Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Here’s a confession, I wasn’t always an organized person and I’m still not organized 100% of the time. I’m only human. Read on to see how I decided to take the step into professional organising.
I Wasn’t Always Organised
I used to live in a big house growing up. Big house meant more space, more space meant more areas to dump my things and that’s what I did as a child. I would do my homework at the dining table after school and leave my things there while I moved on to do a different activity. Because it was a dining table after all, I had to move my things out of the way in order for dinner to be served. And this process would happen very fast. My dad would come and yell at me to clear my things out immediately. I would swiftly scoop everything up and dump it on the coffee table adjacent to the sofa in the living room. Come Saturday, my dad would again cause a scene and force me to clear the clutter off the coffee table. When I ignored his nagging I would find my things in the bin. So like many of you, I hated the process of keeping organized, especially with the negative reinforcements that came from my father.
How I Found Solace in Organising
Home life for me was often chaotic with a borderline parent and as I grew older I found solace in organizing not really as a conscious effort to have some control over my environment but the whole process became therapeutic for me despite the fact that my father had nagged at me about it earlier on. And as I approached secondary school, I started to want to keep the things I owned in my own room instead of leaving them by the coffee table so the nagging for that stopped.
The other reason for doing this was because I would occasionally get small itchy red bumps on my arms and knuckles. I figured that although my room was still manageable, not neat but also not terribly messy there was a lot of dust on my things, despite the fact that I had a live-in maid at that time. So I started cleaning up before each school term, because that was also the time when I had to use new school material and my old ones had to be properly stored so that I could easily refer to them for finals at the end of the year.
While my allergies subsided, I kept up this ritual before each school term and the reason for this was because I believed that it somehow made me more focused in my work and my grades started to improve. It became a ritualistic yet superstitious belief of mine. But the whole process of organizing was also like a right of transition for me from one phase to another. When I looked at the things that I used during that term together with photos and letters from friends, I was reminded of the people that I met and interacted with, good memories and also not so good ones. It was also a time for reflection for me as a way of self-improvement when I would often tell myself that I would become a better person next term in order to make better memories. And while I do not yet believe in the art of meditation, the whole process of organizing was a mindfulness ritual for me.
Why I’ve Decided to Make Organising as Part of My Career
Organising became more important to me when I started working because a lot of the work that I did was often cognitive. I needed a physical outlet to channel a lot of pent up anxiety that I had about my work. I started organizing around the house but things would often go back to where they were because my mum would dump different things in different places and she would even keep things that I threw out all over the house. She still does that by the way.
I would often get really frustrated with my mum especially when the weekends became so precious and I wanted to have a life outside of work which meant accomplishing different things over the weekend like learning a new skill, baking a cake, or cooking a difficult dish. I would find myself spending 1-2 hours just finding the baking tools around my kitchen and then searching intermittently as I was preparing my cake. I felt very disorganized and frustrated.
And so I decided to start organizing places around my house to keep everything more organized so I knew where certain categories of things were and where I could find them. I made a pact with my mum to start organizing around the house. It was also at this time that I was considering a change in career. I started reading and researching on many career advice articles and podcasts and one of the things that struck me was about “getting into a flow state” where you are able to be very productive in a certain activity because it is something that you are good at and enjoy doing. I started to reflect at what I was good at, had a natural talent for and what brought me joy and that was when I was organizing. And that's where I decided to go into professional organising which combined my love for architecture, interior design and pragmatism.
Curating the Life You Want
In my first blog post, I spoke about curation specifically about how to live a more curated and sustainable life. And that’s my purpose as a professional organizer in this journey – how to help others live a more curated life. The process of curation is about figuring out your life story, who you were, who you are and who you want to be. It’s about re-writing your metanarrative of what you want to see that reflects who you are. There will always be revisions and that’s when having an organizer with you can help a lot in the process of transition especially when it is difficult letting go of things.
Letting go of things wasn’t very difficult for me since young although it is much easier now that I have included it as part of my routine every 3-4 months. When I was younger, I used to have a variety of hobbies like collecting stickers and keychains from all over the world. I wouldn’t say that those things brought me immense joy. It was because I was expected to do those kinds of things mostly by my parents. Despite that fact, it took a while for me to finally let go of things that I once carefully collected. Once I realized that those things didn’t make me immensely happy or have a significant memory in my life other than my time spent collecting then it was easier to move on.
But what makes it easier for me to let go of things is how I approach things in the first place. Friends of mine have often told me that I process thoughts and decisions in a logical manner and I use this method of reasoning to my advantage when helping people to organize.
First of all:
Understand that organising is a process of transition in itself. Taking time to organise is also taking time to acknowledge the fact that you are willing and ready for change in your lives.
Ask yourself the hard questions and give yourself time to process but not too long
There are many things I have let go over the years but there are a few things that I continue to hold on to. For one, I still keep my baby Mickey stuffed toy that I played with since I was four years old. That is the only toy I still keep. I also still keep the board games that I used to play as a child. Majority of my things now belong to my present because I choose to live in the present. While things can bring immense joy and memory for most people, it’s about keeping things that bring about that kind of emotional intensity that is hard or even impossible to let go. That is when it’s ok to hold on a little longer.
We may live in a big house, have a live-in maid but we only have a limited visual, spatial and mental periphery for things. Think about how far you can stretch your head from left to right in order to see things in a room. There is only so much visual and mental headspace that each of us have. We know what is important and what isn’t. So what’s stopping us? And when it comes to memories, there are different ways of celebrating them now in the present rather than to look back at them in the past. Remember how I mentioned organizing was also a practice for self-improvement earlier?
And that’s what I hope to do here in my journey with all of you – my readers and my clients to help make this process of organizing easier for you. Organising is a habit that can be cultivated over time. It's about getting the right amount of help and support throughout the whole process so you don't revert to a cluttered disorganised space.
I hope to be able to share my methods in hope that I could help someone else in their transition either from one house to another or perhaps a less visual but emotionally/mentally healthy one.
Let me know what does organization/organising mean to you?
(This post has been edited for better readability)