working.

Remember, organizing is a cycle and you are human! Be sure to give yourself a heavy dose of grace, and just keep moving in the direction of your goals. Change is not linear, and some of the best growth happens when you are not expecting it. Happy Organizing!