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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