"Those who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps."
St. Gregory the Great
You live in a world that feels at times as if it’s moving at hyper speed. You have the best intentions when it comes to making your home a sanctuary, streamlining your To Do list and creating more ‘me time.’ But then the doorbell rings, your Instant Message dings, the baby cries, your spouse is cranky, your boss needs a transfusion of humanity and all of that is before noon. What’s a person to do?
The normal response is ‘the same old/same old.’ But I have a suggestion: what if you could make incremental changes in just 8 minutes a day? No, you wouldn’t turn into Martha Stewart or a professional organizer any time soon but you’d have some relief from the demands your environments is making that add to the stress.
Stuff is noisy!
When I walk into a new client’s home for the first time my overwhelming reaction to too much stuff is to lose my ability to think clearly. It takes me a few minutes to focus. I have to remind myself that the whole of any project is overwhelming and the only task at hand is for me to take incremental steps to the desired end. Once I am for example focused on a stack of papers on a desk rather than the innumerable stacks all over the room including the floor, the clothing tossed over the chair, the miscellaneous items stuffed behind the door, the debris on the bookcase and the crowded clusters of plants and the torrent of personal photos, I’m good to go. It’s easy for me because I have no emotional attachment to any of these items. Organizing is in many ways putting a three-dimensional puzzle together.
But when my clients stand in that same room they have a completely different reaction. Guilt and shame are usually the top contenders. ‘Why did I let this happen?’ ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I stupid?’ ‘What must Regina think of me?’ ‘Why do I have to spend the money to have someone else do this for me?’ This is the dialogue in their head. The outside voice usually comes up with something along these lines: ‘Tell me, Regina, have you ever seen anything like this before?’ I assure them that this is what I have seen day in and day out for over twenty years. In fact at this point in time something new would be a welcome challenge. For any experienced professional organizer, your disaster is garden-variety mayhem.
And while all the emotions are roiling the stuff is talking. No, I don’t mean it has a human like voice that only the dog and I can hear. I mean it seems to emit a frequency that makes clear thinking virtually impossible and it opens the door to all negative emotions with guilt and shame leading the parade. Each item has it’s own particular voice. The clothing on the chair wails that it belongs in your closet. The plants are screaming for water and wondering why you don’t see they have long ago outgrown their pots. The papers are particularly devilish. They remind you of the bills you haven’t paid, the medical forms that need to be submitted for reimbursement and little Johnny’s homework that needs to be reviewed. Papers are prolific and noisy
Where there’s a will, there’s a way ~
The above is adapted from my new book The Eight Minute Organizer due out this May from Da Capo Books a division of Perseus Publishing. If you’re pressed for time but in quest of order, this is the book for you. There are three kinds of projects in this book: those that take less than 8 minutes (‘Quickies’); those that come in at just about 8 minutes (‘Basic 8’s’) and those that do take longer so I’ve broken them up into 8 minute segments. I call these ‘Ambitious 8’s.’ You can follow the book from cover to cover and do the projects in the order presented or you can skip around every day and so something in whatever room strikes your fancy.
To further whet your appetite here are three projects that take less than 8 minutes. They are my favorite Quickies.
Are you ready?
1. Check your fire and carbon monoxide alarms to be sure they are working and ready to save your life in an emergency.
2. Remove the plastic the dry cleaner sent home with your clothes. It takes up space and seals in potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
3. Look into your medicine cabinet and check the expiration dates on all prescription meds. Not going to take those leftover tablets and liquids? Return them to your pharmacist for proper elimination. Don’t flush them down the toilet or toss into your trashcan.
If you jump up and do all three in well under 24 minutes you will have made your family safer, gained some much needed space and started down the road to being organized. An organized home saves you time, money and energy. The process itself raises your self-esteem and the end result makes everything you want to achieve in life seem possible. How many things do that for you? And you thought getting organized was going to be one big bore!