I’ve been a lifelong disorganized person. As a child my room was always a mess, I could never find anything, I’d forget about homework due dates despite multiple reminders from teachers, and I was that kid that crumpled and shoved loose papers into my backpack because fuck binders right? I was constantly in trouble with my parents for leaving a mess (despite the fact that they were arguably even messier than me), and then as an adult I brought the mess with me much to my husband’s dismay. This is likely chalked up to my ADHD, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome.
Over the years I’ve tried (and failed) many things to help fight the crazy. I think it’s trial and error for everyone because we all work and think differently, and there’s no one size fits all answer. I believe you just need to take what works for you and leave the rest. I know now after years of trying, that I will never be a color-coded bullet journal using wizard of perfect order, but I can work on my chaos goblin nature. Keep tweaking things until your disorganization is no longer stealing your precious time and mental energy. Don’t bother striving for perfection, because life isn’t ever going to be perfect, but rather strive for something that you can consistently manage based on knowing how you function as a person.
Here are some things that I’ve found to be helpful for me personally in case you want to try them or even use them as inspiration to spark ideas that are more custom to you.
My physical space:
I’m never going to suggest going out and buying all the things from the whole organization section at a store, but sometimes an important purchase o two can make a difference. I have so many pens, pencils, markers, brushes, and miscellaneous tools. Some of them I use frequently, and some of them I use now and then. I’ve found that using these specific Sterilite storage drawers are perfect for most things because they’re small enough to not take up a ton of room while being deep enough to fit longer markers and pencils. The blue ones are okay, but *just* shallow enough that longer things like Tombow markers don’t quite fit. I also prefer the white and clear ones as having a more neutral space is less distracting for me visually.
Labels! I never thought a label maker would bring me so much joy. I found this jammed behind a drawer in a thrifted file cabinet as I was cleaning it. To my surprise it worked despite looking like it’s from the 90s. I started using it all the time. When it eventually ran out of label tape I was devastated, but thankfully they still make it and I was able to order it on Amazon. I label my Sterilite drawers, and so many other things. For things I rarely use I store them in shoe boxes with labels on the outside. I give each item it’s own label so that if I need to move it or use it up I can just peel that one label off the box.
Colors. I’m not so organized as to have everything perfectly arranged in a rainbow, but I do separate the things I use most often by color. Even having “warm”, “cool”, and “neutral” drawers is helpful for me.
For my “in progress” projects, I use an extra thing to store the specific tools I’m using that I want to keep out temporarily. If I have certain colors of Prismacolor pencils out, I don’t want to put them away and forget which specific color of pencil I was using. I keep these separate until the project is done and then reintegrate them into their permanent spot. For the projects themselves, putting them on the wall is a good storage spot so they’re out of the way, but also staring at me and reminding me to finish them.
I keep a “later box” for when I have something that I either don’t know what to do with, or don’t have the time/energy to put away at the moment. The important thing is to routinely address it every week or two. I keep it small so that it can’t get overloaded.
My digital space:
I’ve learned to organize my files in a way I can find them. My art is organized by categories and subcategories, and additionally my client work is organized by the client’s name. If I create an editorial infographic illustration about bees for a magazine, it will be found in “animals>insects”, “design>infographics”, as well as that magazine’s client folder. That way if I need to send samples to a prospective infographic client, I can find it, but also if I’m looking for examples of insect art, I can remember I did this too. Things like contracts, invoices, and large .psd files would only be found in the client folder.
I try my best to name files appropriately as I used to notoriously have “hjjdsrm.jpg” or multiple copies of things like “bee.jpg”, “bee2.jpg”, “beerevised.jpg”, “bee copy.jpg”, and have no idea what the fuck each one was or what the difference is.
My mental space:
Keeping track of deadlines and communications can be tough. I put things on a calendar, but also in a spreadsheet where projects are arranged by priority based on deadline. I can add notes, and if it’s a big project, break it down into smaller tasks. I make a buffer for my deadlines whenever possible by a couple of weeks so that if shit hits the fan in life, I’m not waiting until the very last moment.
I keep my email inbox as a sort of to-do list. If it’s in my inbox it means I need to reply or take some sort of action. If I’ve dealt with it, I move it to an organized folder where I can find it if needed.
These are just some things that work for me, and they may not work for you. But take it from someone who has struggled for most of their life and is continually getting their shit together, it is completely possible! Keep tweaking things and pay attention to how you realistically function. Progress, not perfection. You’ve got this shit!
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