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Cleaning Tips for Those who Struggle with Organizing

by Marshall Hand 02/07/2019

Okay, everyone knows those people … the born organizers. You know the ones, they have a place for everything and a mental file card system reminding them where everything is. These are the people that live by “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

You, conversely, are lucky to get out of the house with your keys and handbag or wallet. You often leave behind the lunch you painstakingly made the night before, and you root through the dirty laundry looking for the blouse to go with the suit you need to wear TODAY for a presentation you're about to give. Oh, and the notes for the presentation … you're writing them on the train on your way into work.

You open your favorite magazine only to find one more article extolling the virtues of organization and you resolve to start right away.But where do you start when you’re so naturally disinclined to organize?

Start small

Trying to implement everything you read in that latest article or blog post by the perfect mommy, choose just one area. Work on your new habit a little each time you think about it until it becomes a habit.

While many people tout the belief that habits form in about 21 days, the truth is that creating automaticity (what psychologists call habit formation) may take much longer than that to develop. A 2009 study by Phillippa Lally, et al., at the University College London, participants averaged 66 days to establish a new healthy habit such as changing their diet or exercising.

As entrenched as your current bent toward messiness and disorderliness is, making the switch to organization won't come overnight. Nor should you expect it to come naturally.

Pick one

Consider starting with just one of these items. Add it into your life in as seamless a way as possible so that it becomes “organic.”

  • Place a wastebasket in each room, near the doorway. If the receptacle is not handy or visible, using it won't be automatic. Set another trashcan near where you sort mail. Notice, this is not a new place to sort mail that has a trash can, it is moving a trashcan to where you already sort mail, but it on the sofa, the kitchen table or just inside the back door.
  • Add hooks to the back of each door. Dropped sweaters, jackets, scarves, and backpacks quickly clutter a space. A liberal quantity of hooks encourages hanging up at least some of these.
  • Use plastic tubs. Chances are if you're organizationally challenged, your family members are as well. Place a basket or container for each person in the mudroom or on the way up the steps. In goes shoes, toys, books, and anything else that one might leave behind in another room. At the end of each day, each person only has one thing to grab on their way to bed.

Organization habits are especially important when your home is on the market and needs to quickly become "show ready" at a moment's notice. Your real estate professional may have other ideas to help you quickly "stage" your home, so ask.

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