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Once You Find A System That Works

As Published In Professional Organizers Blog Carnival
Once You Find A System That Works

Of course, the first step in getting organized is finding the right methodology. Whether your goal is a more manageable inbox, a garage that will hold your car, or less time spent running errands, you need a set way of doing things and a home for everything you own — but those techniques are rendered meaningless if you don’t stick with them over the long-term. The real challenge is learning how to maintain your momentum past the first week of “being organized.”

Make The Time

A system is only as good as the time you devote to using it. For example, setting up files for organizing your incoming paperwork into action categories is a great way to keep to-dos under control. However, if you simply plop the mail on your desk each day without opening or sorting it, you’ve defeated the whole purpose of your system — and if you’re good about adding paper to those folders but never seem to pull any back out, you may actually find yourself in a worse position than before you started!

It’s like having a pet in that it needs regular care and feeding to survive. Some routines (like sorting the mail or tidying up your desk) require daily attention — others (like paying bills or shopping for groceries) might need to happen weekly or monthly. Whatever the time frame, setting aside a regular block in your calendar for acting on that system will help turn a “technique” into a habit.

Staying organized may be as simple as reminding yourself to leave your keys and briefcase by the front door when you come home — or stopping work ten minutes early so you have time to put away your supplies at the end of the day. Of course, larger systems will require more time — that could be an hour once a week for filing or another hour each month for bookkeeping. Figure out what it takes to stay on top of your “stuff” and be prepared to commit the time if you want to see lasting results.

Keep Things Lean And Mean

“Clutter creep” is the most deadly foe of any organizing system. This silent killer sneaks in slowly over time — and you don’t realize that your files, closet, or schedule have become overloaded until it’s too late! The key to avoiding clutter creep is giving your systems a regular purging BEFORE they start to need it. You don’t have to devote every weekend to cleaning out — simply time your efforts to coincide with a logical “trigger” activity (like going through your closets at each change of season, or clearing out your filing system when you pull your tax papers for April 15th). Even just a quick once-over (removing anything that is clearly outdated, unnecessary, or unused) will keep things in check.

Review And Revise

A system that works for you today is not guaranteed to serve you as well this same time next year, or the year after, or the year after that. Things change, the center does not hold — and you find yourself with different priorities as time goes by. It’s folly to keep plugging away with an obsolete system that isn’t meeting your needs. Staying organized means recognizing when an about-face is in order!

The signs are unmistakable — processes that once seemed easy are now difficult and cumbersome, you’re missing deadlines, and things are falling through the cracks. Don’t get frustrated and give up — saying, “See, I knew I couldn’t stay organized!” Step back, take a breath, and calmly re-evaluate the situation. Ask yourself what isn’t working for you anymore and why. More importantly, try to determine exactly what needs to change for this system to suit you better — your answer will guide you toward the right tweaks and adjustments.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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