Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of teaming up with a gang of my NAPO* Nashville chapter mates to tackle organizing a huge room of donated items at a local elementary school. The space, a portable behind the main building, needed a little love and order. It was a chapter service project that we committed to donating our time to a few months back. Nine of us, armed with nothing more than Sharpies, plastic bins, trash bags, and label makers, began by standing in the center of the room and surveying the challenge before us.
I don't think our contact at the school had the foggiest notion of what was about to happen.
We defined the categories, mapped out the plan, divided into teams, and went to work. What followed was a flurry of folding, sorting, hauling, building, assembling, moving, labeling, categorizing, trashing — and in less than six hours, we had the place transformed. Aside from our labor and some donated supplies, there was no expense. The results were impressive and deeply appreciated. Working as a group, with our individual strengths and talents, we broke things down to manage what previously seemed unmanageable — organizing in action, in real life.
If I'm being honest, I had a blast. You couldn't have enticed me away from this project even if you had offered me a free spa day on the beach with unlimited supplies of dark chocolate. Just as we put the finishing touches on a school supply cabinet, one of my colleagues came up to me and said, "Isn't this fun?! I love working with a team!" Her enthusiasm was/is contagious, and I agreed - it can be a big boost to work with others on a shared goal. Perhaps it's the extravert in me, but connecting with the people I work with and for is one of the things I love most about my profession.
If you've ever run a road race, you may have experienced an energy from being out with hundreds of other runners. Sometimes it's overt, like when someone encourages you along the way, but often it's very subtle. Maybe it's just knowing you're not out there all alone battling your way to a finish line. When our chapter members worked on the school space, we were all contributing our expertise and ability, and spreading the responsibility definitely made the work progress quickly. But I suspect the success of the project was related to much more than that. None of us had ever worked together before, but we fell right into a groove. More than once, I looked up from arranging pencils and backpacks to see organizers asking one another for feedback, sharing ideas, and even just chatting amiably. We were better together that day.
This positive result is one reason why I think everyone, if they can, should connect with someone in some way on their organizing adventures. I don't necessarily mean professional assistance, although certainly that can make a huge difference. I mean anything from having a friend over to be a body double or help sort, to throwing a full-on organizing party with your family. It may sound nuts to you to put "organizing" and "party" in the same sentence (much the way my concept of an organizing vacation might have seemed odd). But it puts me in mind of barn-raisings or quilting bees or other types of collective efforts to tackle a big, complicated job. It's not just the practical separation of tasks, but the good vibes that can flow between us making something vast and uncomfortable less daunting.
Sometimes clients will say something to me like,
And I'm thinking, YES!! Do that! What if you thought of those customers at Starbucks as being part of your personal productivity team? Your friend as a member of your Organizing Board of Directors? Why not use the knowledge that connection makes a difference to your best advantage?
Teamwork can take many forms, and I'm sure there's some psychological principle out there to explain why the energies of other people spur us on and help us to succeed. For me, it's enough to know that it can work. Who all could be on your organizing team?
p.s. And yes, sometimes the team stuff doesn't always go as smoothly as our service project did. We'll take a look at that in the next post.
*National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. Here's who worked on the project:
College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving Nashville
Simple Systemic Spaces
Project Organize 615
Clearing The Way Home
Tailored Living of Nashville
Samantha Pointer Enterprises
Plus wonderful new member Miriam Johnston!
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?