Sunday, January 24, 2016

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 twoVan 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…

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post. I think this is something that I have struggled with for a long time as a recovering perfectionist! In the past, I found that it was just causing me stress, so over the years I have become more messy on purpose & fingers crossed it's working well for me so far. I set regular time aside to 'put things in their places' (from Benjamin Franklin) & I now enjoy it as I spend less time on it. I still like being organised, but I'm much more relaxed about it nowadays :)

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    1. Thanks, Anita. I, too, am a perfectionist, something I am trying to let go of. Sometimes it's easy; sometimes not so much. But I feel that recognizing and trying to "correct" it is the first step. I am trying to let go of the unnecessary stresses. It isn't easy, but I'll get there. :)

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  2. We change systems because we think that we just haven't found the perfect one yet. And we like buying new office supplies and that gives us an excuse. What happens is that we waste time setting up a new system, rather than doing things we really need to do. At time, I like to have a small Apica notebook, where I jot down what's working with my current system and what I think would work better. (And it has to be an Apica because that's the only way I can justify continuing to buy them!) It's interesting to revisit the madness :)

    I just started what works for me, again. It's a Moleskine reporter, 12 pages at the front for each month, two pages after those for each week. I usually use one page per week and leave the rest for reference, but decided to try two pages this year. I put things on the month page that I need to see at a glance. Stuff on the week pages are bills to pay, money spent, anything else specific to the week. I don't have a lot of things to track and my job doesn't generate a lot of action items. I have a journal I write in at night where I record the high and low temperatures, what I ate, and a few things about the day.

    I am waiting for the desire to own a Teal Filofax to pass, but I may have to save up for an Edison Conklin fountain pen. If all else fails, I've got a lot of Field Notes!

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    1. Very true! I almost shudder when I think of all the time I spent readjusting my system. Now I'm pretty happy, with the layout. I love my binders, but of course, that doesn't keep me from wanting more of them, though I'm a little more discerning about which ones I get, as I'm not a fan of buying and (re)selling if I don't like it.

      Notebooks are a very big attraction! I don't think I've seen the Moleskine reporter firsthand. (It doesn't sound like it would have enough room for me, as I prefer the daily layout, but I'm always curious to see different layouts and hear how others use them.)

      Good luck with your pen purchase!

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  3. You probably wouldn't like the Reporter (although they used to make a large version of it.) I like the orientation of it, better than the regular Moleskines. I spent last night trying to figure out if I needed a different planner/system/pen, etc. I even wrote down the things I'd like to try (like planning meals) and then tried to figure out a good way to do that. I have a blank full sized Moleskine and a small Habana notebook that I could use. I spent a lot of time looking at the Midori Traveler but finally decided it wouldn't work for me. I like to have a notebook I can archive. I don't want to keep track of bits and pieces, which is why I don't do ring binders any more.

    In the end, I pulled out a messed up Habana that I use for ink samples. Loaded up all my fountain pens and messed around with that for awhile. Decided that I'd be better off to go with what I have and use up more space for those things I wanted to track. It may turn out that I don't care about tracking them after all. I'm going to use a partially filled Moleskine for my morning pages. I used to write in the morning, but just jot down a bit about the day at night. I'll try doing both for awhile. While I'd like a new notebook with wonderful fountain pen friendly paper, I actually can use the Habanas for that. And I'm not using a pen on the Reporter anyway. I found a 1920s mechanical pencil, well loved and used, that fits perfectly at the side of the reporter. I did order a Pilot Metropolitan today, with some ink samples. We'll see if that's enough to do the trick.

    And one last thing, since I've looked at a lot of bullet journaling stuff lately, it's critical that your system be as simple as possible. I look at people tracking their water intake and it gives me the shudders. Back in 2008, I used a Palm and did everything online. My husband got pneumonia, wound up in the ICU and my charger was back at work. I couldn't access any of it. I haven't trusted digital since. And the moral is that you need to be able to access your info and keep things going in the worst circumstance possible. Something that works should not be discarded easily. (and I will keep reminding myself of this!)

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    1. I agree that simple is better. I do a lot of tracking, but not so much for looking back on it, as much as keeping track of it during that particular day. So I do track my water intake because it helps me focus on how much more I need for the remainder of the day. (I have a lot of sinus issues, and not having enough water makes them flare up and dries me out -- I often have to remind myself of this before I start feeling bad.)

      Trial and error to find what works is always fun, so long as it doesn't take away from the actual purpose for trying said items, which I used to fall into.

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  4. Very interesting to read someone from the other side. I'm am complicated with organization: I have a natural need for it, I hate, when I don't find something. And on the other side I have ADHD, what makes organizing for me a hard thing. Some of my friends wonder, how organized can some stuff by me (they are those things, what is easily organizable) and how chaotic is my flat generally. I'm now in a big declutter project since half a year, I try to get rid of such much thing as possible to get a maintainable system.

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    1. Do you read Patty Gardner's blog (planning with Patty) and/or Homemaker's Daily (formerly run by Patty but now run by Stephanie)? Both touch on organizing/planning for people with ADHD. I don't have any experience in that area, but the above blogs provide great tips.

      In my experience, organizing is a daunting project to anyone for whom it doesn't come naturally. People don't know where to begin, and if there's a lot, it's just overwhelming. My one general tip is to start small -- break it down into small chunks and try one thing at a time. It won'r necessarily work for everyone, but it's a place to start.

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    2. yes I do :)
      and read also a book about ADHD specific organizing, lot of thing makes sense, just I have do it. I work only 2 hours per week on this project, what is not overwhelming (only it is a very long process this way :))!

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    3. This is my frustration with projects and hobbies -- there's just not enough time to work on them. I, too, only get a couple of hours for them and it's frustrating. Work just gets in the way! ;)

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  5. My problem isn't boredom or hobby or any of that - it's a major life change that I can't wrap my head around. The way that I planned my whole adult life suddenly doesn't work anymore and I can't figure out how to make this new life work. So it isn't the planner - it's my life! I feel confident that once I can figure it out, the planner will fall into place. But so far that is eluding me.

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    1. Very true. It's been a while since I've had a major life change, and so I'm not used to seeing it from that perspective. We are thinking about buying a house in the near future (we're currently in a town house), which would turn things upside down a little, as far as how much I would need to keep track of. Because of this, I am thinking of upgrading my system somewhat. I haven't gotten too far with it, so who knows how it will turn out.

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  6. I am always deciding that I might like a new planner cover or something better might work. As it stands now, I love my blue one I purchased a few months ago. I like the style, the feel, everything. But I have found myself wondering if there might be something out there that I would like better. It happens. You are not alone in that struggle.

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    1. I do like to switch binders (and bags) for seasonal use. I love my Van der Spek binders, but they are pricey, so I have to be a little more choosey about spending money on them. With Filofax, I bought more binders because they were cheaper. (However, I find that the VDS quality is unmatched and so worth the cost.) So now it becomes a struggle of justifying an additional binder. We'll see. It's still on my mind, but at this point, I haven't purchased anything new.

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