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Nancy Collins

Professional Organizer

Dear Younger Self: Things I Wish I’d Known about Being Organized
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Don't be afraid. Nancy can help create more calm and less chaos.

Note to self: This would have been so helpful! We see it all over Social Media these days: "What would you tell your younger self about ____?"

As a professional organizer I work with families and people at all ages and stages. I frequently get asked if I am naturally organized. Well, I am, Kinda....but I wasn't born that way, Here's some things I would have told my younger self (about organizing)

Being organized is a learned habit. When I was a teenager I had to learn to fend for myself when I needed something. My parents were very busy building a successful business and honestly weren’t home very much. The idea of someone bailing me out if I forgot something or couldn’t find anything was never an option. As a typical teenager there were times I forgot my homework, forgot to do my wash, got too busy with social activities to pay attention to my chores at home, and I learned the hard way that it didn’t matter because if I didn’t do it, it didn’t get done. As a young single with a low paying job I quickly learned how to be better with my money, only use what I needed and not to be wasteful. I wasn’t a school of hard knocks thing, it was just life.

As a young mom I worked hard to keep on top of toys, diapers, medical records, therapies for my autistic son, school schedules, all the same things that you or your family members might have to deal with. There were times when I felt like I was drowning there was so much stuff and so much to keep track of. “mom, where are my____?” and “Honey have you seen the ____” were conversations that happened much too frequently, and it was frustrating.

Gradually, over the years I learned that It was more fun to manage life than have life manage me. Life didn’t have to be chaotic. I made myself learn to be organized. And now as a Professional Organizer who helps busy families Here’s what I learned that I try to pass on to my clients:

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1) Understand yourselfEveryone has something in their life or environment that is someone disorganized. Whether it’s a junk drawer, a closet, a home office, a kids room or a garage, that’s just life. And if they are telling me (or others ) that every single space or concept in their life is 100% organized they are not being honest with themselves. Having one area or more in your environment that needs control is not a bad thing. Don’t buy into that nonsense. It’s life.

2) If you struggle with organization skills or what the experts call Executive function, (which is managing your life, planning your days, meals, space, etc. It’s ok to reach out. Everyone needs help with something in their life. It's not a character flaw, it means you're human. 

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3) When approaching an area of your home, always ask yourself first “What do I like about this place?—and start there. Build on what you like, it makes it much less of a chore. Papers everywhere? It means you have a busy life. Garage out of control? You have a place to store things. Kitchen drawers a mess? You love to cook and prepare things for those you love. See this space of my client's? She has her grandkid's playpen in there so she can work and keep an eye on people she loves. Start with what’s GOOD.

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4) ORGANIZATION IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT NEAT AND TIDY. Pinterest ready rooms, pantries, and closets are NOT the goal. Neat and tidy is the RESULT of organization. The goal of organization is RETRIEVAL. If you are a client of mine you’ve heard me say this many many times. It’s RETRIEVAL RETRIEVAL RETRIEVAL. If you can’t put your hands on it when you need it no matter how pretty and tidy it is, it is NOT organized. This is not particularly pretty, but my husband could find these things in a hurry when he needed them. It worked.

getting help
Everyone Needs Help Sometimes

The first step in getting more organized is to forgive yourself and not waste energy feeling frustrated. It’s ok to get help. I tell my clients all the time that their lives are busy, and that’s a positive. I don’t cut my own lawn, LOL, we pay someone to do that. I don’t change the oil in my car, I pay someone who knows what to do and how to do it. I don’t feel guilty because those are thing I either don’t have the skills for or honestly don’t want to do.

Reach out: tell me what area you need help with. No judgement, just help. Comment below: what  area do you wish you could be more organized?

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It’s not about the stuff…..

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One Reply to “Dear Younger Self: Things I Wish I’d Known about Being Organized”

Also, having “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” is a good way to get started. Teaching kids to only play with one type of toy at a time, i.e. Legos or dolls or Hot Wheels and putting them away when they are done is important in controlling the chaos. The same works for adults, stay focused on the most important thing to get accomplished on any given day. I used to get too many projects going at once and get overwhelmed! Now I concentrate on one room at a time or one drawer or one file.

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