Imagine a store that doesn't bother putting together any policies or procedures. No one has ever decided what their business hours will be, so the customers don't know when the shop will be open -- it could be 10-2 one day and 6-6 another day. No one has decided what the store will sell, so customers don't know if they will get flowers or salami when they walk in the front door. And the owner has never bothered to set a policy about the type of payment the store accepts, so a customer who paid with a credit card on Monday might be told "cash only" on Tuesday. People have to guess how this shop is going to function from day to day, and no one ever knows what to expect or how to behave. I would have to imagine that both the shop employees and the customers are going to get pretty frustrated and irritated at the situation.

It's the same way with your personal life -- if you don’t tell people how you operate, they won't know how to interact with you in a way that you both find mutually satisfying. Too often, we expect other people to read our minds, to automatically know how we need them to act toward us during every minute of the day. And when they behave differently than what we had hoped, we get angry -- when what we really should do is communicate our needs a little better. Unfortunately, we don't always exactly know what we need -- we just know what we don't like, don't want, and are fed up with. But that's a great start!

Think about all of the times in your life when you have interacted with another person and felt invaded, violated, or disrespected by the experience. Maybe you thought that person took advantage of you. Or perhaps you felt as though you didn't stand up for yourself like you should have. Those incidents felt uncomfortable and frustrating because you allowed the other person to cross a very important line with you. Each of us has developed a set of unconscious rules about how we want to be treated -- how we want our time, space, belongings, and personal qualities to be respected by others.

The problem is that on a conscious level, we are unwilling to assert these demands. And this happens for many reasons -- we don't want to cause an imposition for someone else, we've convinced ourselves that we are wrong, we've fallen into a habit of disregarding our feelings, or we think that this is just how life is supposed to work. So we continue to tolerate unacceptable behavior -- usually because it just seems like too much work to try and change things. Take a few minutes to make a list of all the things that you are tired of tolerating. The following are some examples from my clients' lists. Do any of these sound familiar?
I'm tired of my kids leaving their stuff all over the house, expecting me to pick it up.

- I'm tired of my boss throwing an "urgent" project on my desk at 5 PM on a Friday afternoon.
- I'm tired of spending all day Saturday running errands for everyone else in my family.
- I'm tired of never seeing my kids because I have to work all weekend.
- I'm tired of husband scheduling a social engagement for us and then not telling me until the last minute.
- I'm tired of staying at the office late every night while everyone else goes home on time.

If you will look closely at each of these complaints, they all have to do with the way that one person allows another person to treat him or her. Notice that I didn't say "it has to do with how other people treat you." It is your responsibility to let people know exactly what you expect from them -- what is acceptable behavior and what is not. When someone crosses a line the first time, it's their fault. When it happens again, it's your fault. And while you can't change other people's behavior, you absolutely can change what you are willing to put up with!

But let me offer a word of warning before you start laying down ground rules. You have to be willing to back them up with action. If you decide that you are not going to work past 5:00 anymore and your boss insists that you stay late, are you willing to stand up to your boss and be true to your convictions? And if the fact that your boss continually insists that you work late becomes a real problem for you, are you willing to look for another job? If your family members don't put their clothes in the laundry basket before wash day like you agreed upon, are you willing to let everyone walk around in dirty underwear? How committed are you to your own needs and desires? This is not an exercise for the faint-hearted!

Once you decide that you are really ready to dig in, the first step is to think about the kinds of rules you would need to set up in your life to keep each of those "tolerations" from ever happening again. Go ahead and write them down -- they will seem more concrete and easier to implement if they are on paper. For example, if you are tired of having to put your own plans aside at the last minute because someone in your family failed to tell you that they had a ballgame or a party or a field trip, you might decide to lay down the following rules: We will have a family planning meeting once a week on Sunday evenings.

- During that meeting, each family member will discuss any upcoming plans they have for the week.
- We will write each member's activities on a centralized family calendar.
- If you need supplies, a ride, something bought, or anything else for an activity, bring it up at the meeting.
- If you don't mention it at the meeting and then need something at the last minute, it is your responsibility.

This might sound harsh and rigid and fascist, but if you look at the CHAOTIC way that some people operate, a little fascism might be in order! You don't have to be incredibly hard-nosed with your rules, but it's important for people to know what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do -- up front. That way, when little Johnny decides that he needs cupcakes for the school party at 10:00 the night before, you can explain to him why you aren't going to make them. And the next time, he'll learn to plan ahead a little better. You are actually helping the people around you to learn valuable time management skills -- while you create a little more sanity in your own life.

When I first started my organizing business, I most assuredly did not practice what I preached! I felt like I had to give every spare minute of my time to my clients, or I wouldn't be successful. I essentially allowed my clients to dictate my schedule -- to run my life. I finally decided that if I wanted to have a healthy life, and a healthy business, I needed to set some policies and procedures -- some boundaries -- around how I used my time.

So I thought about what I wanted and what I didn't want. I didn't want to work more than 8 hours a day -- including travel time to and from clients. So I decided that I would see divide my day into 2 three-hour blocks -- a three-hour organizing session in the morning and another in the afternoon. This would leave me plenty of time for lunch, travel time, and I would get home no later than 5:30 each day. I would no longer schedule appointments for evenings and weekends -- but I lined up a number of other organizers who could take those clients that I wasn't able to service (for a small referral fee, of course!) And I would leave one day free per week for administrative work.

My clients were happy to work within whatever framework I offered them, and I never got one complaint about these new policies. In fact, people respected my choice to have a life again, and asked me to help them do the same thing. And over time, these "policies" have become second-nature to me -- I don't even have to think about them. And all it took is making up my mind that I didn't want to live that way anymore. Imagine that! I can do it, you can too!"

Author's Bio: 

Ramona Creel is Professional Organizer, NAPO Golden Circle Member, and the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. A former Social Worker, she has always enjoyed helping people find the resources and solutions they need to improve their lives. Ramona now travels the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of simplicity with everyone she meets. She leads by example -- having worked for more than 10 years as a Professional Organizer, and having radically downsized and simplified her own life as a full-time RVer. Ramona now considers herself a "Renaissance Woman" -- bringing all of her passions together into one satisfying career. As both a virtual and traveling organizer, she can create a customized organizing plan for your home or office, put on a workshop, or educate you through one of her popular teleseminars. As a simplicity coach, Ramona provides a proven program for making every area of your life a little bit easier -- perfect for those who want to make the time and space to focus on their true priorities. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a freelance writer and blogger, she shares organizing techniques, social commentary, travel tips, and film reviews with others. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at