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How I went from over-extended and over-committed to helping others organize their lives so they can spend more time on the things they care about.

 

Boss: “What if you get hit by a bus?”

My Subconscious: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Document everything. Organize so people can find what they need. Yada. Yada. Yada.”

But it wasn’t until I went to India for a friend’s wedding in 2008 that I really appreciated this statement from my boss. I was the only employee who knew how to process payroll, so I had to take my work laptop with me…on vacation.

Taking my boss’ words to heart required a mindset shift.

If you stay ready, you never have to get ready.

You see, I believed being indispensable to my company was the path to job security. And being indispensable was the result of being the only person at my company who knew how to do certain things.

But being “that” person has its consequences. Namely, you “get” to work while on vacation.

So I got laser-focused and reviewed all systems and processes I followed to do my job. And while I was in upgrade-mode, I also evaluated how I organized my life at home. The result is a better-managed life and a clutter-busting philosophy that can be summed up in five rules…

5 Clutter-Busting Rules to a More Organized & Happier Life

RULE #1: No matter what it is, always have a plan.

I go into this concept – The Scouting Method – in detail in this article, including my system for how I handle business cards. Before I had a plan, sometimes I added them to my contacts and sometimes I put them in a storage box next to my bed. Now that I have a system, I don't have to decide/recall what to do with new business cards.

DO THIS: One place, one system.


RULE #2: Organize within the limits of your space.

This means not forcing more things into already tight spaces. There's an impulse to store things in multiple locations – breaking Rule #1 – or cram your designated storage space past its capacity. Having multiple locations creates multiple places to look for what you need. And cramming makes it harder to maintain order (you'll default to putting things where they can fit over where they belong).

DO THIS: Save room for growth and if everything can’t fit in the space you’ve allotted, it’s time to detox and eliminate.


RULE #3: No exceptions.

In early 2014, I was looking for a photo of my niece and I. I spent months looking for it. Eventually I found it inside my “Vacations” folder instead of the “Family” folder I'd been searching. Both were logical places for this photo to be; there just weren't any rules in my system that addressed potential exceptions like this.

When I realized my system was complicated, I designed a more flexible solution.

DO THIS: If you find yourself having multiple exceptions, rethink your system.


RULE #4: Tweak your systems.

I have a very busy friend – full-time job, a 2+ hour daily commute, three side hustles – so I help out by managing the payments of utilities for her rental properties. Switching to online bill pay saved so much time. It also eliminated several bottlenecks in the process (namely signing and mailing checks).

DO THIS: If you find bottlenecks in your system, look for ways to speed up or eliminate them.


RULE #5: Attack your demons first.

If you hate doing something, figure out why. Then do your best to eliminate it (or ease the pain). Consider doing it more often; it typically makes it less painful.

Each month, I organize any new business-related receipts. The work is not that bad. But, you know what is bad? Waiting until the end of the year to find and organize a year's worth of receipts.

DO THIS: If you hate it, slay it.

These rules help me evaluate and figure out what in my clients’ lives could be managed more efficiently.

 

If you’d like to discuss how we can work together, start here with my organizing assessment. I’ll follow up from there.