• Advice

3 tips for the chronically disorganized

There are people in the world who genuinely enjoy organizing: They get all hot and bothered at the sight of color-coordinated file cabinets, their #2 pencils are always sharpened and aligned perfectly, and their pocket scheduler gets more action than a lothario’s little black book.

… this guide is for the rest of us.

Listen, I get overwhelmed by the very concept of “organization” – it sounds no fun AT BEST, and at worst it just seems overly rigid and downright disheartening.

In school, I was known for carrying around an overstuffed, battered Trapper Keeper that was as likely to contain half-eaten bologna sandwiches as tattered, dog-eared assignments.

As an adult, I once infamously misplaced my iPhone for half a day in the REFRIGERATOR, and just last month I absent-mindedly tossed a pair of freshly-folded socks right into the toilet.

But once I started freelancing, I had to learn to be NOMINALLY organized, or I would have been sunk.

Here are three easy tips that help me be a perfectly functional, productive, and (dare I say) organized freelancer – even if I occasionally have to fish some wet socks out of the john.

1. Do it by section

It’s especially hard to work up enthusiasm for the Sisyphean task of organizing years and years worth of work, despite the fact that you can hear the desk creaking ominously under the weight of old projects.


Instead, assign yourself one little manageable task at a time. It can be useful to segment physical tasks from more abstract, nitty-gritty ones.

For instance, if you need to sort out your tax information, take one day just to gather the receipts in one location. The next day, start categorizing them.

It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. Take small, small steps. Don’t try to do too much all at once, or you’ll burn out.

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2. Make technology your friend

The future is here! Use technology as a tool to eliminate clutter and streamline your work.

If paperwork is your problem, digitize your records.* Keep physical copies of only your most important documents.

*Special note from the author: MAKE SURE TO BACK UP IN SEVERAL PLACES

If you struggle with organizing your billing, check out some easy invoicing apps.

If your workflow is disjointed and you’re constantly distracted, time itself may be thwarting your efforts to organize. Use your mobile phone’s timer to work on the 45/15 schedule - it’s a lifesaver!

Tech solutions don’t have to be complex. Just using your phone to jot down a thought, or adding appointments to a Google calendar can make a big difference.

3. Cut out waste

Nothing helps disorganization fester faster than too much stuff.

As you start organizing, focus on THROWING OUT UNNECESSARIES.

Hint: if you have a sneaking suspicion that you don’t need something… you’re probably right.

Don’t just stop at chucking physical junk, lose processes that no longer serve you as well.

If you’re not entirely sure whether you may need something at a later date, put it in storage. This way, you can clear the decks for new projects!

You don’t have to be a file-lovin’, pencil-sharpenin’ control freak to organize! It only takes a few little tweaks to turn your horrifying dystopian clutterscape into a manageable, dynamic system.

Trust me – if this bologna-sandwich toting free spirit can do it, anybody can.

… now, has anybody seen my iPhone?

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.