Getting Organized When You Feel Overwhelmed

Updated: Apr 1

A lot of times when I talk to my friends about getting organized, I hear the same thing over and over:

“I really wanna be organized, but I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t know where to start!” 

I've totally been there and know that feeling well. I mean... who HASN'T walked into a messy, cluttered room with the full intention of whipping it into shape… and then just walked right back out again because it seemed like too much of a task to start??? #AllOfUs

Getting organized doesn’t have to be overwhelming or impossible. Most of the time we just need a plan of action to make the project more do-able, so it doesn’t seem like such a crazy, daunting task. So today I thought I’d talk about the process I go through when organization feels overwhelming to me (like when I'm editing a film and ALL of my footage gets mixed up and relabeled in random order.....!!) in hopes that maybe, just maybe, my system can help others tackle their organization overwhelm as well.

1. Make a List

Many of my projects start out with me making a list of some sort, and this one is no exception. I just think it’s so much easier to complete individual tasks when you can see the whole big picture laid out in front of you.

In this instance, I try to think of every area of my room or workspaces that are an organization sticking point. What spaces feel over-cluttered? What systems don’t seem to be working? Which areas do I dread going into because they are messy or unorganized? I write down everything I can think of, from the smallest junk drawer to the largest, most cluttered parts of my life.

2. Prioritize

Once I’ve written down every area that I want to tackle, I look back over it and decide which are the BIGGEST organization sticking points in my room or workspaces.

For example, when winter started and I stayed busy, I often took my coat off and left it on a chair or piece of furniture in my room. I would get so frustrated with myself because things would pile up, be in random places, etc...... honestly, it became a mess! Since that was the organization issue that was bothering me the most at the moment, it went high on my priority list.

I went through my list and numbered all of my tasks, with 1 being the most important, then continuing all the way down to the more trivial items (like separating my pencils from pens and markers on my work desk).

3. Make a Plan of Attack

Some of my organization issues were easy to tackle. Going back to my coat dilemma.... I decided to put up some over-the-door hooks on my closet door. This completely resolved the organization issue of just leaving items scattered around the room when I didn't quite have the energy or patience to fully hang up items in the right place in the closet.

Other areas won’t be as quick to solve. If there’s an entire room that I need to deal with, I look at my calendar and see if there’s a big chunk of time that I can spare to work on it all at once or if I need to break it down into shorter tasks. Whatever I decide, I put the time on my calendar as if it were an appointment and make sure I stick to it.

4. Set Deadlines

I like to keep my list somewhere that I can see it often so I am reminded of the tasks I want to tackle. (Also so I can cross off the items that I’ve finished… am I the only one who gets tremendous satisfaction out of doing that?!?) Planners, sticky notes, and other calendars are GREAT for this....... & don't forget the colored pens to go with it!!

It also helps if I make a goal for myself of something big I want to tackle each month. This way, I have a deadline, and I’m not just thinking “Oh, I’ll get those things done at some point”. If deadlines are helpful for you, I would write a date beside each item for when you want to have it completed. And if you miss a deadline, it’s not the end of the world! Just keep plugging away at it, even if you can only spare 15 minutes each day. It’s amazing how those small increments can add up over time!

4. Purge Like CRAZY!

Finally, the single most helpful thing I do when I work on organizing any space is to go into it with the mindset that I am going to purge as much as humanly possible. I’ve found that the biggest reason that my spaces become cluttered and my systems of organization fail is that I simply have too much stuff. And no matter how many pretty bins I buy, if I’m keeping items that I don’t really need or never use, I’m not really organizing; I’m just rearranging my clutter.

If things are broken, stained, or unusable, I throw them away. If the items aren’t in bad shape but I don’t use them anymore, I’ll either sell or donate them. I know it can be hard to get rid of things. I always find myself thinking, “But what if I need that someday…?” But the reality is, I don’t know that I’ve ever ended up needing an item that I’ve gotten rid of later. If I haven’t used it in the past several months, I probably won’t use it in the future either. And the more ruthless I am about purging, the easier it is to keep my spaces organized in the long run.

So that’s my strategy for getting organized when I’m feeling overwhelmed! I know that organization can sometimes feel like a completely daunting task, but I also know how much calmer and less stressful our life feels when our surroundings are uncluttered and we can find everything we need. Yes, it takes some time and commitment, but in the end, I feel like the time I put into organizing really ends up saving me a lot of time in the long run, and that is well worth it!


©2020 by Cara Clements. All Rights Reserved.