I was once a notoriously disorganized person. From the day I was born until the birth of my own child, I lived in a constant state of chaos. I was a classic, right-brained creative type, operating out of piles, spending half my days searching for things. I lost absolutely everything you could possibly imagine. The usual little stuff: keys, watches, umbrellas, gloves, wallets—things you simply stop buying after a while.
I would lose big things, too. I actually lost someone’s car once.
I was one of those people who lived “in the moment”—spontaneous and charming, but never planning more than one minute into the future. As a result, I was always scrambling and frequently didn’t get things done on time, either because I forgot I had to do them, or because I couldn’t find whatever I needed to get the task done.
The truth was, no matter how disorganized I was, I always seemed to pull things off. Somehow, by the skin of my teeth, I always made it to events, produced high quality work, pleased my teachers and my employers. I felt charmed somehow, a bit invincible.
My day of reckoning came when I had a baby. When she was three weeks old, I decided it’d be a beautiful day to take her for a walk by the waterfront. When she got up from a nap, my husband went to get the car, and I went to get Jessi. Suddenly I realized, “Hey, I should probably take along a few supplies!” What did I need? Let’s see, diapers, a blanket… Oh, yes, a little sweater, and maybe a toy or two.
I starting running around the house, gathering items. Every time I thought I was ready, I’d think of something else to bring. By the time I was packed up, more than 2 hours had passed and Jessi had fallen back asleep. I looked down at my innocent baby asleep in her crib. I had missed the moment. I truly believed my child would not have a full life because I was disorganized. And that seemed profoundly unfair.
So I told my husband that the walk was called off, and I sat down to organize the diaper bag. Staring at all the items I had gathered for our outing, I began by grouping all the supplies into categories that made sense to me: things to keep her warm with in one group (blanket, change of clothes, sweater); things to feed her with in another group (water bottle, pacifier); things to change her with in another (diapers, wipes, powder); and finally things to entertain her with (toys, music for the car).
Then I assigned each category of items a particular section of the bag, so that I could quickly get my hands on items when I needed them and know at a glance if anything was missing. When I was finished, I wrote out an inventory of what belonged in the bag because I thought, “I never want to go through this process again!” I ended by tucking the inventory into its own special pocket in the bag as well, to make restocking the bag easy. Ba-Boom! I had done it! That bag was organized! I felt powerful. I felt liberated.
That diaper bag was the first thing I ever successfully organized. And though it sounds small, it was truly significant to me. Because it wasn’t about the diaper bag. It was about being able to take care of my child. Never again would my daughter miss an opportunity because I wasn't ready.
And isn’t that is what being organized is all about? It’s about being ready. Ready for the phone to ring by a friend to drop over for a welcome visit. Ready to pursue your passions. Ready to jump on career opportunities, and react on your toes to surprises. Instead of stuck behind looking for your keys…
Many clients and readers wonder why was this attempt at getting organized so successful, when all my other efforts had been in vain? It was because, for the first time, I saw something on the other side of the clutter that I wanted. I saw being organized as a means to a much higher goal: the ability to serve my child. Breakthrough never occurs when you are looking at the mess. Organizing is not the destination; it’s the gateway to your higher goals.
And because I started small. For the next six months, all that was organized was that diaper bag. After that, I tackled other areas of my house—my drawers, my closets, papers, and so on—always using the same basic approach I used to organize that diaper bag. The rest, as they say, is history. I had happily discovered that organizing is a very straightforward skill, learnable even by the likes of someone as once hopelessly disorganized as me.
It has become my professional mission in life to help every person who feels trapped by chaos or burdened by rigid organizing systems make that same life-changing discovery. So, no matter how long you have been disorganized, and no matter what form of clutter is keeping you from achieving your goals, there is hope. What do you see on the other side of the clutter? I promise we can get you there.