It's super easy to find tips and ideas about how to get organized right now. It's a hot topic. And I love that. But I cannot count how many folks have told me that no what strategy they've tried nothing has ever really worked. In reality, getting organized is personal. Tips and ideas are important, but only inasmuch as they apply to you. Folding your underwear in colorful origami shapes can make for delightful instagram pics, but it may not be the most practical solution for your underwear storage.
So, how do you know what tips and ideas will work? Through the knowledge gained by observing yourself in your life-spaces and then by writing down what you observe you can find out.
We see our lives from up close and in fragmented details - the running thoughts, the nagging frustrations. We live within our routines and habits. And from that close perspective, the whole landscape is impossible to see. Taking the details from inside your mind and putting down them outside offers the distance needed to understand your experience with your things within your space as a whole.
So, step back. Start by making a commitment that for a week, or a month, or however long you need, you'll notice your thoughts and feelings about your space as you move through your days. And when you can, jot them down - on paper, in your phone, on a whiteboard magnet - wherever will get you observing and writing.
This practice will help you to understand your patterns. It will illuminate how things accumulate and teach you what your desires are for the space.
When you notice the good stuff, write it down. If something irritates you, note it. Record habitual actions and thought patterns as you recognize them. What do you do with things when you’re done using them? Where do you look for things when you can't find them? Write it all down. If unloading the dishwasher makes you ornery or you have piles of mail, or wet towels on the floor, or no space to to put together your puzzles, whatever comes up, write it. Don't discriminate. Every thought and feeling is equally useful.
My best friend recently said "I enjoy making lists because it means I don't have to do anything yet," which is the perfect description of this step. At this point relax and take no other action than getting the information from inside your head and onto the paper. For now that’s enough. It’s more than enough. It’s everything.
You're clearing your mind clutter and storing it for further investigation when you have gathered all the information to create the big picture.
From these notes you can learn what you already knew, but never articulated. And you’ll learn a bunch of stuff you didn't know. You’ll learn your style and aesthetic and the size and shape of your bottlenecks. You’ll have a whole scene that shows you what you do and how you do it, of what you want and how you want it. And, most importantly these notes will show you where to start.
This may seem like some kind of magical wizardry, but I promise it’s not. It’s simple self-observation through journaling. And it works.
The next step is to learn how to use the notes to their full advantage and I'll talk about that in my next DIY post. Until then, go easy on yourself.