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Reader question: How do I maintain things after getting things organized?"
Congratulations on getting things organized. Many people never get that far! Maintenance is the final step in the organizing process, and it can sometimes be the most difficult, just like maintaining their weight loss can be a challenge for people who have slimmed down. Here are a few ideas to help you keep things organized:
Create systems. Organization isn’t just about assigning a home for everything, it’s about creating systems to keep things put away. For example, have a system for incoming mail – where does it go when you bring it in but before you’ve gone through it? When will you go through it? Where will you put pieces of mail that require future action, like a bill to be paid or a phone call to make? Design a system for each area of your home (e.g., clean and dirty clothes, meal cleanup, etc.) to keep things under control.
Use colorful, fun labels to catch your eye and remind yourself of where things belong, as well as to remind yourself to put things away. This is also a great way to make sure other household members know where to put things. One of my clients told me that labeling has changed her life: we labeled her pantry shelves according to the food categories we’d established, and she and her family can now quickly and easily find things. Also, she now knows that she has 8 cans of mushroom soup, 4 bottles of white vinegar, etc. because they’re all in one place, not scattered throughout the pantry.
Clean up every day. Clutter has a way of draining our energy and attracting more clutter. Eliminate this possibility by spending time at the end of the day cleaning up from the day’s activities. For example, clean off your desk. Put away loose papers and supplies so when you start the next workday, you’ll be able to focus on the most important task at that moment, rather than be overwhelmed by the work you left out from yesterday. Clean up the day’s dishes. Waking up to a pile of yesterday’s dirty dishes can zap your energy and tempt you to just keep adding to the pile. Put your clothes away. Hang up the clothes you wore that day (I hang lightly-worn clothes that I’ll wear again on a hanger and put that hanger backwards on the closet rod), or put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Why not create a serene environment rather than a chaotic one piled with dirty clothes? You get the idea. Create and maintain a clutter-free space to clear your mind and prevent you from having to start your day with yesterday’s work
Take a photograph of your organized space (once you get it that way) and compare it to your actual living space to see if anything is out of place. If so, of course, put things back where they belong. This can be a fun way for kids to clean up their spaces as well.
Create accountability. Enlist the help of other members of your household, friends, or family members outside your home, to keep you on track. Make sure you choose people who can gently, not judgmentally, remind you to follow the system. There’s great power and awareness when you have to consciously and regularly stay accountable to others.
Good luck maintaining your organizing systems!