Organizing your space seems like a HUGE task. But what if it only took five minutes to get and stay organized?
Today I’m interviewing Katie McCann, a professional organizer in Westchester, NY. And owner of the award-winning home organization company, Haven. Katie’s not just a whiz at organizing and de-cluttering, she’s also great at the emotional side of getting rid of things, and at making organization a regular part of your life. And that’s what I want to talk to her about today: simple practices we can use to get and stay organized, five minutes at a time.
Katie, thanks for being here today! Before we start talking how-tos, why do we tend to get overwhelmed with clutter in the first place?
I feel like clutter ends up happening when we have a lot of decision fatigue. I feel like just a typical scenario, You’ve had a really long day at work. It was very stressful. You come home, you walk in the door. It’s a little bit of chaos. Maybe your kids are really needing a lot from you. So rather than mindfully, putting your keys on the hook, putting your bag down, and putting your shoes in the same place, you kind of dump all of your items on the floor to kind of move on with your nightly routine.
But what then ends up happening is it creates chaos the next day. And if we do that in all aspects of our life, that’s where the clutter happens. All the piles. All the mail that we haven’t tended to, that we haven’t made decisions on. Because we’re tired and we’re have literally decision fatigue. So I feel like it’s just the day-to-day maintenance, which leads to a lot of excess stuff.
I’ve heard you describe organization as self-care, can you talk about? The benefits it provides us?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that just personally, I know that I feel so much more at peace and calm, clear-minded clear headed when I have an organized and decluttered environment and space. And I know that it’s caring for myself and giving myself a gift to declutter my environment and to declutter my space. To make sure that really, I’m just holding onto the things that I want and need and love. That I actually want to be responsible for these things as opposed to a bunch of stuff that I’m not really sure about and that I really don’t feel benefits me in my life.
So by living with less, I’m able to live better. And I really do feel like that’s caring for myself and my environment in my home.
Right. I feel like when the house starts to get messy, it affects my mood. And you’re making me think that it’s because it’s all these decisions that I have to get up and make and I just already feel exhausted. Right. Is that the link?
Exactly. I think, you know, as the typical adult has a ton of responsibilities, a super busy day. And sometimes it feels like your home is just yet another thing that you need to care for. So you’re able to kind of push it aside and say, I’ll deal with that tomorrow. But the thing is, when we always say tomorrow, tomorrow, that’s when things build up and that’s when clutter happens.
So just by doing that, day-to-day maintenance, it’s really preventing, you know, having to focus on it for say eight hours on a weekend. Instead, you can do 15 minutes a day of kind of some tidying and decluttering so that it doesn’t become more of an issue than it needs to be.
Right. So on the topic of little daily routines to stay on top of your stuff and connected to your home, what are some things we can do in 5 minutes that are helpful for keeping our space uncluttered?
So actually, a long time ago, I read a Gretchen Rubin book, and she focuses a lot on healthy habits. And she said, “Do anything that takes less than a minute.” So I really took that to heart and I tried to adopt that in my day to day. So all those tiny things that maybe you don’t feel like doing in the moment impact your home environment a lot.
So, as I mentioned before, when you walk in the door, put your keys on a hook. Hang up your coat. Once the, once you bring in the groceries, put them all away. Plan ahead so that you can have enough time to completely finish your laundry from A to Z. When you start a task, try to finish it so that you don’t always have those in-between middle tasks that you’ve done something halfway. And then that creates that cycle of never having things finished. And again, then it always is that kind of like cycle of spiral of chaos. It kind of feels like. So just really trying to do all of those little tiny tasks, but then also giving you enough yourself enough time to complete tasks.
That’s something I’ve been saying to my kids a lot,let’s complete the cycle. Just come home, make the snack, eat the stack. Put the stuff that was involved with the snack away. I think that’s definitely a skill that we have to reinforce not just in kids, but in ourselves.
Well, exactly. And just kind of consider that a part of the task. If you want to cook for yourself– think of then after the fact, the cleanup is also the part of the task. I know personally each night, it’s not my favorite thing to do to clean the kitchen. But I love the idea of walking into a clean kitchen in the morning and having my coffee and starting my day with a fresh, calm mind.
Right. I feel like you rarely feel like cleaning the kitchen or doing any kind of organization task. But if you do something that’s less than a minute, then all of a sudden you’re doing it and you’re already reaping some of that benefit of it feeling better. So maybe you’ll do the next one.
Exactly. It’s all the little things that add up to the big things, you know. That add up to the cumulative larger picture. And then it’s more manageable too. Because if you kind of think of it with all these little tiny tasks that you can do to help yourself, it’s not as overwhelming as thinking, I have to completely clear up my home for eight hour chunks. That’s not a manageable and it’s super energy draining for anyone.
Right. Does your approach home organization and maintenance change now that we’re in a pandemic and we’re using our homes in ways that we never used to? You know, they’re schools, they’re the gym, they’re the office, all that kind of jazz.
I think it’s even more important just to really create those very strong boundaries with yourself and your family and know that this is not typical. So typically, we would not be doing every single thing from our homes. So I think it’s even more important to be really mindful of what is coming into our home. And to really always be assessing and looking around and thinking, do I want to be responsible for all of these things that are surrounding me? Or are all of these things really taking away from my peace of mind and the efficiency of my home?
Got it. Do you have a story you can share either from your own life or a client’s life about how implementing a little routine around organizing, you know, these things that are five minutes or less, or even one minute or less how that’s benefited them?
Yes. So one of my first clients that I worked with, she had lost both of her parents within a very short span of time. So quite obviously she was incredibly impacted by that. It started affecting her work and she actually needed to take medical leave and stay home. And then her home kind of ended up being a reflection of how she felt inside. So she stopped caring for her home and she really started letting everything pile up. She was doing a lot of online ordering because she wasn’t leaving as much. So she was really surrounded and she felt very trapped in her home.
And after we worked together, she let me know that she really felt this energetic shift. And she said, I feel like it was the first step towards getting back to my normal self, to moving forward. And while I’m not claiming that if you declutter your home, it makes it easier to grieve. I really do believe that any type of positive change that you make in your life trickles down to other areas of your life and will have, you know, an overwhelmingly positive effect.
I love thinking about your home as a reflection of yourself. You know, maybe she wasn’t able to take care of herself so much in that moment, but she could take care of her space. And that was in essence, the same thing as taking care of herself.
It can be motivating instead of dealing with stuff, you know, it’s like, Oh, let me do this for myself.
Well, again, it’s one thing that you can do as a positive change that’s manageable and that you can tackle and then feel accomplished in. And that has huge benefits for moving forward, getting unstuck in our lives.
Katie, for folks who want to connect with you, how can they find you?
Daily Tiny Assignment
I love how Katie even broke it down to smaller increments than five minutes of time and was talking about things that take a minute or less. So your tiny assignment is to go do one thing that restores order to a space or declutters that takes a minute or less. Just get up, go do it, give yourself the experience. You’ll probably be inspired to do more while you’re at it. But even if you only do one thing, you’re doing something to take care of yourself. Because I also loved how Katie was saying that taking care of your home is essentially self-care because your home is an extension of yourself. So go do something nice for yourself. Put those keys away! I’ll talk to you tomorrow.