Sometimes in life we just have WAY TOO MANY CHOICES! In my book I talk about how all disorganization really stems from two things: delayed decisions and actions. Let's talk about how we can make better and faster decisions to help get rid of the clutter. Here are some guidelines:
- First, take ownership. Someone needs to make the decisions - is it you? If not, could it be you? Issues have a way of lingering when nobody takes ownership of the problem. Even something as fun as deciding where to go on vacation never gets resolved when each party thinks the other person is going to decide. Time slips away and before you know it, flights are sold out. You can still decide together and ultimately agree, but someone has to take ownership to make steps toward getting the information and following through.
- Set a deadline. Commit to making the decisions. We are not joking when we tell people to throw a party to help themselves get organized! Something about the idea of people coming over to visit really motivates you to get busy on your organizing projects. It's a great way to set an artificial deadline. You may have a real one, like an upcoming move or the birth of a baby. Use the pressure to your advantage!
- Narrow your choices. Having too many choices can be paralyzing. Dr. Barry Schwartz wrote a whole book about this called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.
- If you're deciding where to go on vacation, you could narrow your choices by saying you'll only travel within this hemisphere. If it's salsa, you could narrow it down to only green (verde) sauces,or just mild ones (if you're a wimp).
- When organizing lots of paper, you can quickly get through a pile of items by giving yourself only three choices: Action, Reference, or Trash. (spells the word ART) You need to do something with it, you need to keep it to refer to later, or you need to throw it away. These three choices make the piles disappear faster than "drilling down" to all of the possibilities those pieces of paper represent.
- When deciding about physical items, stick to "Keep, Toss, or Donate" as a way of staying focused. You could also say, "Yes, No, or Maybe" or whatever works for you, sorting them into piles as you go. (If you have a "Maybe" pile--make sure you go back to it and decide yes or no once you see what remains.) You could also narrow your choices by declaring that anything in the room you do not actively USE or truly LOVE will go.
- Be a "satisficer" not a "maximizer." Schwartz's book talks about the work of 1950s psychologist Herbert Simon, who identified these two types of decision-makers. A maximizer is someone who perfectionistically needs to be assured that every decision they make is the best possible, causing them to review every possible alternative. Maximizers worry that there is always something better around the corner. Satisficers are people who, once they have found a decent option that meets their criteria and standards, move forward without worrying about whether there is something better.
- Make "policies" to make the decisions easier. If you set rules for yourself, they become the guiding force to make choices for you. You may decide, for example, that you will donate or discard any clothing that you have not worn in one year. You may also decide that if you have magazines older than three months you will recycle them without reading them. Further, you might even set a rule that magazines stacked up over a certain number of months mean that you will unsubscribe to that publication.
Most of us in North America have both the blessing and the curse of too many choices. The most important thing to keep in mind is whether the choices we make bring us closer or further away from our goals. What decisions can you make today?
Certified Professional Organizer Lorie Marrero is the creator of ClutterDiet.com, an innovative program allowing anyone to get expert help at an affordable price. She is also the author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life. Her organizing books and products are sold online and in stores nationwide. Lorie has been a spokesperson for Brother label makers and FedEx Office, and she is a sought-after expert for national media such as CNBC, Good Housekeeping, WGN News and Woman's Day.
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