Mother Earth Living

Simplify at All Levels

Learn how to better organize the small daunting tasks in your life with Be Organized: Reclaim 90 Minutes of Your Day, Every Day (Cedar Fort, 2018) by Marie Ricks. This book helps readers to discover ways to handle on the small tasks they face daily instead of putting them put off. If you struggle with overwhelming tasks everyday then you will find new creative ways to help de-stress and declutter everyday life. This excerpt can be found in chapter 9, “Panicked to Paced” and chapter 12, “Flustered to Finished.”

Simplify at All Levels

Many of you have “muddy bogs” in your routines, schedules, and habits.

These are places where you approach life with too much chaotic spontaneity.
As with all the other projects you are engaging in as you learn
how to be organized, always look for ways to simplify your life. Here are
four additional directives and their application to a regular family issue:

1. Eliminate. Eliminate from your wardrobe any difficult-tokeep-up or time-consuming pieces of clothing. An example
would be a blouse that needs to be ironed before it can be worn.

2. Reduce. Reduce unneeded clothing items you have out and
about by storing off-season items either in the back of your
closet or in deeper storage areas of your abode.

3. Postpone. Postpone filling out your wardrobe (no matter what
the fashion experts say!) and stick to about a dozen tried-andtrue
outfit combinations, especially during times of financial
drought or emotional stress.

4. Systemize. Finally, systemize your professional and casual
wardrobe by rotating through outfits so you will know what
to wear tomorrow and even next week without having to think
about it each morning.
Do you have other places where you can simplify, such as bill paying,
mending, food management, or paperwork? If so, think through the four steps to simplification: eliminate, reduce, postpone, and systemize.

Make Your Day Like a Dance

Sometimes you begin your day frazzled and frustrated. This challenge can be overcome by approaching your day like a dance—and a lovely one at that.

Dress one level higher. One way to make your day more like a dance is to dress one level higher than your mood, so even when you are
doing the laundry, tending to the garden, cleaning the dishes, or taking
care of the children, you feel a little prettier. This small adjustment in
dress will save you time, because you will tend to get at projects sooner, stay at them longer, and get them done quicker.

Practice a skill. Second, let’s agree that there are certain personal home responsibilities you really don’t like. It might be dusting, vacuuming,
laundry, or dishes. It might even be all four of those things! To get
your daily dance going, focus on learning the dance steps to one of these
challenges. Sit down and write out why the organization skill is tough
for you. Look at the chore and see what you can do to move from feeling
panicked to finding a state of peace.

For example, let’s tackle dusting. Dusting is hard because it is an
“invisible” chore. It is only noticeable when it doesn’t get done. It is also
boring, so you might say to yourself, “I can avoid that chore for one
more day.” When you take time to look at this problem, you may realize
that you don’t have a good dusting glove and that touching dust with
your fingers gives you the creeps. So you can add two dusting gloves to
your shopping list and solve that problem. Then you may realize that
you don’t mind dusting the family room because there aren’t a lot of flat
surfaces to worry about, but the living room is nothing but trinkets that
need to be picked up, dusted under, and put down again. By removing
half the trinkets and rearranging them a bit, you could dust that room
in half the time.

Remember, small adjustments in your daily dance add
up to minutes and hours over a week’s time.
Look at your routines and see what you can do to make jobs easier to
complete successfully. Do you need to buy better tools, paint a laundry
wall to make the area cheerier, or organize toys so that daily cleanup is more pleasant?

Delete 10 percent of your commitments. When you dance through your day, there is an appropriate pacing and comfortable speed—meaning
you are not trying to do too much in too little time. When you try
to hurry, you often become frazzled. If you can downsize 10 percent of
your pressures, there will be a significant improvement in your capacity
to take care of your most important responsibilities.

For example, you
might say, “I’d be happy to read to you, but it would be better for me to
just read this much before you go down for your nap.”
So look at your laundry habits, your dish routines, your menu planning,
or your child-care patterns and focus on one that is particularly
frustrating and makes you frazzled. Ask yourself what you can do to
dress a little nicer, to organize a little bit differently, and to delete a little
bit here and there so the feeling of control can return to your life while you dance through your day.

Start Less; End Earlier

As you become more organized, two important skills can aid in your journey. First, start less often, which means not starting up more in the
beginning of the day than it is reasonable to finish by the end of the day.
Second, learn to end earlier so you’re refreshed for transition into the
next part of your day. Let’s look at examples of these two principles.
Let’s say you have a complex summer ahead of you, including sponsoring
a special-occasion breakfast. This would be a time when you don’t
want to make any major mistakes, leave things behind, or retrace your
steps without difficult challenges.

For things to work best for everyone,
it is important to start less often. This means that during this focused
time of preparation and packing, you wouldn’t also start up projects that
can wait, such as a new quilt that needs tying, three dresses for the community
play, and two chocolate cakes for a church function.
Start less often also means “thinking it through” longer and not
starting up more than you can finish in a reasonable time. As the stress
rises and the complexity of difficult situations settles in, you will begin
to worry. “Have I remembered everything? Will I have what I need when
I need it? What will happen if I don’t think clearly?”
When you move to the mode of “starting less,” you can do a sort of
mental role playing.

In your mind, you can get up and dress yourself for
the morning of the breakfast you are worrying about, thus confirming
what clothes you will wear. You can walk through what tools and materials
you might need for that day’s activities, thus clarifying what you
need to put aside for those needs. You can mentally walk through the
sequence of the day’s responsibilities, events, and pressures to see where
you have holes in your thought processes, preparations, and possibilities.
You can also decide what preparations are enough, because it is unlikely
that you will be able to do much more before the big breakfast commitment
takes place.

At times, you may have several pressing needs at once. During these
more difficult times, you may want to prepare for all needs before the first
begins, because there wouldn’t be much time between events to mentally
prepare for the next. In addition, remember to stop to rest before you are
actually tired. As stated before, it is better to quit and rest before you
reach the end of your energy. It helps to stop just shy of being fatigued.
You will recover faster and have more resiliency to return to your project
or prepare for the next demand.

Organize to start less often by thinking the event through carefully,
writing down your thoughts, and then committing to starting
only as many projects as you are likely to reasonably finish. As you
work, watch for the first signs of fatigue and respond to them by resting
and reviving. These two skills will help take the strain out of stressful
seasons. When worry sets in, turn your mind to role playing and
reasoning. It can make all the difference. And if you do leave something
undone or take a short break to rest, at least you will be a more
pleasant, thoughtful person to be around, and you will also feel more confident with each day’s demands. 

Learn to Finish Completely

There is great power in learning to finish. Surprisingly, as you become aware of this principle, you may find that you routinely live in a rather
unfinished state. Practice finishing to save time and help tighten your
organizational functionality.
There are several kinds of finishing: the standards of finishing in
daily habits, the skill of finishing yourself, and the ability to finish bigger projects.

Standards of daily finishing. Making decisions as a family about daily “finishing” standards can take a lot of stress out of life. When is
a meal finished? When is the laundry finished? When is housework
Work with family members to set up standards that the whole family can support and practice to finish.

Skill of finishing yourself. Additional personal finishing skills are helpful in modeling finishing habits. Do you completely put away the
groceries after a trip to the store? Do you finish at your desk and put
away your paperwork when you leave that area? Do you hang up your coat and put away your gloves when you come in from a walk?

Finishing bigger projects. The challenge with finishing is that you are likely to start something, abandon the project to start another project,
and then put that second project aside before it’s done to begin a
third. As the day proceeds, you continue to start other things and then
give those projects up before you get far with them. Your whole environment
can be full of unfinished projects, paperwork, and purchases.
The way to conquer this problem is to practice finishing, or at least
bring your projects to a finishing place and put them away in a timely
manner before other pressures descend.

For example, if you are cleaning out a cupboard, you will want to
finish this project or bring this project to a place of partial finishing
before the children get home from school and need help with snacks and
homework. Then you can return to the project later in the evening or
the next day.
To practice, make a list of three home projects that need finishing.
List the particulars needed to get each of these projects finished and spend the time necessary doing just that: finishing!

Retire from Putting Out Others’ Fires

Another useful skill is to stop putting out others’ fires. Solving others’ problems, their fires, can be frustrating. Sometimes you commit past
your capacity, other times you feel socially obligated, and still other
times you may be intimidated about having to help—or else. Let’s get
some boundaries set and return to feeling in control again.
How can you get a grip and what can you do to regain a semblance
of order? There are specific steps for handling feeling confused, reducing intimidation as stress mounts, and regaining a semblance of control.

Stop and ponder. When you feel like you are just “putting out fires” instead of continuing with whatever you’re doing, take a few moments
to stop and ponder. By stopping and figuring out what’s going on, you
can get a grip. Whose problem is this, anyway, and how can I help them
solve it instead of solving it myself?

You may be a bit more overwhelmed than usual because the laundry
is overly large and your adolescent’s clothing has stains that look difficult
to get out, or maybe you are confused because your son hasn’t decided
what menu he wants for his birthday dinner later in the week, or maybe
you are feeling stressed because three close friends are having differences
and you are in the middle. When you feel overwhelmed, figure out what
you need to do from that point forward to let others solve their own problems.

Create an action plan. If you are feeling misused, create a plan of action. “Okay, I’m in a confused state. It feels like I’m handling too
many fires today. Exactly what will I do to get back to a place that’s
more peaceful, where I feel more in control?” “OK, I am going to teach
Rob how to get the grass stains out of his jeans.” “I’ll ask Eli to write up
his birthday menu and give it to me by tomorrow.” “I’ll email my three
friends, politely withdraw from my involvement, and suggest they get
together for lunch soon to talk directly to each other about solving
their issues.”

Making plans of action will help manage your life in the
middle of a “fire season.”
Face your increasing stress by stopping, pondering, and planning.
“What is mine to solve? What fires belong to other people?” Then create
a plan of action to give others back their own problems to solve. You
don’t have to put out other people’s fires anymore.
You will likely find that when you withdraw from being all things
to all people, the world survives quite nicely without your “immediate”
attention—and hopefully others will begin to put out their own fires.

Teach self-reliance. Teach your family members to come to you
with both their problems and with possible solutions to those problems.
This invitation helps them realize that their problems are their own to
solve. Such a stance will help them on their way to independence and self-reliance—and save you time!

Keep Little Things Little

Sometimes your problems seem to grow out of proportion. Small problems seem to balloon, and you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed.
Employ the following methods to keep little things little.

Make a list of what’s on your mind. As soon as you realize you are feeling overwhelmed and emotionally unable to cope, sit down with a
piece of paper, fold it in half lengthwise, and dump your troubles onto
the left side of it (initially skip a line between all entries). This will help
calm you down!
On the left side of the paper, list everything that comes to mind,
from the leaky faucets to the running toilets, to the need to fix dinner
for company on Friday evening to buying a birthday present for that
invitation that arrived over the weekend. Dump it all out, especially
your feelings.

The list might include your guilt at having missed sending
birthday greetings to your close friend, the expensive produce that
tasted terrible, and frustration because your favorite pair of jeans has a
new hole in the wrong place.

List possible answers.

On the
right side, note what you can do to
address or solve the problems listed
on the left-hand side of the list, who
you can approach to find answers
to your needs, how you will handle
the situation next time so you aren’t
embarrassed, and on and on. Some of
your right-hand list entries will say,
“There is nothing I can do.” Knowing
what can be done and what must be
left alone is the first step to keeping
little things little. (See “Emotional Dump List” form.)

Key Concept:

You always want to move from problems to finding solutions and to regaining control again.

Decide where to use your energy. Take this list of what is bothering you and then plan how to tackle these sometimes emotionally overwhelming
demands. In other words, use the right-hand list to employ
the skills taught earlier in this book about prioritizing.
Attach “A,” “B,” or “C” priority letters to each item on the righthand

Decide what “A” items to do on what days, what “B” items
to leave until later, and what “C” pressures would be put aside for some
distant “slower” period of your life. The notations on the right side of
your list will guide your schedule as to which projects will receive your
attention today, tomorrow, during the rest of the week, and into the
upcoming month.

Some items will have to be postponed until the next
month, and a few even longer. And some may never get done—because
there is nothing to be done. The important principle is that you decide
how you want to respond. Then, motivation to get up and get going
often returns.

Schedule longer launch and landing periods. After you have set your “A,” “B,” and “C” priorities, add longer launch and landing periods
to your calendar. While stress sometimes comes because of an emergency,
it more often rises slowly and catches you in a hurricane of too
many big projects, major activities, and other adventures. It is up to you
to create or expand the “launch” and “landing” time bubbles so you can
gear up successfully, come down and de-stress, get back to your regular
routines, and otherwise “return” with appropriate pacing.

Remember, you are always going to be pushed by others to the very
limit of what you will allow. If you allow less chaos, taking more time for
“launching” and “landing,” you will still be respected and will be able to
respond better because you are handling your pressures and responsibilities
in a more orderly, “I can do this and this and no more, no sooner
than this” method.

Re-emerge. After this short respite, you can usually re-emerge into your life. When you do, take a moment to notify those around you
that things may need to be a little different: “No, I am not going to go
to that meeting; yes, I am planning on a simple dinner; no, I won’t be able to wash those special pants until Saturday; yes, I would appreciate
some babysitting help this evening; yes, I could use help folding and
putting the wash away, getting a load of dishes going, and sweeping
the kitchen floor.”

Remember, it is up to you to make life work for you and your family,
in your workplace, and all throughout your life. You are in charge of
taking back your life and making sense of it, over and over again. Take
a break and recalibrate to bring answers and motivation back. Then,
when you get going again, life suddenly seems to turn around and you
can smile!

More from Be Organized:

Reprinted with Permission from Be Organized: Reclaim 90 Minutes of Your Day, Every Day and Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.



  • Published on Aug 23, 2018
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