5 Steps to Achieving Organized Chaos

Paint Palette
A messy palette can be quite beautiful, just like a messy workspace.

For those who know me well, I have a little (okay, a large) obsession with organization.

I like to make lists.
I like to have everything in its place.
I like to remove clutter.
I like to only hang onto things that serve a purpose or make me happy.

But my workspace is a different story completely.

When it comes to my home office, it’s difficult for me to maintain organization on a daily basis. New projects come up, old projects need to be completed, orders need to be shipped, emails need to be answered. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing all these things – I can honestly say I am living my dream every single day. But it means the less important tasks – like a clean desk and a tidy workspace – often get pushed back again…and again…and again.

Recently, I began reading a book about how to keep my home – mainly my work room – more organized on a daily basis. I have to admit I only read about 5 pages. Not because the book had horrible ideas – it was actually fantastic – but because a light bulb went off in those first few pages. Why was I trying to keep my space free of clutter when that is what drove my creativity every day?

I decided the best solution for me was to maintain what I like to call “organized chaos.” Chaotic enough to fuel creativity, but organized enough to feel like I was working in a clean environment.

Here are the tips I have started using that work best for me.

  1. Keep an over-sized to-do list. I have one very small wall in my office that I painted with chalkboard paint. I use that wall like it’s going out of style to write notes of things that need to get done. When I erase something, I add something else, so it’s an ever-changing to-do list for me and keeps me on task. You could also use a large chalkboard or dry erase board hung on the wall instead of painting the wall itself. Or consider a large roll of cheap kraft paper that can be taped to the wall!
  2. Keep the things that inspire you in plain view. I used to think I needed everything to be put away in my office. That when someone walked in my workspace, all they would see are the pretty, decorative things. I honestly thought I wanted a space that people looked at in awe because of the minimalism. I immediately realized my creativity diminished without my “things” in plain view. Now, I put the “clutter” away (clutter, in my daily work, means shipping supplies, packing supplies, etc. but could be something completely different for you!) and leave out the things that inspire me. Those things include books, pretty papers, ribbons. I am very much someone who is inspired by materials, so I keep as many materials and textures in plain view as possible.
  3. Keep the “clutter” organized. Let’s face it. We don’t have time to clean our work spaces every day, or even weekly. Knowing this, I invested in some storage boxes I didn’t mind keeping out. Each box is designated for a specific item. When my day starts to get hectic and the office starts to look like a tornado ran through it, I can take 5-10 minutes to throw items in their designated storage boxes and move on with my day. (Note: I do label these boxes, which helps, too. Instead of having to actually think about what goes in which box, I simply read the label and move on).
  4. There’s something to the “everything in its place” idea. But it doesn’t mean everything needs to be in a place out of the way. Even when my office looks like a complete mess to someone else (ahem, my husband), I still know exactly where everything is, because I’ve designated a space for it. The right side of my desk is used for projects that need to be done as soon as possible and supplies to go along with those projects. The left side is reserved for projects that aren’t as time-sensitive. There’s a small sitting area in my office that is reserved for materials and items that will be used for experimentation when I have a lull in my days or weeks. Designate specific areas for specific purposes and the clutter will make sense to you, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.
  5. Take some time to organize your storage space. I have a very, very, very small closet in my office. Up until several weeks ago it was a complete disaster. Because of that, I felt like I could just throw things in there and not worry about it. Until it got to the point that I really did need something I couldn’t find. I decided to spend 2 days completely gutting the closet, my husband installed shelving units, and I gave each item in the closet a home on the shelves (with labels!). So now, even though not everything makes its way into my closet, at least it has a home if and when it does. This also eliminates me just throwing things in the closet, which is where the problems usually begin anyway.
How do you keep your work space organized when it seems to be spiraling out of control?

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