← Back to All Columns


Out of Ignorance Into Bliss

One of the obstacles to organization is fear, specifically, fear of the unknown. Whether we have piles of paper on our desks, a credit card statement that runs on for pages or a difficult conversation with a colleague looming in the near future, fear can cast a shadow over the situation, making it seem insurmountable. Furthermore, if the proverbial light is not shone on those types of situations in a timely manner, they really can become the dark and twisted debacles you might have imagined. 

Keeping yourself ignorant of what is in your in-box, mail box or the cardboard boxes from your last move equals stress, not bliss. By pushing through the fear — whether it’s a fear of boredom or a fear of bankruptcy — you can put yourself back into a position of power and control in your life.

When you take a look at something, such as a scary credit card statement, you take responsibility for your actions and can start doing some serious planning about how you are going to change your spending habits or what you can do to pay off the balance. Sometimes you even get lucky, and find out it’s not as bad as you thought. 

Another example is boxes in the garage. It’s common for a client to comment gloomily, “I have no idea what’s in there.” After we open a box or two, I often hear the exclamation, “Oh my gosh — I’ve been looking for that!” Yes, most of the stuff needs to be donated, recycled and otherwise handled, but once the mystery is gone and a treasure or two has been found, the bliss-factor is upped considerably.

Another form ignorance can take is over or under-estimating how long an organizing project will take. You don’t have to do an organizing project all at once. When confronted by a task like cleaning out the garage, basement, attic or files, it’s typical to think that we should put on our dungarees and make a day of it. But it’s perfectly fine to take one box from the attic or one file folder from the office each day and purge through that — any progress is better than letting the whole project sit indefinitely because you can’t face or afford a whole day to handle it.

However, there is a lot of benefit to doing an organizing project in one fell swoop. Mainly, you get to see the complete picture of what you’ve got, which makes knowing what to save a lot easier. For example, if you have a bunch of vases packed in the garage, you won’t really know which ones to save and which to part with until you see all of them. In dealing with paper from a past project, sometimes you can’t tell what’s important to save as reference until you see all of it. 

If you face your fear and start a project but find out that it is truly daunting, give yourself permission to ask for help. If you’re in a work situation and need to take a time-out to get organized, ask your boss for permission to turn your phone off for an hour each afternoon and tackle the project. Most of the time, our employers, colleagues and families would gladly give us time and/or assistance to handle these issues so that our work and play benefit from the stress-relief and productivity gains that result.

When I work with clients to organize a scary pile of papers, a basement full of boxes, or an out-of-control calendar, it thrills me to hear, “If I had known it would be this easy, I would have called you a long time ago!” Push through the fear and enjoy the bubble bath of bliss on the other side.