When you’re in a horrible mess and you feel overwhelmed with your circumstances, if you attempted to get organized from that place, you’d be like a person drowning in a lake, begging for someone to throw you a rope, or an inner tube, or a book on “How to Swim.” (If you know how to swim, then you know that this flailing person is, at the moment, helpless and will probably drown if someone doesn’t rescue him. And you also know, if you know how to swim, that if that person would just calm down and relax into floating and treading water for a little while, he’d move into a better place not to drown.)
So how does this analogy relate to you? Do you feel you need to be rescued or do you have an intuitive notion that you can get organized with just a little nudge? Maybe you were organized once and you know how liberating it is. Maybe you had an organized mother and you remember how much fun and easy it was to live with order. Maybe you know people who are organized and you envy the ease at which they go about life, never late, always prepared, wearing matching shoes, having cash in their wallets, gas in their cars, toting kids that are fully dressed and they’re never in a rush.
Being organized is like swimming and if you can swim, or ride a bike, or type really fast, or do anything that started out to seem impossible to you, but is now so simple, then you can understand that being organized can also be simple when you learn the basics.
Habits & Routines
Whether you just need to take a trunk load of stuff to Goodwill and take your garbage can out to the curb for pick up, or you need a dumpster brought in, and you’re faced with a basement and a garage full of decisions, the situation you’re in right now is a result of your habits and routines.
In order to change your circumstances you have to change your thinking which in turn will change your behavior and then your circumstances will change. But when something is a habit, that habit bypasses conscious thought so you aren’t even aware of the thought that has to change so the behavior can change and then the circumstance can change.
Say you have a shirt in your hand because you just took it off, and you throw it on the pile of clothes on the chair in your bedroom, and proceed to take your slacks off and throw them on top of the shirt. This “routine” is a result of an unconscious habit and depending on how big the chair is and how much it can hold, if you don’t take care of the pile the chair will disappear. And when you run out of shirts and slacks you’ll have to plow through the pile to re-wear an outfit which will of course be wrinkled. Over time, with the same unconscious thought and subsequent behavior, another chair, the foot of the bed and any other usable surfaces will get buried in this routine of a bad habit.
So how do you change this? First, you have to catch yourself in the act. All you have to do is set a little alarm in your mind right now, that when it comes time to get your pajamas on tonight, you'll be awake and aware when you take off what you’re wearing right now. Second, when that undressing moment happens, hang up the outfit if you can wear it again and while you’re in the “put away” mode, hang up a few more items you may see piled up.
If you think that one little thought: ‘When I get my pajamas on tonight, I’m going to put away the clothes I’m wearing,’ in 21 days, you won’t have to ever think it again, because it’ll be a habit and part of a new routine. That one thought, will change the way your bedroom looks and ultimately the way you look, because you won’t be wearing wrinkled clothes. One more thing about piles of clothes; our pets love, love, love them! They bask in our piles of clothes, which just adds one more element to our appearance…dog and cat hair.
So you can choose to flail around, screaming, help, help, I’m drowning, or you can take a nice deep breath, lie on your back and tread water with that one little thought: ‘When I get my pajamas on tonight, I’m going to put away the clothes I’m wearing.’ And before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful bedroom, and your clothes will look better on you. Simple enough, just like treading water.
My book "The Joy of Being Disorganized" will help you take the road of least resistance to getting organized. You'll learn to really appreciate who you are as a "disorganized" person and you'll be able to get organized just enough to please YOU.
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