Organizing For The New Normal

Organizing For The New NormalIt's spring. We're starting to emerge from, well, a lot of things. Over the past year, I've heard just about every kind of organizing/decluttering/reordering response to our pandemic isolation and work-from-home shifts. Some folks, stuck in their spaces with less to do than usual and feeling claustrophobic, jumped on the decluttering bandwagon and cleared things out with a vengeance. There was finally time and opportunity to do all of the things they wanted to do with their closets and drawers and garages. People unloaded so much stuff that many charities were overwhelmed with the donations – junk hauling business turned brisk.

Others discovered that the inability to invite friends and family over, or the extra pressure of working and schooling from home, resulted in their usual organizational maintenance slip-sliding away. Who needs to clear off the tables and countertops if the in-laws won't be coming for the holidays? Or if the kids are just going to be spreading their worksheets and colored pencils out everywhere as soon as it's clear? And of course, many of us found solace in a lot of one-clicking and acquiring – to feather our home office/school/play nests and make them a little more bearable. Raise your hand if you now own a ring light, an outdoor projector…or even a new puppy?

I won't gloss over that many dealt with illness (or worse) and a complete disruption of norms. I think we'll be learning about the long-term effects on people's ability to maintain life order for months and years to come. There's no crystal ball on that one.

Wherever you might have been on the spectrum of organization (in my opinion, there was no right or wrong way to get through any of it), it's all starting to change again. We aren't out of the woods of course, but the tiny blinks at the end of the tunnel are there. After receiving my first dose of the vaccination, I had a sudden realization that I would be able to consider meeting coaching clients at my old co-working space again. My son, a junior in high school, will be able to have in-person gaming gatherings in the near future. My husband will start his heavy travel schedule back up. Lunches and networking events, dinners out with friends, and trade conferences will all slowly come back. Our calendars will fill.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about all of that. With the limitations of the past year, there have also been opportunities. Most of us figured out that there were a heck of a lot of time-sucks: unnecessary meetings, commuting, workplace chit-chat, carpool lines. We've now become experts at online connection and telecommuting. We've re-engaged with the outdoors and all of its healthy wonders. Does spring cleaning make the cut for things to focus on this year? And what does being organized and productive look like now?

Maybe the question is, what could being organized and productive look like now?

I think intentionality is the big clue here. I talk with clients about the difference between being reactive and proactive, the role that mindfulness plays in making decisions, and the role making decisions plays in being organized. There is a golden opportunity to intentionally choose what we want to bring back or hold onto, and what no longer serves – whether that applies to your pantry or your to-do list. So to that end, why not dust off that meditation app you downloaded, get a little focus, and ask yourself:

  • What do I want this next year to look like? Feel like?
  • What items will help me have that year?
  • Which items are no longer relevant, or get in my way?
  • What did I not miss over the past 12 months?
  • What, or who do I want to prioritize?
  • What must have my precious time, and then
  • What gets my precious time?
  • What doesn't?
  • What do I want to remember most going forward?

I'm sure you all can think of other things to ask that will be on point for your situation. You could grab a notebook and pen and set off alone to the woods to reflect on them, or gather your family for brunch and discussion. And if regrouping to do a little spring decluttering and ordering makes the cut, awesome. It could help set the stage for the other things you want in your life from now on. But if this season comes and goes and you're still struggling to figure out your “new normal,” remember you can start anytime – there's nothing magic about March or April, and the clutter will still let you work with it in July.

Wishing you a peaceful, healthy way forward.

Sara S. Skillen, a Certified Organizer Coach® and Certified Professional Organizer®, is the founder of SkillSet Coaching & Organizing based in Nashville, TN. Her passion is helping people manage their stuff, time, and tasks, in particular with adults challenged by ADHD or other brain-based conditions. Sara’s writing has appeared in Angie’s List Experts, Unconditionally Her Magazine, “Music City Moms” blog, and her own blog “The Stuff Behind The Stuff.” She is the author of Organizing and Big Scary Goals: Working With Discomfort and Doubt to Create Real Life Order. She lives in Franklin, TN with her husband, and is mom to a high school junior, a college sophomore, and two extraordinarily productive and focused Labrador retrievers.


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