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Graceful Transitions

The timeline is different for each of us, but at some point in life one realizes that there is no “once and for all” for anything. There is no final flossing, no ultimate workout and no last supper, at least not if you plan to wake up again the next morning. At which point it all starts anew.

Yet, it also seems that just when we lock onto a routine and hit a stride (no cavities, a goal weight and many recipes mastered) something shifts and we have to learn and maintain new habits. These transitional periods are tricky — a new baby, a new job, death of a spouse or parent, a new decade of life, a health crisis. How do we stay organized and keep our heads above water during a transition?

Uber-organizer Julie Morgenstern says that you can’t organize someone who is in transition. I’ve found that to be true. Although I can help clients in transition purge clutter, which is always helpful in clearing a path both literally and figuratively, until they make decisions about what their lives are going to look like, it’s a waste of time and money continuing to rearrange the furniture.

For example, early in my organizing career I had a client whose plans for the basement changed monthly. First we turned it into a crafting room for the children. Then he bought a lot of costly workout equipment and we created a home gym. Finally, he decided to rent out the house but use the basement as his storage unit. He wasn’t willing to spend time on the (much less costly) inner work to figure out what he really wanted from his space — or if he even wanted to live in that particular town.

If you are in transition, take the time to do some difficult and deep thinking before plunging into a home overhaul or life reorganization. Depending on the severity of the change or crisis, a year is not too long to wait to make any changes. It’s tempting to make a significant gesture at some transitional points — a large tattoo, a Mexican divorce, a new car. Or in the organizing arena, such a gesture might be throwing out every photograph of your ex or taking every item of clothing larger than size 2 to Goodwill.

Don’t rush yourself. Most likely you are creating an imaginary deadline to “get organized and get over it.” But organizing from this position is often frantic and unrewarding.

What can keep you somewhat focused during transition? A good life coach is a terrific temporary solution — someone to brainstorm with and help you gain clarity about your new opportunities. Maintaining your health is also crucial. Exercise is a wonderful antidote to depression and a good touchstone during transition, as is prayer or meditation.

Emphasizing friends and family is also important. When circumstances change, focus on the good habits and deep relationships that support you. If you are centered, you’ll more easily identify what matters and what doesn’t, and organizing will take much less effort and can create long-lasting results.