Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hopelessly Messy AND Disorganized

What's the difference between messy and disorganized? Oh, wait, hold on. Let me look through my purse for a pen, nope, that's not it, that's a broken pencil. No, that's not it either, that's a Tide to Go pen. Where the hell is that little bugger of a writing implement? I know it's in here, I always put it in the middle section of my purse so it won't fall out, but it's hidden under receipts, business cards, gum wrappers and general crap. So, you see, I'm organized since I know where the pen is, but it's hidden under the mess.

If you take a stroll around my house on any given day (not giving me time to pick up), you would probably say that I'm am just a tad bit messy but not out-of-control messy. You may see shoes scattered about, clothes on counters, tables and chairs, mail stacked up on the kitchen counters, clean laundry still unfolded or better yet, laundry spilling out of the dryer - half in the basket and half still in the dryer, and some random dishes (especially cups and small plates) strewn about. It's not a horrific sight but it's making a statement about me and about my kids. It's saying, I don't have the time or energy to deal with you right now, I have become accustomed to your presence and I don't really care, or, maybe someone else will do something with you - maybe your owner will actually put you away. But, unfortunately, like me, my kids are messy too. They have inherited my messy, disorganized gene instead of my husband's more orderly one.

Take a look at example number 1: My Purse

I carry it everywhere. It's my lifeline, holding my phone, keys, sunglasses, tissue, lip stick, Kindle, wallet, pens, note cards, inhaler, Excedrin, hand sanitizer, etc. I love it when I get a new purse because I move all my necessities from my old purse to the new purse, omitting the trash and needless crap that my old purse has acquired but that I was too lazy or too busy to clean out. Receipts, used tissues, gum wrappers, loose change, old shopping lists, very old shopping lists and random shit my kids (especially my little one) puts in there for me to "hold".  Once the transfer is done, the old purse gets retired to a shelf in my closet (photo above), still loaded with the unwanted shit. Every purse in that photo has shit in it. There is stuff in there that dates back to when my 18 year old was a toddler. I'm sure I could find a pacifier in one of them, a baby toy? Now, I think of them as my time capsules. They hold stuff from years past and, at some point, I will sit down with them and take a walk through memory lane.

Take a look at example number 2: Baskets

We all have them, baskets. Those cute wicker black holes that suck in all that's important and then wave their hypnotizing powers over you saying "you will never remember you put that here, it will be erased from your memory. It is mine forever now, ba ha ha ha ha!" Well, I have multiple evil hypnotizing black holes throughout my home. I buy them and think, this would be great to hold all the bills, this one would be great for the kid's paperwork, awe, this one would be perfect for all the rest of the shit. Baskets are a great way to hide just that, shit. I appear organize, I look like I have my shit together with all of my nice little baskets but, I couldn't tell you what's in any of them. What I can tell you is that sometimes bills or extremely important, time sensitive material find their way to those baskets creating a wave of panic and frantic searching. Each time my heart races, worried I won't find what I need and each time I make a pledge to myself to get more organized.

Take a look at example number 3: My Kids

I'm not the only one who's messy or disorganized in my household; it seems to run in the family. With three kids, you would think that at least one of them would be organized, but they are not. While my little one can't find anything because of her lack of organization (school shoes, P.E. shorts, Ipod, Kindle, homework, school books, etc.), she's not just disorganized, she's messy. My middle child is a little different. She is messy but she knows, pretty much, where everything is. She seems to have a system to her messiness. She may go to school with a wrinkled top and skirt, but she knew exactly where they were on the floor of her room. She rarely forgets or loses things like my little one - like I said, she seems to have an organized system to her messy madness. My oldest is just lazy. He doesn't like to take time out of his day to put things away or pick up the clothes off his floor. While not completely disorganized, he does tend to do frantic searches for car keys, sunglasses, and random small articles.

So, just by analyzing my own family, I have determined that there is a difference between messy and disorganized. You can be one without the other or you can be both (oh Lord, I am both!). My husband claims he's neither, although, he tends to blame others for his breaks in being organized. Like the time he was convinced that his key for one of the cars was moved by someone else. He was certain of it and went into a full out search of the house, looking in everyone's drawers, my baskets (okay, it could have been there), everywhere. After an exhaustive search, he reached into his black hole of a laptop bag and pulled out the keys - the ones he placed there all on his own. There are other examples of this but you get the point. We are all guilty, at some point, of being a victim to our disorganization and or messiness.

Is there a genetic marker for being messy and/or disorganized? Or is being messy/disorganized a learned behavior that gets passed down from generation to generation? Certainly, each brain is wired differently. Some brains are great at keeping things organized as though they see where things fit clearly, like file folders. While other brains can't seem to retain any logical order to the thoughts or tasks in their head (that would be me). My brain seems to be a swirling vortex of thoughts, emotions, and information that fly around, continuously, never seeming to find a proper place to settle. I suppose, at times, you could even call me scatter-brained. I am a writer and crave organization, but struggle to do just that, organize. I bought a writer's program that neatly organizes your chapters, scenes, pictures, character development charts, and the like. But, for the life of me, I just can't seem to use it efficiently. After my second revision on one of my novels, using this program, I was more confused than when I had it all on a word document. It's just how my brain is wired and rewiring, has become too time consuming and frustrating.

I believe creative minds tend to be more messy and disorganized - not always, but often. I also believe that people have different thresholds for the amount of mess or disorganization they can handle. My kids can look at their tornado inspired room and say, "it's fine, It's not messy" while I cringe at the sight. My husband can look at my piles of random shit and ask, ever so politely, if there are any bills in there that he should be aware of while I look at it and think, maybe, most likely, but I'll get to it a little later, after I write a couple of chapters and play Candy Crush until I'm all out of lives. I don't like my messes, but, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), I file that in my messy, vortex of a brain, under, "I'll get to it when I get to it."

Don't get me wrong, I loath being messy and disorganized. I don't like clutter and I really don't like things out of place but, I also don't want to spend every waking moment cleaning and not creating, scheduled and not spontaneous, inelastic and not flexible. I need to find a happy medium, and at my age, I need to start finding places for important things and commit them to memory by retrieving them from the same place over and over again, before my memory begins to fail (okay, that's already happening). In addition, I need to help my kids find a balance between complete OCD organization (not that that will ever happen), and hoarding. It's a balance that if it's not part of our genetic makeup, we need to work at. We need to find what works for us individually and then follow through.

Here is a list of ten habits to better organization that I found on the web.

1. Write things down: I find that writing on actual paper with an actual pen helps me remember things. But, even if I do write them, I will sometimes forget. I plan on getting a small notebook for my already messy purse and writing my lists in it every day. Other things like appointments, I can input into my phone and add reminders. This is a start!

2. Make schedules and deadlines: For this, I plan on scheduling tidy time of one room each day. I also need to create a writing schedule and deadlines for when I will have certain goals completed. Marking a certain time each day, will help me zero in on what needs to be accomplished during that sitting period. If you have a hobby, a workout goal or just need a time to make family plans, write it on your calendar and follow through (I am not good at this at all! This will be challenging for me!)

3. Don't procrastinate: Oh boy, I am the world's biggest procrastinator. In fact, my youngest child's birthday was toward the beginning of March and I still haven't planned her birthday party. "Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today," rings in my ears. It is no secret that putting off things to the last minute only creates unnecessary stress and frustration. Avoid procrastination by adding what needs to get done on that list that you now have in your purse or on your phone. There is something greatly satisfying in physically crossing off the completed tasks on your list.

4. Give everything a home: This may take some time but, it has it's rewards. When things have a place, it's so much easier to put them away. You no longer have to think of where you can stuff something or where you should put something so you don't forget it. If it has a place, it will be easily found when it is needed. I do have homes for many of my things. Even my scissors have a drawer in the kitchen, but that doesn't mean they make it back to the drawer at the end of the day. Everyone in the house needs to learn where these homes are and you will need to enforce their placement until it becomes second nature.

(I'm just moving to 5 and I'm already exhausted!)

5. Declutter regularly: This in another thing you can schedule - a day when you go through paperwork, clean the purse, basket, magazines, etc. If it's done weekly, it won't take much time at all. Same goes for your brain. Try to purge the things, thoughts or ideas out of your head that only create chaos. Write it down and then let it go.

6. Keep only what you need: This is a tough one because, if we have it, we obviously think we need it. But, there is something freeing in letting go of some of the things that have no real meaning in our lives. That bike the kids have outgrown? Let another child enjoy it; that shelving unit in the hall that keeps collecting shit? Clean it up and give it away. Those gifts you keep to be nice but never use? Get over it and get rid of it. Remember, when you die, you can't take it with you. If your house burned down tomorrow, what could you possibly not live without? It's all just stuff. If it doesn't have a sentimental value and doesn't serve a purpose, it's not needed.

7. Know where to discard items: This is pretty self-explanatory. I have a thrift shop I call and they come and pick up all my items. All I have to do is set them on the driveway - easy peasy!

8. Stay away from bargains: Just because it's on sale, doesn't mean you need to buy it! Write down exactly what you need before you go out shopping. (Don't go grocery shopping when your hungry either - you will come home with food you will never eat - true story!).

9.  Delegate responsibilities: I often find myself saying, "if you want it done right, do it yourself," but, if I keep up this mentality, I will never have a moment to sit and relax. Sometimes, I have to just accept that it may not be done they way I would do it, but it's done nonetheless because I asked someone else to share the work. Kids need chores and you need help - it's a perfect fix. I don't delegate enough - I'm a work in progress on this one.

10. Work hard: Getting organized may seem like the hardest job to master at first. But I have to believe, with a little internal push or a swift kick in the ass, it will become easier over time and eventually become an invaluable habit.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I will create a deadline and give you an update (I'll get to that later - ha ha, just kidding!). I will work on these and give you an update in one month. May 14th will hopefully be met with an organized house and mind as well as a completed novel, ready for agent review.  Happy Organizing!

Do you have an organizational tip you would like to share? Please post it in the comments! I could use all the help I can get!

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