People hear that I am a Professional Organizer and they read some of my writing, and they often assume that my home and office must be “perfect.” Let me assure you, with two kids, two parakeets, a dog, a husband, and two companies, it is far from perfect—but my life works for me. And I would not want to aspire to perfection, as it is an unattainable and futile goal.
Instead we teach people to aspire to be NEATER*:
- Not perfect, but…
- Effective — your systems work well for you and your family
- Always improving- -you look for how to do things smarter, faster, and better
- True to your style– you work with your own preferences, not someone else’s standards
- Efficient– your systems minimize waste of time and energy
- Ready for anything– you are well-prepared with what you need for life and work
Our definition of what it means to be organized is realistic and defined—it does not mean your house has to look like Real Simple magazine and that you have to become Martha Stewart.
So, is it possible to be TOO organized? Absolutely. Just as in business endeavors, when setting up any organizing system you want to ask yourself about the Return On Investment (ROI). Is the time, money, or energy you are investing in this process going to pay off by offering you more time, money, and energy in return? If the answer is no, you need to think very hard about whether you should bother.
One example of this that we run into fairly often: People think it might look neat to have all matching plastic containers in their pantries that all nest nicely together and present a picture-perfect shelf. But for the ROI of simply having a pretty pantry, you have to spend a lot of time transferring every new food item from its original store packaging into the containers. It’s just not worth the time (especially if your kids go through cereal like mine do! We’d hardly be able to transfer the contents to the container before it would be eaten up). This example also plays into a common myth that if something looks really neat it must be organized and must be better. Maybe not!
Another thing we see is people creating folders by vendor for their common household bills, such as the phone company, the electric company, and the cable company. What we typically recommend instead (if you even want to keep the paid bills) is to file the bills by month in an accordion folder. The time it takes to parse each bill out into the proper vendor folder rarely pays off. In the unlikely event that you need to find something, you can invest the time on the other side of that problem instead of consistently investing it up front.
We like to work on the “Good Enough” principle, meaning that the level of organization is appropriate to provide a return that is worth the investment. Is there something you could cut out today that would be “Good Enough,” and actually gain some time back in the process?
*NEATER acronym © 2005-2007, LivingOrder, Inc.
Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their homes by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.