I've been living in my new home for 7 months now and I'm surprised at how much organizing I've already done here. Our house is only two years old so you would think there's not much to be done. Uh huh.
When we moved in, I had a plan drawn out on paper because I'm an organizing geek. I organized the rooms based on obvious needs first. Then we renovated our laundry room and master closet, so I started all over again in those rooms. Also, I re-did a lot of the spaces after a month because we changed how I thought we would use them.
In addition, I have two little boys, so how we live our lives changes from month to month as well. Diapers get replaced by underwear, so let's rethink that dresser and closet. Toys that were once our favorites are completely not cool now and get phased out and donated. Clothes sometimes only last for a few months before being outgrown.
So what's my point, other than wow, that sounds like a lot of work?
In order for your home to stay organized, you have to keep organizing it. That, my friends, is one of the biggest things that people forget on their journey to a more organized life. Maintenance and constant fine-tuning keep you from falling back into the chaos. It's scary when you add up all those hours, especially if organizing is not something you enjoy. But I'm here to tell you that it gets much easier the more often you do it. Like mowing the lawn every week versus tackling a lawn jungle once a month. Regular organizing keeps your household running smoothly and things from getting lost. Plus, the projects get smaller and more like decorating once you get to the fine-tuning stage.
Let's take my garage as an example - the space I hate most in my home. Why? Items come and go so fast in here that a lot are temporarily placed... meaning dumped on the floor. We constantly use the tools, paint and building supplies right now. This means they are not always put away mid project, but left out during a week of working on something. I also keep client organizing products and donation items here on the way out of the house. Even though I know they are going out, I always have more coming in, which never stops. I actually set up a permanent labeled area for these temporary items. It sounds funny, but it's needed. Lastly we don't spend time in the garage every day. So there's this feeling of neglect that settles over the place. It's just the garage - who cares? Arg, it's like a major pain point for me.
Now let's take a look at my playroom, one of my favorite spaces in my home. Why? We use this space every single day, we know where every single item goes and it cleans up super fast. I've finally gotten the furniture and decor to a point where I feel like they are complete... for a while. Does this mean that I'm done organizing it? Heck no. As I sit on the floor with the kids playing, I sift through the bins, seeing if there are any broken pieces to throw away. My son's 3rd birthday was last week, so I know that I will have to do another "sweep through" this weekend. To add the new toys in, some have got to go out. Plus about once a month, I dig to the bottom of each bin to find anything babyish that hasn't been played with in a while.
The great thing about my playroom is that since it is currently in a "peak organizing state" I can easily clean it. I don't mean put away toys because the kids do that. I mean vacuum the floor, wash the windows, and dust the bookcase kind of clean. This peak state is something I strive for in each of my rooms and some are better than others. So how can I take my own advice and have the garage be like the playroom?
The key is the level of organization you are currently in within each of your spaces. For a lot of my clients, we work together to turn an unusable room into a functional space. The room works, albeit there are a few things that need fine tuning, but it works. The client is happy, I'm happy, but there's more. To get to the "I love this room and never want to leave phase" you have to keep going. Leave no stone unturned. Then when you get to your happy place, schedule in time to fine-tune it at least once a month so it stays there. If you are the type that puts things away when you use them, it will be even easier to maintain, so strive for that as well.
The current (unofficial) organizing level of my garage is:
Stage 1: Moving boxes
Stage 2: Shelves built, zones created for each item category
Stage 3: It's working, but I need better
Stage 4: Help, I did a project and everything is a mess again
Stage 5: OK, things are back to normal but I really want it to be the best it can be - this is me right now!
I'm not farther down the path yet to happy town, but I take pride in the fact that I've come this far. Plus, holy cow, have I organized my garage 5 times in 7 months already and it's not done yet? Those are the things people reading organizing books with a quick fix mentality don't yet realize. It takes time. Lots of time. It takes maintenance. But eventually if you stop moving houses like me and stay in one place for a while, you'll get to where you want to be.
So to answer my initial question: How often do I need to organize my home? All the time. Start with the big overhaul of each space. Then drill down through the different stages until you get where you want to be. After that, and this is so important, schedule in time to keep fine-tuning your spaces. If you don't you'll have a nice home over all, but it won't be the dream space. Monthly/seasonal maintenance is something you do for your lawn or appliances or car, so why not with organizing? It will bring you efficiency, stress relief and a happy place that you deserve. Start now by scheduling in that maintenance. You may find that with a few more tweaks, you already live in your dream home. You just didn't know it.