Ready or Not #198: Organize It

Preparing to Get Organized
Everybody is talking about how they need to get organized and if you are serious about it, the beginning of the new year is a perfect time to get started.  I love things to be organized. That is one reason I love using Excel.  I love to color-code and put everything in a nice neat orderly fashion including my food storage.  But one thing I have found about being organized is that it is not about the color-coding or all of the lists you make.  It is all about the doing, and doing, and doing!

Preparing and Then Doing IT
You can organize your little heart out and make everything on paper look so very pretty. But it isn’t the lists that make you organized. It is the actual follow-through or the “doing” that gets you where you want to go.

Is your kitchen area and kitchen cupboards always in shambles?  How about your closets?  If you have money and can purchase the perfect containers and the perfect system, and if you have all of the organizational space you need, congratulations! I want to live in your world. As it is, I don’t.

The first thing I did when I organized my kitchen was to sit down, open all of my cabinets and look at what was in them.  As dysfunctional as my cabinets are (the first edition of the 1970’s pre-fab cabinets) they are what I have to work with and it isn’t going to change anytime soon.  I really need to make what I have work.

I did a very brazen thing to start with – I got rid of all of the plastic containers that didn’t have matching lids.  I just threw them out – and my world did not collapse!  It was actually a very freeing feeling.  After that I went through every single item, cupboard by cupboard, and if I hadn’t used something in over a year, I took it out.  If I didn’t feel that I would ever use it, then I put it in a donation box.  If I still wanted to keep it, but it wasn’t something that I used on a daily basis, I boxed it up and put it in storage, but first I made a list to remind me of where I was going to store it.

I didn’t do this all in one day.  I just took it a cupboard at a time until I didn’t want to do anymore and then started up again the next day and kept at it until it was finished. (Five minutes some days and a couple of hours on other days.)   After that, I went room by room throughout the house and tried to make sense of it all.  And I donated a lot of stuff.  Remember, it is in the DOING, not the thinking that will get you organized.   And learn to let go of stuff (#166-De-junking).

I can’t say that I got all of the storage space that I wanted (I still have to store some stuff on my kitchen countertop – which I hate), but my kitchen, and the rest of the house, suddenly became more user friendly and less stressful.

Financial Preparedness and Organization
I like to do my finances on a color-coded Excel spreadsheet (I know, you are sooo surprised), but I have found that it helps me to keep my finances in order.  But what really keeps me organized is when I bring my mail in, I go through it and throw away all of the junk mail and then file the bills and correspondence in a basket.  Every two weeks (my payday) I will sit down with the basket and the computer and pay everything, file everything and clean my desktop off.  This is how I organize.  I am able to keep my mess to a minimum (only keeping what I need and throwing the rest out as it comes in the house) and then touching the rest of it only once.  I don’t set things aside to file later because while it is in my hand, I put it in its final resting place and be done with it.

Of course in order to do this you will need a good filing system.  I said good “filing system” not filing cabinet.  Yes, I have a filing cabinet now, but at one point in time all I had was a box and it worked very well.  I bought one of those boxes that had a lid on it and that held the Pendaflex™ hanging folders.  It was inexpensive and worked very well.

The filing system part for me is the fun part of organizing because I get to color-code to my hearts delight.  You choose your own colors, but make them make sense to you and group them together like you want: utilities, tax receipts, credit card receipts and such.  Set your files up so that they are easily accessible and make sense to YOU and then you will use them – and that is the true definition of being organized.

You also need to remember that just because you organized something once it will not always stay organized without a little bit of love and care.  Periodically, you will need to follow-up and re-evaluate where you are at with your project — cupboards, finances, closets, purses, garages, cars, or whatever — and get it back to where you want it to be.

You don’t need a label making machine (although it would be a lot of fun) and you don’t need an expensive organizational system (although that would be nice too). All that you really need is the determination to make your system easy for you to use – color-coded or not.

Preparedness Organization
When organizing your household, don’t forget to document all of your household treasures (#26-Documenting Your Treasures) and while you are at it get your emergency information (#43-Emergency Contacts) written down and your medical information (#43-Emergency Contacts) organized. (Doctors love that!)   To me, this type of organization is even more important than organizing the kitchen cupboards.

And don’t forget to read the Charge of the Junk Brigade (Everybody needs a good giggle now and again).

Now, go get organized.

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