Sitting On Our “But”s

As a professional organizer, I hear many reasons and excuses why people believe they can’t get organized. The truth is, when the desire to change is greater than the desire to have the same problems over and over, people will commit to getting organized. Sometimes we need to be reminded to get off of our “buts” to make positive changes.

BUT, I don’t have time to get organized!

When we say this, we’re really saying that we haven’t been willing to prioritize what’s truly important. We fear we’ll miss something important, but if we treat EVERYTHING as if it’s all equally and vitally important, we’re actually making everything equally unimportant, and nothing will ever get done.

Recall the old expression, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have time to do it over?” By setting priorities and committing ourselves and our time, even 15 minutes a day, to the things we value, we can bring ourselves closer to our goals. After all, the less time spent stressing out over clutter-induced problems like searching for lost keys or files, the more time we”ll have to conquer disorganization and focus on what gives us joy.

BUT, this has sentimental value!

Whether it’s a worn out stuffed animal, an old sweater, a broken heirloom, or a nifty doodad we received when we were twelve, our homes and offices are filled with clutter because we fear the intangible sense of loss we might experience by letting things go.

I hear my clients say “I need to keep this 20-year-old prom dress because it reminds me of my first love.” The truth is, if we really needed inanimate objects to preserve our memories, those memories would not be worth the time, effort and cluttered real estate we risk by maintaining them. Our strongest memories are preserved by our emotional connections to what we prize and cherish, things we give places of respect in our homes and our hearts. The physical connections are really secondary.

How much room in our hearts must something be worth if it’s broken and buried under a pile of junk? I ask clients, “Do you have a photo of yourself in the prom dress?” If so, the memory is already preserved; if not, go head and take a snapshot. Remember the adage: Take a picture, it’ll last longer!

BUT, I might need this someday!

From piles of cardboard boxes to phone numbers without corresponding names to background files for long-completed projects, we fear that “Something bad with happen if I don’t keep this.” Combat the fear by asking “What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t have this item anymore?” Just as clutter can weaken us, the answer can empower us.

If the item in question is useless (mystery phone numbers), easily replaceable (cardboard boxes) or the information can be found elsewhere, set the item (and yourself) free. If the item is truly essential and irreplaceable, even if someone might need it someday, good organizational skills allow us to create a place for things to live. That may mean developing a filing system or a labeled storage area, or even trusting that not everything has to live with us to be preserved. Further, an efficient records retention schedule assures that we’ll always be clear on what should live with us, and for how long.

There are other BUTs that paralyze us: “BUT, I need to see everything in front of me or I’ll lose my creativity.” “BUT, I’m just not an organized person.” “BUT, nobody’s ever shown me how to get organized!” We all have our own reasons or excuses. It all comes down to whether or not you want to regain control over your time, life, work and surroundings. If that’s your wish, you can do it—no BUTs about it!

Copyright © 2005, 2015 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.


About the Author:   Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at

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