Overcoming Organizing Obstacles : Beat Unrealistic Expectations

Overcoming Organizing Obstacles : Beat Unrealistic Expectations
At some point in almost every organizing project, at least one obstacle lies in wait, seemingly ready to sabotage your progress and make you want to throw in the towel. It could be anything from a suddenly packed schedule to an unsupportive friend or family member to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Whatever form it takes, when the obstacle does pop up, it can sometimes seem ruinous.

But obstacles don't need to spell organizing disaster; here are a few ways of getting around the things that stand between you and organization.

Be realistic but determined

Most of us don't have hours each week to devote to organizing in the best of times, let alone when life gets especially demanding and schedules start filling up. Trying to cram large swaths of organizing time onto an already packed calendar tends to do little more than set you up for disappointment and frustration. So I recommend taking a much more realistic tack: set aside an hour or so one day a week to really devote yourself to organizing; on the remaining days, get in 10-15 minutes of maintenance (such as sorting through boxes you set aside or going through the mail that's come in during the week).

There will be weeks when you fall off the wagon and don't spend any time organizing at all. Piles might start to reappear, tabletops might start to disappear, and things may seem to be backsliding like mad. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you're human, and little by little, start dismantling the clutter again. I like to keep in mind words from the actress Mary Pickford: "What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down." Remember that you have the determination and the ability to pick yourself--and your piles--up again.

Life is not an HGTV show

Thanks to books, magazines, and several TV shows (such as Clean Sweep and Mission: Organization), getting organized has become much more popular in the past few years. The spotlight on organization is great--perhaps it's even what inspired you--but it can also cause some unrealistic expectations. For example, I don't know a single person who's had the luxury of having their home magically transformed--for free, at that!--by a crew of organizing experts, carpenters, and decorators, all over the course of a single weekend. In the real world, organizing takes time, effort, and the knowledge that the process isn't an easy one.

Even if you remind yourself that you can't wave a magic wand and suddenly see your home or office looking neat as a pin, that's exactly what some friends and family members might expect when you tell them you're getting organized. When they see the reality of the situation--the boxes, the piles, the slow but steady progress--they may not offer the most encouraging words.

If you can't keep unsupportive friends and family out of your in-progress zones until you've finished organizing, at least try not to let their criticism or unkind words derail you altogether. Keep reminding yourself why you chose to get organized in the first place, spend some time looking over and enjoying the progress you've made, and call or invite over someone you know will support your efforts and appreciate the work you've done.

In part 2 of this article, we'll look at more ways of getting past the obstacles that get in your way.

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