zenhabits : breathe

How to Clear Your Life’s Obstacles by Performing a Home Organizing Audit

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Alex Fayle of Someday Syndrome.

Mention the word “audit” and most people run screaming. But an Organizing Audit has nothing to do with taxes, so you can come back now. Don’t worry.

An Organizing Audit gives you an opportunity to look at your home from an objective viewpoint. The old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” can be paraphrased for your home to “familiarity breeds blindness.” When we use the same space every day, we learn to not notice the little tasks that aren’t done, or the things that don’t have their own storage place.

Going through the space in an Organizing Audit creates a list of all those little things that need doing. This allows you to schedule priorities and work at your own pace to end up with an organized home.

An Organizing Audit also helps clear the obstacles to success in your life. If you’ve heard the phrase: “If you want success, clean up your mess” then you know that you are less likely to achieve you goals and objectives if you have cluttered areas and uncompleted tasks in your home.

How to Audit Your Home
In its noun form, the term audit means: An examined and verified account. If you are going to examine and verify something, both the examination and the verification need to be done systematically.

To perform an audit therefore, you need to have the right tools at hand and need to go through your home room by room without missing any space.

Fortunately, performing an audit is really simple. The only tools you need are a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. To make sure you don’t miss a single space in your home, you should start at the top or the bottom of the house (or front door if you are in a one-level condo or apartment).

In each room start at the door into the room and sweep all the way around it in a circle until you come back to where you started. If there is another room (or large walk-in closet) that leads off the room you’re in, do not start auditing that space until the room you’re in is complete.

This sounds quite simple, but it is very easy to get sidetracked. I call the getting sidetracked experience the Ooh-Shiny! trap. That’s when you’re pulled out of your current train of thought by something that calls attention to itself somehow.

To avoid falling into the Ooh-Shiny! trap, be aware that you are going to be distracted by things, but don’t let them take over. In your pad of paper have one sheet for Ooh-Shiny! thoughts. As these come up, jot them down, then go back to where you were.

What’s in the Audit
An Organizing Audit does not just cover what’s disorganized, cluttered or out of place, it also covers those little household tasks that you’ve never got around to finishing.

You want to look for these household tasks because you will always be more tempted to clutter a space when it is not finished. It might just be a small wiring hole in the wall or a scuff on the dresser waiting for a paint touch-up, but each little thing not done allows you subconsciously to say: “It’s okay to clutter here because it’s not really finished.”

So, you are looking for the following in your Audit:

No Judgment
As you go through the audit, you’ll likely begin to feel guilty. You’ll also probably feel resentment or anger over all the little things others in the home don’t do. When these feelings arise, remember that the Audit is not an opportunity to point fingers at anyone (including yourself). It provides an objective opportunity to view the contents and daily-living processes of your home.

Also make sure you recognize well organized spaces in your home. Pat yourself on the back, give yourself and your family a reward for the job well done and remember this success when the uncompleted tasks threaten to overwhelm you.

When to Perform an Audit
Audit frequency depends entirely on your living style and your tendency to backslide into disorder. If you can find everything and you’re happy and comfortable, then you may need to do an audit only once a year.

If, however, you’re like me and tend to want to “nest” (fill every available space with something of yourself) then you may need to do the Audit monthly. I tend to get distracted from my list easily (I fall into the Ooh-Shiny! trap a lot), so a quick monthly Audit re-focuses me.

For most people, once or twice a year is usually enough.

When you do the audit, make sure others in the household are involved. If you have children, make it a game, awarding points for the highest number of tasks noticed and completed in the audit and implementation period. A less competitive game would be to have children and parents go through the home together and make it a treasure hunt for organizational gems – things done well last time – and rough diamonds – things that could improve.

Achieving Your Goals
When you’re done, there are three things you need to do:

You will also notice that as you clear through your list of tasks uncovered in the Audit that other areas of your life will become more organized and clearer. You will likely become more productive at work; obstacles that seemed insurmountable suddenly become molehills to step over; and you’ll also notice that the house is a calmer place with more harmony.

Remember: what you focus on expands. So if you focus on the chaos, chaos abounds; if you focus on creating space and time in your home, you’ll be more productive and find abundance flowing into your life.

For more from Alex Fayle, check out his blog, Someday Syndrome, subscribe to his feed or follow him on Twitter.


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