Monday, May 21, 2018

Living the perfect life? What exactly does that mean to you? What is your perfect life and what would you change today to make your life more perfect? Allow me to rephrase the question: What would you change today to make your life more satisfying?

As a professional organizer, I have a front row seat to the pain of others, be it living life after the loss of a loved one, or dealing with the abundance of stuff that creates confusion and distraction from daily living, or managing the frustration of over buying and handling too many unwanted choices.

When I was a freshman in college, a friend stopped by my dorm room to see what I had done with the place. I had posted pictures and posters all over the walls, and my roommate had hung fabric from the ceiling to create a kind of Moroccan bazaar/market feel to it. I remember feeling stifled by everything when I entered the room, but thought that was the way it was supposed to be (over-decorated to show that I had good taste). What was I thinking?

A friend commented to me, “You guys must be very insecure to feel the need to surround yourself with so much stuff.” I shrugged my friend’s words off as a “smarty pants” comment to be ignored. But obviously the words stuck in my brain.

Looking back, I was, in fact, very insecure about many things: my weight, my appearance, my musical abilities, being so far from home during my first year in college, and an overall concern and naiveté about who I was and how I wanted to present myself to the world.

Fast forward to 2016, and I look around my sparsely decorated home and feel comfortable to live a clutter-free life. I am not encumbered by the need to show off physical things in my home. We donated 90 percent of our books about 10 years ago and have not purchased any since except for research books for my career. If I want to read a new novel, I borrow the book from the library. I don’t purchase decorative items to display on my shelves so they can collect dust. I don’t need to have overflowing bookshelves to prove to anyone that I am smart and well read. I don’t need to have fabric draped from the ceiling to demonstrate to my guests that I have taste.

Everyone has their vision of their perfect life, and I see in my work how that expectation can be draining of one’s energy. It can take form in well-meaning and loving grandparents who have an overabundance of toys for the grandchildren to play with. Or the young mother who purchases multitudes of picture frames but never gets around to printing her photos to display in the frames. What about the well-intentioned but unlikely projects that require multiple purchases of supplies that never get used? Then there are the closets filled with wrapping paper, holiday decorations, tissue paper, gift bags and cards that have been piling up for 15 years. Or the craft projects, recipes, cooking utensils for dinners never made, fabric for clothes never sewn, kitchen cabinets filled with expired food and the list goes on. Oh, by the way, I forgot one other thing…the act of purchasing gifts for events that have not taken place yet, nor likely to occur in the near future. (You know who you are!)

I have a suggestion: give yourself a break. Give it up and take that “well-intentioned but unlikely project” off your task list. Donate the supplies to your favorite school or charity. I guarantee that you will be so relieved that the pressure is now off, and you will have a great sense of satisfaction knowing that your “stuff” is going to a good cause and will make others happy. While you are at it, get outside and take a walk, go to the zoo or have tea with a friend. Get out and live YOUR version of the perfect life.

Happy Organizing!

By Eileen Bergman