Reflections Of A Professional Organizer
The first step in our pursuit of organized living:
The Sacred Art Of De-Accumulation
Sitting next to me at my grandson’s concert recently was a self-professed, organizationally-challenged couple who were intrigued by my occupation. They both expressed a great desire to live organized but, with deep sighs, lamented that they were overwhelmed and simply did not know where to begin. Before the curtain went up the woman asked me if I could recommend one particular thing that would jumpstart them in their pursuit of order.
Without hesitation I replied, "Yes, live with less!"
Here is a truth: Every possession is a responsibility that sooner or later will require life energy from me. Every piece of paper, every pair of unworn shoes or item of clothing, every set of unused dishes, every rusty tool, can of dried out paint and piece of scrap lumber in the garage, all will at some time require physical, mental and decision making energy and action. Conversely, what I do not have, I do not have to clean, sort, store, maintain, file, insure, worry about or organize!
The current generation is finally moving beyond the Depression Era mentality. Scarcity thinking, "I might need it someday" and "What if I can’t get it again?" have held us captive for decades. Minimalist living is becoming more popular. The media is full of stories about people who are making life-changing choices about the space they live and work in and "tiny house" living is even growing in popularity. I have a distinct opinion about the trend.
Consider this. After purchasing or gathering possessions, what does it cost me to simply own them?
I believe the downsizing trend is due, at least in part, to the growing awareness of what it costs us physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually, as well as loss of time, space and money to hold on to stuff. I am not just referring to large or expensive items such as boats or closets full of designer clothes or book collections. I am talking about the crammed junk drawer or the packed beyond capacity linen closet (which I refer to as a black hole of indecision) or the file cabinet that is chock full of twenty year old files I never access but am afraid to let go of without going through. Now there’s a task we all look forward to spending our weekend doing.
Allow me to present my case.
- Do piles, clutter and constipated closets create stress (and all of its sub-clinical symptoms) in your already stressful life? How about fatigue from cleaning and maintaining things ad nauseum?
- Do your piles and possessions distract you and hinder your creativity or ability to focus and concentrate?
- Do you ever feel depressed by your chaotic and cluttered space?
- What does it cost us financially when we purchase things we know we already have but cannot find?
- Are you the 1 out of 10 Americans who rent off site storage because your home won’t hold all of your stuff?
- Have you considered buying a larger home because you feel you need more storage and closets?
- Do you know 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy)
- Do you ever say, "There is just not enough time in my day." The American Demographic Society says Americans lose an average of forty minutes a day looking for stuff!
I sometimes ask my students, "What do you have to do before you breath in?" – at which point the proverbial light bulb goes on in many faces. We can’t breath in, of course, until we breath out! The way we live, however, is continually breathing in, or collecting more and more, until we asphyxiate our lives!
I could go on, and perhaps I will at a future writing, but I thought I would offer a possibly over-simplistic response to the question I am most often asked. "Where do I begin organizing my life?" I would agree with Elaine St James in her book Simplicity when she suggests, "The secret to happiness is not in getting more but in wanting less. The idea is not to deny yourself the things you want but to free yourself from the things you don’t want."