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Chaos. Clarity. Action.

01.25.20 03:13 AM By Allison Moore

Week 3: Decide and Be Done.

“The Pirate”, who is rarely agreeable to any initial request, willingly threw away their toddler tub toys this week. They are going to be seven very soon, and these toys were clearly perceived as “babyish”.  Many mothers might experience a sense of sadness; the loss of a period of time that will be missed. Not me. In fact, I am sometimes shocked that I love parenting considering how little interest I had in babies. What did stand out to me was the ease with which “The Pirate” let go of the plastic turtles and toy fishing net. With a simple question, “Which of these toys do you want to keep?”, a clear, concise “None.” came back. “Okay, go put them in the garbage can.” And that is what happened. No discussion, no arguing, persuading or cajoling. It was just done and over in less than a minute. 

That sense of clarity and decisiveness is often missing from our adult world. We hem and haw, imagine all the what-ifs and just-in-case scenarios that cause us to hang on way too long. Maybe we are clinging to objects, people, jobs and roles that fit our life at one stage, and we fail to admit we have outgrown or matured beyond them. It’s hard to let it go - (sorry if the soundtrack just started playing in your head!) Maybe we are afraid of what is coming next. Maybe we don’t believe there is anything better than what was in the past. Maybe we lie to ourselves and still believe those things are fulfilling us. Our lives are happening now, and finding ways to quell the overwhelm, decision-fatigue and chaos around us is key to reducing the distractions that keep us from being present.

My view is that “organized” is often in the eye of the beholder. Regardless of how it looks, a system and structure are critical, so that we use less energy finding what we need or making a choice. Knowing what you have, and the ability to access it quickly reduces the amount of time used to locate and use said object. This prevents the inevitable racing heart, frazzled mind and tense muscles when we can’t find what we need. Cortisol levels increase and cause our bodies to go into an agitated state. This is great if you need to run away from a predator, but not so great when you are just trying to find your cell phone or keys for the fourth time today. Giving every possession a “home”, lets us make fewer decisions about where to put it, how and when to use it, and determining if we need to repair or replace it. Simplification of the mundane allows us to create space to tackle the meaningful choices in our lives.

In the weeks leading up to the decision to leave my Senior VP role, I started clearing my office of clutter. There were papers, files, binders and lots of odds and ends that I had accumulated over the years. Through this process, I was trying to create a sense of visual order that allowed me to see the best next steps. It was hard to throw out over a decade of work (I kept the most recent years), but the reality was none of it mattered in that moment. It did give me the opportunity to remember people and experiences that came and went over the years. It all made me who I am now, and gave me the strength to recognize I wanted to be more than who I was then. It took awhile longer to really choose a new path, and write my resignation notice, but sorting through all the “stuff” was as figurative as it was literal. 

A year later, I am doing a similar process in my house - going room by room, closet by closet and shelf by shelf to find and keep those possessions that bring us comfort, serve a clear purpose and add joy to our home. It is a process that will take much longer than the 31 days this month holds. We will continue to implement the exercise of keeping only what we need, use and love. There is a lot of competing research about happiness, joy and contentment, as it relates to a person’s organized environment. There is more to be done in this area, with broader groups of humans, however, knowing what you like, dislike and love is a critical skill to hone. Eliminating the excess, pointless and extraneous that distracts you from living a life defined by-you for-you is essential. Just get clear about who you are and what you need. If “The Pirate” can do it, we all can too.