The Calm After the S.T.O.R.M. – Part One
Whether you decide to go it alone, or hire professional help, how will you begin to become more organized? No, it’s not with an order to Target or a trip to The Container Store to buy drawer dividers, shelving units, or hangers. And it’s not by buying yet another “how to get organized” book, or even by reading this blog.
As I discussed earlier, you’ll want to make a commitment to have a calmer, more efficient life and space, or whatever your personal goals may be; a commitment of resources; and a commitment to look at your physical, emotional, and time clutter. And you’ll need a realistic view of the time it will take to organize your space or calendar. But perhaps most important of all is the ability to visualize your final result. That is, as you begin, keep the end in mind. Or to put it another way: how will you know when you’ve succeeded (or are succeeding)? Will your space be more serene, or more functional, or whatever quality you seek? Will you feel less stressed? Will you have more space in your day for the activities that increase your productivity or that bring you pleasure?
To try this out, select just one focus area – a room, a shelf, a closet, or a file drawer. It either can be the one most distressing to you, or the one that looks most nearly how you wish it would. Go walk there now, or if that’s not feasible, just picture it in your mind. Now, visualize how you would like that area to look or be.
Here’s an example. Recently, a client called for help to organize the master bedroom. As she showed me the room via Skype, my first question was: “What happens in this space?”
She said, “Well, we sleep here.” I just waited until she added, “Well, of course, we watch TV, and we sometimes have snacks. I do needlepoint, and my husband listens to music and reads the paper or a novel. And I pay the bills on my desk there (she moved her laptop so I could see the other side of the room), and sometimes all the kids pile up on our bed and we play board games or watch movies together.” She tossed a Lego into a basket on the nightstand, which was overflowing with magazines.
“And what would you like this space to be?”
“I want it to be a quiet refuge.” She sighed. “And I sure would like more romance…”
“I’m hearing that you want your bedroom to be a grownups-only place to sleep and relax and be intimate with your husband.”
She nodded “yes.”
“So let’s work together to figure out how to create that. Because right now, in addition to a bedroom, it’s an office, a den, a hideout, a library, and a playroom for the children, as well as a dining area and family room.”
I then introduced her to my S.T.O.R.M. system – “Sort, Toss, Organize, Review, Maintain.” Here’s how it works:
First, SORT everything in the room by its use. In this bedroom, I encouraged her to use the bed and the desk as a temporary “staging space.” With encouragement, she placed the magazines and newspapers next to books, then grouped together all her needlepoint supplies. She put the unpaid bills, stamps, and pens on the desk, and the dishes from last night’s snack into a large carton I had her mark “other rooms.” Into that “other rooms” box also went the library books, as well as the kids’ DVDs and toys. She put all the soiled clothes into the hamper, and the clean clothes on the bed. I instructed her not to take the time just yet to put everything away; just to SORT the things that belong in the room from those that don’t.
Now we started the second step: to TOSS, which is exactly what it sounds like. She threw out the trash. That pile of outdated coupons? They went too, along with leaky pens, partly-used tissues, and completed crossword puzzles. And what of those items she no longer wanted or needed, but which are not trash? I encouraged her to put them aside to donate later to a charity, sell them online or to a collector, save them to give to family members, or find them a new home through one of the many free recycling sites on the Internet, once the restrictions are lifted. Then after our session, she took the “other rooms” carton and put away its contents in the appropriate places around her house.
So if this were your bedroom, and you want it to be a sanctuary, and you have buy-in from your roommate, in this step you would remove everything that is not conducive to the tranquility you crave. The bill-paying desk. The kids’ toys. Even – especially – the TV, as well as your electronics and their docking stations. Several recent studies show that 46% to 60% of Americans look at our phones or check Facebook or Twitter each morning before we get out of bed. That number is even higher for Millennials. How does that create peace and intimacy?
TOSS also means that family gatherings now will be held in the living room, play room, or children’s bedrooms, not in yours. However, if you want your bedroom to be the family gathering place, that’s fine, but then it will not be a private, peaceful retreat. Your choice.
So you’ve SORTED and TOSSED. You are now looking at a space that has nothing in it that you don’t find functional, beautiful, or pleasing. You have relocated or recycled everything that does not belong to the vision you created for that space. Now what?
I always welcome your comments and organizing questions.