Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lessons from a Month of Organizing

I dedicated February to clearing out the junk and clutter in my life - both literally and figuratively. Here's a quick summary of what I learned. It's in list form, because...
Pics like these are for inspiration only.

  1. I love lists! They're efficient and satisfying. Writing something down is the first step to making it real. I use lists everywhere - my weekly dinner menu is posted in the kitchen. My daily to-do list is handy and portable. My monthly goals are on the white board on the wall behind me. I love crossing off items off as I accomplish them. Lists, lists, lists! 
  2. Getting organized is easy - staying organized is the real challenge. You have to develop new habits and devote time to them. Despite my enthusiasm, my new shredder and fireproof safe sat in their boxes on my office floor for two weeks. I finally set them up yesterday, the last day of the month and my deadline for this project. Which leads me to #3...
  3. Shredding is addictive. There's a motor and a loud noise and lots of confetti at the end. I likey.
  4. Organizing can be a form of procrastination. I missed a very important deadline while immersed in color-coding my sock drawer and printing labels for my files. Make sure the sorting and cleaning isn't an excuse to avoid more important tasks, or people might get very mad at you.
  5. An orderly environment reduces stress and increases productivity. It's a real pleasure to work in a clean and organized space. You aren't distracted or bothered and can get right to work. Ah.
  6. It's OK to get rid of good stuff. Many organizations are dying to get hold of your unwanted goods, so don't feel guilty about letting them go. Keep a laundry basket on each floor for donations, and the minute you doubt an item's value or purpose - stick it in there!
  7. Even Oprah yearns for less. Imagine how beautiful Oprah's belongings must be, but still, they weigh her down. "My life is filled with so much clutter," she says in her March O Magazine. "I'm not just cleaning out my closet, I'm cleaning out my life. And I'm keeping only that which delights me or enhances my well-being." Me too, Oprah!
  8. Develop discriminating taste. This experience has made me really picky about what I buy, what I do, and who I do it with. For example, I've completely quit what used to be one of my favorite pastimes - recreational shopping. I don't want to waste the time, money or energy on stuff that isn't fabulous or essential. I've even dropped tennis for the time being. It was beginning to feel like a job. It isn't easy letting things go, but deciding and choosing what you really want makes everything more delicious.
  9. Only celery colored cosmetics allowed!
  10. Perfectionism isn't practical. The Martha Stewart photos I've shown here are inspiring, but not realistic. There are lots of organizing tips and systems out there. Use what's helpful and jettison what isn't working for you (including this advice.) For example, I've decided the label maker is a pain! 
  11. Celebrate Success. I've made a lot of progress this month. My office, my calendar, and my closet are wonderfully improved. I actually know what I'm making for dinner for the next three nights and the ingredients are in the fridge. All of this is huge progress, and I feel free, calm and clear. And excited about what's to come. I hope my family is benefitting from this too.

However, as I transition to a new topic in March, I have some regrets. There's so much more I'd hoped to explore and accomplish. I wanted to discuss our emotional attachments to our stuff, how invested we are in our daily habits and how all of these things prevent us from really experiencing our lives. I also really wanted to tackle the basement. Alas, February is a short month, and - since I've done my calendar planning - I must move on.

Please check back soon. In February we cut the clutter, but as I continue to create my midlife crisis, March is going to be about cutting the chatter. Life is just too damn distracting! It's time to get quiet, focus, and follow our intuition.


Kelley L. said...

Yay for shredding and protecting important documents!

I also love lists, and I also agree that organizing can be a form of procrastination.

I can't WAIT for March's lessons!

Wendy Morgan said...

I have to tell you that clearing away the clutter can really make you feel a burden is lifted - after just spending a month purging my stuff and clearing my space - I am feeling that with all the stuff gone I can get onto important other important things in my life like singing and do it with a new sense of freedom. Keep up the very pertinent and useful blogs!

Marjie Killeen said...

1. Thanks Kelley, for introducing me to my new shredding obsession.
2. Thanks Wendy, for affirming the importance of making room for what matters.
3. I'm beginning to love the first of every month when I jump into a new theme! Hope to kick off March tomorrow.

Colleen said...

Fabulous wrap up of the month!
So thrilled to be part of the process.
Remember that 'good enough is good enough' and kick perfectionism to the curb. It will help you keep up what you've started. Don't give up on the label maker yet...mine is like my fifth child I love it so much
Looking forward to next month and being nice and still
in the midst of all the busyness.

Marjie Killeen said...

Colleen - you've inspired me to make so many positive changes. Thank you! Maybe I got the wrong model of label maker. Mine is frustrating because iIt takes forever to peel the back off the damn printed sticker. I'll give it another try, because I totally respect your expertise.