This blog is was originally titled “Organize.Simplify.Transform”. Why did I choose this name? It’s how it all started for me, and how it can start for you too. This is my story.
Six years ago, I was burning the candle at both ends. You know what I’m talking about: working 8-5 in Cubicle Nation at a job that wasn’t all that fulfilling (although I liked the people there, and still do) as well as volunteering for a start-up project (with my husband) and spending most of our free time there. I was exhausted, and about to find out what sleep deprivation was really all about – we were going to be parents. But, that’s another story…
Where it all began…
I came home on maternity leave and was sitting in my living room. I even remember I was wearing a red shirt and khakis, and I looked up as I leaned my head back to rest. I looked at my ceiling fan and there was a ridiculous amount of dust on it. This bothered me. A LOT. Why? Who knows. People swore I was “nesting”. Ok, maybe. But I started by not only cleaning that fan (not really a good idea in retrospect I grant you, being that it was 11 feet off the ground and my 9 month pregnant body was not exactly balanced) but then I took off around the house. That’s where my life began to change – under the microscope of sorting through most everything I owned.
Level One: Going through nearly everything you have in your possession has a very interesting effect on your mind. You start by asking yourself things like: Why do I have this? What possessed me to buy this? Is this really valuable? Whoa, that is one interesting shade of green….. and the list goes on. This is what I call Level One. This is where you get rid of stuff that you really don’t use but couldn’t seem to part with because you simply hadn’t stopped to ask yourself “Do I use it, and do I love it?” The answer for this level comes easily once you do it.
Level Two: This is when you stop and think about the “Do I use it and love it?” question. Normally if you are doing this yourself (as I did), you have more storage space after Level One, and you have been assigning new homes for things. But, you are feeling that you still have too much “stuff”. These things are useful and you have needed them at some point. Some of them are outdated, but may have cost a fair amount of money when you bought them. The cost of something can really inhibit parting with it, and answering the “use it/love it” question requires more thought. This is the level where things that were given to you by a family member or friend (who is no longer in your life) are called into question. You can wrestle with some really potent guilt at this stage – whether it’s self-imposed or from someone else. This is where you ask yourself some hard questions: Do I really need this? Can I find this elsewhere? Are the memories associated with this important to me? Does the person I’m “saving” this for really want it? Am I ok with letting it go to someone who can use it more regularly than I do? This was a gift, but is it really something I need in my life? The answers sometimes won’t come overnight, and the process can sometimes be tearful. Level Two is challenges preconceived beliefs – many times learned from a very early age. It takes courage to challenge them and go to the next deeper level…
Level Three: This is the tough stuff. Honestly, I don’t say that lightly. For me, the room where this came into play was my Home Office. At the time, it was where our important family paperwork, resources and general “life leftovers” were kept. Some people call this the “dumping room”. It was where the paperwork of life resides and comes to die. Typical things which came up here:
- Unfinished commitments
- Incomplete projects
- Memorabilia of things (and people) I didn’t want to remember
- Learning and reference materials that weren’t applicable anymore
- Learning “tools” that promised a lot and lead to nowhere
- Paths I had chosen that didn’t lead much of anywhere (most chosen unconsciously)
This level prompted me to change how I thought about my life. Why? This room represented much of who I was, and some of it wasn’t pretty. It’s interesting what had congregated in this room. One theme kept repeating itself here: “What was my role in this, do I like where it lead and what are my beliefs about it still valid?” This wasn’t easy – not by a long shot. This process challenged me to take a hard look at my life and the beliefs I held about living it – past and present. Some might call this an “existential crisis” or a “coming of age” moment. For me, it sparked a seriously dark two years of tears, anger, confusing and depression. I also discovered who I was, who I wanted to be and how I had to reframe my mind no matter what other (well-intentioned) people said.
So, why should you care? Here’s my point: you CAN change your life by sorting through your stuff. “Organization can change your life” isn’t some flippant saying. For me, it started in my Home Office. For you, it might start with a photo album or a t-shirt. Organizing and simplifying your life are so much more than sorting things, it’s about re-discovering yourself. Things represent so much of who we are. Sorting through your stuff can change your life, if you let it. The first step is to start.
What room could change your life?