Renegade OrganizerA guest blog by Ragen Chastain, The Renegade Organizer

New Years Resolutions and the Status Quo

Since it’s that time of year, I thought that we would begin at the beginning with the ever-popular New Years Resolution to be more organized. Last year plenty of people resolved to get more organized. Most of these Resolvers set aside a weekend to “organize”: they filed, they color coded, they put their pens in size order. At the end of the weekend the space was spotless. Success! Unfortunately a few weeks or months later it looked just like it did before. So this year many of those same people will be making the same Resolution. What went wrong?

Clean vs. Organized

Most people walk into a clean office and say “Wow, this is so organized, I wish my office was like this”. The truth is, the only thing you can tell by looking at an office is if it is clean. If the person in question is spending four hours a day to keep the space looking neat and tidy are you still signing up for that plan? I hope not.

An organized space and a clean space are two completely separate things. In a clean space everything is put away with no guarantees about how long it might take to keep it that way. In an organized office you can find your stuff and use it efficiently. I’ve seen offices that look like a hurricane hit a paper factory but the person who uses the office can quickly and easily find and use all of their stuff. That office is organized! Of course, it’s clearly not clean. I’ve also seen offices where you could eat off the mouse pad but the person who uses the office doesn’t have a clue where her unpaid electric bill is. Clean, but not organized.

How can I stop cleaning and start organizing?

True organization is about designing systems that support you in the work that you do. When I work with clients we use a simple three step process: Think, Plan, Organize. That means that first we think about what’s not working in the space, then we brainstorm a number of solutions to each problem and choose the one that makes the most sense to the client. Only then do we organize based on our plan. In my thirteen going-on-fourteen years as a business organizer the one thing that I’ve learned is that there is no system that works for everyone. It takes more work to start from the ground up (instead of following a one-size-fits-all system or book) but the result is processes that makes complete sense to you and an office where the first place that you think to look for something is exactly where you’ll find it. Best of all, you get to choose the balance of clean and organized. You can design organization to include keeping the office clean if you want, but it’s all up to you. So go forth and organize and save this year’s Resolution for something more fun!

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