Have you ever felt like you’re moving through life feeling like you’re fumbling through fog and quicksand? After my second daughter was born, that is just how I felt. I didn’t realize that I was slipping into postpartum depression because it was a slow, gradual decline and it wasn’t until my best friend told me something was wrong that I saw my doctor.
An excellent psychiatrist helped me get back on track with both medication and counseling. Her advice led me back to myself with a clearer, more confident brain, and a more organized life in general.
Now I am a Professional Organizer, passionate about helping busy moms who feel overwhelmed to gain peace and order in their lives by getting more organized.
Guest Post By a Professional Organizer: How to Get Organized When You Don’t Know Where to Start
I’m so happy that my friend, Ali, invited me to share the following tips with you that I’ve learned and implemented through my journey with depression & anxiety. These habits are high impact and trying any one of them can be a game changer for your daily life, so don’t feel pressured to try them all at once.
How Organization Helps You
My psychiatrist told me that when your brain is always focused on trying to remember things, it doesn’t have any energy left over to actually think. Wow! This was such an eye-opener for me because I was in such a brain fog all the time – in constant anxiety of forgetting something, dropping one of the balls I was juggling, and letting people down.
The answer to this is to create systems of doing things, stick to them, and then trust the system you have in place! Implementing systems you can trust should lessen your stress and free up your mind. Here’s how you do that.
5 Tips on How to Start Organizing Your Life
1. Start with a Brain Dump
Not the most delicate of terms, but I promise it feels so good! Get a notebook, sheet of printer paper, or open a new document on your computer, and then start dumping out every single thing inside your brain.
All your “To Do’s,” “Honey Do’s,” “I Really Should’s,” and “I Wish I Could’s” get written down. It’s like a brainstorming session – go as fast as you can without second guessing anything.
When you start slowing down, gather your planner, any scattered to do lists, your kids’ school calendars, and anything else you use for remembering things and go through these items, adding to your brain dump as you go.
Once you’ve written it all out and feel your brain sigh in relief, you can sort your brain dump into categories. My Brain Dump categories usually include General To Do Items, Kid Stuff, House Stuff, Medical Stuff, Homeschool, Need To Buy, and Important Dates, but yours will be different depending on the unique aspects of your life.
The biggest benefit of a brain dump is that now you know that all the things your brain was working to remember are written down, and you know where they are, so your brain can let go of the pressure of remembering them.
Note: I don’t recommend using your BrainDump list as a To Do list because that would be too overwhelming. Instead, use it as your reference; break it down into doable chunks and then use those to create your daily or weekly to-do list. Once an item is complete, scratch it off the list and feel proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished, no matter how big or small!
I prefer to re-do my brain dump periodically instead of always working off the same list. I have a specific project-type notebook that I dedicate to my brain dump lists and it always stays in my Command Center on my kitchen counter.
There are endless types and styles of planners and calendars. For some people, electronic is the best way to go. There are many highly-rated planning and calendar apps which give access to a whole family and can sync across devices. This is a great feature because it’s important that you always have the most complete and updated information.
2. Decide on a Planner, have it with you
always, and use it consistently.
My brain prefers a paper planner because the physical act of writing out my commitments helps me to remember them. I make sure it’s small enough to fit in my purse because the true benefit of a planner is that you use it consistently enough that you can trust it and let go of the anxiety of remembering things yourself.
If you’re not used to this, it takes time to form the habit of writing everything down and then checking it to help plan out your day. It’s worth it because it is such a great tool for lessening stress.
For instance, I recently ran out of my contact lenses and had to visit the optometrist before I could order more. Immediately when I got my new prescription, I took a minute to write a note in the back of my planner of the date it expires so that I remember to book next year’s appointment on time! Now I can let go of that and trust I have the info when I will need it.
3. Decide on a home for your important items and stick to it.
I have three kids, two of them girls, and as they grew, I seemed to always be searching for a hairbrush for them to use when it was time to leave the house. Now, we have a Kitchen Hairbrush that has a declared home in a drawer next to the fridge. That brush gets used more than any other in our house!
Where do your keys go when you get home? Where do they go when you’re out somewhere? If you take a minute to think, decide on a “home” that makes sense to you, then stick to that, you’ll always know!
You should do this for all your important items – your planner, cell phone, and remote controls, for starters.
What other items do you find yourself searching for on a regular basis? Just taking a minute to declare a home for items like this helps your brain because things become more automatic. You never have to wonder where to put something or worry about remembering where it is because you can just trust the system you’ve put in place.
4. Take advantage of your strengths.
Think about your day; in general, when are you at your best? When do you need the most help? Leverage the energy you have when you’re strongest to help yourself in your low points.
In my life, this looks like “After Kids’ Bedtime Melissa” taking a few minutes to prep for the next day’s morning routines, because “Just Woke Up Melissa” is never fully functional. I have an actual sticky note in my kitchen that lists it all out as a reminder. “Just Woke Up Melissa” is always grateful to see that sippy cup of milk already poured in the fridge and the coffee mug waiting on the Keurig machine each morning!
If you’re a morning person, what can you do early in the day to help yourself in your evening slump? If naptime is when your hands are free, how can you capitalize on that time to help yourself out for tomorrow? It is such a relief to accomplish something and know you don’t have to worry about it later!
5. Create one consistent “feel good” daily habit.
I have become a bed maker. Even though I’m usually sluggish in the morning, I make my bed every day because it starts my day feeling proud I accomplished something and it makes me happy every time I walk through my bedroom. It’s a small thing that takes less than two minutes but makes an actual impact on my day.
The focus should be the consistency of sticking to something small but positive just because it benefits you and makes your day better.
All of these brain-healthy organization habits can make your daily life smoother, simpler, and less stressful! I hope you feel motivated to try one and see how it helps. I’d love to hear from you!