One of the most common organizing dilemmas people present me with is the challenge they have after they organize a space.  For most getting organized can be a difficult task, but it’s the staying organized that seems impossible. If this is you – and I’m guessing it is –then read on because you’re not alone!

A recent study uncovered something that I’ve long been told by my clients and others who consider themselves to be ‘organizationally challenged’.  A survey conducted by SpareFoot found that after decluttering, tidying and organizing a space, 55 percent of people said it takes less than two weeks for that same space to become disorganized again.

The seriously bad news is that for 39 percent of people, it only takes one week to slip back into chaos!

Hand holding key to success

Keys to Success

In the almost 20 years that I’ve been working as a professional organizer I’ve seen this cycle so many times I’ve lost count. It’s almost like the clutter has a life of its own and no matter what you do, disorganization is the inevitable result.  But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re one of the people who feel like getting organized is a losing battle, then I’ve got a few tips that can help you out.

The fact is it’s not that hard to get organized (give me a couple of empty bins, a label maker, and a willing participant and I’ll get a closet organized in under a few hours). Getting organized is largely about dealing with ‘the stuff’.  Staying organized, though, is more about the space between your ears than it is about ‘the stuff’ jamming your closet.  Staying organized requires some small but very important behavioral changes – that is if you want it to last.

Young Couple Stand by a Shelving Unit in Their Home, Talking

Have a Vision

The first of these is what I call the ‘vision’ – and it’s the crucial first step that I outline every single time I help someone get organized.

If you want to make a change in your life, you must first have a vision for what you want that change to be. It’s true about every change you want to make in your life whether it’s losing weight, getting healthier, or cutting out smoking. It’s easy to do any of those things for a day or two – but to get it to stick, you must be willing to make a commitment with yourself.

With your space you need to ask yourself: What is the vision I have for the space I want? What will that space look like? How will I function in that space? What will move me closer to that vision and what will stop me from achieving it?  These simple questions will set you on that path for achieving what you want in your home (and your life).

Diamond and piece of coal

Finish the Cycle

Here’s the good news – no scratch that – the great news. Keeping weight off requires a constant level of commitment to exercise and to watching your calories. It’s seriously hard work. If you’ve struggled with this, you know what I mean. Keeping organized, though, simply requires you to change some of the ‘scripts’ in your mind. If it becomes a mantra, you’re sure to have more success.

My next big tip: you have to commit to ‘finishing the cycle’.  When I first suggest this I am always met with confused looks.

Here’s what I mean. Consider your washing machine.  You would never put a load of dirty laundry into the machine, let it run for 10 minutes and then turn it off to let it sit for a day or three.  If you did, you’d end up with a smelly, mildewed load of clothing.  Silly right?

Everyone knows that you have to let your washing machine finish the cycle. It’s exactly the same with your space. If you start something and don’t complete it, if you open something and don’t close it, if you throw something down and don’t pick it up, if you dirty something and don’t clean it, if you empty something and don’t replenish it then you are not finishing the cycle.  The end result is similar to the washing machine.  You’ll end up with a stinky, smelly, disorganized and cluttered space.

Now or later. Woman thinking looking up.

Never Say Later

And this leads to the third tip that you need to adopt if you seriously want to keep your space organized and clutter-free.  Starting immediately you have to stop using the word “later”. The moment you say “I’ll pick that up later” or “I’ll deal with that later” or “I’ll put that away later” or “I’ll just sit this here and worry about it later” you’ve lost the battle and signaled that you’re welcoming clutter into your home.

‘Later’ is the best friend of clutter and eliminating the word and the tendency to procrastinate will go a long way to eliminating clutter from your life.

So, if you’re one of the many people who are confounded by clutter’s ability to sneak back into your life despite your best efforts and you can’t seem to stay organized, there is still hope for you.

First, establish a clear vision for your space. Second, always finish the cycle, and finally, no more saying, “I’ll do it later.” Follow these steps and you’ll see results immediately!

Peter Walsh