Saturday, March 10, 2007

the difficult stuff

I don't have to tell you that organizing gets difficult, sometimes. (Maybe all the time?)

When you're in the middle of a righteous mess, and you don't know where to start or what to do next, it can be a challenge to stick with it and not give up.

What sees us through the rough patches?

Having a larger vision for your life can help, which is why I've been spending so much time on the subject of clarifying passions and dreams.

When we know what we value and want for our lives, we can make better choices about what we do with our time - choices that hopefully align with the aforementioned dreams and passions.

Even master organizers can get bogged down in the middle of a sort. It's hardest for me when I'm dealing with my own stuff. I remember my move last fall; after two or three days of unpacking I was ready to call it quits - and I was still only half done!

If you want to begin an organizing project, keep it simple. Don't imagine that you can fix your entire life in one headlong, all-out blitz of a weekend. Those TV organizing shows are great, but they're not an accurate representation of real life. Very few of us can afford to hire the legions of helpers needed to successfully complete such a huge project so quickly.

Think instead of one area that - if it was organized - would make a big impact on your emotional well-being. This is very personal - it will be different for every individual. Some organizers suggest that you begin organizing the core or hub of your house and work outwards, but maybe for you it's more important to have a restful haven where you can renew yourself at the end of the day - in which case, it might make more sense to start with your bedroom.

What isn't working in your life? Where do things begin to fall apart? If you want a serene bedroom retreat, and instead find yourself constantly surrounded by the clutter of your clothes - scattered on the floor, piled on every surface, spilling out of the closet - try to identify the real problem.

Do you have too many clothes for your space? Maybe you just don't like to put things away. Maybe you hate laundry and can't follow through with all the steps involved (picking up your clothes, taking them to the laundry area, washing and drying the clothes, folding them, bringing them back to your room, putting them away). Maybe you feel you don't have enough time to take care of household tasks. Maybe you can't afford to hire somebody else to clean your bedroom for you.

What is the real reason? Maybe you resent the amount of work you have to do, and a messy bedroom is your way of rebelling. Maybe you're a shopaholic. Maybe you can't let go of gifts, clothes that no longer fit you, or clothes that are out of style. Maybe it comforts you to have a full-to-bursting closet.

Maybe you don't need to organize your bedroom after all. But wait - you said you wanted a serene space to unwind at the end of the day!

Which is more important: Your reason for having clutter, or your desire to have clear space?

(It's okay to decide on the former, by the way. We don't have to organize everything. I want to write a separate post about this soon: Knowing when to organize, and when to leave it be.)

Let's say you want the serene bedroom more than the clutter. Once you've figured out why you have the clutter, you can address the root of the problem and make changes.

If you have too many clothes for your space, get rid of the ones you no longer wear. You'd be amazed at how little of your wardrobe you actually use on a regular basis. Without all the excess, you might find you have plenty of room for everything, and when you have a dedicated place for each item, you'll enjoy putting things where they belong.

If you don't like doing laundry, find a way to get somebody else to do it, or figure out how to make the job more appealing.

If you're being passive-aggressive about the cleaning, or realize you're a shopaholic, invest some time and energy into healing your issues. (You may want to seek out counselling, too.)

If you feel obligated to keep things that other people give you, or you just don't have the heart to let go of clothing mementos (your wedding dress; the suit you wore on your first date) or clothing dreams (those size six pants that you want to wear again someday; that great party frock that would look amazing on the red carpet - except you never go out) take a reality check.

Keeping a few key mementos (provided you have the space) is one thing; hanging onto everything is self-defeating. Clutter is stagnant energy, and many people find they get "stuck" in all parts of their lives when they can't let go of things and allow the natural flow of energy.

When you finally decide to act, set a realistic pace. I never recommend working more than two or three hours at a time on any organizing project. Even an hour once a week is fine. Resolve to get rid of ten items of clothing. Bag it up and get it out of the house. Repeat until you're done.

And get help - from family, friends, professionals - if you need it.

Finally, reward yourself for everything you do that brings you closer to your dreams. This step is important. We're more likely to enjoy - and keep doing - activities that are positively reinforced. It doesn't have to be a big thing.

Just show yourself that you care...

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

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