How much time do you lose each year due to disorganization?

Clutter? Misfiled papers? Missing bills? Piles of knickknacks?

The average person loses an entire hour EVERY SINGLE DAY just rummaging through things. What a time waster!

Worse yet, for the freelancer every bit of that time is MONEY, because we only get paid for what we actually produce! If we are losing an hour every day to clutter, we lose a real hour every single day of productivity! Over the course of one week, that’s an entire page of art or 52 pages of art EVERY SINGLE YEAR! Half a graphic novel! Three issues of a comics series!

HELLO!!!

Moreover, since most creative people are (in my experience) major clutterbugs, I’d bet that hour a day lost to clutter is a low estimate. Here’s a handy online graph that can give you an idea of what disorganization can cost you or your organization PER PERSON. For an average worker at $15 per hour, it’s $75 per week, or $3900 per year. Ow.

I’ve just spent the last two weeks catching up on a backlog of commissions, filing, and organizing. Even though I am a pretty organized person, I cringe at the clutter that accumulated during the last six months of my deadline crunch when I wasn’t staying on top of the paperwork like I usually do, not to mention the piles of art that have simply never been organized in the first place.

Nothing compares to the mess an extremely intrusive person made of my belongings when they tried to help me move a few years ago. What was I thinking when I left them my house key to let in the cleaners? While I was out of town, they decided to help do my packing for me! Wasn’t that nice?

However, their idea of packing was to throw things into boxes. They never labeled a single box of books or papers, and simply threw piles of my belongings into containers. And all of this without even asking me! I guess they wanted it to be a surprise. Well, it certainly was! Some people are Almost Helpful.

Anyway…

Years ago, most of my work space was confined to a limited area of my home with just a few boxes of papers to clutter it up. When I was living in a 750 square foot condominium, it was comfortable to keep everything I needed in a small corner of my very small and modest home.

And then I began self publishing.

Sometimes I got a foot high stack of mail every single day. After a few weeks on tour I had boxes of papers to sort. I couldn’t stay on top of it all.

I rented a small office/storage space to clear the load (and to avoid the draconian home office rules in the area), but when the direct market collapsed in 1995, I could no longer afford the rent. So I had to move all of my work materials and inventory into my tiny condo. I lived out of boxes and crates for months and months. This was miserable and I was overwhelmed by the clutter. Major efforts to get rid of unsold inventory barely scratched the surface of the mess, and I was still stuck with furniture and art supplies and bookcases full of stuff that simply had no place in my home.

Fortunately, I found a professional organizer to help.

Not only did my professional organizer help me to learn techniques for cleaning clutter, she helped me to walk through the piles of stuff I simply could not seem to prioritize on my own.

I was utterly demoralized facing the load of work I had to do. It didn’t help that the demise of the whole self publishing thing and the sudden loss of money left me feeling down. Having piles of clutter in your home just makes it all worse. It was an immense help to have someone who had a lot of enthusiasm and good ideas, who also respected my privacy (something you can’t always expect from people you consider friends, and thanks again, Almost Helpful) come over to my home in the spirit of productivity. My professional organizer was a great, positive influence. It was the best $40 an hour I ever spent, and after just a few hours, we had made major progress in the piles of stuff.

I still use some of the techniques she taught me, and I am a borderline neat freak now: when I complain about clutter or mess, we are talking a tiny little percentage of the miserable detritus I accumulated while self publishing. Now, most of my organizing time is spent working on VERY old files and getting the art files in order (they have never been properly coordinated.)

I enjoy getting things in order and cleaning out files and dusting bookshelves. I know that the small, cumulative effort makes my whole life easier on a daily basis.

If you are a clutterbug, or would just like to have someone come in and give you some advice or tools to super-organize the kitchen cabinets or closets, you might want to try enlisting the aid of a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

This link at NAPO is open to the public and includes great tips for organizing your home or office, and also has information about how you can hire a professional organizer near you.