Organizing 101: Start at the End and Don’t Compare

It’s the New Year.  You’re ready.  You’re fired up and ready to get your life in order.  You’re itching for a reason to run to Target or The Container Store and get lots of cute bins and baskets and make life efficient.

So, how do you do it?

Slow down.  Sit down.  Think hard.

Good organization starts with taking a step back and thinking things through before your throw, sort or label anything.

Before starting a project, ask yourself “How do I want this to end?” or “What do I want this to look like when I’m finished?” Be specific.  When I was working full-time, we used to make SMART goals each year.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timely (I couldn’t tell you the difference between an attainable and realistic goal.  Maybe it’s for emphasis).  As many of those letters of the acronym that you can hit when thinking about your goal, the better.

If your trouble area is paper clutter, an example of a SMART goal for dealing with that would be:Have all papers off of kitchen counters (Specific & Measurable) before bedtime (Timely), and in a designated spot where they can be accessed easily by everyone in the family (Realistic)

One reason that it is so important to start a project by thinking about how you want it to end is because it gives you direction.  If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you get there?  (I didn’t come up with that saying.  But it’s very true).  My old boss used to say, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Frankly, it’s a lot easier to skip this step.  It’s quicker and more gratifying – at first.  But in order to be successful, you’re going to need to put thought into it at some point, and it’s always better to do it at the beginning and not risk having to go back and redo something.  (And this is where I start to sound like my Grandpa….)

Do not be overwhelmed by or feel inferior because of other people’s successes.  This is great advice in life, not just organizing.  Instilling some order in your days is not a comparison game.  Just because your end product doesn’t look as good as someone else’s does not mean that you can’t do it.

Pinterest is a big culprit for this.  Like most things, Pinterest can be a great resource and can be incredibly helpful – especially in helping you think through your end goals – but, if you let it, it can also be discouraging.  Just remember that Pinterest pictures are like the pictures in catalogues.  Photoshopped and staged beyond reality.  If there’s a Pinterest picture that catches your eye, look closer at it and find two things: what part of it, specifically, appeals to you and what part of it would work in your house or life.

For an example, I saw this picture a few years ago on Pinterest and liked it.  As I looked at it, I realized that, specifically, what I liked about this room was that it stored toys out of view, utilized space that could easily be wasted, sorted toys, and provided a play surface.  I also knew that we had a small, narrow area in our house that was an awkward space, but I wanted to utilize it for a play space for our kids.

This is a pretty picture and it’s a pretty room.  But, realistically, I was never going to choose or put up wall paper.  Or a fancy light fixture.  And the puzzle is a good pop of color for the photo, but my goal was to get toys out of sight, not leave them out to be strewn about all hours of the day.  I also love what she did with throw pillows, but I don’t have the decorative skills to choose those coordinating patterns.  And even if I did, there’s a high likelihood that they’d get colored on with markers, so it’s not even really worth it.

Here’s our end product.

The space heater is not aesthetic at all, but this space used to be a porch and wasn’t insulated underneath, so the space heater was necessary if we were going to use the space.  The throw pillows are extras from our couch and don’t go with the color scheme, but they were stain resistant and super durable.

The Pinterest image was incredibly helpful and provided inspiration and direction.  But, if I would have looked at our finished product and determined it’s success by comparing it to the Pinterest image, I would have been so discouraged.  Instead, I looked at the finished product, and realized that it did exactly what I needed it to.

Thinking things through and reminding yourself not to compare doesn’t make for super exciting Instagram posts.  But they are the building blocks to establishing systems that will help you get where you want to be and get more out of each of your days.

1 Comment
  • Acorn
    January 2, 2017

    This was a good reminder Kristin, especially celebrating a decade birthday and being a New Year’s resolution person I can get overwhelmed in the vortex of projects and goals. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I love how that space turned out. Anxious to see what you do in your new place!

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