Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me

Time for a Reorg

Last weekend, my husband and I helped my parents pack up their holiday decorations and get their house back in order. We also wanted to encourage them to put their 2019 Word for the Year into action. They have chosen “Declutter” as their keyword for the year. They have a big house and love to shop, and have ample storage space. Together we helped them get control of their garage, kitchen pantry, spice cabinet, and shoe rack. It was not easy on them, but they did the hard work of letting go and reorganizing what remained (hopefully what they needed and actually used). And they acknowledge that there is still a lot more to do!

By the way, the people in the photo above are not my parents. This is a stock photo that I purchased for this blog post. You probably figured that out already by the expressions on their faces. I mean who laughs and smiles during a personal or professional reorganization?  It’s inherently an unfun but necessary process.

“Organization is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”

– A.A. Milne

As with many of us, we are comforted by our possessions and struggle to let go of things. There’s a lot of emotion tied up in our things, our stuff, our habits. Even the thought of downsizing or re-organizing can be overwhelming to even the most organized person. But this is something we all have to do at various times in our lives. I have found the more frequently you do it, the easier it is. And the beginning of a new year is a great time to do it!

Tips from a Professional Organizer

There is a strategy for re-organizing that makes it easier. I have worked with a professional organizer several times in the past. She helped me organize my home office, as well as my basement (OMG), and my kitchen. I learned things from her that continue to bring value to my daily living. Things like:

  • “If you don’t use it every day, it doesn’t belong on your kitchen counter.”
  • Don’t be a bookkeeper. After you read the book, give it to someone to read (or donate it back to the library for their used book sales).”
  • “Are you an Inny or an Outy?” People have different organizing styles that work for them. Some like to have things neatly tucked away (Inny), while others like to see things out and available (Outy). Both work; you just have to know your style.
  • “Avoid scope creep.” When organizing, focus on one area at a time. Don’t allow yourself to drift into other rooms, drawers or spaces or you will get overwhelmed.
  • “Less is better.”
  • “There is a strategy for reorganizing.” And organizing is not the first step, rather that’s the last step.

SPO Strategy

“The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

In my past attempts to reorganize by myself (be it my office, home or garage), I have found myself just rearranging the same stuff. The outcome was never declutter, but only re-clutter. I never could let go of anything. But I put in the time to tidy it all up. When I invested the money to hire a professional organizer, she taught me this three part strategy, SPO. It took me a while to understand the importance of the order of each step. After numerous spring cleaning sessions, I finally got it. So let me share it with you:

  1. Sort: begin by sorting like with like.
  2. Purge: throw away, donate, get rid of what you don’t use, doesn’t fit, don’t need, has worn out, or that you might use “someday.”
  3. Organize: now you are ready to re-organize and put the things back that you do use, that do add real value to your daily life. They can return to the drawer, closet, bookshelf, garage. Organize them in a way that is easy to get to them when you need them.

Start With Your Bookshelf

Let’s say you want to reorganize your bookshelf. If yours is anything like mine (pictured to the right), books are not only in the bookshelves, but also are still sitting on the floor. There’s a whole collection of books boxed up in the garage that you haven’t seen in a few years, but you wouldn’t dream of letting them go, because, well, they’re books and you might want to re-read them again (or read them for the first time.)

Step 1: Sort. Take all the books off the bookshelves and from the other hiding places in your home (night stands, kitchen cabinets, baskets, guest room, garage, etc.). Open up ALL the boxes of books that you have tucked away. Lay out all the books on the floor or table. Now, you are ready to sort. Group the books by category:  fiction, business books, cook books, audio books, children’s books, rare collectibles, childhood/family books, history books, etc. Let the piles of like books stack up. DO NOT start to donate books yet, you are not ready until you have completed the Sorting process.

Step 2: Purge. First, look through each category. Examine each book. Ask yourself a few questions with each book to decide whether this book needs to go to a new home or deserves a permanent place in your collection. Create two sub-piles: GO and STAY.

1) Did I read some or all of this book?

2) Will I, or can I, realistically read it  in the next 90 days?

3) What value or joy did this book create for me and/or my family?

4) How often do/have I reference(d) this book, if ever?

5) Is this book essential to my personal or professional goals in the next 12 months?

6) Can I find online the information contained in this book? (e.g., recipes)

7) What is my emotional attachment to this book?

8) What will happen if I let this book go? What won’t happen if I let this book go?

9) Does this book still need me or is it ready for its next reader or bookkeeper?

Purge: The goal is to have two or three times as many books in your GO pile as in your STAY pile. Some categories might be able to be eliminated altogether (e.g., all magazines and newspapers).

For example, my husband inherited a large book collection from his uncle. It amounted to ten boxes full of books. For eight years, we displayed his uncle’s book collection in our home. We never read them, we just walked by them. It was a unique and interesting collection that I thought might have some market value and could be resold. Eventually those books went from our living room bookshelf to the basement where they were safely stored for eight more years. Then, when we were in the process of relocating to a different state, we had to make the economic decision to donate the books. When I wheeled the 10 boxes of books to the volunteers working for Friends of the Library, they were fascinated with the collection. They said they would set up a new category for this collection at their annual used book sale. That made me feel good about letting those books go. My emotional connection was to the memory of my husband’s favorite uncle, not to the books themselves. We were ten boxes lighter and still had all the fond memories we needed!

“Organization is the foundation to get the rest of my life in gear.”

Kathi Lipp, Clutter Interrupted Radio

Where to donate your books?

The sooner you can move the GO books out of your home or office, the better. Do it the same day if you can. Call your local library to find out if/when/where they accept book donations. Contact local schools and nonprofits to see if they are in need of books. Goodwill also accepts books. Avoid the temptation to look at the books you have boxed up. If you touch them again, the emotional attachment might return (Argh!).

Here’s a list of 20 places to donate used books.

You could try to resell your books online, but I have found that takes a lot of time and effort for little financial return. It ends up costing you energy and the books may continue to stay in your bookshelf. You will have to do the process all over again in the future. (Argh!) Your mission is to complete the task the first time.

Step 3: Organize. With a much reduced personal inventory of books, already sorted and purged, you are ready to put them back in the bookshelf. But don’t just shove them back in any old way. Decide HOW you will organize them. What makes sense to you? By size of book, category of book, by author, by topic? You get to decide. I suggest you make it logical for you, as you are the one consuming these books. And if you can, make it attractive to look at.

Now you are all ready to enjoy your books and the space in which they reside.

What if You Want to Buy More Books?

As a published author, I encourage you to buy more books, and read more books. But I also encourage you to maintain order and control over your personal library and book inventory. You might also want to switch over to eBooks (which take up less physical space). Or you might want to rediscover all the wonderful things available to you for FREE at your local public library

How about this idea: for every new book you buy, you let one of your existing books go. Maintain that one-for-one exchange policy. Don’t become a bookkeeper. Become a consumer of books. Read them, learn from them, and let them go to another person who will read them, learn from them, and let them go. And the cycle continues.

Let this be the first step in your continuing SPO process: kitchen, closets, garage, basement, personal hiding places, etc. They all need your undying and repetitive attention to establish and maintain your personal decluttered spaces!

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