Inner Peace Through Outer Order

Musings from the Zen Organizer

Fall Organizing Tricks & Tips

The Zen Organizer examines a powerful tool you need in your organizing tool box.

When I work with a new client I know what they expect me to offer are the tips and tricks that will make life easier as they prepare to organize their homes and offices.  Many times those tricks are great products in the marketplace. Organizing for many however is a matter of ‘containerizing' the mess so it appears to be tidy in the area you wish to transform. Let me share a story that will perfectly express how I feel about this approach.

A friend of mine went to his senior prom with the date of his dreams. When he told me this story he was a middle-aged man somewhere in his 50's. In Los Angeles in the spring there is a phenomenon known as the ‘the running of the grunions.' These are tiny fish that swim onto shore in great numbers in order to spawn. I doubt they know their season coincides with most prom nights. It is a California tradition for couples to go out to the ocean after the prom festivities and catch some grunions as ‘souvenirs.'

My friend and his date were no exception. He caught a few for her in a plastic bag. When they got back to his father's brand new Cadillac (borrowed for the evening), my friend popped the grunions into the glove compartment. You know what happened, don't you? That's right. He forgot the fish. And after two weeks a rather strong stench of dead fish filled the new car. His father was not pleased to say the very least. My friend was a seminar leader and his point was this: you can hide from your issues but you know in the deepest recesses of your heart that the issues are rotting and will one day ‘make a stink.' The only way past any issue is to face it head on and barrel through. 

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From my perspective your unexplored stuff shoved into containers is the equivalent of the grunions. If you are unconsciously packing up the past in order to avoid making decisions about the mementos you've collected it's going to bite you in the posterior sooner or later. Before you pop items into any container take a few minutes to decide if you really and truly need the item in question.

Don't give in to standard excuses: ‘One day I might need that." Or "I don't want to be wasteful." First of all you can't prepare for every contingency in life. Saying "I might need this one day" usually translates as: "I don't know how to make a decision so let's just shove this item in a dark corner and see what happens." You are guaranteed to waste space, time and energy. And one day your heirs will toss the container into a big dumpster and be done with it all!

In my fifth book, New York Times best seller One Year to an Organized Life, I cover every room in the average home.  I have lots of questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if items are needed. Here's a sample to help you develop the ‘decision making muscle.' Today you are making decisions about stuff; tomorrow you'll be more confidently making decisions about your future. All knowledge is one.

• Do I really need this item? Be specific as to how.

• When was the last time I used it? If it was a while ago, why did you stop?

•Is there someone else in your family, circle of friends and co-workers or even a charity who could make better use of it?

• Is it threadbare, broken, torn or otherwise in bad shape? Wouldn't it be better to  thank the item for serving you and then clear the space?

• If it is from a person or pet who has since departed, are there other ways to honor this loved one? Saving a shirt after a spouse dies because their scent is on the garment is a touching gesture and an understandable need. Having an un-touched and intact closet years after a person passes is something else. Is it time to move on?


You get the idea. Be fearless in making wise decisions. Have a reason for your choice rather than an emotional prompt. And be sure and get your items out of the home as quickly as possible. Until you become secure in making decisions you may second guess yourself for a bit and some items will migrate back into your keeping. It won't reflect a mistake you made with your original decision but rather a lack of confidence. Don't worry about this as muscle builds over time with constant use. And that hold true whether it's your biceps or your trash muscle.

 

Regina Leeds is a professional organizer and a New York Times best-selling author with eight books to her credit.

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