Day 5: New Patterns of Thinking

The hardest part about changing habits is it requires, well, change. Pretty self-explanatory, huh? On a whole, people resist change. It’s why we don’t lose weight when we “keep meaning to work out,” why we settle back into the couch with take-out to watch another movie instead of cooking our own balanced meal and eating it at the dining room table as a family, and why leave our deodorant on the bathroom sink counter top instead of putting it out of sight in the cabinet after each use.

I’ve been asked how I am going to keep the momentum for this project going, how I expect the change in my organizational lifestyle to stick. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure, but I do know that step one is to actively change my patterns of thought. In this post, I decided to share how I’m doing that and how you can, too.

Introduction: Debunking the I’m OK, You’re OK and Just Do It Mentalities

Now, I’m a bit of a self-help book junkie, and I enjoy reading all those little magazine and Internet site articles on “how-to” do this, that, or the other thing. Over the years, I’ve been finding a common set of problems with these things I read. First, many of them fall in the “just do it” category, which really isn’t 100% helpful, because let’s face it: I don’t wanna. If it’s work, it’s hard, and it’s not relaxing or fun. Telling me to “just do it” is like asking a slab of marble to suddenly change into a sculpture. On the other hand, the extreme encourages me to feel good about myself, that “I’m OK,” and that I can improve myself if I want to “for me.”

Let me tell you, while these two extremes are occasionally true, they are mostly lies. The feel-good group is ignoring that I’m basically a lazy, selfish, unmotivated person at heart, even if I tell you otherwise. The just-do-it group is forgetting that I need more than just a kick in the pants, because I’m also pretty sensitive, an ultra-perfectionist who has become discouraged, and a little lost as to how to “just do it.” In other words, I need the play-by-play from the coach, and I need some cheerleaders on the sidelines. I need to be inspired, but I also need some practical advice in manageable chunks. That’s what I hope this blog will do, both for me and those who read about my efforts.

New Thought Pattern #1: Remove Distractions and Hard Decisions

Sometimes half the battle of maintaining order is simply that you are overwhelmed by decisions. Do I need this cup? Where does that random battery go? How did I end up with grandma’s tea pot I hate? Where will I put that inflatable mattress we got for guests who visit? In the end, the only decision we can make is to postpone making the decisions.

I’ve come to realize that a lot of my mess is simply things that I don’t really use and take up space that could really better be occupied by the things I do use. For long spaces of time, I actively avoided making a point to put things in order because it was too hard to figure out to do with my excess stuff. I just had to see it as excess before I could clear up space for the necessary things. The piles of laundry I kept doing were full of shirts, jeans, and socks I never wore but rarely ever got into my dresser or closet because I didn’t know where to put them and then they’d end up on the floor and I’d wash them again and again. AND AGAIN. It’s embarrassing, but true. I spent extra energy washing clothing I never wore because it kept getting dirty just by sitting on my carpet in my house that I share with a dog who sheds. I finally woke up and realized I was making life harder and getting distracted by thinking doing the laundry would help clean up my house, when really I was doing work I never had to do. At long last, Goodwill got my piles of clothing, and suddenly I had room in my closet for the clothing I actually did wear on a regular basis, and each skirt, shirt, dress, and pair of slacks or jeans had a home.

I also had to realize that I was clinging to a lot of stuff because I thought I’d need it one day (my grandmothers who survived the Great Depression taught me well), or I’d need to keep documentation of my college work if there was any ever question, or I had to treasure that knick-knack that a family member gave me just because they were the ones who gave it to me, even though I didn’t really like it or use it. Don’t believe that lie, friend. It is hard to part with gifts, but if your household storage real estate is in high demand, pass the unwanted gift along to someone who actually does want it. Give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or if it is valuable, sell it on eBay or Craigslist. Don’t let your random things tell you how to live or discourage you. I went down that road way too long.

New Thought Pattern #2: Simple and Good Quality  is Better

This goes hand-in-hand with getting rid of the extra stuff, but it also is a way of living that requires conscious thought and intent. Keep what you truly need or love. Sell, give away, throw out, or recycle what you don’t. I’ve been learning to focus on quality, not quantity. I don’t really need 10 pairs of cheap black shoes when 3 pairs of quality heels and/or flats will do the trick, last longer, and look better.

I’ve heard over and over again the 80/20 rule when it comes to cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing, and I really think it is true: we only use 20% of what we own 80% of the time. Think about it. That means that 60% of what we own is either occasional-use-only, or unnecessary. That’s a lot of stuff to spend our hard-earned money on and not be needed.

New Thought Pattern #3: Maintain Designated Places

Before I began this blog, I had already worked towards better organization in my life for nearly a year, to some level of success. It’s a work in progress, for sure. One thing that I’ve definitely noticed after paring down to essentials, simplifying, and removing distractions and hard decisions, is an improvement in making places for things. Designated places. And I’m making conscious decisions to put them back in their places when I’m done using them and not bringing in anything that doesn’t belong into their spaces.

New Thought Pattern #4: Stay Accountable and Positive

Change is not going to happen overnight. I’m sorry, it just won’t. That’s the hard truth. However, that doesn’t mean that every time I fail to put something back into its place I’m in a downward spiral of doom and might as well give up. It just means I’m human, busy and need a break.

It does help to be accountable to someone though, or in my case, many someones. I’m blessed to have a husband who is completely on board with my project. I also have my readers, and let me tell ya, nothing keeps you motivated like opening up your junk drawers to the interwebs on a regular basis!

All in all, though, I’m learning to take things in smaller chunks (hence the drawer-by-drawer process I’ve recently adapted), and to appreciate the time I’ve saved by becoming more organized, and also how good I feel when I can find things. I’m learning to enjoy the journey.

{Photo:  brainloc}



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2 responses to “Day 5: New Patterns of Thinking

  1. Anneh

    It is so true! And, sadly for me, my husband is part of the “just do it” camp. Okay, it has worked for him, but boys are just different in this, just like in many other things. I too need a coach to ask me (again) if I really need that piece of string, and a bevy of cheerleaders to reinforce that I’ll live without it and there really is more string in the world! Thanks for writing this…I’ll be reading it again!

  2. wow, are you my long lost twin?? I totally did the clothing thing too, got rid of half of those clothes last year, the other half is going soon! I decided to finally do something about my mess for the new year. I’m removing everything from a room that is not essential to daily life and putting it all in a storage room to go through (plan is by February). So far I have the bedroom and half the living room done. I love the self help books to0- I started reading How to unclutter your life in one week and that got me started. Good luck, look forward to following your progress!

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