Problem, Project or Solution?

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2017. Did you notice all the workout, weight loss and “get organized” ads starting the day after Christmas? Those seem to be the top three new year’s resolutions year after year.


I don’t know about you, but I find it discouraging to keep trying to do something every year and not be able to achieve it.  Since this is an organizing blog, I’ll talk about that ongoing problem. We see the ads for all these great organizing gadgets - usually tubs and totes and shelving units. So we go out and buy matching tubs and totes and shelves, but we still struggle with not being able to find anything. Blech. I tell my clients to not even think about buying these items until you’ve first sorted, purged and decided where to store things. Then it’s time to figure out what storage system will work and find it. A lot of times, you already have things you can use in your house.


But what if we looked at our things differently this year? I read about a new-to-me idea on a message board called A lady posted there awhile ago about asking herself about everything she brings into her home, “Is this a Problem, Project or Solution?”  Wow. I really like this because it helps us be mindful of what we are bringing into our homes and what we already have.  Remember, our homes are our special place where we can be ourselves, relax and spend time with our family and friends. If our homes are cluttered and full of stuff we don’t need, we become stressed, not relaxed. By deciding whether stuff that comes into our homes is a Problem, Project or Solution, we take control over our decisions and that allows us to make better ones.


What are some examples of Problems? Almost anything is a Problem if we don’t have a place to store it.  Anytime you bring something into your home, know before buying or accepting it where it will “live” when it crosses your threshold. Some Projects are Problems!  If you find yourself trying to convince yourself (or your spouse) that “this will be great! We only need to spend time and money and energy fixing, it, putting it together, installing it (fill in the blank).”  Does the Project part outweigh the Problem?


Some Projects are supposed to be fun. I’m a crafter and have learned the hard way to not buy stuff just because it could be used to make something cute or special or pretty or whatever (Pinterest, anyone?). That stuff eventually becomes clutter, a/k/a Problems.  I now only buy or keep stuff I have an immediate need or plan for, not just because it’s awesome.  Other Projects are Solutions. Home improvement projects come to mind. Again, be mindful and prepared to finish your Project so it is actually a Solution. Projects become Problems when we don’t finish them in a timely manner. They are Problems because they cause us and other family members stress!


Solutions are the gold medal of the three to keep or bring home. However, before bringing in a Solution, ask yourself, “Is this exactly what I need? Will it solve a specific Problem? Is there a better way to solve this Problem like decluttering, donating or using Solutions I already own? Is this Solution a Project? If so, is it a Project I can quickly and easily finish?” For example, I may decide I need shelving installed to hold all of my books. Before spending money, time and energy on a Solution, I need to take some time to inventory and curate my book collection. I may be able to actually reduce the amount of books I have and only keep the ones I really love and are important. By doing so, I find that that shelves I have are sufficient or that I only need a small bookshelf - one that is already put together (thus, not a Project).


Become a mindful consumer so that your home works for you and you don’t have to work for your home.  Look for Solutions, think carefully about Projects and avoid Problems! Here’s to a joyful 2017!