Backsliding: Losing Your Way in Organization

Backsliding: Losing Your Way in Organization

Beth Zeigler
Mar 11, 2010


An organized space can quickly turn into chaos without maintenance
One of our friends recently asked us to assess his home office situation. His issue--he had become "unorganized" and needed guidance. We knew immediately that he had encountered "backsliding."

In the organizing world, backsliding is when you've lost your way during the organizing process. Almost all individuals experience backsliding at some point or another--but it's how one handles this challenge that makes all the difference. The most important thing that we can impart on folks is to expect backsliding. If you expect it to happen, you're more likely to be aware when your systems unravel and tweak the approach. On the other hand, it's when folks aren't aware and cognizant of backsliding that they think "I must not have the organizing gene." That's when maintenance comes to a hault and the clutter comes right back.

Once you're aware that your organized space has unravelled, assess the situation

  • Were you sick with the flu for a week and couldn't maintain your systems?
  • Was there a pet or family emergency that channeled your time and energy in another direction?
  • Or perhaps you just endured the busiest work week to date and were just plumb tired each day you came home (therefore impeding any upkeep at home).
  • Maybe your systems are too intricate and not even the most organized person would be able to keep up with all the tasks at hand.
  • We've encountered lots of folks who "get organized" overnight, only to burn out fast.

Tips to keep you on track

  • If the busy pace of life is to blame, perhaps you can delegate tasks to other family members so you don't fall too far behind.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself if emergencies and illness gets in the way of your progress. Just know that once things get better, you'll be back on track to maintain your organizing goals.
  • We think it's always smarter to incorporate one new system/habit at a time. Once you get the hang of a new way of doing things, then add another process or procedure.
  • One of our favorite organizing tips is to use a kitchen timer. Set the timer for 15-30 minutes and only organize for that set amount of time. You'd be surprised at what you can accomplish in such a short time period--not to mention, you won't get burnt out and give up on maintaining your organized space.

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(Images: Beth Zeigler)

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