Getting and staying organized can incorporate many activities: reviewing and sorting out clutter, buying bins or supplies, setting up systems for belongings and more. All of these are important. However, there is one habit which every organized person has embraced, and you can’t be organized without it.
My number one tip is… “Put it away NOW”
Sure, it is tempting to put items down instead of away. Life is busy and we are frequently doing more than one thing at a time. When pressed, taking the extra minute or two to put something away seems like it takes too much time.
But here is the catch: if you delay putting something away now, you are creating more work for yourself later. At a minimum, it will take the same amount of time to put an item away later. More likely, it will take longer. Furthermore, if you don’t take the time to put an item in its place, you may not be able to find it later, which will zap yet more time from your day.
… let’s say your child/employee/boss/spouse walks in with a paper you need to file. If you do it right away, perhaps it will take 2 minutes to walk across the room, open a file drawer, find the appropriate hanging file, and put it inside. (If you don’t have a hanging file set up, this is another problem for another blog post!)
Now let’s say that instead of putting it away, you put it on the kitchen counter/desk. Odds are that something else will get piled on top of that paper during the course of the day. As a result, when you go to put it away, you will need to dig it out from underneath the pile (which takes time), and then spend the 2 minutes putting it away.
In addition, once the paper is out of sight, you may forget about. As a result, when you need to access that piece of paper in the future, you will waste a lot of time hunting for it.
The same principle applies to clean laundry that doesn’t get put away, coats that don’t get hung up, sporting equipment that gets dumped on the floor, etc. If it doesn’t get put away now, it may never get put away. The result? Wasted time and/or wasted money if things get lost or damaged.
“Great!” you think, but sometimes I actually can’t put it away in the moment! This is valid… there are times when we can’t get an item immediately to its final destination. For instance, maybe we are watching small children and can’t leave them unattended to run something upstairs. In this case, at least get it one step closer to its “home.” Put things on the stairs so they can be carried up on the next trip, or stage items that belong in the car on a table near the door. Do whatever is possible to make the job easier in the future, and then continue to move items closer to their storage location until you get them there.
There are always excuses we can generate to avoid putting something away… we don’t have time, we just want to relax, its inconvenient… the list goes on an on. But putting things away is a gift we give ourselves because it enables us to easily find what we need, when we need it.
What’s your #1 tip for being organized?