There are areas in everyone’s living space that rarely get cleaned.
Things are stashed in storage areas or behind cabinet doors. Occasionally we think, “I should really go through that stuff and organize that area.”
There are even times of the year, usually Fall and Spring, that we use to clean out… or intend to.
One of two things usually happens. Either you start on the project and get stuck somewhere in the middle, or you procrastinate and avoid the project and never get around to it.
No matter what season it is… sometimes we spend a lot of time thinking about things, yet fail to start.
Why does that happen??
The answer is actually really simple: Your emotions are making the decisions, not your logical brain.
Your emotions triggered by the actual items in your space, the state of disarray or order within your space, or the assumed process you think you need to endeavor to make a change, are more often what causes you to get stuck, and then fail to start at all.
Most of us believe we are smart, and as such, feel we can think our way through to a solution. I call this ‘thinking it done’. Well, that thought is an illusion. No matter how strongly I feel about something doesn’t mean I always take action. Even though I’m aware something needs to be done does not necessarily create more action.
Additionally, most of us are emotion junkies. We are living through a time when nearly everyone uses our ’emotional state’ to navigate what we feel like doing at any given time. And, we don’t like to hear that our emotions drive our actions and our outcomes.
Like it or not, the reality is that our emotions can short circuit our logical thinking.
Your survival response (or limbic response) kicks in when certain emotions arise. Your brain is “protecting you” in this way all the time – 24 hours a day. However, this is the same part of your brain that also causes you to shut down anything that’s not a priority. In that place, you’re not thinking. You’re just stuck at the start.
That’s why you swear when you’re mad, even if you usually try not to. You shortcut past your usual decision-making process and lose your verbal acuity. The ability to logically put sentences into words shuts down when you’re emotionally charged.
And, that’s also why you have a gut reaction when you try to take on a Fall clean-up and address items you’ve been avoiding.
So if we can’t think our way out of this one, what is the solution?
Follow Your Gut, But Check It Out
While you don’t want your gut to make all your decisions, you also want to stop failing before you begin. Following your gut means allowing and being able to express your feelings. Often verbalizing your feelings will allow you to consider options. Following your gut requires you to acknowledge and work through your emotions. Period.
Raising awareness means taking time to understand where your emotions come from. Then take time to address and resolve them.
That’s what makes the end result so much better and more freeing than people expect. But only if you leave space for this part of the process.
Sometimes your emotions are connected to the people and memories that are associated with your stuff. Like the woman I was working with who panicked when I ripped off an old tape label that didn’t even say what was in the tub it was attached to. It turned out that her grandmother had written the words on that label. Seeing the tattered label sitting in a trash bag hit her hard… viscerally. Almost as if it was her grandmother herself was sitting in that trash bag.
In reality, her grandma had passed 10 years prior, but her grandma’s words were what remained. And that old piece of masking tape triggered a memory – deep in the limbic part of the brain. So, we rescued the tattered tape and put it in her scrapbooking supplies so she could properly honor that emotion – and reuse that tub.
So, clearly, emotions played a part in keeping her stuff stuck. Checking in with her gut, helped her move the stuff forward.
When you get clear and raise awareness, take a little time to process those moments. Don’t just plow through them or you’ll end up getting stuck again. Remove the emotional block and restore the flow. Moving your stuff can trigger the movement of emotion in ways that are unexpected. It’s not uncommon for you to experience anger, grief, happiness, joy or fear when you handle long-left items.
Another common emotion that gets in the way is frustration. This usually happens when you’re trying to do things in a way that doesn’t work for you.
When someone fails to start, I always recommend we start with the Time and Space Style Inventory (TSSI). It helps determine someone’s personal style preferences when it comes to organizing their space. Not everyone works the same way. And failing to start can have myriad of causes.
When your style preferences are out of whack with the reality you live, it can create a great deal of frustration, shame, and other emotions. Taking the inventory helps you get to know your personal style preferences. This improves your awareness and may provide insight into different organizing approaches and solutions that are a better fit for you.
Awareness Allows Action
The first step in the process is creating awareness. Just knowing that emotions are part of the process is empowering.
That’s also why the Time and Space Style Inventory (TSSI) is so powerful. It provides insight and awareness. An enlightened understanding of your actions helps normalize what you do so you can begin to trust your feelings.
My Awareness Action Model shows that, in order to make better decisions and take action, you have to raise your self-awareness, trust, and accept your feelings and leave room for reflection. This reflection process helps anchor in your experiences and helps you feel confident in what you know.
So, what can you do if you are having trouble or failing to start an organizational project?
– First, focus on your self-awareness at the moment. Have your experience and then sit with the emotions that grip you and derail your progress.
– Then, take the TSSI to provide a new perspective, insights, and ideas.
– Consider working with a professional organizer.
If you’re failing to start, focus first on your emotions. When you work through an emotional process and truly have your experience, you’ll be able to make decisions and take action when you aren’t alone.
When you get organized according to your personal style preferences, not only will your space be beautiful on the outside, additionally you’ll feel aligned on the inside, too. And, it’ll be so much easier for you to maintain. Self-awareness then should always be considered a journey, not a destination.