Organizing vs. Doing
I am an organized person by nature. I don’t have to think too much about how to organize something, whether it be a spot in my house, a collection of items, or a project. I simply look at what I need to do and a plan just sort of comes to me. This is not to say, however, that I don’t teak whatever system it is that I have in place should the need arise. Many times our needs change and/or our system evolves or changes organically simply because those needs change or because something isn’t working for us. A system can always be a work in progress.
I wasn’t always organized. I remember my mother forcing me to clean my room every once in a while when I was young because it just got so ugly. I hated those cleaning sessions. I hated sorting through all of the dolls, all of the dolls’ clothing, the books, the accessories, the whatever. It was such a process, an event that took the better part of the day to complete. I hated spending the time fixing it all. But I sure did love it when it was done and I knew where everything was. I tried to maintain that level or organization for as long as possible. But somewhere along the line I just gave up and the messiness would start all over again.
So what prompted me to be so organized in my adult life? Looking back, I can only recall one event. My father was not very organized. He had a rough idea of where something was, and for the most part, he could find it. But there were those rare occasions when something would go missing and he could not find it. I remember him getting so mad because it was usually something he needed for work. Almost always we were able to help him find it in the end, but getting there was such a process, helping him retrace his steps, looking in drawers, under papers, in rooms where he may or may not have set something down.
At some point, probably when I was in middle school, I just decided that when I grew up, I would have everything organized and know where it all was—a place for everything, and everything in its place. (Somehow, I’ve taken it a bit too far and am just slightly OCD with this, knowing not only where everything lives, but at what exact angle it should live, rearranging things if they’re slightly out of alignment. But that’s another story for another day.) And it’s worked—I don’t search for things I need right before I leave the house—I know where everything thing is because I always put it where it belongs.
And therein lies the secret of being organized: It. Is. Work.
My husband and I are opposites when it comes to organization. I’m slightly (some may say more than slightly) OCD about it, while he is nowhere near it. He can leave things lying around willy-nilly, not remember where that place is, and spend time before leaving the house searching for his wallet/cell phone/keys/sunglasses/whatever. It doesn’t bother him. But me, I like to be able to pick up my stuff and get on with my day, no extra time spent searching for something.
In my quest for more time in life, I was thinking about all of this the other day. Who has it better, really: the husband who spends only certain times looking for things he needs when he needs them, or me who spends the good part of an hour or more each day making sure that things are where they belong?
I would say that he’s ahead of the game. Even though he lays things down willy-nilly, he generally puts them in the same places. True, there can be several places to look, but usually something is in one of those locations. And he doesn’t spend every day searching for these items, only when he’s put them in an unusual place (or when I’ve put them in the “correct” place).
But me…I spend so much time putting things away, making sure they’re where they should be, making sure everything is at an acceptable level of tidiness. (True, I can loosen my grip on what is acceptable; it is something I am working on, always a work-in-progress.) But this happens several times a day with an array of things. So, yeah, I’d say I spend way more time on tidying than he does searching. Of course, disorganization is not something that I am comfortable with whereas it doesn’t bother him in the least (until the moment when it does).
I can also spend an inordinate amount of time deciding how to organize something, rather than focusing on just getting it done or saying good enough is good enough. I can usually start without an issue—I start small with just what is needed. But then I think about it too much and wonder if changing this or altering that might be more beneficial. I spend too much time thinking about how to organize the project (paper lists versus an app; pullout sheets in my planner versus a bound notebook; etc.) and waste time. Sometimes, in the amount of time it takes me to decide on how something should be organized, I could have finished the stupid thing.
I’m currently going through this now. I had my planning system all set into place. It worked. I liked it. But then I had some changes, both with planners (buying two—one and two—Van der Spek planners, and selling some Filofaxes) and notebooks (the Traveler’s Notebooks didn’t work for me, and so I moved to Moleskines).
I’m starting to rethink the Moleskines. Why, I couldn’t say—I love them; they work for me. But maybe I’m just getting restless and need a change. But it’s totally not necessary. I’m also starting to think about a new planner—maybe. But with that, come options: color, size, brand. There are so many options, how to decide? What would work best?
Maybe I should just shut up and stick with what I have. After all, it works and I like it.
But that’s the problem with planner peace—even though you’re happy with what you’ve got going on and it works just fine, you get bored because nothing changes. And having the ability to move around and reorganize, well isn’t that why a lot of us are here, because we have that passion to do so?
I can’t say what will happen in the end. What I can say is that my mind is thinking of something new, a new change, a fresh was to organize my stuff and my time. Of course, ironically, that takes time, time I’m currently trying to recapture and rename and reevaluate.
I often wonder if I wouldn’t be better off just letting go of being organized, of remembering what I happen to remember in my head and let the rest of it go, of not keeping lists of lists and being the one who gets it done. The world will still go on. But…
I am who I am, and that will probably never change. I like being organized. I like a clean and tidy space. It makes me feel in control when so much of life is out of our control. (Then again, I could just let go of control.)
I also like a fresh start sometimes. I feel like now is as good a time as any. I feel like I need a bit of a change in life, even if it comes in the small form of my planner and/or my system. So I will need to invest the time to make this happen. The trick is to find that balance of organizing/planning/researching and doing (or not doing if I’m looking to relax), not spending too much time on either one. We shall see how it all works out.
So it goes…