I’m not here to tell you that you need to get organized and that every corner of your house needs to be perfect without so much as a fork out of place.
If that’s your thing, then go for it, but what I would like to say is that being organized can bring some calm into your life and I think that might make you happier.
So If I Get Organized, I’ll Be Happier?
Technically I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist or psychologist, but I do believe that if you can get organized you can take a lot of frustration out of your life.
And less frustration equals more room for happiness. Right?
Let’s walk through a normal day of a disorganized person. We’ll call her Sally.
Sally wakes up to the alarm on her cracked phone because she took the cover off of it the other day and put it down somewhere and couldn’t remember where and of course she dropped it on the tile floor ten minutes later.
Think about that for once second. If you have a cracked phone screen then odds are the very first thing you look at every morning is a source of frustration. And often a cracked screen is the result of some type of disorganization.
Now it’s time for Sally to get dressed for the day. She picks through a pile of clean but not folded laundry until she finds something acceptable.
It’s not necessarily cute or even an “outfit” and it’s definitely a tiny bit wrinkled, but she’s a busy mom, people will understand, right?
She doesn’t feel great in it though. And she tells herself she’s definitely putting all of that laundry away tonight and laying out a cute outfit for tomorrow.
Sally spends the next 20 minutes looking for shoes, throwing together lunch and trying remember where she left her keys.
(They are in the fridge with the lunch her husband made her and didn’t want her to leave the house without. But, she forgot about that kind gesture and now she’s actually annoyed with him).
She hops in the car and heads for the drive through to get some coffee. But her coffee from yesterday is in the left cup holder and her coffee from the day before that is in the right cup holder.
She balances the steaming hot coffee between her knees. You already know what happens when she has to hit the breaks quickly.
Let’s move on to the afternoon, shall we?
At work she eats the lunch her husband made her. She feels guilty for getting mad at him this morning. She swallows the leftovers from dinner the night before in lumps.
After lunch she loses focus on her work while she thinks about that pile of laundry she is going home to. Oh and dinner. She should really stop at the phone store on the way home though and get her screen fixed.
Heading home finally and her husband calls to remind her that they have a parent teacher conference that night.
OH.MY.GOD. How could she forget that? What kind of a mother is she?
Dinner will have to be takeout, the phone store is out the window and she’s going to show up at parent teachers in her less than cute now very wrinkled “outfit”.
Where she’ll see all the other moms. And the teachers. And she knows no one really cares and that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but when Mrs. Feeney thinks of little Tommy’s mom, she’s going to remember the slightly disheveled one who was really nice, but not really very pulled together.
It’s an impression she’s left and she can’t take it back.
Not So Early Evening
Back home finally with take out for dinner. Sally eats standing up while throwing dishes in the dishwasher.
She swallows the last bites of her not at all healthy dinner just as she realizes no one has done homework yet.
She digs through the junk drawer that will never get organized (it’s called a junk drawer, right?) to find some pencils. Realizes all the pencils have broken tips and continues digging for a pencil sharpener.
Finally sitting down to help with homework, it turns out the youngest needs to cut stuff out as part of his homework.
At this point in the day, she’s visibly frustrated and actually annoyed that teachers expect her to go searching for the scissors at this point in the day. (That’s rational, right?).
Meanwhile the kids are getting those blank, wide eyed faces that are equal parts “I’m tired” and “Mommy seems mad”.
Sally is exhausted as she heads up the stairs and isn’t even really sure why.
She sends the kids to bed and walks into her room and is greeted with the same pile of clothes that she left sitting there this morning and she is no mood to even think of dealing with that mess that needs to get organized.
She digs through and grabs something comfortable to wear to bed and gets in her rumpled covers. She checks the alarm on her phone and is again annoyed by the cracked screen that she still hasn’t fixed and waits to fall asleep so she can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.
Ground Hog Day
The worst part of this day for Sally isn’t that it was filled with frustration, annoyance, mild embarrassment and anxiety. The worst part of this day is that she didn’t have time to do anything to make tomorrow a little bit better.
And I’d be willing to bet her exhaustion had less to do with how busy her day was and more to do with the range of emotion she experienced through out the day partly because she just doesn’t have time to get organized.
She woke up annoyed, she left the house angry she couldn’t find her keys, she felt guilty at work for being angry earlier, she had a wash of anxiety when she realized she’d forgotten parent teachers night, embarrassed that she was a wrinkled mess at school, guilt again at the terrible dinner she fed herself and her family, more aggravation with looking for homework supplies, another dose of guilt when she looked into her kids faces as her bad attitude spilled onto her face and out of her mouth and a final topping of utter exasperation when she realized it was all going to happen again tomorrow.
What Can Sally Do?
I’m not going to tell Sally that she needs to get organized. I really don’t think she’s in the mood to hear that, do you?
I think what I would say to Sally is this:
Life is hard even when it’s not even really that hard at all. Just the regular days are long and frustrating and busy.
The only way to make them a little less hard is to become best friends with Future You.
Who Is Future You?
Future you is just you, but tomorrow.
And I want Sally to start thinking about Future Sally as a separate person from herself. I know this is weird, but hear me out.
Sally is a mom and mom’s for the most part are totally accustomed to putting their own needs aside for other people.
It’s mostly about the kids at first, but as the kids grow, other people creep in. The PTA. Girl Scouts. The Basketball team. They all start to get a piece of her, too.
And Sally actually loves taking care of these people. She loves her kids and will do it all for them, happily and she loves that she’s able to do some things for the community, too. It feels good to help others. That’s the truth.
So, Sally is going to trick herself. She’s going to start believing that Future Sally is another separate person who needs her help.
When she finishes homework with the kids tomorrow night she’s going to think, Future Sally would really appreciate it if I put all of these school supplies in one box on this corner of the counter so that she doesn’t have to look for them tomorrow.
She’s going to call the phone store and make an appointment for Future Sally to stop in tomorrow on her lunch break because Future Sally wants to wake up to a perfect phone screen and have that first moment of her day be a positive one.
Just a couple of small things that she’ll feel good about doing for Future Sally and that will make her day a tiny bit better tomorrow.
What’s Next For Sally?
As the days get a little easier for Sally, she can start thinking about bigger projects that can help her turn those long hard days into long hard days dotted with moments of calm, smiles and peace.
Maybe she wants to learn how to declutter her home so that everything is a little easier to find?
Or maybe she’ll find time to update the wall decor in her home with her favorite Ikea wall decor?
Maybe she’ll find some laundry hacks so she can get that clothes pile under control?
Whatever she chooses to do, she won’t do any of those things until she starts to think about Future Sally and how she can make Future Sally’s day a little easier.
If every day continues to be struggle after struggle, nothing is going to change for Sally. But if she makes small changes for Future Sally, then she’ll start clearing time and energy to get some of the bigger stuff done.
So give Future You a chance at having a better day tomorrow! Think about her as you go through your day today and see how you can make her hard life a tiny bit easier.