Too Overwhelmed to Organize? Here are Lessons on Organizing from Issa Guico Reyes of Neat Obsessions
Good news: You can still be organized even without decluttering
We’re sure you’ve had one of those days when you wake up feeling so inspired that you want to organize your room or maybe the entire home. Eager to get it done, you bring everything out of a cabinet or your closet all at once. As your organizing playlist plays in the background, you get sidetracked by keepsakes from years ago and before you know it, hours have passed and you aren’t even halfway done with your planned organizing day.
Relatable? While organizing can help us achieve a more functional home, it’s a task that can be physically tiring and emotionally draining. As much as we’d love to have everything we own in its proper place, it requires energy, patience, and the right mindset.
Issa Guico Reyes, the professional organizer behind Neat Obsessions, understands how organizing can sometimes get the best of us. Moms and families have reached out to her asking for help on how to get organized as well as how to manage things they’ve accumulated over the years. Through Neat Obsessions, she’s able to share with others how organizing can be a form of self-discovery, self-care, and empowering others around you.
An organized home not only brings comfort and happiness, but it also allows you to allot time for more important things like spending time with your loved ones. To help you get started, Real Living turns the spotlight on Issa and Neat Obsessions. From overcoming the dread organizing brings to learning how you can efficiently organize your space, Issa shares insights that can help you reclaim your home.
First things first, is decluttering the same thing as organizing?
According to Issa, people often associate organizing with decluttering. “They always put a pause on the task because they will say ‘I’m not ready to declutter.’ You have to remember that decluttering and organizing are two different things. You can be organized without decluttering,” she explains.
This means that not being ready to declutter is not an excuse for not being organized. “You can be organized whether you are a collector or a hoarder. You can still be an organized person even without decluttering,” Issa adds.
Differentiating organizing from decluttering helps in getting over the overwhelming feeling the task brings simply because we don’t need to think about the challenge of letting go of things. Of course, if you want to switch to a minimalist lifestyle, decluttering is something you need to do. Letting go of things can be easier once you’ve sorted the items and you’re ready to commit to the task.
Why do we dread organizing?
Have you ever felt excited about organizing only to end up feeling deflated once you see the things you need to organize? It’s understandable. “When things accumulate and it gets out of hand, it’s overwhelming. Seeing things that way overwhelms you and feelings tend to take over,” says Issa.
Feeling overwhelmed often leads to feeling lost and not knowing how to start a task. There are even instances when we postpone organizing, convincing ourselves that we still know where to find our things or worse, we end up deciding to buy a new one instead of going through the trouble of finding whatever it is we're looking for.
Embracing the Homeward Technique and how it can help you reclaim your space
Understanding how challenging it is to let go and kickstart one’s organizing journey, Issa came up with an organizing process called the Homeward Technique, which she delves into in her book Neat Obsessions: Starting Your Journey to Organizing, Productivity, and Happiness released in 2020. Involving only three steps: sorting, detaching, and rehoming, the Homeward Technique is a process that highlights the feeling of “going home to your home.”
“Whenever I meet with clients and I show them the after [photos] of our projects, the one thing in common is they say na ‘ganito ‘yung bahay ko dapat. Ganito ito noon una kaming lumipat. Grabe, it feels like home,’” Issa shares.
Issa says that when you organize, you can already skip the second part of the process which is detaching because that’s the emotional part. If you want to be organized, you can focus on sorting and rehoming.
Sorting is very straightforward – you just group similar items. For example, grouping shirts, pants, blouses, and dresses accordingly. “You don’t have to let go but you shouldn’t assign emotions to things. Normally, when we fix our clothes, we think about when we first wore them and if we can still wear them in the future. A lot is going on in your head versus if you go back to the basics,” explains the professional organizer.
Grouping things together and seeing you own too much of the same thing makes elimination more manageable in the future. “Once you’re done with the first step, you can move on to the rehoming part where you arrange it and then go back to the detaching step when you’re ready,” says Issa.
Lessons on organizing from a professional organizer
In photo: Issa with Kathryn Bernardo. The professional organizer helped Kathryn revamp her kitchen. You can watch the video on Kathryn's Youtube channel.
To date, Issa has helped many families and celebrities achieve efficient spaces. From collaborating with Kathryn Bernardo to helping Team Kramer improve their kitchen, the Konmari consultant-in-training has touched many lives by sharing her expertise.
If you’re ready to commit to organizing and avoiding the accumulation of clutter in your home, here are insights from Issa worth keeping in mind:
1. Have the desire to be organized.
Issa says that aspiring to be organized is a good first step you can take. Once you have the desire for it, the next step involves reframing your mindset and telling yourself that you don’t necessarily need to let go of your belongings to be able to be successful.
“[Don’t find] reasons not to do it. You might feel like you need to let go or you look for reasons not to get organized. If you already have the will to do it, might as well set aside that overwhelming feeling and get on the task. Start with the basics and you’ll be surprised that it’s easier to move forward and do things when your things are organized,” explains Issa.
2. Build a healthy habit.
Going back to the scenario we mentioned above, whenever we feel like organizing, we often do it in one go. The ending? We don’t get to finish it or we end up having a messier space.
According to Issa, you can start small by organizing a drawer, a closet, or an area. “If you’re not a professional, I don’t suggest organizing the whole house in one go. Again, it’s an overwhelming task paired with an overwhelming feeling. It’s not a good combination,” she shares.
Once you’ve started building the habit of organizing per area or cabinet, you can let that habit unfold naturally. Make sure you also allow yourself to appreciate your accomplishment.
3. Have strong categories.
How many times have you bought bins, dumped your belongings in the said bins, and then left them as is? “If you will look for something, you’ll spend too much time looking for it in your miscellaneous bin as opposed to having a strong category. Even if there’s a mix of things in there as long as the category makes sense, you know where to look for specific things,” Issa suggests.
This stems from Issa’s belief that organizing is a personal journey. You need to own it and you are the sole owner of the categories you have. “If you find yourself struggling with your set categories, then there’s something wrong,” she adds.
Keep in mind that when things are in place, you have one less thing to worry about. You know where to go when you’re looking for something and you don’t need to recall where you’ve last seen it.
4. Practice ownership but make sure you empower the people you share the space with.
Issa says that in a house, there’s one person who functions as the “owner” and more often than not, it’s the mom. We ask our mom where she placed this and that, and you can bet on it that she knows just where you can find whatever it is you’re looking for.
“The way you organize the common areas of the house, you need to empower the people who also use the space,” she says. You can trace this back to having strong categories. For example, you have a supply station located in the home office. If the rest of the family knows where it is, they don’t have to bug you every time they need paper, pens, and pencils.
The same rule applies to documents. Having a file box and making sure every folder is properly labeled can make it easier for anyone to find the files they need.
5. Know your season and embrace it.
“Focus on who you are and knowing your season. For example, right now, if I’m going to identify my season, I’m a wife, a mom, and an entrepreneur. Anything in excess of that, okay lang na nakatabi’yung mga gamit na ‘yun. But anything that can help me become an effective wife, mother, and business owner, it has to be within reach,” Issa explains.
6. Check the efficiency of the things in your house.
Are the things you use daily easily accessible? Do you need to reach for the topmost shelf to get the things you need when preparing meals?
Try opening your drawers to see if the items stored there are active items or things you use often. “Madalas kasi ang ginagawa natin, kung saan maluwag, doon tayo nagsisiksik ng gamit. Unknowingly, pagbukas mo ng drawer, one year na hindi gumagalaw ang gamit doon,” says Issa.
When organizing your things, consider efficiency and the tasks you do every day. The things you need to be able to accomplish these tasks must be within reach.
7. Don’t live in the past and make space for the future.
When organizing clothes, many often keep pairs of pants from years ago vowing they can one day fit in them again. “We own too many things from the past that there’s no room in the present and there’s no room to celebrate in the future. Don’t you want that when you slim down, you get to wear new clothes? Enjoy and embrace who you are now. Things change and you have to embrace that change,” Issa suggests.
8. If you’re building your dream home, make sure you allot space for storage.
How many homes have you seen where the garage doubles as a storage area? There are even multi-story homes without storage rooms. Issa says that storage shouldn’t be an afterthought. It’s a must to make an inventory of the things you own and make sure that each will have an assigned space.
In addition to having a storage room, homeowners can also look into having a cleaning cabinet and a designated laundry area, too. “I’m excited for those building their houses because they have a blank canvass and they can imagine what a home should be and will fit who they are,” Issa adds.
9. If you don’t have space for it, don’t buy it.
The pandemic taught us the importance of stocking up on essentials but how can we keep these things organized? According to Issa, she considers two things when buying supplies – does she have money for it and does she have space for it? “If I don’t see a space or if I’m not going to make space for it, then I don’t overbuy,” she explains.
Buy what’s enough and make sure you practice first in, first out. Overbuying can only lead to wasted money and resources.
10. When organizing, always envision the result.
Organizing, admittedly, is a physically tiring task. Issa says that no matter how she loves it, the actual organizing can be challenging. “What I crave is seeing the ‘after…’ Even if I don’t finish it in a day, I am looking forward to the time of seeing the result and I know that I will be satisfied,” she shares.
Looking for inspiration and pegs can also help you commit to the task and feel immersed in what you’re doing.
In photo: Issa with Marie Kondo. Aside from being a mom, a wife, a business owner, and a best-selling author, Issa is also a Konmari consultant-in-training.
11. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
You’ve heard it so many times before but Issa would like to reiterate that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself when organizing. It doesn’t have to be done in a day and at the end of the day, these are just things you can control.
Issa says you don’t have to be stressed because these are just things – they don’t have emotions and putting them in place isn’t impossible.
At the end of the day, Issa says that the best thing she can get out of having an organized home is being present with her family. She can focus on more important tasks and spend time with her kids rather than looking for things.
“I get to be a mother and a wife to my family. I dream that my kids will feel safe in my space. I want my home to be as open as possible and that my kids will always long to go home. They are my favorite clients because whenever I fix their rooms, they look forward to it. I love rearranging their rooms because I love seeing their reactions. It’s fun that because of organizing, I can see how they appreciate me as a mom and as a wife as well,” Issa exclaims.
If an organized home can help you make the most of life, wouldn’t you look forward to accomplishing it? Yes, it can be time-consuming, but if allotting time for it now means you get to spend even more time with your loved ones or doing the things you love in the future, then it’s a bargain worth making.
Special thanks to Jojo Ampeloquio of TalentMarketers. Makeup by Nicole Ceballos | Hair by Bryan Resureccion | Styling by Em Millan & Team RAINxEM | Set styling by Kamila Arianna Garcia
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