Creating a Practice for Getting Organized

vw bug

I often feel as though people think of getting organized as a chore or a task; something that you can accomplish if you buckle down and block off a whole Saturday. There is a perception that organizing simply involves space, stuff, garbage bags and willpower. Yes, at times, getting organized can include some or all of these, but it is not a task that you place a checkmark beside and consider over and done.

I’ve met so many people over the years that believe it is a skill that they just don’t have. As if the ability to get organized is a trait encoded in your genes and you are either born with it or without it. And while there are definitely people that have an innate ability to organize themselves—intuitively creating systems that support their way of thinking and operating—the essential truth is if the desire exists anyone can learn how to get organized. Just as we are born without the ability to drive a car, if we take the time to learn the principles and put those principles into practice, we can all end up with a driver’s license.

When I was a kid my family owned a red VW Bug and I had recurring nightmares involving that car. It had a manual transmission and the interplay between the stick shift and the clutch and gas pedal footsie mystified me. In this recurring anxiety dream, I’d always find myself being chased and driving away in that red VW my only chance for survival. When I fully understood how to control the interaction between the gearshift, the clutch, and the gas pedal and I could drive, the dreams stopped.

No doubt getting organized can feel like a mysterious process but the alchemy is comprised of information processing, decision-making, and an ability to adjust to transitions. How adept we are at each of these elements and applying them to our particular circumstances determines the degree of difficulty we experience. How do we gauge how capable we are at handling each of these elements? Email inboxes or piles of unopened mail may provide clues to how adept we are at processing information. Piles of paper that require a choice or course of action may indicate how adept we are at decision-making. Our ability to maintain day-to-day systems during unexpected and expected life events may indicate how adept we are at adjusting to transitions.

When you come to understand your skill levels for processing, deciding and transitioning, and the interplay between them you can develop a practice of organizing that puts you in the driver’s seat. Do you find any of these elements challenging? Which one are you most adept at?

Having nightmares? If you want some help developing your practice for getting organized, contact me to set up a call. I’d like to help you get organized this year.

12 thoughts on “Creating a Practice for Getting Organized

  1. Nancy Tierney Reply

    The nightmare about the red VW reminds me of how scary something can feel until we plunge in and figure it out. Oganizing can feel the same way… way over our capacity and ability, until we decide to figure it out. And with anything new or scary, it helps to have a mentor.

  2. Sarada Chaudhuri Reply

    You know – this is so true!

    I often get overwhelmed with organising – like it’s some never-ending battle…But what I’ve discovered is that a lot of it is internal i.e. how important is this piece of paper/area/action in the grand scheme of things? Once I’ve shifted my thinking that way, the physical element of organising is no longer a problem. Thanks again for this great insight Janine!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Sarada! I love hearing that a simple shift in perception helps you achieve your organiZing goals. (I had to throw in that capital Z just for you!)

  3. laura Reply

    processing, deciding and transitioning!! It is about that isn’t it? But what you say is so great because it’s the ‘ing’ that catches me ~ that’s it’s a continuum and not a destination. When i look at organizing, I used to think it was the Saturday chore ~ but soon realized it really was about the ‘ing’ the continual process of having systems that work 🙂
    And, I LOVEd my little red zoom car!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Laura, you totally get it! That is exactly it, organizing is cyclical, a continuum. I loved that VW bug, especially after I learned how to drive it!

  4. kelly Reply

    This point is so important for people to realize! “Piles of paper that require a choice or course of action may indicate how adept we are at decision-making.” You really understand the deeper meaning to all things organization related. A true gift you posses and can teach others!

  5. Lorraine Reply

    Getting organized is not some mystery. It’s a choice! I have learned the hard way that making the decision to get organized is not an option. Thanks for this post!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Hi, Lorraine. You are fortunate that getting organized is not a mystery for you and that you were able to act upon your choice to be organized. In my experience, there are a wide variety of people in this world who really would love to be more organized but struggle with how to put their desire into practice. They are often accomplished, successful people who haven’t figured out how to create systems that support the way they think and operate. Can you imagine how frustrating and distressing that must be? This is why I do what I do. I want everyone to feel like getting control over one’s life is an attainable goal. Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. Sandi Reply

    Janine, Your post is SOOO on target. I have struggled with each of the three areas you so eloquently describe at different times, and it’s hard not to feel like a failure when you’re a smart person but just can’t seem to get it together all at the same time! It helps to see organizing as a process that can be learned, and that it’s ongoing. Baby steps have helped me a lot! 🙂 Thanks for your post!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      I know exactly what you mean, Sandi! I am a huge advocate for baby steps. Any movement in the direction toward what you desire is a victory. Thanks so much for commenting.

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