Review: Organizing from the Inside Out

At this year’s NAPO conference, Julie Morgenstern gave one of the keynote presentations and after that, she signed her books.  I didn’t bring the one book I owned for her to sign – Organizing from the Inside Out.  Although it’s been a number of years since I’ve read this book cover to cover, I do periodically reread sections.  I also liked this enough to borrow Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers from the library and then to buy a couple of books at NAPO (which I then got signed!).  I look forward to making time to read those down the road.

One of the things that I appreciate about both books I’ve read by Julie Morgenstern is that she insists you find your way to the organizing answers.  If you’ve read her book, you’ll have seen many similar posts from me.  I also use a quote from her in almost every presentation I give since it resonated deeply for me:

Being organized has less to do with the way an environment looks than how effectively it functions.  If a person can find what he or she needs when she or she needs it, feels unencumbered in achieving his or her goals, and is happy in his or her space, then that person is well organized.  ‘Organizing is the process by which we create environments that enable us to live, work, and relax exactly as we want to.  When we are organized, our homes, offices, and schedules reflect and encourage who we are, what we want, and where we are going.’  — Organizing from the Inside Out, first chapter

This is a critical piece to me when I talk with people – that what is important is their definition of being organized.

In Organizing from the Inside Out, she spends the first 2 (out of 4) talking about general principles: “Laying the Foundation” and “Secrets of a Professional Organizer.”  Part 3 is the main chunk of the book and spends time talking about specific rooms and items (i.e. purses, suitcases, filing cabinet, memorabilia).  She wraps the book up with “Time and Technology” briefly, and has a whole book Time Management from the Inside Out (one I did buy and will read!).  She also provides several appendices with further resources.

As an organizer, I appreciate that she spends some time addressing the possible things that are getting in the way for people struggling with organization.  She also spends time talking about the steps that people often want to skip when embarking on getting organized.  She breaks the process down so that it’s easy to understand and follow.

I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big fan of acronyms, I find them hard to remember and largely unhelpful, and she does use one as a basis for getting organized.  It’s SPACE: sort, purge, assign a home, containerize, and equalize.  Essentially I can appreciate this steps, especially the need to do them in order after you’ve completed analyzing the situation, strategized, and then moving into the attack mode (where SPACE comes in).  She offers time estimates for the rooms and items, as many people struggle with figuring out how long things will likely take them.

If only organizing books could solve everyone’s clutter problems! We all know they don’t, sometimes it takes someone else coming in and helping.  Fresh eyes, fresh perspective, someone to ask those questions and wait for an answer – these things we cannot always do for ourselves.  I love how she encourages you to think outside the box and find the inner style that will make organizing work for you.  I also know that for just me, that this is often extremely challenging to actually accomplish – and my organizing struggles are minor compared to some people.  Some of her ideas seem great as ideas, but I sometimes question the practicality of them.

There is a plethora of organizing books available, and I would recommend this one.  Some of my clients have more than a shelf full of books on how to get organized – and although I’ve not ready most of them (gasp!); this would be one to keep (and yes, I’d encourage you to recycle most of the others).  It has the essentials on getting and staying organized, if you can follow her steps.  This is probably why there are so many books out there, maybe another speaks to you and your style.

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