March 2010 Newsletter

Tip of the Month: 8 ways to tame the maintenance monster

A reader asks: I’ve done some de-cluttering and it has felt great. My problem (and I’m sure that of many others) is how to maintain the practice. I’m very quickly back to piles and stashes whenever life’s challenges arise. Then I have to start all over again. I know that one doesn’t clean once and that’s it, but how do I get inspired to maintain and enjoy the new space? 

We all wish we could wave a magic wand and the toys would be put away, the papers filed, and so on. But since we don’t have the magic-wand option, here are some thoughts to consider.

1. We all have things get out of control sometimes. But if we have good systems in place, it’s easier to get back into control. Make sure there’s a place for everything, so you can put things back in their places!

2. Make sure your systems are as simple as feasible, so it’s EASY to put things away. That means storing often-used items close to where they are used, making sure the containers aren’t so full that it’s hard to put things away, etc. If a particular area or type of item is always a challenge, look for ways to tweak what you’re doing to make things simpler.

3. Minimize what comes in, so there are fewer piles to accumulate. Get off junk mail lists, for example.

4. If you have a family, getting everyone to participate in the organizing can sure help. Kids can do their part, too. And when there are multiple people involved, heed the words of organizer Lorie Marrero: “Ownership of maintenance tasks is often the missing link in successful organizing systems.” Make sure you know who is going to do what.

5. Make the maintenance as pleasant as possible. For example, some people like to put on inspiring music. Another part of this is having tools that work well, and please you: a shredder, a stapler, file folders, laundry bins, etc.

6. Some people find it works well to do the maintenance in small chunks of time: 10-15 minutes here and there. Other people schedule larger chunks of time in their calendars. Experiment, and see what kind of scheduling approach works for you.

7. If it’s in your budget, consider getting some help. If you can have someone else do cleaning or laundry, for example, you’ll have more time for other types of maintenance. And of course a professional organizer is always an option!

8. Think of the maintenance as a gift you give yourself. I have a greeting card by Allison Strine that I use as inspiration; it says “She finally decided she was worth it.” You’re worth it, too.

Organizing Product of the Month

I love the look of this elephant coat rack — and hooks or pegs are easier to use than hangers!