It’s no secret that I have organizational issues. ADD/ADHD is a real thing and I struggle with it every day. My memory is pretty terrible, and I can’t prioritize my way out of a wet paper bag. It’s also an amazing gift. But some gifts are hard to live with.
“Why don’t you just use a system?” is the question I frequently get from my well-organized friends. There are a bajillion systems out there: Personal Organization Systems nets around 246 million search responses. Goal setting = around 20 million. Okay, so once you get to page 30, things look a little sketchy, but you get the idea. Nearly all of those systems work. Unfortunately, they also have a 100% failure rate if you implement one on some glorious, hopeful Monday, then get up at 7 am on Tuesday and forget that you have a new system until around 11 am. This happens to me all the time–though my implementation generally lasts until Wednesday or Thursday when–
like a starving dieter I decide to plant my face in a giant bowl of breakfast ice cream my chaos-deprived brain decides it’s time to rearrange my shoes or paint a bathroom before checking my list/spreadsheet/calendar.
For many years, FlyLady was my system of choice. It helped me balance the daily challenges of keeping house, raising two kids and writing. I still have a lot of those routines, and after many years they are like a part of my DNA. (Shiny sink, anyone?) But now I know I tend to make an idol of my household responsibilities and use them to procrastinate with my writing. Oh, yes, that stuff needs to be done, but I go overboard at all the wrong times.
There’s a truism about habits that’s actually true: It does take 23 days to create a habit. That’s an average. Your experience may be different. It takes me at least a month–and I can only add one habit at a time. A month feels like a long, long time.
Today I’m celebrating a newly-created habit. Here is a pic of one end of my kitchen island:
There’s nothing there. And that looks like victory to me. One month ago, I put up the note pictured at the top of this post on my refrigerator. “IS THERE A BETTER PLACE FOR THAT?” It is, in effect, my new personal organizational system. For one month I have not allowed any mail or papers to rest there more than a few hours–and then only if they need immediate attention from someone else or need to be put in the mail. I know it’s just a few square feet of empty space, but I can’t tell you what a victory that feels like for me. There were never falling-over piles there, but there were bills that got forgotten, school memos never followed-up on, tax docs that were nearly lost. As a result of finding better places for those papers, I’ve made good use of files, and better use of the shredder, recycling bin, and trash can.
Now that spot in my kitchen is like my guest room, master bathroom, and now-tidy garage. It’s a little retreat, a little spot of calm where my chaotic brain can take a moments-long vacay.
Let me just sit here a minute and feel self-congratulatory, okay? Ahhhhhh.
This coming month I’ll be tackling laundry and clothes that seem to hang on the drying rack or in laundry baskets for days and days. It’s going to be another long month. But every time I get discouraged, I’m going to run look at my kitchen island. The laundry thing would probably not have helped me yesterday when I spent 10 minutes looking for the athletic shoes that weren’t in their place on my fancy, 20-pair shoe rack. (Doesn’t everyone come home from a dentist appointment and put their new toothbrush, toothpaste, floss–plus the sample lotion from the dermatologist–in their shoes on a chair outside the bedroom?) But we’re dealing with baby steps, here.
IS THERE A BETTER PLACE FOR THAT? is a truly all-purpose mantra. Because everything in this world has its place. Some places we must set up and create. Some places are already there, waiting hopefully to be utilized.
What about less tangible things? Our love, our anger, our passions, our tiredness, our worries, our creativity. Our affections and praise. There are places for those things, too. Appropriate places. Sometimes I know I take the most precious things in my life and let them languish in places where they don’t belong. They wait, often unnoticed, to be put in places of honor. Places of safety. Places that deserve and are ready, waiting, and even hungry for them.
I have so much abundance in my life. My physical belongings number far, far beyond necessities. My brain is certainly overflowing with ideas and thoughts. I just have to discover the best places for them.