The last couple of weeks, I've shared some tips on what organized people do, including having a "home" for everything, and breaking down large tasks into small, manageable ones.
And although there are other, smaller ways we can stay on top of our clutter, (like prioritizing, having less stuff, and using tools), the other significant and important thing organized people do is REGULAR MAINTENANCE.
This, perhaps, is the hardest for most people. We have such busy lives! We get home from work late, scurry to make dinner, get kids squared away, throw in a load of laundry, check our email. This list can go on and on. It is TOUGH trying to imagine adding one more task to our full day. Here's where the payoff comes...once you've established a routine of setting aside 5-10 minutes a day, twice a day (once in the morning before you start your day, and once at night before bed), you will be amazed at the return you'll get. You will have a clearer head, less stress, and, amazingly, more time (and energy) to do the things you enjoy.
Some people call this maintenance "setting the house (kitchen, bedroom, etc.) to rights." It can mean clearing off your work space, making your bed, getting all the dishes put into the dishwasher. And really, it takes only a quick 5 to 10 minutes twice each day.
When our kids were younger, we'd make this into a game. I'd set the timer for five minutes, put on some really loud and energetic dance music, and challenge the kids to get as much done toward having a clean room as they could. We were always, always amazed at the results! It didn't take the place of a completely clean and organized room, but for day to day, it worked great.
I've had to run out the door on the fly many times. On the occasion when I haven't had time to do a quick clean-up beforehand, I've returned home feeling deflated to see a mess greeting me. It felt frustrating and disheartening. I was already rushed and tired, and it took so much energy to conquer what was left waiting.
When I return home after work when I have had time to do a quick clean up beforehand, and see a clean counter, sink, and floor, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief and relax. Now, that doesn't mean I still won't have to make dinner, etc., but even a short break before the next round of activity is welcome.
We do a lot of puzzles at our house, especially in the winter. We have a table downstairs right by a south-facing window, and that is where we have our most recent puzzle. It seems that every day, one or two of us sits down for about 10 minutes to put together a few pieces. I think of this puzzle in relation to my blog both last week and today. When we first open a puzzle box and tumble the pieces onto the table, it looks overwhelming. The very first thing every one of us does is put aside the edges (small task, small amount of time). Next, we assemble the edges into the outline of the puzzle (small task, small amount of time). Then, we start clustering "like" pieces of the interior, maybe all of the same color, or texture (small task, small amount of time). See how this can also relate to organizing? NEVER have any of us sat down with the intention of completing a brand-new puzzle all in one sitting. It would be too overwhelming. It would take too much time. Regular "puzzling" gets the job done.
Regular maintenance does not necessarily mean you are organized in every party of your home. It is meant for daily living, and giving yourself time to relax and enjoy. I have been in many homes with very tidy and clean living spaces that have very overpacked and unorganized storage areas. Regular maintenance does not take the place of deep cleaning, an excess of stored materials, or unused, crowded rooms, but it is a very large start. When our living space is regularly maintained, it makes it so much easier to conquer those other areas.
This week, I challenge you to spend 5-10 minutes tidying up before you leave your house for the day. Set a timer. Make it fun. Put on music if you'd like. Then, really pause as you walk in the door upon your return. See how you feel. Then, start making it a REGULAR habit.