Can a mid 30's person to change their life habits?
October 9, 2004 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for a mid 30's person to change their life habits? Even more specificially, can a lifetime of disorganization be turned around into one of organization? (MI)

When I say disorganization, I mean "basic" like creating a filing system for bills, knowing where to place dishes/kitchen stuff, etc. You know they don't teach this stuff in school, and if your parental models weren't ideal then how do you break out of it?
posted by jeremias to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's difficult. I am terribly disorganized yet organized in my own way too. There are a few things I hate though such as searching for my keys in the morning. To fix that I stuck neodymium-iron-boron magnets on my fridge and every night I stick my keys to it. As for everything else I try but it doesn't work for me. I typically end up with piles of stuff all over the place (especially reading material) but I always no about where to dig in the pile for what I'm after.

For bills and such I've realized that if it's not filed within the first 5 minutes of me getting home than it's as good as gone so I have a expanding folder I drop them in. If I need to find the bill my stack works again because I usually know about when I bought whatever it is that is ailing.

I don't know how much of it is from your parents actually. My mom kept a neat and tidy house and would go ballistic when things were out of place. My dad was the opposite but was forced to keep his mess to his workbench.
posted by substrate at 10:59 AM on October 9, 2004 is your answer. Altho this relates specifically to getting one's house in order, many of the principles apply way more broadly.

And yes, it is possible to change at a later date. It's just about changing habits, is all.
posted by konolia at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2004

My wife has done professional organizing off-and-on for the past few years. She's away on vacation now or else I'd ask her for some reading suggestions. The basic advice seems to be that you will be the one who has to buy into whatever organization system you follow. Her consultations are generally interviews to see what the client wants to change and then she works with the client to develop a system to tackle the problem. And when I say works with the client I mean that in a very loose and general way. A person is more likely to follow a system that s/he develops on their own. She's basically a hand holder I guess...

Short answer: yes you can change. I am proof positive of that.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2004

Jeremias, without a doubt you can do this. And you will be so happy when you do, you won't believe it.

Bills: set up automatic payment for as many as possible so you can't miss them. For the rest, get a desk or hanging calendar and keep it right by your computer, and write down the due date. Do this the day you receive a bill, then store the bill in a divider or fill folder with the calendar.

General organization: Hire someone like Fezboy!'s wife if you can afford to. If not, you can pick up good tips from some of the gazillion shows on the subject. It's larded with ads and some things are a bit self-evident, but there are a few good tips from the show Clean Sweep.

I think it's absolutely brilliant that they haul all the stuff out on the lawn and sort it into keep, sell, and purge piles. You have to purge things before you can organize them, and there's no more ruthless way than emptying a room outside and seeing all your old magazines fading in the sun. If you can't have a garage sale where you are, sort and purge inside and donate to needy friends and charity. Keep only what you really need and use. If you have trouble purging, a professional organizer or well-organized friend can help you stop seeing your stuff too sentimentally.

The only new stuff you should buy for a while are organization units: closet organizers, file cabinets, book shelves, and baskets measured to fit your space. Most closets have a lot of underused space and it's worth it to maximize their usefulness.

I encourage you to do this for yourself and wish you the best of luck.
posted by melissa may at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2004

Yes. I'm coming up on thirty-five, and the last six months or so have seen a few major but subtle shifts in the way that I work my life, all for the better. What they all said. Hit it.
posted by majcher at 12:29 PM on October 9, 2004

For the rest, get a desk or hanging calendar and keep it right by your computer, and write down the due date. Do this the day you receive a bill, then store the bill in a divider or fill folder with the calendar.

No, no. Pay the bill as soon as you get it, or as soon as you can if you can't pay it immediately. (In the latter case, the first task on payday is to pay all the leftover bills that are due before the next payday.) It's not worth the extra float you'll get by paying your bills as late as possible, especially since you're probably not earning interest on that money anyway.
posted by kindall at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2004

You might want to check out Getting Things Done by David Allen. It has helped me quite a bit, as a perpetually disorganized person. It's more about organizing your time than your posessions, although the general philosophy could apply to both.
posted by mmoncur at 4:09 PM on October 9, 2004 has been really helpful for my wife. i'm trying to adopt some of the principles. Getting Things Done seems over-organized to me.
posted by Sean Meade at 7:55 PM on October 9, 2004

Another vote for Gettting Things Done.

Also, just by way of reinforcement: I'm 34 now. I was crap at being organised through my 20s. Gradually, I got tired of living in a mess, and I got tired of forgetting things and failing to accomplish stuff through lack of planning. And lo, gradually I have got better and better. I was tired of running out of money: I started budgeting. I was tired of having shit on the floor all the time: I bought shelves and boxes for the stuff I wanted to keep and threw the rest away. I was tired of losing papers and documents: I bought a filing cabinet, and every weekend I file shit.

Best of all, there's a virtuous circle aspect to organisation. The more stuff you have that's taken care of, and no longer a worry, the easier it is to deal with what's left. I used to think that people with systems and tidy habits were anal-retentive killjoys with no time for fun. Now I'm coming to realise that I have more time for fun, and more resources for fun, because my everyday worries are dealt with.

Most of what you need is a reason to do things differently, and the creativity to come up with systems that suit you. I expect there will be more competing tips in this thread, just as kindall and melissa may have diagreed - and the conclusion from that is that there is more than one viable system. The one that you find easy to stick to is the best one.

If you specifically are having trouble with bills, or your kitchen, how about asking a better-organised friend to help you? Or at least ask them what their system is.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:42 PM on October 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

« Older coca-cola for breakfast?   |   What does "middle class" mean to you? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.