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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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.

Breathe_quote

The Search Never Ends-Planner Perfection

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Project List and Tracking
Project List and Tracking
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble

Well, I know it is NOT just me.  There seems to be a never ending search among-st women for the PERFECT PLANNER.  Now, I know perfection is NOT something to be pursued, for none of us is perfect, but it sure seems like there would be a planner out there that met women’s needs.  We are all so different thought.  Some of us like to decorate our planners and want lots of white space in which to create.  Others of us, like myself, like lots of lines to write on.  Most of us need to manage a whole slew of people’s schedules and events.  Some of us want to manage those things by time slots, others want to see a section for each person they track.  The list could go on and on.

Out of curiosity, I thought it would be fun to do a little survey.  What would you want in a planner?  I thought about a survey, but I don’t want my limited thoughts, creativity to stifle your thoughts.  So, just post in the comments.

I want a month at a glance with lined boxes.  I like a 7 day per week on two pages overview.  I like an area to note appointments and like this to be numbered by the hour.  Again, I like lines.  I have this thing about crooked writing.  I want a place to put “to do lists” by category/project.  I do not need a contacts section.  I would like to track my water drinking.  You get the idea.  Dream away and give me all your best ideas.  Never know what my happen with those ideas!

 

Striving Stress to Relinquishing Rest-Lessons from Mary and Martha

I love organization.  I love having the sense that my life is in order and therefore I am able to serve.  I love having the sense of peace and calm that comes from being in an uncluttered environment.  I love that God is a God of order and even in the creation story we see His deliberate order.  I love order.  I have always loved order.  I have to admit though, that often, and especially in my early days, order was a means of control.  I worked so hard to have order, keep order, because I was striving to please, to be good enough, to succeed.  Those aren’t in and of themselves bad reasons, but they aren’t the best of reasons.  I often hid hurt, sorrow, frustration, disappointment behind my order.  I often let keeping order keep me busy so I didn’t have to participate or deal with some things.  Isn’t it funny how things in our life that can be really good things can become walls, keeping others out and keeping us from living abundantly and freely?!  Striving to do something in an attempt to get something really does nothing more than exhaust us.

There are days when I look back over the course of my adult life and get discouraged, saddened by the course of events, most out of my control.  My parents divorced, an array of hardships resulting from that for all of us.  Financial strains of family members and my husband and I trying to fix those or provide, often beyond our means.  Getting married to have two different family members live with us in the first year and half of marriage.  Paul’s mother being diagnosed with brain cancer and passing on within our fourth year of marriage.  Six years of infertility.  A difficult and complicated pregnancy resulting in the loss of a set of identical twins and the live birth of beautiful fraternal twin girls.  My husband facing the suicide of two good friends.  Mixed in with that the normal ups and downs.  Losing grandparents.  Beginning new businesses.  Having those not so great days in marriage and in parenting.

Sadly through most of it I spent a lot of time striving.  Striving to get through it the way I thought all good Christian girls were supposed to.  Striving to keep myself from falling apart.  Striving to keep others out of our business so as to avoid the inadvertent harsh remarks.  Striving.  This same striving often led to my rushing decisions and trying to work “ahead” of God.  This same striving often caused me to lose focus on what was most important and even caused me to lose my compassion for others.  Striving stress became a way of life.

It is a long story, over the course of about 6 years, but God has shown me that relinquishing rest comes only from Him and comes ONLY when I quit striving.  I can’t rush God’s work.  I can’t fix things for others, and often I can’t even fix them for myself.  My life is intertwined with others and at times their choices, their decisions, their God given direction changes the course of my direction, my life, my plans.  I don’t understand.  At times it seems unfair.  But this I have learned-no amount of striving, attempts at putting everything in order, creating order out of chaos will change anything.  It may serve as a band-aid for a moment or a time, but it will always lead to exhaustion.

I don’t know if it is this way for you or not, but when God has a message for me and I am slow in taking it in, or need the affirmation of hearing it over and over, He does just that.  I find myself daily running into the message, the story, the characters-whatever it may be.  Mary and Martha have been that for me the past 7-8 months.  A common story and one women often read, but seldom really understand.  The scripture isn’t about comparing these two sisters.  It isn’t about making one more right than the other, but gosh do we women love to go there.  This story is about striving stress and relinquishing rest.  This story is about two sisters, who when living life together, embracing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, were able to serve our Lord in their home, trust Him for their brother’s healing/resurrection and accept Him as Lord before most even understood who He was.  Martha was not chastised for her preparations and her organizational skills.  She was gently reminded that there was a time to stop.  There is a time to set aside the “doing” and rest in the moment.  I have no doubt Mary had been helping Martha.  Now, I don’t doubt Mary was the baby sister and didn’t give her housekeeping and organizational work the same effort big sister Martha did, but I still believe she helped her sister.  However, once Jesus arrived, Mary decided that what had been prepared was good enough and it was time to take enjoy her company, to learn from the Master.  Martha couldn’t let go.  She couldn’t quit striving.  I think her motives were pure-she wanted Jesus to have the very best.  She wanted it all to be just perfect.  But that is where the truth lies.  We are not perfect.  We can not strive enough to become perfect.  He knows.  He sees.  He created us.  He wants us in our less than perfect state.  He wants to spend time with us teaching us, encouraging us, growing us, changing us, bringing our image closer to His image. Mary got it.  She knew when to let go and let God.

I love these sisters.  I love that God is using their story to alter the course of my story.  I love that even now, thousands of years later, I can learn from Mary and Martha.  I know I would have been drawn to them.  I know I would have love being in their home.  I am working on my striving.  I’m still in love with order, with organization, but I’m working really hard on doing it for the right reasons.  I want to manage my time, so that God can order my days.  I want to be faithful with that He has placed on my plate today, so I am ready for the task He gives me tomorrow.  I want to relinquish control and use my gifts and talents to draw others to Him.  My home plays a BIG part in that plan.  Letting go plays a BIG part in that plan.  From striving stress to relinquishing rest.

The Organized Life: It’s Not Magic

I am often asked how I do it all.  On the one hand I am somewhat honored/flattered, but more often than naught it makes me twinge and feel a little guilty.  While I want to daily present and be the best I can be, I never want to present an illusion, I never want to seem to be more than I am.  I am imperfect.  I sin daily.  My family sees my bad side, and that makes me sad.  I do not do it all.  I used to want to.  I used to strive to.  I used to believe I could.  But there is no magic- no magic wand, no magic formula, no magic planner, no magic system, no magic container, no magic home.  

I am fairly organized.  I function better in a cleaned up, uncluttered environment.  That’s my nature, the way God wired me.  I also believe God is a God of order and desires we, especially as women, create order and beauty in our lives.  He created us to create and complete.  However, I have learned the real key to organization is discipline.  I prefer to think of how I live my life in those terms. Am I living a disciplined life?  Do I honor God and His precepts with my choices, my words, my actions?  I do not do it all, because I no longer attempt to do it all.  There are a lot of things I say “No” to.  There are a lot of things I desire to do, but I know God has reserved for another season.  Living that way, and that way only, enables me to do what I need to do, no more.  In that I can find rest and peace.  I no longer have to rush, chase the illusive “do it all” mantra.  I can let go and enjoy the very best God has for me.  I have times where I take on too much, lose sight of the “best” and run after the “good”.  Fortunately though I have built in some disciplines that provide me time and opportunity to step back and take notice when these things happen and I can recover, before life spins out of control.

Disciplines to a more balanced/organized life:

  1. Daily quiet time with God BEFORE the day begins.  
  2. Pray over daily calendar.
  3. Know priorities and evaluate them yearly.
  4. Use a monthly and weekly calendar.
  5. Leave white space on the calendar:  at least 15 minutes between every task/appointment.
  6. Review calendar and set up the following week’s schedule on Friday, so the weekend can be enjoyed.
  7. Sabbath retreat the 31st of each month with 31 days.  Solitude, Prayer, Reflection, Planning
  8. Rest:  physical rest (early to bed/early to rise) and the kind of rest that means to quit striving
  9. Write it down: goals, appointments, thoughts for future, to do…
  10. Purge: 4 times per year focus on problem area in house and in schedule.  Purge.

It takes discipline to be organized.  Like most everything worth having in life, organization comes from doing a few things you don’t want to do and making sacrifices.  It also takes real desire and want.  Not to want to be organized, but to want to have time to live life fully, to enjoy your home, your family, the things you choose to engage in, your friends.  

I don’t do it all.  I don’t strive to do it all.  I seek order, but solely to enable me to care for what I have (be a good steward) and to enjoy life.  When all I sought was organization, order and/or perfection, all I got was fatigue, illness and poor attitude.  Life and things managed me.  I now manage life and things as I follow God’s direction and seek to do only the very BEST things He has placed before me.  I can let go of the rest, knowing He has a plan and a time for everything.  I’m not missing out.  I’m not needing to keep up.  I’m getting to live, live fully.

I QUIT-So I can…

As a professional organizer, I find the greatest mistake people make in managing their time/lives, is NOT knowing when to QUIT.  We don’t like to QUIT-quitting is for losers.  I disagree.  Quitting is the sign of someone who knows their abilities and their limits.  You see, we CAN’T do it all.  Every day I see people attempting to do just that-do it all.  They post on Facebook, they blog, they seek guidance …  We all find ourselves in that place at times.  It is hard to QUIT.  It takes a lot of courage to QUIT.  It takes determination to QUIT.

When your house looks like this (see below), you realize it is time to QUIT.

2014-04-22 08.58.012014-04-22 08.58.39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are moving.  We are moving by choice (getting to build a new home).  The problem is, life doesn’t stop because we chose to move.  Work doesn’t slow down, mothering tasks don’t wait, family needs don’t cease to exist.  No, life marches on.  I could attempt to be “SuperMom”, but I’ve been down that road and have yet to have any real success.  I could attempt to squeeze moving tasks into an already full day, OR I can face reality and QUIT something.  All too often we attempt to restructure our days or rearrange our priorities.  There will be no success in doing either of those.  When we are faced with a major project/life event, the only solution to staying organized (and sane) is to quit something already on our plate.  What did I quit?  I quit blogging.  I don’t blog for a living.  I’d love to one day garner referrals or some income from blogging, but for now I blog as a hobby, a means of accountability and to engage with others through social media.  As I reviewed my goals, the projects on my plate, it became apparent I needed to QUIT blogging.  I can’t add hours to my day or days to my week.  I can only work within the parameters of a 24 hour 7 day week.  God designed it that way.  Time is finite.  The move will happen (actually we have to make 2 moves as a result of a quick sale of our current home-but who’s to complain in this market!?!)  It will take a few months, and there will be need for some “settling/nesting” time.  That’s OK.  I will blog when snippets of time become available.  But mostly, my time will be focused on this new life event/project.  I’ll quit blogging so I can make the new event/project a priority.  I’ll quit blogging so I can focus on the tasks at hand and enjoy this opportunity.  I’ll quit blogging because I simply don’t have time to blog and move.  I will QUIT so I can move.

If you are struggling to find time for everything please consider the following:

1.  STOP-step back and make a list of all your priorities/projects.

2.  ASSESS-which priorities/projects are non-negotiables-you CAN NOT give them up.  Be honest.  Can any of them be delegated?  Will quitting one of them mean the end of the world?

3.  IDENTIFY-name the priority/project that can be put on hold or discarded permanently.

4.  CREATE-a new priority and map out all of the tasks leading to its completion.

5.  PLUG IN-assign the tasks to specific weeks/days and if possible time slots.

6.  LET GO-be free from guilt over quitting.  Trust the opportunity will still exist when the new priority/project is completed.  Enjoy what you have opportunity for now.

 

 

 

No Goals, No Resolutions. Just a Theme. New Year, New Ideas, New Perspective.

I used to set New Year’s Resolutions and write out pages of goals.  Like many, I wound up stressed, feeling like a failure, repeatedly changing/modifying or updating my lists.  Not fun.  Not productive.  

Two years ago I was sharing with a friend and mentor that I felt God had given me a repeated message, summed up in two words.  I didn’t know what to do with them, they made no sense for that time in my life (at least not earthly sense) and I was finding myself discouraged.  She challenged me to consider the idea that God was speaking a “theme” into my life.  One He wanted me to heed, delve into.  One He wanted me to make the focus of my prayers, studies and thoughts.  Those first two words were “Come Home”.  I had gone back to work full-time after 11 years at home with my twin girls.  It seemed a necessity.  If you recall, we had a little financial crisis in our country-one that impacted my husband appraisal business, our investments and our joint home building business.  We had scaled back, were faced with some difficult decisions about financial support of some extended family, and in many ways jolted into a new reality. We had once been able to give generously to our church, ministries, friends and family.  His telling me to “Come Home” made no sense.  While we had made the financial changes we could, some that should have been made years earlier, we were by no means in a great place financially.  Nor did it look like there was going to be any great turnaround in our country’s economy. Yet, the more I prayed, the louder the words.  The more often something hit at those words.  The more I prayed, the more frustrated and unhappy my family became.  We were all scurrying around and behaving like little grumps!  Thankfully I am married to a man of faith.  After spending time in prayer himself and hearing me out, he knew to bless my decision.  We’ve learned the hard way not to mess with God’s guidance.  So, home I came.  No more working outside the home full-time for someone else.  I got my real estate license and began researching professional organizing.  

The next year, I felt strongly God saying, “Provision not Position or Prosperity”.  This time I heeded quickly.  At first I thought God was challenging me to have a little more faith.  To trust He would provide.   Didn’t sound too hard.  That was part of it, but certainly not the crux of it.  As I prayed over those words, found myself stumbling upon scripture hitting on that theme, I realized God was asking me to let go of what I thought had to be, what I thought I needed.  He was asking me to let go of my need to achieve, to do, and focus on being.  A huge part of the process was also developing a heart of gratitude.  The journey wasn’t easy.  Next to my six year battle with infertility, this past year was probably one of the most difficult spiritually.  I took almost a full year to go through Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” study (lots of rabbits to chase as the digging in led me to other books, conversations and scripture), coming to grips with things holding me captive, keeping me from a full life in Christ.  It has been a freeing year, but I have felt bruised and battered at times.  I found comfort and words of encouragement as well as instruction and wisdom in blogs and/or books recommended by women of faith I follow on social networks.  Thus, the birth of this blog.  I saw a level of community, a way to develop my love of writing and most importantly a place to hold myself accountable.  

I share all of the above with you to say this:  I no longer set lofty goals or resolutions.  Instead, as the year comes to a close (about October) I begin earnestly praying for God to give me a word and a verse-a theme for the year.  I am open to the idea He might not change the word(s) because He might not be done with that area of my life yet.  I pray.  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I write (journal).  The words, the theme, become my guiding principle for the year.  As I make decisions about what to do, where to go, changes to make, I look at them through the lens of these words.  If there is a connection then it makes the list, it gets to stay.  If not, I put aside, knowing that if it is meant to be God will provide the way when the timing is right, when I am really ready.  

This year the given word is PEACE.  The scripture:  “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”  Isaiah 26:3.  While my mind initially went to ideas of quiet days at home, no children fighting, a less than full schedule, time to curl up and read, that’s not what God had in mind when He gave me the word PEACE.  The verse speaks volumes to where He is leading me.  He desires I have peace of mind.  I struggle with that one.  It was an issue I had to face last year as I studied, learned to accept His provision and trust Him for future provision.  I am a worrier.  Yes, I am well aware that is a sin.  If I could quit cold turkey I would have years ago.  I am not going to say I can’t, because I know I can.  It hasn’t happened yet because quite honestly I haven’t been ready to really let go.  I believe this year He will do a BIG work in me.  So, I enter the new year claiming His word to me.  I claim the scripture.  I will spend the next few weeks listening for His guidance as I pray over what activities to continue, new opportunities, what bible study to engage in etc…  Here are a few things I will focus on this next year as I seek PEACE by keeping my mind on Him and developing FAITH that truly trusts, trusts enough to let go:

1.  Read through the Bible.  I have failed at this many times.  This time though it is not a task or just something I want to do.  He has called me to keep my mind on Him.  I have a morning quiet time each day, but I feel compelled to spend it this year in His word and His word alone.  No devotional, just His word.  I have combined this with my desire to give each of my daughter’s a bible read by me, with notes and comments made by me for them.  This year I am using a bible my daughters bought for my grandmother a year before she passed away.  I will give it to one of my girls next Christmas.  The following year I will use a bible my mother-in-law left me before her death.  I will once again read through the bible, this time thinking of my other daughter.  I will give it to her Christmas 2015.  

2.  Advocare 24 Day Challenge followed by healthier eating and 5 days of exercise per week.  I have come to grips with the fact my body, at age 46, does not behave as it used to.  My mind is WAY TOO engaged in thinking about my body-how tired I am, the hot flashes, the pants that are too tight or don’t look flattering…  I need to kick start my system and work towards a healthier me so I am not thinking about my body so much.  It has been said we spend most of our thinking energy on those things we have not done, robbing ourselves of the energy and thought to carry out the things we want to do.  

There are some other things swirling in my mind, but I haven’t quite yet been able to get them articulated.  On January 31 I will do as I always do.  I will have my 31st Retreat.  I have blocked off the day, keeping it open for planning and reflection.  (see previous post about how I practice this throughout the year on the 31st)  I usually make the January 31st Retreat a big deal.  In fact, I will probably be in a hotel (in my city) alone with my journal, family planner, calendar, bible and a couple of my favorite devotional books.  I’ll have paper, highlighters etc…  This year, not only will I be finalizing plans, but I’ll be celebrating the end of the Advocare 24 day Challenge and hopefully will have a new sense of well-being and be able to get one thing off my mind!  I might even have to indulge in a little sliver of chocolate cake to celebrate!  

Yuck! I need to “Eat the Frog”

Someone who has an organizing business never wants to admit she has an organizing problem.  Someone who prides herself on staying organized, keeping a tidy home, etc… never wants to make the same admission.  But, as I go through Crystal’s book and continue to take myself on life’s journey, I have had to realize I need to “Eat the Frog.” I have just begun reading the book, but already convicted and already having to face my procrastination demon.  Yes, I have issues with procrastination-especially that ugly, hard thing I really need to do.  I love planning.  I love time management “systems”.  I can get carried away planning, finding perfect forms, etc…  At the end of the day though, those activities are simply my way of avoiding getting started.  Other days I can get started and work all around the ugly frog.  But the author is correct.  If you just go ahead and eat the frog, you feel great.  Accomplishment is a wonderful thing!

So, here’s my plan :)!  For two weeks, no new forms.  No long range planning.  Just tackle.  Just eating the frog.  I’m going to keep my priority list in front of me and stay focused.  I’m going to enjoy my family and mark some of those big items off my list.  I have a feeling I’m gonna feel pretty good.  I also have a feeling though it will be easy to fall back into avoiding the frogs.  I’ll never though if I don’t just start!