Any time is a good time to undertake that home-organization project, but taking that first step can be daunting. If your house is drowning a chaotic explosion of clutter or you are simply looking to bring some order to your home office, Marie Limpert and Annmarie Brogan, the co-owners of Organize Me! of NY and co-authors of the book Beyond Tidy: Declutter Your Mind & Discover the Magic of Organized Living, are always ready to help.
Limpert and Brogan recently started their 15th year together in their Long Island–based venture, specializing in clutter control, paper management, time management, that neverending to do list and space maximization. They teach organizing strategies and personalize organizing systems to align with their clients’ wishes, goals and values, and they know that success takes both a physical and a mental effort.
“People don’t always make the connection, but the truth is both organized and disorganized living influence how we show up in the world—one positively, the other not so positively,” says Brogan. “Both affect confidence, reliability, trust, mood, how we communicate with others and how well we manage our emotions. Both affect how much quality time we have for the people and activities we love. They impact how we manage our money. They affect how other people perceive us.”
There are numerous possible reasons why people may become disorganized, Limpert notes. “Maybe you transitioned from working full time in an office to working from home,” such as happened to so many people during the pandemic. “Maybe you gave up your career to be a stay-at-home mom or dad, or you are retired. Maybe you are taking care of an elderly parent or family member who needed to move in with you. Maybe you downsized from a large home to a smaller house or apartment.”
Although everyone has their own story and circumstances, Limpert says, the approach to getting organized has a common starting point. “The question we normally ask our clients when they call us for help is: Are you willing to change your behavior in order to move forward?”
If you’re reading this and thinking, Hey, I’m willing to give that a shot, then read on…
“The key to changing behavior is to focus on mindset, because the two are very strongly related,” Brogan says. “Our thoughts are very powerful. Are your thoughts about your own organizing abilities positive and hopeful, or negative and defeatist?”
If so, the duo insists, the first step toward moving forward could very well be taking a step back and looking inside oneself.
“Research studies confirm our ability to develop new habits, learn new skills and gain knowledge,” Brogan adds. “It’s not that some people have the ‘organizing gene’ and others don’t. Anyone can improve and learn. So don’t write yourself off and say, ‘I’ll never be organized!’ The only thing holding you back might be your thoughts.
And one way to get control over those thoughts and develop a positive approach to the organizing process is with what they call a growth mindset.
“A person with a growth mindset understands that talent and ability aren’t ‘fixed,’ but rather starting points for what’s possible with hard work, dedicated practice and a sincere desire to learn,” Brogan says. “They view setbacks as opportunities to grow, not as personal failures. So their emotions remain hopeful and positive. This helps them see possibilities in a way that negative thinking does not. It keeps them motivated and engaged, and helps them think outside the box.
“People with a growth mindset are solution-focused rather than problem-focused. Because organizing is trial and error,” she continues. “There will be perfectly good systems that won’t work for you and your family. Activate that growth mindset and view these setbacks as opportunities to learn what does work for you and your family. Stay curious and keep going! And don’t forget to ‘celebrate the wins!’ Every step you take forward, however small, should be celebrated, which again, keeps the emotions positive.”
Another key lesson Limpert and Brogran say to keep in mind is the fact there is no right way nor wrong way to organize. The only must is that there is an organized way.
“Annmarie and I are a perfect example of this.,” Limpert offers. “We both apply the same organizing principles to our homes but a little differently, since the size and layout of our spaces, and our family dynamics, are different. We each have our own way of organizing, but in the end, we are both still organized.
“We like to think in terms of education,” Limpert goes on. “Some people are starting out in kindergarten; others are in elementary, middle or high school. Some are even in college and beyond. But even kindergarten is important because it’s where we learn the basics like the alphabet. So, if you are in kindergarten, you are at A. Don’t look at those perfect photos on Pinterest and think organization is out of your reach. Pinterest is Z. You have to run your own race. We want you to think in terms of going from A to B, and then B to C and so on, not make the leap from A to Z, which would be overwhelming and ultimately demotivating.”