Monday, March 5, 2012

An Ode to the Importance of Routines

I am currently in Utah…in Spanish Fork to be specific. I have come here to deliver my 20 year old son to the Missionary Training Center. We’ve had this planned for a few months. What we did not have planned was that while we were here, my son-in-law is having open-heart surgery to repair a prolapsed mitral valve in his heart. It was unexpected like most of these things are. He’s a young dad with five children under seven…hard. My daughter isn’t just stressing about him and all the inherent dangers of his health, but she’s stressing about all of the little things. The house that isn’t together, the children’s school…and yes, the laundry. I can help while I’m here but she has a while before things will get back to a certain normal. This has made me remember how I felt stressed by the lack of routine that happened when my husband was fighting his leukemia. In some ways it was harder than the illness because I couldn’t figure out when it was okay to relax. The work was never under control. I spent so much time at the hospital and very little time at home. When I finally started to put my life together after his death, I didn’t know what to begin with. I decided to start with routines: Monday…pick up the house, vacuum, dust. Tuesday, laundry, Wednesday deep clean one room…you get the idea. There was comfort in the routines. I couldn’t control the world, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I could start with my routines. It gave me a sense of comfort that I needed at the time. And so it is with the rest of us. While things aren’t in crisis mode, figure out a good routine for yourself. Start with organizing the most frustrating part of your house. For some it’s the entryway, others the laundry room. For me, the kitchen has to be right to feel like the house is running properly. Then go from there. Find a system that works for you. Think hard about it, make a plan and work a little at a time until it’s done. Come up with a menu plan. Plan your work, work your plan…an old saying but definitely one that works. In spite of the best of plans there are going to be times when everything falls apart: Family emergencies, a project that gets handed to you unexpectedly, helping a friend during a tough time. Even though we all want a perfect house with everything in order that isn't going to be possible. But, if you have routines…and you have previously taken the time to determine a place for everything, it will be amazing how soon things will get back to normal and you’ll feel like a little control has returned to your corner of the world…until the next crisis happens anyway. Happy Organizing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Keeping it That Way

My mother used to always say, “Money isn’t everything, but it’s second to whatever comes first.” I’d like to suggest that being organized isn’t even at the top of my list…shocking isn’t it? There’s something that’s even more important, well several things actually. One of those is peace of mind. Though it's certainly not the only thing that does, I think organization helps give that to us. We don’t have that nagging feeling that something hasn’t been done, or something is behind, or worse, we’re overwhelmed at the amount of things we have and don’t know where to put them.  How about having the time to spend with the things that matter?

So what if we have taken the time to drag our lives kicking and screaming in to the World of Organization? What now? How do we keep it that way? Of course it helps if we’ve found a place for everything, and that it is simple to access (with labels!), easy to put away. It's important that we have a good system to maintain our lovely world. What system do we have? Julie Morgenstern in “Organizing from the Inside Out” calls it Equalization in her S-P-A-C-E principle of organizing. It’s the “one in, one out” rule. We bring a new item into the house, and unless it’s toilet paper or computer paper or some other consumable, a new place needs to be made for it. In order for us to keep our possessions in balance, something needs to go: a DVD, a leftover, a book. It’s a good system and one I subscribe to. Even if it occasionally falls apart, if it has been a habit, it takes very little time to get things back in shape. Everything has a home to return to.

What if the job involves something really yucky (like my personal favorite, filing)?  If you hate to file, you will probably pile, and then you can look forward to hours of endless filing to get caught up. Equalization works well here too. File a bill, shred one a year old in the same file, file an article on gardening, throw out the one you’ve had for months that you never got around to. Maybe its business invoices? Just thinking about it may give you a migraine, especially if it has piled up. There are many systems out there, and finding one that works for you may take a little searching….or you can come up with your own. You could pick a day in every week and that is the day you file. The point is that every job requires its own set of problem solving ideas, and its own routine aspects. 

Julia Morgenstern calls it the “one in, one out rule”. For each item you acquire, you remove a similar item from your possessions. New DVD, remove an old one you rarely if ever watch, new book, say goodbye to one you can live without. This works well for almost everything, except children’s toys. They tend to think they need all their toys. Here you might appeal to their higher nature. I liked the story I heard of a woman who told her kids  the sad story of children who had few, if any, toys and how their parents have to go to the local thrift store to buy them toys. How would they ever get thattoy, if no one ever gives one away? I also let them know that if they didn’t give any away, She wouldn’t be able to get them any new ones. 

I tell my clients when they are having difficulty parting with something, but yet it sits in a box, never being used, never being looked at, that they should put it into a display, a scrapbook or something where they can enjoy it or it should go. If they resist this idea (because they know  they'll need it someday), I suggest they put it in a box and put that box somewhere out of the way. If they don't need it in six months (and it's not a seasonal decoration) they should be able to see it needs to go. (Be sure and put a reminder on your calendar!). something away is saying "Yes!" to your future. That in the future if you need something, you'll be able to replace it. It says you need the space because new and better things are coming into your life.

In "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, the January chapter talks about boosting energy and vitality. One of the things she decides will help with this is to toss, restore and organize. She cleans out a closet and remembers a friend said: "You know, I always keep an empty shelf." When pressed to explain she says: "I keep one shelf, somewhere in my house, completely empty. I'll pack every other shelf to the top, but I keep one shelf bare." Gretchen decided it was a good idea, did it and felt very satisfied. An excellent book to promote letting go and many other good things, by the way.

We have to get used to it. We live in finite spaces, so our possessions need to be finite too. But it's freeing. Happy De-cluttering.