The Emotional Impact of Organization
When I was writing the original Sweet, Sweet Organization post for the #GetItTogetherHop, I was also in the process of cleaning my apartment for my mom’s impending visit over Labor Day. In some ways, cleaning off my desk was the easiest part of that process (as of this post, I’m still in the middle of it). It’s something I do regularly, for me. I find that having a mostly clear desk makes it easier for me to write. If only because I have the space to rest my arms and laptop/iPad.
If you’ve read the #GetItTogetherHop posts, you’ll see a common theme of how organization methods both reduce and create stress and impact mental health. This is definitely true for me. Having a clearer desk gives me more mental space as well as physical since I’m not feeling as crowded. Every piece of paper sitting on my desk chatters at me to be dealt with. And I generate a crap ton of paper for as much as I live my life in an online environment. Certain things, like my check book, also have a designated space they occupy. If they are not in that dedicated space when I need them, like to pay rent, I get more anxious and bitchier the longer I can’t find them. Ask my family how many times I’ve bitten off their heads when I haven’t been able to find something because it’s not in or near the last place I remember seeing it. Half the time it *is* near the place, but hidden under something.
Let’s talk about moving and storage for a little bit. Mainly because I went home last weekend and was forced to deal with, or at least acknowledge, the majority of things I had left in storage in various locations with my family. Moving is not pretty. No matter how organized I am, and I am thanking whatever deities there are that I thought ahead enough to label many of the boxes that weren’t see-through, moving turns me into an emotionally battered bitch. I hate subjecting my family to that, but they continue to volunteer to assist despite this. Dad and I were reminiscing over my last full day in Iowa. Not. Pretty. The problem is all of the decision-making you have to do. You have to touch every single tiny ass object and make a decision about it. Does it go with you? If so, where do you pack it? Does it go in the trash? Recycling? Can you sell it? Should you give it to someone? So many questions. And I fret over each and every answer. Fretting is your enemy when you have so much to go through even when you think you have budgeted yourself enough time. I had a month to go through my things in Iowa. I used that month. It was nowhere near enough.
At one point on Monday, while standing in my parents’ garage looking at what was sitting in there (and my parents’ garage is not finished, so that’s another issue), my mom asked me something and the only thing I could tell her, warn her really, was “I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now.” All of these boxes were staring at me, demanding my emotional energy. And this was after I’d spent four hours on Friday culling about eight banker’s boxes of books out of my book collection sitting in my dad’s storage unit. The question my family kept asking me was “what do you want us to do with it?” I kept wanting to say, “did you not see everything I threw out/decided to get rid of in some manner?!?!?!”
The final kick in the emotional can was when the used book store I went to offered me only $40 for the eight boxes of books. $5 per box. If I could have, I would have boxed up a good half of those books so I could give them to someone, FOR FREE, who would appreciate the treasure trove I had built up over the years. But I didn’t have the space, nor the time, to do that. Luckily, both my parents saw how fragile I was at that point, and didn’t speak much about it. A little unexpectedly, I started crying as I wrote this bit because I’m still grieving the loss of that collection. And this was something I had been planning on doing for almost a year. It’s because I know that collection was special, and I couldn’t treat it the way it deserved because of the time and space constraints forced upon me.
That is the emotional toll of organization. It’s all about managing your time and space. Being organized in a way that works for your situation can be a very good thing. Having outside constraints force you to be organized in a way that is not ideal for you can suck you down quickly. I am glad to have lightened my mental load with not owning as much stuff, even though I didn’t see it on a regular basis. I wish I could have been able to better control the dispersal of the most meaningful part of that “stuff” in a way that was emotionally healthier for me. If you want to be more organized, whether with time or space, I think the key is to find a system that minimizes the amount of decisions you have to make. It should help relieve the stress in your life, not contribute to it. Good luck!