Many people make “getting organized” one of their New Year’s resolutions, but what really happens when you ask them halfway through the year how their resolution is working out? Most say that they gave up on the resolution before the end of January. What could help them stick with their resolutions?

Often I think clients make too broad of a resolution, like I am going to “get organized.” A better resolution would be one that is more specific and only focuses on say one area in their home or deals with one kind of organizing task. For example, you could resolve to get control of the paper in your home. This would include mail, magazines, kids’ art, financial papers and long term archives. First I would break each of the types of paper into meaningful steps for a set amount of time – let’s say one month. So if we take the magazines as one type of paper, I would ask the client to stack up all the magazines they receive in one month into one pile. Then at the end of the month, go through the stack of magazines. Recycle the ones you never read and cancel that subscription. It’s pretty easy to do online. Just don’t get sucked into a new subscription. The magazines you do read, pass them on to a friend, or recycle them. Try not to tear out pages unless you have a specific place to store them. Since I worked in the publishing industry, I can say with absolute conviction that the magazine will have another article on that topic in the near future.

If the client wanted to pick one kind of organizing task, then I would encourage one of the popular trends such as getting rid of 100 things throughout the year. My favorite thing for any client to have is a box that is in an easy and accessible location (like basement, garage, closet) where they can put donations as they find them in their home. Focus on only one type of item, say shoes, then come up with a percentage to give away. Let’s say you have 50 pairs of shoes and you decide to reduce them by 10%, that’s only 5 pairs that you need to remove and donate. Lay out all your shoes and try them on. This makes you aware of what you have and what really fits. For instance, you might realize you have 16 pairs of black shoes. This process makes it easier when I have someone specific in mind for my donations, whether it is a charity or my sister-in-law that wears the same size. Seeing the entire collection of shoes makes it is easier to say, “I don’t need this pair of shoes, but so-and-so could really enjoy them.”

In conclusion, New Year’s resolutions will be easier to stick with the more specific you design your goals. Come mid-summer you will find that with targeted resolutions you are still working on the small steps to meet the larger goal.