Back in my early adulting days, I used that old trick of testing spaghetti doneness by tossing it against the wall (actually, in my case, the kitchen cabinets). You know, throw a strand or two against the surface, and if it sticks, it’s done? The flagrant disregard for pasta water splattering everywhere, the slight risk of burning myself, and the faint outline of the spaghetti left on the cabinet appealed to my sense of 20-something rebellion. Plus, if you tested it too early and it fell to the floor, you got to snicker and try again! The process was something my mother NEVER - even in her wildest dreams - would have done. I was so wild, y’ all.
Perhaps this is why I’ve used the phrase “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” more than once in my organizing journey. Really, all my journeys. When I started organizing professionally I wasn’t sure how or if I might want to specialize, or which ideas or techniques might work best for clients. I tried and tested lots of things out, and eventually yes - some things did stick. Working with adults with ADHD, speaking, writing, and coaching have emerged as the sticky pieces of my career pasta mix - although some of those pieces are certainly still a little “al dente.” The things that didn't stick either went back in the pot, or into the garbage.
But do you ever attempt to throw lots of things at the wall, and feel as though nothing is sticking? Especially when you’re trying to get a space, or spaces in order, or improve the way you handle tasks, or prioritize responsibilities? Do you assume that someone else’s suggestions about how to “be organized” should stick for you just because they work for them?
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz. The “Agreements” are based upon ancient Toltec wisdom, and examining the source of self-limiting beliefs that can lead to suffering. The thought is that if you can manage to follow all four (which is tougher than it sounds), you can essentially live your best life. The Agreements are as follows:
Number three is the one that has always “stuck” with me because it’s exactly where I often witness clients getting tripped up (and myself as well). An assumption is, of course, a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof. Predicting an absolute outcome without evidence. To quote from the book:
“If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions."[emphasis mine]
Do some of these assumptions sound familiar?
It’s like looking at the spaghetti in the pot (without the benefit of a timer, a wall, or even a spoon) and just telling yourself “Oh yeah, that's totally ready.”
So what questions could we be asking ourselves to help us understand what might stick and what might not, what is reality and what have we made up in our heads? “Does this method make sense to me?” “Am I really inept, or am I a little confused and need some clarification?” “What might happen if I talked to my boss?” “What else could I try?” "Do I have enough information to know whether or not this will stick?"
Sometimes it’s helpful to keep throwing lots of things at the wall. Sometimes, you might just need to keep stirring the pot.
*the spaghetti analogy fits in rather nicely here too.
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?