Small changes, good habits help you get organized

2013-01-13T00:00:00Z Small changes, good habits help you get organizedNicole Anzia Special To The Washington Post. Arizona Daily Star

Getting more organized in the new year is often at the top of resolution lists. But as with other resolutions, most people start out strong and then lose their motivation when they don't see immediate results or because they are trying to do too much at once.

The trick to getting and staying organized in the months ahead is to form good habits. Small changes make a big difference.

Purge frequently

There is a huge imbalance between the amount of stuff we bring into our homes and the amount we take out. Almost every organizational challenge is due to this imbalance.

If you only clean out once or twice a year, it is hard to know where to start. De-cluttering more frequently makes the work less taxing both emotionally and physically. Don't wait until you have 10 boxes of books to make a trip to your local library or nonprofit organization. If you have two boxes of books, clear them out.

Likewise, you don't have to wait until everyone in your family has cleaned out his or her closet to give away clothing. It's tempting to feel like it's only worthwhile to make donations after you have gathered every possible unwanted item in your home, but that day will never come. Clearing things out on a consistent basis is not only rewarding, it also helps you to stay motivated.

10 minutes a day

There are countless organizing projects that can be completed in 10 minutes. Take a quick peek in your refrigerator and toss out all outdated items. While you're waiting for a pot of water to boil, organize your Tupperware drawer by matching up lids with containers. Or, dump out one bin of your children's toys and sort through it. Setting a time limit will make the task less daunting. Don't let perfection get in the way of progress. Even small improvements are valuable.

A simple to-do list

A to-do list helps prioritize everything you need to do today, this week and this month. Many of us spend our days switching back and forth between personal and professional tasks. The flexibility that our mobile life-styles provide is liberating, but it also makes keeping track of everything more challenging. Creating a single list that you look at, and revise, daily will help you remember, prioritize and organize your tasks. This does not require any fancy notebooks or gadgets. Simple is better.

Recycle often

Many find it difficult to discard their beloved magazines and newspapers. A sense of not wanting to miss even one interesting article makes it hard to part with them. Unfortunately, there is just not enough time in the day to read every newspaper or magazine article that interests us. Still, many people hang on to their papers and magazines for months and even years. Chances are, you won't go back to read old news, so relieve yourself of the burden before the stacks begin to cause more stress than joy.

Streamline your bills

If you haven't already, begin to pay your bills online. Once you start, you will never go back. The initial setup takes some time, but once you have entered all of the information for your various accounts, paying bills is effortless. You will no longer need to write so many checks, search for envelopes and stamps, and remember to drop your payment in the mailbox. Online bill-paying is also safer than other methods and makes it easier to keep track of account activity.

Having just made it through several weeks of holiday celebrations, visits from relatives and mountains of presents, we're all starting at an organizing deficit. Don't be discouraged. Start with a few of these suggestions and you will be on your way to a more organized life in 2013.

Nicole Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org.

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