By Alycia Morales, @AlyciaMorales
I don’t know if it’s the head cold, taking down the Christmas decorations, or just the urge to clean and purge, but I’ve found myself deep cleaning the house this week. Our tree, which was quickly becoming a fire hazard, came down January 2nd. Only a couple of days later, I was rearranging furniture, cleaning carpets, and … organizing. In that spirit, I bring you 12 organizing tips for the New Year.
- Recognize that everything has a place. And it’s not the kitchen counter or the dining room table or on top of the printer on the desk in your office (yes, these are a few places my things like to pile up).
- Sort. This involves a lot of piles. Today I pulled everything out of my desk and tossed it onto the kitchen table. All of the envelopes I haven’t opened as I’ve finished work projects from 2017 and enjoyed the holidays with friends and family. As I opened envelopes, I made piles. Bills to pay and things that need my immediate attention. Bills to file. Medical bills to go through and pay/file. Trash. Kids’ school stuff that needs filing. Receipts (so I can track our food spending). Whether it’s your closet, your garage, or your desk that needs to be sorted, make piles. Have a keep pile and a throw away pile. Have an immediately important pile and an I-can-do-this-later pile. This will help you envision what you need to do in order to get your space organized.
- Purge. Don’t be afraid to throw things away, delete those emails, or send stuff to the thrift shop. If your entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, try an app like OfferUp or letgo or head over to Ebay to list a few items. General rules of thumb: If you haven’t worn it in two years, you probably won’t wear it this year. If you don’t love it or it doesn’t have truly sentimental value, don’t keep the furniture/decoration/thing taking up space. Visit the IRS website to find out how long you should keep tax records. When you toss them, I suggest using a shredder.
- Organize. This involves putting things neatly in their place. I use a lot of bookshelves. And bins. And folders. And metal farm pails from my grandpa’s barn. And … well, you get the idea. I am a bit OCD in this area, so I like to put like things with like things. My books are usually in height order, author order, and genre order. I know, crazy. But I know where everything is when I need it. Just ask my kids or my husband about the rants I go on when they use something and don’t put it back where they found it.
- Get creative. File folders aren’t always vanilla anymore. And binders don’t have to be black or white, either. There are myriads of choices available, and you can store your stuff in things that reflect your personality and style. I keep magazines in those farm pails.
- Label. I love to take pictures. Pictures of family. Pictures of friends. Pictures of events. Pictures of my dogs. Pictures of nature. You get the picture. For years I had a system of keeping my photos organized, and Windows made it easy. I created specific folders for specific things and put folders inside of folders. Then I switched to a Macbook Air. And my folder system went down the drain for nearly two years. So now, when I want to find a photo for a blog post, I spend well over thirty minutes searching for it. And where I used to label every photo, I haven’t labeled them for just as long. Which probably triples my search time. The moral of the story is to label things in a way that makes them easily accessible so you’re not wasting your time (like me) hunting and pecking through files trying to find what you’re looking for. Phew. That’s exhausting.
- Plan ahead. Have you heard of bullet journaling (bujo) or Happy Planning? These are creative new ways to keep track of your schedule, your projects, your household, your budget, and any other thing you want to track (weight loss, water intake, maybe). One thing I’m working on this year is getting better at planning ahead. Life likes to throw me curve balls and fast balls and slow balls (when I have to wait on God for His perfect timing). I’m not very good at catching them, and I’m getting older, so my response time and muscle (i.e. brain) memory are not as quick as they used to be. I have to write things down. If I don’t, I forget within five minutes-or fewer. Yes, you can use your phone calendar and alarms and whistles as well. But write it down. Keep track, because failing to plan is planning to fail.
- Schedule time to rest. Part of organizing is knowing when your body and mind need breaks. Sometimes my mind can handle more than my body and vice versa. It’s important to listen to your system and know when to take a break. We don’t want migraines or tension headaches, pulls or sprains or spills, or to crash from lack of sleep. These set us behind on our schedule and foil well-thought-out plans. I give you full permission to rest.
- Budget. With online checking and debit cards, it’s easy to swipe, swipe, swipe and lose track of your account balances or make impulse purchases. As writers, there are things we want to do, like attend conferences like the Mountainside Marketing Conference or the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Plan ahead for these things and set up a budget so you can make attendance an annual event. Or getaway, as I like to call it. Remember that money you made selling stuff on OfferUp and Ebay? Put it in savings and use it for conference fees or travel funds.
- Visit Pinterest. That’s right. Pinterest. There are thousands of great ideas on how to organize various things, things to use to organize things, and ways to decorate those things you’re going to use to organize those things. If you’re stuck for ideas, Pinterest is the place to find them.
- Use the buddy system. Sometimes organizing is no easy task. Furniture is too heavy to move alone without throwing your back out. The pile overwhelms. We have a hard time envisioning what could be. Or maybe we need an accountability partner. Having a trusted friend help get things in order is always welcome. Never be afraid to ask for help.
- Repeat. Don’t stop organizing and planning and budgeting. Schedule time to handle the pile rebuilding on the printer or counter as life takes over. Schedule time to sit down and be creative with your planner. Schedule time to get together with a friend and tackle that closet every six months. Otherwise, disorganization settles in again, and it will take three times longer to get organized.
Why does this matter to writers? Because by keeping ourselves and our homes and home offices organized, we enable ourselves to spend that time writing or marketing or any of the number of things on our writer’s to-do list, rather than constantly staring at that closet and fearing what’s on the other side, knowing it’s an excuse to procrastinate for one more day … or week, depending on how large it is. Here’s to getting organized in the new year!
Alycia W. Morales is an award-winning freelance editor and author. Her clients have won the Selah Award, BRMCWC Director’s Choice Award, and many others. Her writing has been published in Thriving Family magazine, Splickety Love, and several compilation books. She is a member of ACFW, the president of Cross n’ Pens critique group, and a BRMCWC Conference Assistant.
Alycia blogs at The Write Editing and Life. Inspired.
When she isn’t busy writing, editing, and reading, Alycia enjoys spending time with her husband and four children taking hikes in Upstate SC and NC, creating various crafts, coloring in adult coloring books, and watching TV.