People often ask how to get their kids, spouse, friend, roommate, or parent organized. They are often frustrated by others’ clutter and may have given “helpful” advice: “If you would just get organized…”

The less organized person’s response (if they had one) would sound something like this: “If I knew how to get organized, I would have done so already!”

So how do we help the less-organized people in our lives? The following techniques are designed to help you (or someone you know) begin to get organized:

• Be a good example, and don’t preach. If you want someone else to be more organized, you have to walk the talk. Mention the benefits you’ve experienced (finding things quickly, less stress) without making judgments.

• See it from their perspective. If working with a child, get down at his or her level and take a look. When working with another adult, look at the space as if you were them. They are probably overwhelmed. Have compassion (and refrain from comments).

• Start small. A drawer, a shelf, a section of floor. Or take a short amount of time, 20 min. or less.

• Be a facilitator, not a drill sergeant. Ask them questions: Do you still like this? Do you still use this? Help them to let go of broken, unused, or unneeded items. Remember, it is their stuff. Respect their answers and limits.

• Put like items together in piles. If there are duplicates, keep the best; toss or donate the rest.

• Create zones for similar items. Your piles will tell you what zones are needed. Kids may have zones for different types of toys or different sports.

• Contain like items effectively. Small containers are best for lots of smaller things. Save large containers for a few bulky items. Watch out for open baskets and bins. People tend to dump lots of little items in them.

• Place containers where they make sense to the person, not you. Regularly used items should be placed at their eye level within easy reach.

• Remove barriers to easy access. Children don’t put their toys away (and husbands may dump their pockets out on the dresser) because there is no “home” for their items. Keep the path to drawers, cupboards, shelves, and closets clear.

• Agree on a reasonable standard of order. What specifically can each of you live with? Can the bills be in the proper folder without being in date order? As long as clean clothes are in the drawers, do they need to be folded? Remember, you have to start somewhere.

• Make it a process, not an event. Reluctant organizers need time to develop organizing habits, which are often new to them. It takes 3 weeks to 3 months to form a new habit. Help them repeat the steps on a regular basis until they can do it on their own. Let them see you put your things away, and be honest with your struggles as well.

• Celebrate success, however small. Less organized people need lots of encouragement. Make it a game if you are working with children. My 3-year-old daughter gets to pick her own story if she beats me at putting toys away. Teenagers and adults love hearing praise (even if they don’t admit it).

• Get professional (or at least outside) help if needed. Many clients have said that friends and family members have offered to help, but they have declined. Sometimes people feel more comfortable with someone they don’t know who can be objective and won’t judge or comment.

• Hang in there. Organizing is a set of skills that can be learned. Like any new skill, it takes time. Don’t give up too early.

This month, support someone in your life who is struggling with organization. Listen and see if they want help. Encourage them to get started. If nothing else, be a good role model. Remember, we are all in this together.

© Renee Ursem, 2010

Author's Bio: 

Renee Ursem, Professional Organizer and Consultant, is the owner of Get It Together, LLC, offering clients in Las Vegas, NV simple, practical solutions to organizational challenges. She can be reached at Renee Ursem is also on Facebook and Linkedin.