Welcome friends to Episode #95 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. The more full our life becomes, the more we want to simplify, to lessen and to organize. With so many demands, requests and things in our lives, we feel the clutter begin to overwhelm us – so we organize. Today, we are going to take the first steps in organizing your life.
Last week, I talked about how I began organizing my kids’ rooms and some of the areas of the house like the art area that needed some TLC. It felt so good to clean things up, to see the before and after so clearly. There were so many crayons – so many! Books that aren’t used anymore. Things they’ve outgrown. We went from what felt like all the things everywhere to fewer things in some places. There was a feeling of calm. The next morning, my daughter ran back into her room as she was heading out to school just to touch the organized art shelf. She couldn’t wait to come back into her room after school. It felt so good to her now.
I know you all know that feeling. That feeling of peace and calm that comes with seeing the outer chaos turn into something beautiful. The power of organization. But if we love it so much, why isn’t it just automatically the way we do things? Why do we struggle so much with being organized with our work, with our thoughts, with our lives?
To organize is to create structure. It’s to structure many parts into a whole. When you think about the before and after of organizing, the before is the many parts – often with nowhere to go. This is what causes a feeling of overwhelm. Say you get a request that comes in and you begin to work on it without thought of whether or not it belongs with you in your group. One comes in and it’s fine. But when many come in and you’re not sure where they go – it starts to pile up in the form of unread emails, or people you have to respond to. It’s like a boomerang activity. It goes out but somehow comes right back. As soon as you clear one out, more come.
The messiness of our lives
Our lives are inherently messy. Organization doesn’t always feel natural because it can be difficult to define the structure of things. With the art area, the first thing I needed to do was figure out where all the art supplies were going to go. I think of the experiences, memories and things in our lives as energy or physical matter that needs a place to go. When we don’t have time to think about a problem, it gets pushed aside to be dealt with but because we don’t know when it will be dealt with, we get nervous and anxious. Same thing happens with physical objects, areas of our lives. When do you talk about big topics with your team? When do you talk about big topics with your partner?
It’s often because creating structure or organizing will actually bring up decisions that we don’t want to make – that we don’t organize. We don’t want to decide what we will no longer do or be or have. We would rather just accept the messiness and live with it.
Organization comes from an organized mind
The other day I was looking at Goodwill’s website and I saw the statistic that 80% of the things we have we don’t use. It was a reminder that as much as we want to organize and streamline our days and lives, we need to actually simplify at the same time. The paradox of simplicity is that it requires higher quality thinking. This is why in our personal and professional lives, those who simplify complex ideas add the most value. When you want to organize, you are asking yourself to elevate your thinking beyond accepting what already exists. It’s harder to say “no” to people, places, opportunities as an achiever than it is to say “yes.”
What we forget in the process is that by saying “no” to something, we really are saying “yes” to other things that are even more important. When we say “no” to random, miscellaneous crayons we are saying “yes” to a beautiful art shelf where we use and enjoy using art supplies. The same thing goes for our business lives. When we say “no” to another project or offer we are saying “yes” to doing the work we do have, really really well. Best in class looks like a devotion to something specific. Best in class doesn’t mean you do all the things. Best in class looks like you do one thing really well. We want to be the best in class. Organization helps us get there. When we look at how we spend our time, money and utilize our space – we are organizing, simplifying and inherently adding more value by putting a lot of pieces together into a structured whole.
How to get started
I encourage you to think of organizing as a creative process. For those of you who aren’t the best with structure, you may see organizing as inhibiting your creativity. In reality, your organization of your life and your work is a unique process that you get to play with. When you move things around in your space, you feel like you are in a new place. Same thing happens when you organize your life and work. You feel the energy shift into something more open, creative, playful and spacious. That outer world begins to mirror the inner calm you so desperately desire.
You can start with the places in your life where you spend most of your time. If it’s your work, start there and then begin with the places within your work where you spend the most time. What feels cumbersome or more difficult than it needs to be? How can you eliminate, reduce or automate that activity? Do this before you start to organize. I remember my trip to the container store where I began my journey to minimalism (or “less than maximalism”) – where I realized I was buying boxes to hold things I didn’t even need or want. Get rid of the 80% of the things you never use. This includes unsubscribing, automating things to go to junk, donating, and pulling out all the things to really see what you need and don’t need. Then organize them into areas or sections, whether it is digitally or in a physical space.
I learned this from when I began organizing the art area and the kids room. I was looking at the Home Edit book for ideas for how to put things together. They had a suggestion for always leaving 20% of empty space. I’ve heard of this concept before. Leaving an empty space whether it is an empty shelf or drawer. More than just additional space for the random thing that might come in, the concept is about utilization. When you run a production line, for example, you don’t want to be at 100% capacity because you have no room for variation.
The same thing goes for our homes, lives and minds. We need space to accommodate life’s constant changing needs. We cannot expect that we have it all perfectly organized. We change as life changes, and we leave room for things to expand or reduce. Likewise, we organize, structure, clean and simplify again and again. I love this process, even though the middle part can be extremely messy. I encourage you to be ok with everything coming up and out, making hard decisions, and then deciding to love what remains.
Take a moment this week to think about where you need organization the most. It will likely be a pain point, but the amazing thing is that is likely also a huge opportunity where you will find an immense amount of relief once you’ve begun to tackle that project.
I’m sending you lots of energy and hope as you embark on this journey of organizing your life. It is worth it.
If you want to learn more about these topics, and how you can experience this in your own life, schedule a free coaching consultation today.
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