First up, let's get the "Was I born with it?" question out of the way. Yes, some studies show there might be a gene associated with neatness, but there are also a few that say there's not — so we're not going to let you use that as an excuse. Being organized is like living a healthy lifestyle (getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well); you can control it if you choose to.
But it's more than a choice, it's committing to a way of life. There are things that people who are more organized do regularly. If you adopt these traits, you'll find that being organized will become second nature to you in no time.
1. Adopt a mindfulness approach.
Whether it's a quick scan as you leave a room, looking for anything that might belong somewhere else, or not letting the laundry accumulate, there are small ways to be more aware and stay organized as you go. Get into the habit of being thoughtful and allowing yourself a little more time than planned to get things done.
2. Get in the habit of 'finishing the cycle.'
Eating a meal is about shopping, preparing, cooking, then cleaning up. Think about the term "finishing the cycle" — you're not finished with the laundry if you leave wet clothes in the machine. To finish, you have to wash, dry, fold, and put away your clothes. Anything less and you're not finishing the cycle. Think more broadly about all the steps of your tasks, see them through to the end, and you'll begin to create a more orderly space around you.
3. Avoid an overly emotional attachment to things.
Stuff has power, but how much power you give it is up to you. Things tend to represent times of your life that you cherish. What do you need to satisfy that feeling? Is keeping the entire set of outdated, ugly bedroom furniture your grandparents left you the best way to remember them, or would one small item from the set do? Never forget: You're supposed to love people and use things — not the other way around!
4. Realize shopping isn't a substitute for strong, healthy relationships.
If shopping has taken a central focus in your life, you're being manipulated by advertisers to acquire more stuff, most of which you don't need. Find other ways of making yourself happy that don't require bringing lots of new objects into your home.
5. Take a long-term view of happiness.
Being organized requires doing something every day. On some days, it's really big (like organizing your closet), but for most, it simply requires you to do something smaller. Being happy is the same thing. You must work toward the goal of happiness every single day. If you're not doing that, you're just floating along. We're in favor of taking a little control of your pursuit of happiness. You may think it's crazy, but a little bit of organization goes a long way toward being happy. Give it a try and see what happens.
If You Only Have 10 Minutes
Getting organized is often about making small changes in our own behavior. If you only have 10 minutes, look around your home and focus on the last pile of things you simply dumped: last week's laundry, the mail, those takeaway containers, yesterday's dirty clothes. Whatever that pile might be, deal with it now! Clean, throw, file, fold or put away whatever you dumped and make a commitment today to finish the cycle, no matter how small the task.
This post was written by Peter Walsh. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.