What Does It Mean to Be Organized? I Say It Means Nothing

Organization.  Purging.  Margin.  White Space.  Time Management.  Minimalism.  Simplifying.  Downsizing.

Google any one of those words and thousands upon thousands of articles, blog links, advertisements pop up.  We live in a high tech, fast paced, immediate gratification world and yet it seems all are seeking a simpler life, or ways to better manage the craziness of their life.

As a young mom, I sought to learn everything I could about managing my home, managing my time.  Some came naturally to me.  I like order.  I don’t like a lot of stuff, so shopping and collecting are not big issues for me (well unless we are talking dishes or shoes).  I am also an introvert, so staying home in lieu of a jam packed schedule didn’t feel awkward.  I ran my house with my 6 month old twins like a well oiled machine and took great pride when asked ” How do you do it all?”  From the outside my life looked great.  It was a good life.  I had healthy baby girls, a beautiful home, a wonderful husband, circle of friends through my almost daily tennis and weekly church involvement…  The truth however was that I was burning the candle at both ends.  I was quick to snap at my girls, get frustrated when they didn’t sleep as the schedule dictated.  The smallest interruption always felt like a huge disruption.  I was hard on myself and hard on my husband.

One day as my frustration had mounted, frustration with myself, I was struck by the fact that I was spinning my wheels trying to be organized-be efficient.  I was juggling all the balls and squeezing it all in, but at what price.  Being efficient was not creating the life I longed for.  God took me back to Proverbs 31, that woman we love to hate and long to be like.  As I read the passages again, God invited me to really get to know the lady, to look beyond the scripture as a litany or to do list and look at the impact of one woman’s life.    In those moments my whole view of organization changed.  I no longer wanted to be the most efficient.  Efficiency was replaced with a desire to be effective.  I wanted to live an orderly life so God could use me to impact my girls, their friends, my friends, our neighbors.  I didn’t want to be known for what I could get done in a day, I wanted to be known for having time to invest in others.  I wanted to see interruptions as opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ.  I wanted our excess to bless others, whether it was purging to pass on, or shopping for others instead of ourselves.

Organization and efficiency are the world’s ways.  There is no such thing as being organized.  There is however a way to live a disciplined life that brings order and affords you the time and space in which to serve others.  Striving to be organized leads to fatigue and frustration.  Striving to be organized means being captive to our things, our schedules, our work.  That is not God’s design.  His design is that we live free, free to serve Him, free from the confines of stuff and schedules.

I still fall prey to the world’s call to be organized.  I even make a living helping others get their stuff organized.  However, I seek to approach every day asking myself if the purging, the sorting, the stacking, the time blocking is my attempt to control an unruly life, one I no longer really manage, or is it to afford me the opportunity to bless another person, invest in another person.  I am not interested in the pursuit of efficiency unless it helps me be effective.

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Step Back- To Find the Way to Move Forward

It is hard to believe the holiday season is here.  Time marches on.  School started and I welcomed it with open arms.  While I relish the lazier days of summer, opportunity to step away from the schedules, I am always ready for back to school. Ready for the new schedules.  Ready for structure.  The structure and the schedules can fill up, and if not careful, the schedules crowd out everything else.

I found myself there a few weeks back.  Not just there, but feeling overwhelmed.  Then a small health issue and time was not enough.  The instinct for most of us it to push through.  I tell myself to give a little more, wake up a little earlier, go to bed a little later, skip lunch, say no to the home parties/social events.  No one wins in that.  Fatigue, frustration, loss of focus-that is all to be gained.

The only way to move forward is to take a step back.  It’s the counter-intuitive thing to do.  I step back.  I block off some time each day for a few weeks.  I have to stop.  It is not until I stop I can see what has consumed the time, the days.  It is not until I stop I can assess the time and the activities, knowing if the pieces fit or are indeed too much.  Those moments are for figuring out what is real, what is clutter.  Those moments are for taking time to go back to my true loves-making the time for that reminds me who I am, the life I have, and how to move forward becomes clear.

I talk about “white space” a lot when I talk about managing time.  White space gives me opportunity to breathe, to take in life, but they also give me opportunity for the unexpected.  When life becomes overwhelming, the plates can’t all be juggled and kept spinning the white spaces become the moments of clarity.  The white spaces are on my calendar and in the schedule I keep.  But spiritually, the white space is when I am still-the moments I quit telling God and instead I release it all and wait for Him.

BeStill

Step back in a moment of nothingness to be still, to find the way to move forward.

#NOCOMPAREDARE: My Business

This month Mary & Martha has challenged women to a “No Compare Dare”.  It is a timely message for me.  And as I have followed others within the company, consultants, and their customers in taking this dare, I am reminded how quickly we as women can become discouraged or defeated by the simple comparison game.  Satan knows his way into our lives, and all too often we allow him to take hold.  I am guilty.

I Peter 5: 8-10 says, ” Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings, and the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you suffered a little while, will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” NIV

In my organizing business my partner and I spend time working with our clients regarding their time management.  One of the things we try to impress upon them is the importance of being aware, self-controlled.  It is important to know how time is spent, to know how one wants to spend time in order to meet goals, and then make adjustments.  Life can’t be lived on auto-pilot.  Discipline and self awareness are key to being organized.

One would think that because the above is such a part of my “message” to clients I would not struggle personally with the comparison issue, but oh how I do.  In fact, even just yesterday I allowed satan a stronghold in my life, my business. Yesterday I lost two clients (one lost her job the other decided to sell her home in lieu of getting it organized) and had a potential client decline our services in favor of another.  When you are a young business, still building, those kind of things seem HUGE!  Immediately I began comparing- to others in the organizing business, to friends running their own businesses, etc…  The thoughts in my head became negative and self-defeating.  Did I lose the jobs because I failed to be alert?  No.  Did doubt, fear and discouragement set in because I failed to be alert?  Yes.  I allowed my thoughts to wander and instead of focusing on what was true, bowing my knee in prayer, I opened the door for satan to begin his whispers.  I didn’t resist.  I didn’t keep my thoughts on the truth.  Fortunately I have within my circle women who hold me accountable. In one simple text a dear friend, and business owner I admire snapped me back to reality.  Her words were not harsh. They were simple and straight forward.  They were spoken in love and with authority.  In that moment I became aware.  I suddenly became alert, seeing what I had allowed to happen.  I didn’t just snap out of it.  No, when we let satan in, he’s hard to remove.  He isn’t some little pussy cat, no he is a roaring lion.  He is on a mission.  No, it takes faith, it takes strength and fortitude to make him leave.

My business is my #NOCOMPAREDARE focus.  How do I keep satan at bay?  The same daily disciplines that keep me focused on the truth, on my priorities.

  1. Rise early and let His word (scripture) be the first thing to enter my mind.
  2. Sit in stillness allowing His word, His thoughts to permeate my mind.
  3. Pray for His will.
  4. Pray continually, with all thanksgiving.
  5. Be honest with my sphere of influence so they can hold me accountable, speak truth into my life.
  6. Be alert throughout the day to shifts in my thinking, my mood…

I dare you.  I know you struggle.  We all do.  The comparison game.  It’s so easy.  We are bombarded with messages, with visuals via Facebook, Instagram, television, radio, stores, friends…  None of us is immune.  It will happen.  We just need to be alert, to capture the thoughts before they take hold, remembering that satan is the author.  Let truth prevail.

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Quit Blaming Your Stuff: 3 Questions to Help You Be REAL

So often we blame our STUFF or our CALENDAR for the stress in our lives.  Neither is correct.  Each of those are as they are because of choices we have made.  Choices to purchase something, to keep something from mom or grandma’s attic, to commit to an event or activity or project.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  Ouch.  That hurts.  However, it is the truth.  The longer we live in denial about that fact, the longer we will live in stress, in overwhelmed, in over drive.

It is easy to accumulate.  We accumulate things, tasks, events, people, debt, the list goes on.  We get caught up in “the world” and the way everyone else lives.  We move through life on auto pilot or so busy and distracted we fail to even notice the moment, the people, our choices, our words, our actions.

My desire is not to just be organized.  My desire is to live a simpler life.  I want to live in each moment.  I don’t want the pull of the next task or event to distract me from this moment.  I don’t want the mounds of laundry, overflowing kitchen cabinets, or piles of paper to keep my mind abuzz with “you should”, “you ought to”, “you failure”…  I want life to be simpler.  I want it to be organized. I want it to reflect my style-my heart.  That life requires decisions.  It requires honesty.  It requires knowing where my time will be spent today.

Here are 5 Questions I ask myself:

1.  If I bring this task or thing into my home where will it go?  For tasks, that means where on my calendar will I put it?  For things, that means where in my house will I store it?

2.  Why do I want this thing?/Why do I want to do this task?  I am a firm believer that things need to have a purpose-even if that is to simply sit and look pretty and bring a smile to my face.  I am a firm believer that tasks I do need to fit my Life Statement.  Does this task help me reach a goal or meet a need for the people holding highest priority in my life?

3.  Can I maintain this task or thing?  I have to look ahead at my schedule and my space to determine if next week I can still find time on my calendar or will still have the space for this item.

If I can’t answer these questions, especially number 2, then I give myself 24 hours.  If the thing or task fits, I’ll know.  If I remain uncertain then I let it go, having faith that in due season if it is a necessary thing or task, the opportunity will re-emerge.

I don’t want to go through life on auto pilot.  I don’t want to miss that moment to connect with another.  I don’t want to miss the whisper of the Holy Spirit, because I failed to sit and rest.  I don’t want a home so filled with things that bring me and my family joy, but are never shared with another.  If I don’t, then I have to.  I have to quit blaming my stuff, my calendar or others.  I have to make a decision.

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Living in the White Space-Interruptions Become Blessingso

I have written about white space.  I began to implement using “white space” in my planning a little over 9 years ago, after a marketing executive friend shared with me the importance of white space in printed materials or visual campaigns.  We had been visiting about a marketing campaign, and as women, our conversation had slid into sharing with one another our struggles to manage life.  Talking about white space led to talking about caring for ourselves, finding time to slow down etc…  Living in the white space has helped me move from living frustrated and frantic, to living with a sense of rhythm and joy.  I am able to see what I use to call “interruptions” as opportunities to be blessed or bless.  An unexpected invitation to lunch becomes a time to catch up with a dear friend.  A plea for help getting a house in order is a time to laugh and grow in fellowship with a friend or new client.  A gentle hug from one of my girls is an opportunity to stop and give them my full attention, listening not only to their words, but their heart.  Living in the white space gives me time to rest, permission to just stop and be for a moment-to look around and see God’s provisions, to be grateful, to dream, to grow through the words of an eloquent writer.

This week the white space has been an opportunity to walk through a difficult place with some dear friends-friends walking through a difficult pregnancy only to get devastating news and find themselves welcoming their sweet baby girl at 25 weeks, preparing to hand her over to the Lord in peaceful rest.  Living in the white space afforded me the opportunity to move some meetings, forget about the chores and just be with this incredible couple of faith.  Be.  Just be.  That’s really what the white space is about.  You see, there is nothing I can do for this couple.  Their journey is a very personal journey unique to them.  While I know the sense of loss that comes from losing a child, I do not know their journey.  I do not understand their pain.  I have no answers.  All God asks of me, of any of us, is to just be with.  He is with us.  And through us He can minister to and be with those we spend time with.  So, the white spaced was filled with sitting.  Just sitting.  Just being there.  Just listening.  Just putting my arms around when the sorrow came over like gentle waves.

As only God can do, He sent nourishment to my spirit in the perfect moment through Holly Gerth’s blog.  I share that blog with you today as one more reminder that living in the white space is so very important.  My friends’ journey is not over.  Their sweet baby girl is still struggling to arrive.  Thankful for more white space on my calendar.  Thankful that in the months and year ahead I will have those white space moments to sit and remember with my faithful friend her baby girl and the milestones.

http://holleygerth.com/okay-rest-really/

 

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Under Construction

We are still in our little two bedroom, furnished apartment.  NO   LONGER   FUN.  As I went to the house under construction to meet yet one more sub, I must confess I was NOT FEELING IT.  The words running through my mind were not positive, chipper words.  NOPE.  I was having one of my “I am DONE” conversations.  Done walking the dogs, who are done being tethered to a leash.  Done trying to get laundry done with no place to fold, iron or store.  Done trying to plan meals using an apartment size refrigerator, electric cook-top and borrowed pans.  Done with the soft, too small mattress I am sharing with my husband.  You get it.  Just DONE.  Then I pulled up to a house almost complete.  I thought to myself, “We are so close, and yet so far.”  The muscles in my neck tightened, my grip on the steering wheel began to turn my knuckles white, and my right leg began to twitch.  In that moment I stopped.  I knew  I needed a moment.  A moment to stop and breathe, to collect my thoughts and reign in my little pity party.  What did I have to be so “DONE” with?  Here I sat in front of a new home.  A home my family has spent a year planning and 4 months tending to.  A home where we have already begun to envision family, friends and strangers being served and entertained.  A home in a new neighborhood full of new friends to be and new opportunities.  So I decided to stop and utter up a word of thanksgiving and ask God to breathe new words into my mind, to refresh my spirit.  I just sat, in the quiet of my car looking at the house under construction.  In those minutes God reminded me of two things:

1.  Quit striving.  Over and over this past year God has convicted me and disciplined me regarding my tendency to strive.  He reminded me I need to enjoy the process, the journey and conserve my energy.  Striving does nothing but deplete me of my energy and deprive Him the opportunity to carry out His works in His might.

2.  I too am under construction.  Under construction is the only way I can be on this world.  Completion only occurs when Christ takes me home.

Talk about a change in perspective and attitude.  By the time I got out of the car, I had a new outlook.  Yes, my house is still under construction.  So much is done, yet all around lies dirt, trash, and so much more to be done.  The big things are complete, but all those details that bring the house to life, are just being installed.  They take time.  They must be done in specific order.  The house won’t be perfect, either due to budget constraints or human error.  And, that’s OK.  As I walked around each room checking on installation, taking measurements and just stepping back to look at the progress I could not help but think of His words whispered so quietly in the solitude of my car, “You too sweet daughter are under construction.”  I had to smile as I thought of my Heavenly Father looking down on me.  Oh the mess He must see: the discarded baggage; the piles of tears and disappointments.  Yet at the same time I know He sees beauty.  He sees the laugh lines engraved upon my face from those just right moments with family and friends.  He sees the freckles upon my arms and face from days spent playing in the sun.  He sees the frayed finger nails from scrubbing toilets and washing dishes all out of love for those residing in my home or visiting.  He sees the readers perched on nose’s end as a result of late night and early morning reading, letting the encouragement of another’s prose sink in or His words come to life.  Yes, I am under construction.  I am so close, and yet so far.  I have grown, some big things have been worked out and worked through, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

My house will be completed.  Turning it into a home will take years to come.  Hopefully my journey to completion will take years to come.

Here are a few shots of the new home for those of you who have asked to see a few shots.  In the months ahead I have no doubt I’ll be asking for some advice on decorating.

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I Give!!! (But, I vow to focus and finish)

I GIVE!  It is 8:00 at night, and quite frankly I am T-I-R-E-D.  I have too much on my plate, all of my own choosing, and quite frankly I have been following very little of my own advice.  So tonight, I feel like a two ton gorilla ready to plop down and call it quits.  There’s nothing wrong with my life-we are employed, we are healthy, we are safe.  No, it’s just all that little stuff-that stuff that when not managed well turns you into either a screaming hyena or an overwhelmed gorilla.  I am juggling two businesses, homeschooling (for the first time) a high school student, managing a home, and living out my gifts volunteering with Christian Women’s Job Corps.  I love it all.  But, some days I get distracted, I fail to block time and my mind starts wandering.  I fail to focus and finish.  Oh, how many times I have uttered those words to my children, “Focus, finish what you started.”  Ouch.  So goes motherhood.  It always comes back around doesn’t it?!  As the tension crept up my back today, as I lay awake at 4:15 a.m. thinking of all the tasks left undone, I silently screamed out “I GIVE!”.  

Focus.  That’s what I need to do.  I need to set aside some time this week to tackle three items on each of my projects.  I need to focus.  I need to quit multi-tasking, flitting from one thing to another, attempting to juggle.  I need to focus.  Focus brings stillness, quiet, resolve.  Focus brings fresh breath.  Focus helps me hear the still small voice of my Master.  I can’t finish until I focus.  I’ll never finish if I look too far ahead or keep turning to my right and to my left.  I’ll only finish when I focus.  Focus will bring clarity to the path, enable me to see what is ahead.  Intent focus has me looking only one step ahead, at the one thing that needs to be done next.    

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While I have to admit I still feel a bit like an over weight, grumpy gorilla, I have new resolve.  I know God has ordained my days.  I know God has a plan.  I know God can and will bring clarity.  Focus to finish.

Still No Resolutions, Still No Goals, But a Plan Coming Together

I haven’t quite yet gotten back in the groove of posting to the blog.  In days past, I would chastise myself and create additional stress.  It has been tempting to go down that road again.  After all, I’m still that same girl-the one who likes to have a plan, get things done, see organization and order around me.  I love a check list and checking it off!  But…  I have continued resting my mind on the word God whispered to me:  PEACE.

Peace, it is truly elusive, so easily stolen from us as life marches on bringing with it new demands, new disappointments, new seasons.  I have held strong to praying daily for PEACE and opening myself up to His direction. Late last week it dawned upon me to identify those moments in the day when I sense a lack of peace.  As you might expect, a pattern emerged.  That bewitching dinner hour.  The time between late afternoon and dinner. Surely I am not alone.  I can have conquered mountains, but in those few hours the weight of the world seems to fall upon my shoulders.  The husband comes home with his day’s worth of baggage, the kids need help with homework, the taxi service begins, dogs need fed and/or walked, the household chores for the day await, and then there is that thing called dinner.  No matter how well planned my day, week, even month, this time of day seems to be truly bewitched.  My stress level rises, and the more I am asked to do, the more my mind seems to race to all those tasks I have failed to do, did half way or simply had hoped to do.  Before I know it I feel drained and defeated.  And sadly, too often that feeling stays right with me through bedtime.  I have determined I need to focus on this area more than any other area.  This time, this “area” of my day is my peace thief.  So, as I approach my little mini retreat on January 31st (see previous posts about my Sabbath practice holding the 31st sacred each time it rolls around) I have begun to look for things I can change, let go over or begin to change the end of my day.

First and foremost, I have determined to end my day reading a devotional in bed and writing down blessing of the day.  I am thrilled to be using “One Thousand Gifts:  Devotional” by Ann Voskamp.  She is one of my new favorite authors.  Her writing is classical, almost musical.  Her thoughts are deep, they are real and they are sometimes even raw.  I wish I could say I had stuck to the plan, but frankly, I’ve let a few nights go by. Honestly, I’ve crawled into bed and fallen asleep.  But thoughts of defeat I will not let enter.  I will not quit.  I will miss a day or two, get over it and carry on.

Second, I have made a few changes in some household routines.  After reading several other blogs on parenting and motherhood I realized I too often do for my girls, instead of teaching them to do for themselves. Culprit number one:  laundry.  I have taught them how to sort.  I have shown them how to do, but rarely have they had to.  Not to mention, the only consequence for not bringing laundry down and sorting has been mom spending all Saturday catching up.  Now, I realize I should be smarter than this, but sometimes the duties of motherhood seem to sap me of any cognitive abilities.  Well, not now.  No.  There is a new plan in place. Mom does one load of laundry every morning (for me this happens about 5:30 a.m. before my quiet time).  If you fail to bring clothes down and sort them so they make it into one of these laundry loads, you get to do your laundry all by your lonesome Saturday morning.

There’s no Third.  Not yet.  This journey to PEACE isn’t going to happen overnight.  I am pondering and waiting.  I’m not looking for a grand list of goals or legalistic list of rules.  I’m just looking for God to show me where and when I fail to trust in Him.  I’m asking Him to show me my weaknesses and help me work to become stronger in those areas.  PEACE is not perfection.  PEACE is knowing I have done what He has called me to do, He has prepared for me to do.  It is knowing when enough is enough.  It is knowing that my efforts can never match His efforts.  It is knowing when to say “well done” and rest in His grace.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  … Be holy, because I am holy.”  I. Peter 1:13,15 NIV