Organisation principle #3: Don’t Decide if You Can’t Decide

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We’ve talked about how the difficult part of getting organised are the decisions, and how establishing your bottom line and making the decision once can really help the process along. The goal, of course, is to avoid decision fatigue and decision paralysis, the killers of progress.

But chances are, if you embark upon the great closet/ pantry/ wardrobe clean-out, at some point, you are going to find yourself with a pile of things you just can’t decide on. They somehow defy your bottom line, and you have run out of energy to establish a place for them.

Here’s where an important strategy comes into play: if you just can’t decide, don’t.

This principle only comes in after you’ve done the bulk of the work. It doesn’t apply to the majority of things: 90% or more should be accounted for by your bottom line rule, and if you’ve kept them, you’ve put them into a permanent place in your home.

I’m talking about that random kitchen tray you can’t decide on because you might need it next month for the barbecue but never again after that, or that shirt that may actually belong to your sister, so it can’t really go back in that closet but shouldn’t go in the give-away pile, either. Or maybe the scarf that you have a sentimental attachment to but aren’t interested in storing forever. A small pile of things.

Part of you feels like if you don’t deal with this pile, you won’t have achieved your goal, but you’ve worked so hard all afternoon and you just don’t have it in you to make one more decision, let alone ten difficult ones.

We know that our ability to be self-disciplined tends to decline throughout the day. That means that even though you started out firmly committed to good organisational principles, by the end, you’ve worn that commitment thin.

That’s ok! Don’t push it.

Instead, find a cardboard box or black bin bag (the key point being that the receptacle is not see-through), and put everything in it. Put the box or bag into a place where you can’t see it.  Block out 1-2 hours appointment early in the day on your calendar – 1 month in the future.

Now, pour yourself a nice drink and celebrate!

You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to decide about the random pile of things when you haven’t spent the rest of the day deciding about everything else. And if you’ve lived for a month with relative order and ease in tidying, you’ll be motivated to just be done with the job!

When that day arrives, be prepared to deal with the contents of the bag according to the same basic principles you used for everything else. Establish a bottom line, give things a permanent home. If anything still defies categorisation, now is the time to deal with it. Tape a note onto the tray that says “discard after barbecue.” Text your sister a picture of the shirt and tell her you are giving it away, today, unless she wants it. Then mail it to her or take it to the charity shop. Put the scarf in an envelope and put it in your keepsake box. (Or, take a picture and then give it away.)

You’ve thwarted the decision fatigue which often leads to decision paralysis. You’ve assigned a permanent place to things in your home. You’ve dealt with every last nagging thing in the closet. It’s time to celebrate!

Have you ever benefited by moving a difficult decision to an easier day?