Fix your 5 organisational black holes

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Wardrobe in chaos? Snowed under at work? Get organised (and make it look easy) with our expert advice…


The world is full of them: women who look put-together on the outside – throwing impeccable dinner parties, biking for charity, running businesses – but who haven’t checked their bank balance for eight months and carry a small junkyard around in their handbag. “We all want to have our shit together,” says psychiatry professor Dr. Julie Holland, “but we feel like our lives are out of control.” Here, our experts shape up your closet, your desk… even your handbag!

Description: Description: Wardrobe in chaos? Snowed under at work? Get organised (and make it look easy) with our expert advice…


First, fix your 5 organisational black holes

Wish every corner of your place were Habitat-perfect? Get over it!, says Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail In The Morning. “Focus on things that trip you up everyday,” she says. Target these five hotspot: places that make most women feel more organised.


1.   Your make-up bag

“You want the daily things at your fingertips,” says Morgenstern. Throw out anything old, then put the give to ten essentials in a basket within easy reach. Group special occasion stuff by item – bold lipsticks, bright shadows – and stash them in a closet.


2.   Your front hall

“Create storage where stuff lands. If you dump your bag by the kitchen, make a spot for it there,” says Morgenstern. Designate drawers for your keys and phone.


3.   Your fridge

It’s easy to neglect this, but you are in there a few times a day. “Have a ruthless clear- out,” says Morgenstern. Then organise by drinks, lunch and dinner ingredients.


4.   Your handbag

Have a designated place for everything. “I use the zip pocket for keys, and I won’t buy a bag without a phone pocket,” says Morgenstern. Tuck anything else, like your ‘just in case’ extras – plasters, paracetamol – in a spare make-up bag.


5.   Your wardrobe

Pudge smartly: Elika Gibbs, stylist and author of Practical Princess, Perfect Wardrobe, advises ditching anything that doesn’t fit, was a one-season wonder or looks tired. “But if it was a major investment or there’s a chance you’ll wear it again, get it cleaned and pop it into storage,” she adds.


Sort what’s left: Gibbs files items by type, colour and print. “It’s easier to see what you’ve got, which shocks you into shopping better; you think, ‘No, I don’t need another black dress.’”


Streamline: Store seasonal pieces on overhead shelves. Install hooks on doors for belts, jewellery and scarves. And no wire hangers, says Morgenstern: you’ll just end up wrestling with them (and they can make clothes lose their shape).


Get your work life in check

Yes, you can escape from ‘I’m so behind’ mode. Here’s how:


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·        Figure out when you’re most productive

If your day is gobbled up by emails and meetings, spend a week writing down all the things you do in a day, then look at your list to figure out when you got the most work accomplished and when you got the most work accomplished and when distractions happened, suggests psychologist Dr. Shelley Carson. Don’t try to fight it; instead, work with it. Block a chunk of time in your calendfar to hunker down and focus, and another for when you’re happy to answer emails or run down the hall for an impromptu brainstorming session. “Since it’s your day, you should decide where it goes,” Dr. Carson says. Another trick: tackle at least one big project on your to-do list first thing in the morning, says Morgenstern. “If your day goes to hell in a handbasket – and it will from time to time – you can feel good that you got something done.”


·        Clean your desk after every big project

Your workspace needn’t be perpetually spotless, but if you tidy up at key times – before you start the next big assignment, say – you’ll feel refreshed abd rebooted. And don’t feel required to colour-code every single folder; it’s OK to have organised piles on your desk if that works for you, says Morgenstern. “A couple of years ago, I realised I didn’t keep a very neat diary. I didn’t write neatly, and the pages didn’t look neat, and I’m an organisation expert!” she says. “But it works for me, and that’s all that really matters.”


·        Ask for help!

If you’re constantly stressed, speak up before you have a meltdown. “I guarantee your boss knows what overwhelmed feels like,” says Morgenstern. Work with her on priorities based on what needs to be done right now.


Take a look at your money

Not sure where it all goes? Join the club! Simple fixes:


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1.   Sign up for online banking

“It’s a great way to really feel in control of your finances,” says Sarah Rutherford, former financial journalist and author of Women’s Work, Men’s Cultures. You can move money between accounts – often within minutes – and keep an eye on your account.


2.   Start direct debits

Set your account to pay the minimum due on your credit cards if you can’t cover the balance. You can always pay them off in full (which is ideal, if you can) but at least this way you’ll avoid late fees.


3.   Check your balance regularly

Log in to your account at least once a week, says Rutherford, so you can rein in overspending before the end of the month – when the net figure maybe a nasty shock. “All those small purchases (or ones that seemed small at the time) can add up to hundreds of pounds very quickly,” she adds.


And finally…


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We all have moments when we feel ‘blorft’, as Tina Fey defines it: “Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine.” So just keep proceeding, and remember – your messy life probably looks pretty put-together from the outside.

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