“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein
Every day there are more and more signs that spring is fast approaching. The days are longer, the birds are making their way back to northern trees and some brave plants are tentatively starting their journey back to the surface. But I don’t need the calendar to tell me what time of year it is. Right about now, the phone calls increase and I can tell that people are starting to emerge from the cocoon of winter and starting their journey back to the surface.
Dormancy is the natural energetic tempo as we hunker down for winter and wrap ourselves in our “stuff”. The slower pace (and post holiday malaise) makes it easier for us to ignore the things that have been passively accumulating around us. But the energetic upswing, which is a harbinger of spring, acts like an alarm waking us up and forcing us back into action. Well aware of the faster pace that is upon us many are feeling a need to get back to a more organized way of living.
Recently, someone asked if I could write a piece on how to get organized. I thought long and hard about organizational rules and systems, but it occurred to me that creating an organized life and home isn’t achieved with to-do lists, storage bins and closet organizers. Feeling, or being, “disorganized” is a symptom, not a diagnosis.
Living an organized life is achieved through training the mind to constantly evaluate and edit the things that come into our world as they are coming into our world. Shifting to this mindset brings awareness to exactly how much physical, emotional and energetic stuff there is out there to bury us. Believing that we must give our focus and energy to every email, phone call, social obligation, fashion trend, unwanted catalog, work assignment, peer pressure, difficult family member or complaining friend, is how we mere mortals short circuit. Even the most energetic and highly organized amongst us are incapable of processing everything that bombards us. Believing we can, or should, is where our lives shift from organized to chaotic. Those piles of papers, piles of clothes and piles of things we can’t quite find time to finish are where it starts. Left unchecked, we spin out of control and the lives we are living are no longer our own.
To find a path back to an organized and authentic life is as simple as remembering that we are our own gatekeepers and we get to choose what surrounds us.
We get to choose what is in our homes, our bodies, our minds and our lives. And if something is there that we don’t want, we have no one to blame but ourselves if it persists. We get to decide how much we want to let in and how much we want to keep out. Determining the amount that we let in or keep out is calculated by asking a very important question – “what do I really need”. Sometimes that answer contradicts the way we are living and it’s up to us to decide if we want to do the work needed to take us from chaos to calm.
“Organized living” isn’t something that can be set to a standard. What works for one might not work for another, because we all have different tolerances for the amount of literal and figurative “stuff” we can handle. The key is finding out where your tipping point is and striving for a point of balance. To do so we have to look internally and not judge ourselves by what others seem capable of doing. I frequently use the lessons I have learned in my yoga practice to give greater understanding to the world around me. I’m reminded of my many teachers who’ve advised us never to worry about what is happening on the next mat. Someone may be breezing through a one armed handstand twisted like a pretzel while another struggles with a standing balance. The point is not to compare but to find the place where we are all present and balanced in our own lives.
Now, I’m not endorsing a life that is too calculated or lacking in activity, or even living a life that is played too safe. What fun is that? And the reality is that we can’t control every aspect of life even if we tried. But striving for a more organized way of living allows us to gain some control again. With less to distract us we can act, instead of always re-acting. We can decide, instead of being resigned. And we wobble a lot less in life when we aren’t trying to spin plates and juggle while riding a unicycle.
As a designer, I work with clients in the realm of the physical home to clear out the unneeded things that clog physical space and minimize flow of life energy. I never cease to be amazed at the life changes that occur when the principles of organized living are implemented in the home (the base of our lives) and extended into other areas of ones’ life. But, like anything that serves our higher good, maintaining an organized home, life and mind requires us to check in and stay on top of things, lest we be swept away by the tidal waves the world is always crashing towards us.
Living an organized life is so much more than trying to find a space for everything. It’s about deciding what we want to make space for.
If we dump the things, people, beliefs, etc. that we really don’t need we free up an awful lot of space for the stuff that makes life full and rich. An organized life is the key to truly having it all, instead of having too much.
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