Do you want an organized life or a calm life?
There’s “getting organized” and there’s “creating a calm lifestyle.”
Just like a person can lose 50 lbs and still be miserable on the inside,
a person can be per-fect-ly organized, and still be a mess.
I’m on a calm life journey.
I am totally okay with never arriving at the Land of Organizing Oz.
I tried for a while, but it felt...busy.
Prettier, but busier.
And when I am busy I feel stressed out. And when I feel stressed out, I turn into a brittle wench.
When I focused on being organized I thought and said things like this:
- “This is my house, you’ll follow my rules (P.S. Here’s my under-the-fridge-cleaning-checklist...I expect you’ll have this complete by 5pm on Tuesday because company is coming. What do you mean, no-one cares what’s under my fridge?!”)
- "I don’t want to start this, because I don’t have the time, energy, or baskets to make it perfect."
Now I believe in flow and imperfect action that sometimes looks like this:
- I don’t let things pile up. I move the overflow of belongings from my space one paper shopping bag at a time (and there will always be overflow because we outgrow things, lose interest in things, no longer need certain things, etc).
- I use small pockets of time to create “incremental upgrades.” For example if I’m cooking dinner and waiting for water to boil, I won’t begin overhauling my Tupperware drawer, but that’s plenty of time to take a quick inventory, weed out the garbage containers, and adjust things neatly.
I think we misunderstand what balance is.
We think it’s this perfectly taut state of equal tension. A place where the slightest movement causes total collapse.
And we strive for this? Seriously?
I want to be taut and tense and immovable about as much as I want to scoop the dog turds from my backyard (I pay my kids to do this. A dollar a pile. Worth it in my book. It’s a win-win. Don’t judge:)
Let’s look at what balance really is, because the version we invented for our lives is totally unreal. And it’s derailing a lot of wonderful people from living a fulfilled life.
As my yoga class wobbled in tree pose one evening, my yoga teacher explained balance like this. She said, “Balance isn’t about being perfectly still. It’s about aligning your body and energy, and then allowing yourself the freedom to adjust to fluctuation. You don’t need to strive for perfection. Just be where you are.”
Wobbling is part of the deal. Sometimes falling out of a pose is necessary for growth. Some days my arms are up (because it feels right) and some days they stay at my heart (because it feels right). But my tree pose is always the best expression of balance for me in that moment. It’s never the same. It’s never perfectly taut. It’s always forgiving.
Creating a calm home, a calm heart, and a calm schedule involves wobble and freedom and fluctuation and forgiveness...all within the context of meaningful alignment with who you want to BE. Not what you want to DO.
Organizing is one little part of that.
I believe organizing is PART of your journey, but I do not believe it should be steering your ship.
When "I-need-to-get-organized" is at the helm, you will spend too much money and energy on photo-ready perfection that always seems beyond your grasp, and you will burn out from the busy-ness of it all. Your loved ones will frustrate you because (surprise) their needs, interests, and habits are different from yours. And you won’t have time to invest in yourself.
And your self-care is critical if calm is what you crave.
The lovely thing about a calm life journey is that it’s NOT one-size-fits-all!
That’s so awesome because it means if you align your lifestyle with what truly matters to you and your essential feelings...
YOU CANNOT GET IT WRONG.
AND IF IT LOOKS DIFFERENTLY THAN HERS...THAT'S TOTALLY FINE.
Your calm lifestyle will be unique to you. And guess what?! You can adjust it as needed because nothing in life ever stays the same (you will change jobs, have babies, relocate, maybe break a leg - although I hope you don’t).
A calm lifestyle flows to fit you at different stages of your life.
Here are some things that are important to my calm lifestyle right now:
1. My family agrees on a collective vision for what our home should feel like and we all pitch in (even if we need to nudge each other from time to time) to create it. We all clean up dinner together. We all take turns with catboxes, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, etc. We set up systems together.
2. I believe my kids are individuals with free will, creative self-expression, and autonomy. It’s my job to teach them things like: how to be kind, compassionate, and resourceful. That involves lovingly teaching them how to be responsible and thoughtful housemates. I am not their servant (but I don’t say it like that to them...most of the time:).
3. I need space in my day. Space to quiet my brain chatter. Quiet early mornings, hot magnesium baths, yoga, walks with my dog, staring at the clouds from my hammock, meditative prayer.These are not luxuries. These are necessary for my well-being. In my drama-filled days, I “didn’t have time” for these activities. I suffered.
4. Brown paper grocery sacks are my best “organizing tool”. Releasing the layers of overflow from my space - one brown bag at a time - is a practice. A day in and day out practice. It’s never done. That’s fine. I take the bags to the trunk of my car immediately. Then I hit the Goodwill on my way to work.
5. While I’m not militant about it I believe in starting each day with a clean slate in the main areas of the house. No dishes in the sink. No clutter laying on the floor. Clear entryway. This is a belief and a habit that my family developed over time. In my drama days, I would wake up to yesterday’s mess and lash out at everyone who wasn't "helping me!"
6. I’m okay with my kids not keeping their rooms tidy every single day. However, they have earned this leeway because they have proven they know how to bust a move and tidy up their spaces quickly when asked. I had to learn this, model this, and teach them this because we don't come into the world knowing this.
7. Lots of silliness. I believe that serious breakthrough, serious calm and serious adaptability relies upon me NOT TAKING IT ALL SO DAMN SERIOUSLY. I sing, whistle, and laugh. A lot. This past weekend one of my kids tried to hop on the hammock with me which landed both of us smack on our bums -- which was truly funny. The next time we tried to get on it, I used my best carnival worker voice and said, “Puh-leeze keep your hands in the ride until we come to a full and complete stop.” We were giggling so hard we almost tipped over again.
8. Hugs and love. And love and hugs. When I was a drama queen I reacted to struggle by putting on my armor and going to war. I held grudges, over-reacted, escalated arguments, and sank under the pressure of the emotions of others. Now I believe the difference between people who rise from challenge and those who sink into despair is...LOVE. I have learned that where I am struggling is where I am blocking love (out of pride or spite). Now I believe that struggle is an opportunity for healing, growth...and love.
9. I believe that I do not need to corral or control my family. Oh, the frustration this leads to. Been there. Done that. But that doesn't mean I'm a doormat or pushover. When I'm "up to my eyeballs" I share from my heart rather than silently steam until I freaking explode.
10. Despite the fact that I typically want things RIGHT NOW, I have accepted and embraced the "Law of Incremental Upgrades." In my drama days I would go on "kicks" where I would turn my life upside down to create big change. I'd get hyped up about something and outline big, dramatic, exciting goals. Then I'd GO FOR IT - LOCK, STOCK AND BARREL. And then burn out. And then beat myself up. And then slink back to my rut. Now I lean into things. I introduce a new little sum-sumthin and give it my attention for a month. Then I add something new the next month. And so on. This has given me such peace...and ease.
If you are struggling to get organized - as I once was - perhaps you don't really want the perfection you thought you did; and perhaps you are forcing standards upon yourself that don't align with who you truly want to be.