There’s a day I’ve been looking forward to and dreading for the past 18+ years. I knew she would grow up. I knew that she wouldn’t be little and towheaded and innocent forever. And I knew I would have a lot of fun planning with her about how to get the dorm room in order, buying those IKEA duffle bags, and helping to pack everything up. She and I are a lot alike in many respects, our trend towards organization being one of them. When she was a toddler, her regular babysitter noted how carefully she sorted and put away her Little People, board books, and wooden puzzles. “That girl needs to be in a Montessori preschool!” Ms. Barbara proclaimed. And so she was. Now here she is, about to be the master of her loft bed and fairy-light universe - and well beyond. I’m not worried.
It’s yet another transition. Just when I think we have everything rocking along on an even keel with schedules, closets, commitments, and containers, something changes. Sometimes it’s huge like the firstborn heading off to college, and sometimes it’s comparatively small, like finally upgrading to a new MacBook Pro on tax-free weekend. Both very positive, and transitions I’m grateful for. Sometimes changes are tragic, sometimes exciting, occasionally mind-numbing. But the effect most any transition has on us is uncertainty and disorientation. Where it used to take me 15 seconds to type up an email and attach a document, it now takes 30 - because I’m not used to looking in a different spot for the file, but also because my brain is wondering if a new computer was such a good idea after all. I like it, but it means doing things differently. Next Sunday when I head off to do the weekly grocery run, I will be missing my regular helper. Will it take more time because she won’t be there to run back to an aisle for something I forgot, or help with taking the bags into the house? How disorienting will it be that I won’t be chatting with her as we pick out the best bananas? Those little moments add up.
Transition changes the environment, too. When you get a new puppy, it’s exciting and fun. But it also totally goofs up your routine and often encourages the accumulation of lots of new things - toys, leashes, dishes, treats, cute little sweaters. Then it’s uncomfortable to realize that:
We crave new, happy, fun things but when we finally get them, there is frequently a corresponding uncomfortable side. When we’re preoccupied with, or even resisting that discomfort, we ignore other things that should get our attention. The efficient management of stuff gets put on hold.
From the beginning, my husband and I have planned and prepared for our daughter to head off to college - financially, emotionally, educationally. But here it is, four days away, and I am very uncomfortable.
Many of you may be facing similar happy-yet-perplexing transitions. Because these transitions are supposed to be positive, I think we’re even more likely to push aside conflicting feelings. You might shut down, get sucked into social media or news, go shopping, or take on extra commitments. And then you wonder how life ends up disorganized. What other ways could we approach bittersweet transitions and mitigate some of the resulting chaos? The phrase “lean in” is a bit overexposed and has certain connotations in the business world now, but I found this definition on Grammarist.com that fits my thoughts:
"An older meaning for 'lean in' is to incline into something, such as a skier leaning in at a turn or pedestrian leaning in to the wind during a heavy gale.”
Love me some Grammarist. If the skier leans back, they lose their balance and will likely fall. If you try to stand straight when you walk in the wind, you get pushed backward. If I lean into these new changes and discomforts as opposed to fighting or ignoring them, what might happen? I’m still working it all out, but I know I’m getting the urge to clean out a bunch of closets around here.
Maybe we need a puppy. : )
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?