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Help -- I've Got To Get Organized!

By Jamie Dolmage
 As published in  CRAFTLINK Newsletter by Karen Booy

Have you ever thought, spoken about, or perhaps screamed at the top of your lungs a desire to get organized? If so you are not alone.  Articles and books abound on the subject. If you’ve had time to read any of them, you will find there is a multitude of theories and tips for getting and staying organized. There are books on organizing your whole life, your business, your closet -- you name it. You will find that most will equate organization with increasing your time and productivity.  They are right -- for business success, organization is invaluable. 

So what if you are not an organized person — are you doomed?  Fortunately the answer is NO! Since people tend to have different aptitudes for organization, finding the tools and the systems that will work for you can be frustrating but not impossible. It just means consciously making it one of your goals, some basic guidelines for getting started, and practice.  I liken it to playing a musical instrument. Some seem to pick up the art of reading music naturally and, with practice, play with ease. Then there are those who -- like me -- sort of get it, could play a tune with lots of practice, but if given a choice would rather be doing something (anything) else. Fortunately for me, playing a musical instrument won’t give me more time or make me more productive. But if it could, it would be wise for me to find and practice the instrument that suits me best. 

First decide that organizing should be a high priority goal worth practicing and fine-tuning.  Whether you are starting from ground level, or looking to enhance your existing skills -- knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a great place to start.  Take inventory. Make a list of the things you have organized that are working for you. What do you like about the systems that work?  Make a list of the things that are not organized that you would like to get a handle on.  Next to the unorganized items make note of any prior attempts and why you think it didn’t work.  For example you tried it but didn’t like the system/tool you chose, or the system/tool worked when you used it – but it only lasted a short time before things went back to chaos!  This information will help you decide if it’s the system/tool or you that needs to change!

Next, ask family and friends -- especially the really organized ones -- to show you some of their successes and discuss their failures.  This is a great way to see systems in practice and get tips and suggestions. Personally, I’ve found some of the best tips come from other’s trials and errors. Several years ago I was visiting a very organized friend and noticed her large calendar with multi-color entries and a spiral note pad on a clutter free counter-top by the phone.  She showed me how each person in the family had a color and everyone’s activities and appointments were color-coded.  She carried just the small note pad with several days events noted, as well as notes and reminders to pick up dry-cleaning, buy birthday cards, etc. Seeing her large calendar every morning reminded her to check it and update her note pad. Since I couldn’t remember where I last laid my day-planner, I made a mental note to give it a try. It has worked like a charm for me ever since. I bought the day planner simply because they were popular. In this case it was the tool that needed to change.

Had I taken an inventory of my skills prior to buying the day-planner, I would have saved myself a great deal of time. Out-of-sight-out-of-mind is one of my weaknesses. I faithfully filled in the dates and information, but would never remember to look at it -- much less carry it with me where ever I went!  On the other hand, I have a business expense journal. It works very well when I fill it in. I just put it off because it’s not my favorite thing. If I honestly ask myself, “is it the tool -- or is it me?”--  well, the answer is obvious.  I need to change by being more diligent. I know from my experience with the day-planner that in order to keep up with it, I must keep it out in the open on my desk and not tucked in a drawer.  For that same reason I found shelves with see-through boxes and bins work best for my crafting supplies; anything not visible must be labeled. File cabinets hold files with patterns, equipment warranties and items that are only used or needed on occasion.  I utilize wall space with bulletin boards. Because I have learned to work around my strengths and weaknesses I have been able to fine-tune my work area to my in a way that suits me best -- to store almost everything so that it is visible. It saves me a tremendous amount of time. 

One of the most valuable general rules for organization is  “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  It doesn’t matter whether it’s your office, craft/sewing room, kitchen, or garage --  truer words were never spoken. Not only is it a tremendous time saver to always know where something is (or is supposed to be!) it is also one of the best habits to acquire in order to stay organized. Repeat it over and over so that it permeates your life, work, and shopping habits. When you go shopping and find some really cool widget – you will first ask yourself where will I put it and what will I put in it. It will partner with your awareness of your strengths and weakness to make you a wise consumer. You will begin to instinctively choose items that will be suited for your organizational style. It will also reduce useless clutter -- which is an entire article on it's own!

So with that rule in mind -- let’s shop! Head for your local office supply, discount, or organizing specialty store . . . the bigger the better. Take your list, a tape measure, and a note pad and pen.  Walk the isles one by one.  Keep your eyes open for items that are designed for what’s on your list and what you think will suit you best. For items like file cabinets, organizational bins, and such be sure to write down dimensions. Make notes about the number of slots, drawers; any info that will help you decide if the item is right for you. Get brochures where possible. DON’T BUY ANYTHING! Return to your home/office and review the items you found. For shelves, cabinets, bins, try to imagine the item in the spot and make sure doors/drawers/lids open and close without hindrance. Will it fit/hang/stand where you plan to put it?  Check measurements. 

After evaluating the information in relationship to your inventory of skills — decide which items will work best for you and what you want to accomplish. Make your purchases. Be sure to check the Internet. You may find items on-line and in many cases at a great discount. Remember it’s a process. If you make mistakes, learn and move on.  When you think about the importance of adding time and productivity to your life/business -- taking a few additional steps to help you make wise decisions toward that goal makes good sense.  

Tips for Getting Organized:

  1. Make it a priority
  2. Evaluate your organizational strengths and weaknesses
  3. Look at others successes (family/friends/books)
  4. Use steps 1-3 to shop wisely – “ A place for everything…”

 Jamie Dolmage is the Web Editor for Tidy Crafts - Tidy Crafts carries two lines of craft and hobby organizers including exclusive items such as the Tidy Tray and Carousel Craft Organizer. The Craft Design Line features the Stamp Camp and Craft Organizer Caddy. Check it out! http://www.tidycrafts.com


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