We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not that you fall that matters, it’s whether or not you get up.” In terms of staying organized, you might stumble quite a bit before you hit your stride.

Coach Claire Zammitt says that in the face of a setback, it is important to not shrink and give up, but to extend yourself even further. It’s a great time to get quiet and breathe into the experience, asking yourself, “What could I do differently?”

A breakdown can help you identify a pattern that prevents you from being organized. For me, a pattern was making assumptions. Making assumptions has gotten me into some challenging situations and created organizational setbacks. I’ve learned to get almost annoyingly clear about what someone wants in order to not have to do the same task twice.

Business coach Ali Brown says that real wealth is knowing that if you somehow lose it, you can create it all over again. Real organization is knowing that when life gets messy, you can bring it back into order quickly. When you start out, you might have to be a little obsessive-compulsive about keeping up your systems and keeping your commitments to a minimum. All habits take time to solidify and become second nature. Once they are, you can loosen up a bit.

At the start, organizing is very similar to starting a diet. Successful dieters are very strict at the beginning. They review their progress with reality checks on the bathroom scale. Progress means possibly more flexibility, a set-back might mean reining it in again or trying something new.

More common setbacks:

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Does your “to be filed” pile keeping growing and nothing ever makes it in to a folder? Maybe you haven’t spent enough time making all the files you need and are resisting getting out the labeler and creating categories you don’t have. Maybe your system is too complicated or your drawers are too stuffed and filing is a pain. Maybe it’s something as simple as your file cabinets being in another room or too far from your desk.

Do you often lose or can’t put your hands on important documents? This happens most often to my clients who think that stacks and piles work for them and resist creating a traditional filing system. In the nearly 20 years I took my first productivity course, I’ve never seen a better way to organize paper than a traditional file cabinet. You may be a “visual” type, but I’ve never understood why visual can’t mean opening a drawer and looking at your papers in clearly, logically labeled file.! However, I recently “allowed” a client to have her labeled files standing A-Z in open baskets. It looks great and, “Look Ma, no drawers!”

You might love the look of stacks of bright colored folded T-shirts, but the reality is that when the laundry is done, you dread the folding and it doesn’t get done. Weeks might go by when you guiltily glance at a mound of wrinkled shirts piling up on the dryer. If you stay positive and open to other solutions during this disappointing setback, you might think of some solutions to the problem. Could you hang your T-shirts? Could you trade folding your shirts for doing the dishes with your spouse? Could you afford a laundry service? Stay curious, stay positive and stay open. It’s the best way to progress on the road (which often feels more like a treadmill, let’s be honest) to order.

Even if you stay extended, open, positive and curious, you may not be able to find a solution to your organizing setback. Hire help or Google your problem and see what advice is out there. Is your breakdown around punctuality and time management or completing projects, or dealing with constant interruptions? There are plenty of blogs with lots of advice on these and other organizing topics. Get creative and make your breakdown a break through.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to www.houseinorder.com or call 707-738-4346.

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