The only reason why any of us organize

Why do we do anything?  In his famous TEDx talk Start With Why, Simon Sinek powerfully speaks to the fact that “what” never motivates us.  It’s always the “why.”  “Why” is what fuels us to do anything of importance.  Why have any of my hundreds of clients ventured into getting organized, sometimes in the face of inertia, resistance, or even dread?  What is it they all have in common (besides being out-of-sight-out-of-mind?) 

They want freedom more than they want a tidy row of files.

Focusing on the “what" looks like: I want to always have a clear desk.
Focusing on the “why" looks like: I want to be of more value to more people, and having a clear desk is a big part of freeing myself to do that each day.

In a recent Money Magazine article I Didn’t Understand Money So I Stopped Calling it Money, comedian and actress Whitney Cummings poignantly explains how she only began to understand money when she replaced the word “money" with the word “freedom.” She would ask herself questions like “Are these new jeans worth 200 units of my current freedom?”  Could you replace the words “get organized” with “get freedom?”  For example:

I need to get this crap off my desk.
I need to find some freedom.

You may not yet be in a place where you can even feel what being organized feels like, but it’s your nature to seek freedom at every turn. Greater freedom lurks in every corner of your life.

Wouldn’t you rather spend time finding freedom in your office than "getting it organized once and for all?" 

How good will it feel to say, “I’m going to find a few square feet of freedom on my desk today?”

Doesn’t it bring some lightness to say, “There’s so much freedom waiting for me in my closet?”  

How about, “This drawer is the easiest place in my life where I can find some freedom” or “I think there’s some freedom for me under this pile?"

What does it feel like to be organized? — Free to finally do the things that make me feel good.

According to a recent study referenced in Time Magazine’s How to Have a Happy Family: 7 Tips Backed By Research, children were asked, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” The expected answer was that kids want more time with their parents.  In fact, what they want most is for their parents to be "less tired and less stressed."  No one is going to challenge the notion that clutter causes stress.  

What does it feel like to be organized? — Free to enjoy (and be enjoyed by) my loved ones.

I’m proud to say that I put in the time and focus to walk my talk.  I’m organized, but always strive to be better.  Yes, it is absolutely for the freedom of it.  Albert Camus said:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

For all of my faults and inabilities be as productive as I feel I should, I am a darn good meditator.  Pretty much every morning I meditate for 20 minutes before checking email.  It’s always felt rebellious.  It flies in the face of waking up to the news and everyone else’s agendas and chatter.  It is the ultimate freedom from the ambient, untouchable clutter that we invite in with our screens. 

Our thousand square foot condo (on its good days) flies in the face of all of the things we’re told by the world that we should buy, keep, and store.  Could the freedom you find in your home or office be an act of rebellion against “I’m so busy,” “It’s impossible to be caught up these days,” and “Buy this thing to fix all of your problems?"  Make a statement with what limited time and space you control. Be a rebel.

What does it feel like to be organized? — Free to clear my head for a few minutes without worrying about where I put that thing I lost.

I’m not a church-goer these days, but recently at a baptism service, the pastor said, “Give God an inch.” Meditating feels like giving God an inch.  Helping people find freedom on their desks, floors, and in their files feels like giving God an inch.  My favorite testimonial reads:

“Know that you are doing God’s work so humans can spend more time with God.”  

Starting with just one inch of free space where there once was an impenetrable block of clutter frees you to find the next inch and the next. Any client who has learned something about themselves in the process of clearing a table knows that this work is for the sake of something much greater than the clear slab of wood on four legs.

What does it feel like to be organized? — Free to receive and follow impulses that lead me to my next step in life.

If organizing = freedom, we could rattle off an endless list of the things we want to be free from.  I’d rather you tell a new story though.  Instead, ask yourself what you want to be free to do.  Don’t overcomplicate it.  If you are inspired to list these out on paper right now, then go for it.  I find though that some of my best-feeling moments are when I speak out loud details of a vision for myself as they come in real time (usually to myself in the car).

Do it now.  What do you want to be free to do once you’re organized?  Say it.  Put the words out there as fast as you can.  You can feel better and find that freedom in seconds before touching a single scrap of paper. You cannot get this part wrong. 

Then, listen. Let it guide you to put that thing away, to toss that thing, to set the appointment with the organizer, or to plan how you’ll spend your next open half hour finding freedom.  What could you do with more freedom?  

Please share in the comments what you’ll be free to do once you’re organized!  Long and short answers are welcome!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.