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Keeping organized buys time, eases stress

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AS A professional organizer, I am intrigued by the misconceptions people have about getting organized. I’ve found there are four basic arguments to getting organized; here are my answers to them.

It’s too painful and complicated. While an organized lifestyle certainly takes discipline, consider the cost of being disorganized — time lost to searching for missing items, being late, missing appointments, anxiety of your own and others who can’t depend on you, subsequent guilt, even embarrassment. Little things like losing car keys in the morning can set off a chain reaction of chaos that disrupts the entire day.

It would be a lie to say that getting organized is painless, but I guarantee that it will be less painful than continuing to live or work in chaos. Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Having a basic level of organization, a foundation to build your day on, counteracts the stress of the unknown that tends to occur. Organization is an actual investment that pays returns of less stress and more peace.

I don’t have the right personality. Organization starts in the mind, and organized habits can be learned — you don’t inherit the organization gene (only a handful of people think organizing is fun; the rest rank it with dental surgery). It takes effort, as do all worthy goals.

Psychologists say we can make or break a habit in 18 to 21 days, or by repeating a desired act or response 17 times. You don’t have to be organized to get organized. Start by changing one habit, such as reading the newspaper and immediately putting it in the recycling bin instead of leaving it to pile up with other papers in the family room. Think “keep up” rather than “catch up.” Consistent maintenance, however minor, leads to an organized, productive home or office.

I don’t have time. While each of us has the same 24 hours per day, the disorganized person seems to run short on time. Being disorganized and short on time creates a vicious cycle. While time is the one commodity that cannot be renewed, we often forget its relentless ticking and waste it away without thinking. Best-selling author and motivational speaker Harvey Mackay says, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

Did you forget something you needed from home today, causing an emergency purchase? Did you miss BART because you were running late again? Did you forgo relaxation because you were overcommitted? Disorganization guarantees that you will never have enough time to do what you want. Your life is not your own; it belongs to the clutter around you. When you become organized, you will find chunks of time you never thought you’d have.

It will limit my creativity and/or I’ll become a control freak. Actually the opposite happens. When our schedule is loose, we have difficulty getting to the important stuff. Instead, we allow our creative work/priorities to take second place to more urgent — but not necessarily more important — demands.

Having structure provides the framework for creativity to flourish. Most writers and artists would never complete their books or paintings if they didn’t have a specific time devoted each day to their work. In truth, chronic disorganization only controls you. When you are organized you have control of your space, time and life. You can relax and forget about trying to control things outside of your control.