I realized something was wrong when I never actually got my creative ideas out of my head and into something concrete, which was immensely frustrating and disheartening. I didn't finish projects, I couldn't find things, I constantly made good intentioned promises I didn't live up to and sometimes, the mess around me, would overwhelm to the point that I would drop an entire creative project just to get away from it. Organization is not just about stuff. It's also about how we are organized in our minds, how we organize our lives and work.
Here's what I learned about organization and what it means to be organized:
1. Everyone needs organization in different ways: Having studied various personalities and their organizational needs I came to realize that organization is different for different people. This is very difficult for the super-organized to accept. Their assumption is that everyone needs to be just as fastidious as they are. It's equally difficult for the super-disorganized because they've been told there's only one way to be organized and anything short of that is just NOT. The super-disorganized is completely overwhelmed and throws in the towel...on the floor.
Some people need their socks to be organized according to color and occasion. Some people just need one drawer for their socks and some people need a sock drawer with matching socks folded together.
2. If you're not organized very little can be accomplished: I know this from personal experience and I have watched many talented creative, right brain friends, family and clients stuck in their careers because they didn't have simple, basic organizational skills. In fact if you study Wealth Dynamics, a personality system designed by Roger Hamilton, you discover that the 8 different personalities all need to be organized in different ways in order to be effective in their lives. For example, Fire type personalities, usually right brained, need big picture organization. That means that they don't need to pay as much attention to fine detail but will be much more effective if they organize the boundaries - things like deadlines and chunking projects into smaller pieces. They just need one sock drawer for all the socks.
3. We can learn from each other: My husband is super-organised. I am super-disorganized. What have we learned from each other? I have learned that being disorganized is not a cool creative thing. It's actually selfish and disrespectful. Promises broken, appointments missed, projects left half done. Not the example I wanted to set for my children, not the wife I wanted to be and not the way I wanted to show up in the world. What has he learned from me? I'm guessing he would say that he's learned to be more go-with-the-flow and enjoy the moment. I'm thinking I've probably saved him from an ulcer - seriously he was that intense about it.
4. Organization has psychological ties to feelings of safety and comfort: We are all, in some form or another, trying to keep ourselves safe - emotionally, physically and psychologically. Our organizational rules are some of the ways we feel safe and comfortable. This is a great opportunity to be understanding of the needs of those we love and care about. Think about it like this: A child, who has a high need for organization will feel very unsafe and uncomfortable in a disorganized home or with a mom who is always in some form of chaos. On the other hand, if you're a child that is naturally more inclined to being disorganized and you have a super-organized mom you might feel stifled and claustrophobic and not accepted for yourself.
5. Delegate, strategize, leverage and routine: I wish I had learned to use these skills sooner. Honestly, I wasted so much time resisting organization that it took my brain years to get into solution mode and create ways to help me be more organized.
- Delegating: The process by which you give the task to someone else. It's amazing how many people love to organize. It was shocking to me when I first discovered that people who love to organize will willingly do it. For example my13 year old daughter is very organized. When we travel she takes care of the passports and tickets. Seriously. She helps me with the grocery shopping. She reminds me about appointments. Once she even organized and labeled the cutlery drawer, for fun! She would much rather do that for a chore than say, cook dinner.
- Strategize: The process of using systems and tools for getting things organized. For example, I use my iPhone - a lot. It keeps my appointments for me with an alert. The strategy starts when I'm at the doctor's office or on the phone making the appointment. I right there and then put the date time and any notes into my phone with the ALERT. I set the alert for the day before and to repeat again 30 minutes before the appointment. That way, even if I've forgotten, I'll have 30 minutes to get there. If it's a super important appointment or there's something else that might distract me I ask my husband to help me remember too.
- Leverage: To me leveraging means noticing other people's talents, thinking about what value I could offer them and then asking if they'd like to trade.
- Routines: Routines save me.... I'm in a routine of cooking dinner at a certain time, spending time with the kids etc. I also create routines that bring me greater fulfillment like playing cards or boardgames once a week as a family, watching Super Soul Sunday and making Sunday lunch with my husband.
Being organized, in your own way, can only be good for you! Take it one step at a time and if you can afford to hire someone who can help you along the way.
If you need help being organized at home I recommend Fly Lady. She's broken down housework into step by step process and was a lifesaver for me.
If you're in the Sarasota area I present a Life by Design workshop on personal organization. Check out my workshops page for more information.
Andrea Brundage is a professional organizer and I encourage you to visit her website for her ideas and tips on getting organized.