I’ve been working with clients for a good long time. Over the years, patterns emerged with similar story lines and themes that popped up again and again. It’s these patterns that have made it terrifically crystal clear about…
• WHAT keeps people from getting after their clutter/disorganization aka: whY DON’t pEopLE JUst dO It ALrEadY? (No judgment.) and,
• What keeps people from just getting after their stuff and releasing the distress they feel in their home?
Mind you, my clients aren’t slackers. I’m talking about able, motivated badasses. Small and large business owners. CEO’s. Team leaders. Competitive athletes. Highly trained techy types. Diligent, dedicated Mom’s and Dad’s.
That said, no matter WHO it is, there is one pattern I see repeated time and time again that keeps people from getting the job done.
It’s the actual getting started.
I’ll be honest, I suffer from the “just getting started” conundrum too. The reminder bell on my phone DINGS for the THING I’ve committed to getting done by X date (What? it can’t be that day already?) and out of NOWHERE,
…Daisy the dog needs a bath.
…I should call my Dad and see how he’s doing!
…Oh, those bananas look ripe, I think I’ll make vegan gluten free banana bread for which I have zero ingredients. (Except ripe bananas) and then,
…I’ll just go to the store real quick and get what I need.
See what I mean? A handful of things mysteriously becomes urgent the second something challenging comes up that needs to get done.
That said, personally, clutter clearing and organizing is not in my challenging category. It’s my safe haven. A place where I discover, level up, get real and can hear myself think and feel myself feel. Once I’m in the ZONE (er…mess) I often do face challenging emotions and get stuck. But I stay in the thick of it and ride the wave. I stay curious with myself and wondrous about what and why I have what I have. It’s that curiosity and wonder that I take with me when I work with clients.
I do understand, however, that clutter clearing and organizing IS not one of those activities that most people enjoy or gravitate toward. In fact, I’ve noticed it often falls into the “cleaning/tidying up” category that elicits more of a, “Well, I guessssss we have to get that garage cleaned out this weekend” (womp ditty womp womp). Right from the get-go we’re subconsciously programmed into thinking that dealing with our stuff on whatever level, large or small, is a total drag. Since I happen to enjoy working with clients in this arena, this “UGH”ness around it bums me out. But I get it. I get it because I’ve spent thousands of hours with people and their stuff; in all its glory and otherwise.
A little truth kernel about doing the work though starts even before the actual full blown dive in. It’s in the getting started. What I mean by that is this; say we want or need something to get done: the messy garage you can’t park in. You’re moving across town and need to pack but you need to go through all your stuff first. You’re breaking up with your partner. You’re moving in with your partner. Junior is going off to college.
Breaking it down, what’s happening is this: the thought of the THING comes in. It produces imagery in our mind that makes us feel undesirable emotions. Often it’s the opposite of fun. Like…maybe dread? Or anger? Or frustration? Or indignation? (As in, “I should be able to do this myself!” ) The truth is, most of us get slammed into neutral gear when it comes to doing challenging tasks right at the level of thought. Why? Because the very thought of doing the task produces feelings of discomfort and that sends warning signals out to our clever minds to start firing off visions of FaceTiming with Dad and warm banana bread with melted Miyoko’s butter on top. Because THAT feels better than the “thing” we need to get done. You feel what I’m putting down here?
So then–how the heck do we get anything started?
This is where “My Best Organizing Advice All In ONE Word” comes in.
It’s this: Kaizen. It means change for better, continuous improvement (blah blah see above—I do love the Webster Miriam definition for sure).
The MAGIC of Kaizen is doing the one next thing. JUST THAT ONE NEXT THING. That is all. You don’t have to create a flow chart or a spreadsheet. You don’t have to hire a therapist because you flunked at organizing your shoes so now you think you’re a failure. You don’t even have to figure anything out. You don’t have to project manage the task. All you have to do is the one next damn thing.
What do I mean by this? It’s so simple that it literally takes a little explaining.
Let me give you a few examples:
-Say you really need to do your Last Will & Testament. You’ve put it off for a number of reasons. But you can no longer ignore it. It keeps coming up. It needs to get done. But thinking about the project just sends your brain into a frosty freeze zone. So here’s Kaizen in action. Draw your attention away from the project at large. This might include all the info your going to need, what it might trigger emotionally or how long it’s going to take. With Kaizen, your only task is come up with the ONE next thing. In this instance, that might look like just going to legalzoom.com. That’s it. Just visit the dang website. Then, perhaps the next day, you go back to legalzoom.com and you go to the section on Wills. Your body doesn’t freak out and shut down, you notice. Okay, so you do the one NEXT thing—you create an account. Woah. That felt pretty good but also, but you now feel a little woozy. Great, then stop. Take a break. Then commit to the next one thing, KAIZEN, for later on that day or the next day.
-Kaizen 2. TAXES. Oh hey, it’s the 19th of April and in the United States we’re beyond tax day friends but you all got them filed on time, right? Wait, No? Tax prep can be a bummer sandwich. Loaded. Complex. Maybe you’re pummeling yourself with thinking like, “Seriously, why didn’t I organize this better during the year?” and a whole slew of other not so helpful thoughts. Alrighty, let’s kaizen this. What is a possible one next thing? Just one wee step you can take? Creating a “2021” tax folder where all the docs go? Texting your accountant with a “Need to get taxes done, can we chat?” message. Printing off ONE statement that you know you’re going to need a hard copy of? It’s just one thing. Start there. Always start with One.
-Kaizen 3: Your entire home top to bottom needs organizing and decluttering. Damn! That’s a big job. Where’s the remote already? Applying Kaizen could look like this: JUST decide what ONE area you want to start with. Or Google one professional organizer and ask for information on cost and what’s involved. Or go through your glove compartment and stop there.
Go ahead, give Kaizen a whirl! Is it counterintuitive? Yea, a bit! And that is exactly what the mind needs to get out of its own way. And the thing is, those “one next things”? They add up. Before you know it, you’ve got a string of events that have led you right to the culmination of your big hairy insurmountable THING. Crush the THING with Kaizen.