Fall is an extremely evocative time for me. I always looked forward to my October birthday, and I’d plan my Halloween costumes all year round, but the real thing that drew me to fall as a child is the same thing that draws me to it now: fresh starts.
It’s been years since my life was regulated by an academic calendar. Still, the subtle changes in light, the increasing crispness of the air, the crunchy carpet of leaves, and of course the changing colors all fill me with a sense of excitement. I am filled with memories of pristine new shoes, smart new clothes, clean blank notebooks and unused pens and pencils, and the little girl in me is jumping up and down.
I miss starting school, but it actually doesn’t have anything to do with new shoes, or even with the glory of the season. On the first day of school, with some help from parents, I arrived on time and prepared for the day ahead. My bag was packed with all the necessary supplies, my mind was sharp and open, and everyone was on equal footing. Nobody was behind or discouraged, yet.
Here is my favorite part: on first days of class teachers laid out their expectations. They said: here are the rules you must follow in order to succeed; this is what you will learn; these are the books you will need in order to complete your projects and assignments, here is how your success will be measured. There are very few mysteries in the way it works. If you play by the rules and do what you’re told, you will get good grades and learn something.
Adults rarely ever have success defined for them in such clear terms, and they rarely have the path to success laid out for them in manageable steps. I remember sitting down to my homework assignments some nights with eagerness, knowing that all the information I needed was either already inside of me, or readily available in a book nearby. It was simple, though it never really felt that way at the time.
What if someone with authority and experience were to approach you now and say this: “Here are your goals for the year, here are the steps you will need to take to achieve them, here are the resources you will need in order to take those steps, and if you do all of this in the way I have prescribed you will be prepared to take the next steps in your life at the end of the year.”
I am obviously a person who loved school. Not everyone does, and yet clearly expressed and achievable goals with well thought-out action plans achieved over set periods of time are almost universally supportive of growth and productivity. When I meet with a client for the first time, or re-evaluate after working with them for awhile, I am effectively customizing a curriculum for them based on the goals I hear them expressing.
As the school year progresses, the excitement wears off. The real work begins. Mistakes are made, deadlines are missed and one starts to fall behind. Motivation occasionally falters. Imperfections are rampant. Time is mismanaged and one stays up all night trying to finish a project. The new shoes have scuff marks on them, books are dog-eared, and notebooks are misplaced. It is not the perfect, pristine, productive year it was supposed to be. It’s just like all the other years, but with slightly different content.
The organizing process is also ongoing and it is never quite as pretty as it looks in pictures, but there is the extraordinary benefit of being able to take specific steps toward clear and achievable goals. Organizing is palpable: you can see and feel it happening around you and inside you. When it’s working, you don’t have to wonder if you’re on the right track, focusing on the right things, or making any progress.
If you’re as excited as I am about fall, fresh starts, and the idea of getting assignments designed precisely to get you where you want to go, then now is an excellent time to hire an organizer. Click here, to book an appointment. If not, maybe a new pair of loafers and a fresh notebook will suffice.
Fall is an ideal time to check in with your wardrobe. Regardless of the dimensions of your closet or the size of your collection, the temperature is dropping and spring and summer clothes should no longer be the most accessible. The clothes at the top of your neatly folded piles, or hanging directly in your line of site when you open your closet doors should be fall or winter friendly, fit you perfectly, and reflect your current taste and style. So how do you get there? Here are the steps:
1. Perform a ruthless evaluation of spring and summer clothing. What did you love wearing? What did you hate wearing? *What did you never ever wear? Neatly fold the items you loved wearing and place them in a plastic bin for winter storage, or move them to a back rack in your closet. Include winter/spring shoes and accessories. If you have more than one bin, label each one so that you can find your sandals and bathing suits for winter or spring vacations.
2. Appraise the less-loved or unworn spring and summer clothing. Choose what to donate and put it into bags. Put the items you just aren’t sure about, into a dedicated box or bin labeled “quarantine.” These items will be stored for a year giving you a chance to make up your mind, lose ten pounds, or start loving polyester.
3. You should now have free space in your closet, drawers, or shelves for winter clothes. Take this time to arrange winter clothes in a way that will work for you. As you go through them, notice which items you are happy to see, and which items look outdated or worn out. If you are ready to let go of any items now, **bag them immediately! Otherwise keep this information in mind come spring when it’s time to repeat the process.
Don’t want to deal with this on your own? Click here to schedule an appointment.
*Keep all your hangers pointing in the same direction. When you wear an item, hang it back up with the hanger facing the opposite direction. By the end of the season you will be able to see how much of your wardrobe you actually wore based on the direction of the hangers.
**Keep a shopping bag for donations in your closet. As you find a shirt here or a sweater there that you think may be more useful or flattering to someone else, put it in the bag right away. When the bag gets full, take it to your favorite charity and replace it with an empty bag.
I have been married for just over a month! The months leading up to the wedding were extraordinary. The anticipation increased past a point my mellow self was comfortable with, and at the last minute, I was still scrambling to finish or let go of the professional projects I had taken on. The month of the wedding, on the other hand, was a non-stop celebration, some of it taking place on a honeymoon in Portugal. Now, finally, I am back, and still trying to settle in. This is not the first time in my life I have been painfully aware of the importance of organizing during life transitions, but I’m finding that this time in particular, I need to practice what I’ve been preaching.
Whether you are conscious of it or not, your present moment is reflected in the spaces in which you spend your time. Your home is particularly revealing about the current state of your life, and it can also be a tool to help you live the life you want. Changes or adjustments in your home will have symbolic and practical effects on your life.
Organization is both a tool to improve your life and also a necessary process for maintaining it. When you choose to put silverware in that place in the kitchen, and then put it away in that place every time they are cleaned, you are organizing. When you unpack groceries you are organizing. When you put away laundry you are organizing. These processes become habitual, evolving to match the rhythm of life in the place where that living and organizing is happening.
When something changes - something big like a death in the family, a new career, a move, a retirement, a breakup, or a marriage, your home inevitably changes as well. This seems obvious, especially in some cases. Moving to another place, your home is undoubtedly changing. And yet, in times of transition most people try as hard as they can to hang on and keep things the same.
I once heard a story of an affluent couple living in a very large house with many rooms. As their only daughter grew up, instead of substituting a bed for a crib, a dresser for a changing table, they moved her into a new bedroom, preserving the old one like a museum dedicated to each stage of their daughter’s childhood. This couple used their resources to move forward without ever letting go of the past. What an eerie luxury!
All transitions are governed by the passage of time. In a static universe there would be no need for organization. In contrast, our dynamic lives call for organization and reorganization.
Just as personal goals can be achieved more easily through symbolic or practical changes to physical spaces. Conscious clutter clearing, rearrangement, and analysis of the systems we are using on a regular basis can ease the mind and heart during troubled times, help with the processing of grief, improve learning, improve family dynamics, contribute to the health of a relationship, build independence, and support professional success or financial prosperity.
When I am going through a transition, I am enveloped by my emotions. I am so absorbed by the changes taking place, and my feelings about those changes, that it is difficult to look at things objectively. Navigating logistical processes and making decisions becomes extremely challenging. I first look for help from family and friends, then I reach out to various professionals. The challenges of a transition are only exacerbated when a change or event affects an entire family. When, for example, a loved one dies, the grieving family is left with a massive organizing project, and yet their ability to handle it is severely compromised, putting their relationships and their emotional health at risk. This is when professional support can be most effective.
As my new husband and I settle back into our daily routines, we are redefining and re-evaluating many aspects of our personal and professional lives. Unlike many newly married couples, we live in the same wonderful apartment we did before we got married, but it isn’t the same. For months, I have been engaged in the process of donating clutter and old possessions to make room for the wonderful gifts our friends and family have so generously given us. This process helps me understand and adjust to the less obvious changes that have taken place below the surface.
Before beginning work this week I rearranged my office yet again to reflect a new chapter in my professional life, and my husband has completely rearranged his daily work schedule. Bringing our awareness to the changes we want to make through reorganization of our space and our time empowers us to define how we want to live. I think that might be my definition of freedom.
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