When I say I'm letting "it" go, I'm not talking about a physical thing, but time, task, and commitment things. I've been in the midst of moderate chaos (my father has been in and out of the hospital), and plans had to be shifted. Some things didn't work the way I usually want them to, so I had to make some choices. For instance:
- I'm traveling back and forth a bunch from Alabama, and I might not be home in time to make dinner for the kids - I have to let it go. There's food in the house, they're resourceful, they can make a sandwich. They won't starve. I can let it go.
- I might have to shift or cancel some clients. OR, I might have to let the hospital attend to my dad while I deal with work that can't be delayed (letting go of my Enneagram Type 3 need to try to hold everything together). I might miss a client, I might miss a meeting with a doctor. Let it go.
- And wouldn't you know, my husband's flight home from a business trip is delayed, and he'll be gone an extra night. I might have to ask for some help with juggling meetings and picking up kids. People are usually wonderful about helping, but I almost never ask because I don't want to impose. Let that go.
- I might just have to skip laundry, or taking out the recycling, or calling a friend to chat. Partially because I've got to get some camp forms filled out, and partially because I'm exhausted. Let it go.
How do I decide what I need to focus on? Which task or commitment is the right one? I need to pick the ones that seem to make sense in the moment and move on. I may make a mistake. I probably will. Last time I checked the Earth was still rotating on its axis. Things will eventually settle down, and I can make decisions based upon goals and priorities and all that other good productivity-ish stuff...and feel in control again (as if we are ever truly in control). But for now, I'm going to let it go.
Oh boy, you really did it this time. You pulled absolutely everything out of your clothes closet, and laid it all out on the bed, the dresser, and the floor. You not only found clothes you hadn’t worn in anywhere from 5-10 years, but also the package of hangers you just knew you had bought six months ago, a bag of DVDs you meant to take to Goodwill, and the Candyland game you bought and hid for your daughter’s birthday (she graduates from high school this month).
And then you were so exhausted, overwhelmed, and ticked off that you stopped. Maybe you haven’t even been able to sleep in your bed in days.
OR…you got excited about finally “getting organized” in your home office, and started grabbing stuff out of filing cabinets and drawers. You got to looking at old receipts (“Why the heck did I buy six boxes of highlighters?”), the insurance policies from 2003 (“Am I supposed to keep these??”), and old holiday cards you couldn’t bring yourself to pitch (“It has a picture of my second cousin’s kids and their Shih Tzu - should I really throw it away?!”).
And then you were so exhausted, overwhelmed, and ticked off that you stopped. Or maybe you even just wandered away, found a plant to water and never returned. You’ve been paying bills at the dining room table ever since.
How do you dig yourself out of an organizing hole? How can you take some simple steps to let go of the feelings of stress, frustration, and yes - shame - that pop up? It’s time to get busy and clear up what the best of intentions caused: more clutter.
I think the first step is to realize that the clutter was there all along, you’ve just finally brought it all to light. And that’s a good thing! You are learning what really exists behind all of the sweaters and in the bottoms of drawers, and uncovering some patterns (see my post on “LESS Is More" to explore this idea more fully). The second step is to make peace with the fact you bit off more than you could chew. Trying to make up for months of “just putting” things in the closet or garage in one afternoon is not realistic. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and change your approach.
Make Your Plan
It’s time to take a deep breath and recognize that you need to make a more careful plan. Let’s return to our closet example. You basically have two choices: cover a smaller area with less time (just the shirts, or just your shoes, in an hour), or cover the whole area with more time (work through everything you pulled out in an entire day or weekend). I often suggest the first option, because it can give you some quick satisfaction and inspire you to keep going the next chance you have time to work. And are the days and weeks of staring at the mess really easier than just digging in and addressing the problem for an hour or two? You might be surprised at what you can accomplish if you take the pressure of finishing the whole thing off your shoulders.
The Whole Shebang
That being said, maybe you need more of a reward than finally being able to sleep in your own bed or work at your desk again. If you take a whole Saturday and get things in the office back in order, tell yourself you can invest in that nice print (or finally get your diploma framed) to perk up the wall behind your desk. Another option is to call for help. I’ve had many a client reach out and tell me they thought they could get through a project on their own, only to get totally stuck. Well, that’s at least one reason why professional organizers exist. Having a calm, unbiased, experienced professional to walk you through to completion can make all the difference. It's often a huge relief to have the support, and you get the added benefit of someone who can guide you away from making the same mistakes again in the future.
Have you ever gone awry with an organizing project? Were you able to work your way through it? If not, don't just ignore the clutter - make a plan that gets you back on track.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?