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Getting Organized

The Priority Principle

Vicki Norris
Restoring Order Are you disillusioned by the efforts you’ve made in the past to get organized? Are you ready for lasting change? If so, I hope you’ll enjoy this new series “Getting Organized for Good.”

Let’s begin with the heart of the matter. Getting organized really won’t do very much for you (nor will it last) if don’t understand why you’re doing it. “What’s that?” you say? “Shouldn’t I get organized in order to achieve a beautiful home, streamlined office, and color-coded files?” While all these may in fact be outcomes of your organizing efforts, my experience reveals that these outcomes won’t last very long unless you have a greater purpose for getting organized

In my view, you should get organized for one most important reason: to make room for your life priorities.

A priority is not the same thing as a goal. A goal is finite and measureable; it’s something you can check of a list. A priority is a guiding life value; it’s something that you continually strive towards. Some people tell me their priorities are to have a good marriage, to be an engaged parent, or to enjoy deep friendships. Others note professional priorities like contributing to something meaningful with their work.

I have found no more compelling catalyst for getting—and staying—organized than our own priorities. If you can identify your own priorities, you can use them to motivate yourself to get organized! The first secret to achieve lasting change I want to share with you is The Priority Principle: to create sustainable order, we must first identify and live according to our true priorities.

Let’s see how The Priority Principle works in everyday life comparing a goal versus a priority:

1. GOAL: Suppose you believe your “priority” is to achieve a beautiful, orderly playroom for your children (which is really just a goal, not a priority). So, you organize the room, select the most beautiful furniture you can find, obtain lots of matching plastic bins, and paint the walls a lovely color. You even commission a mural on the wall. Much to your dismay, the playroom dissolves into chaos only one week after you’ve finished all your “organizing” efforts. In my book, this was not authentic organizing. This was “beautifying” at its best.

2. PRIORITY: Now, let’s say that your true priority is being an engaged parent (an actual priority). So, you set about organizing your children’s playroom and you engage them in the process. You ask them what they love to do, and you set up play areas around their interests. You both enjoying reading together, so you establish a “library” area with a bookshelf and bean bags and you even schedule a nightly time to read books together. You talk with your children about the importance of caring for their space and you help them learn how to honor their belongings and clean up after themselves. In the end, you may not have a playroom ready for a magazine cover, but you are far more likely to a) gain enjoyment from the space and b) teach your children invaluable self-management skills and c) achieve lasting order since you built the space around your true priority: being an engaged parent.

Obviously, organizing around your priorities takes a little more time than tidying up your space. It involves knowing yourself and building systems that support your life. Frankly, this is the nexus of why I personally enjoy organizing so much; it’s really about building your environment and processes around your life so that they empower you to live the abundant life you were meant to live. So often, we shortchange ourselves when we short-circuit true organizing by substituting “tidying” for the real thing.

By embracing The Priority Principle, your organizing efforts will actually clear the way (and time) for you to invest in your priorities. Instead of spending time looking for things, you can invest time with your children. Instead of wasting money on late fees, you can invest your treasure in your family and kingdom activities. 

My disorganized clients tell me that living in chaos siphons their energy, focus, resources, and potential. They are tired of living reactively, instead of living the proactive, fulfilled life they desire. If you have ever felt like this, try activating The Priority Principle in your life. Figure out your true priorities and use them as a catalyst for getting organized. In almost a decade of professional organizing experience, I can tell you that—more than anything else—organizing can help you make room in your life for the things that truly matter.

About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally syndicated Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household organizing guide.

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