Systems

14 Aug 2018
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It's funny how a few simple words can change your life.

Sometimes those words are significant and change your life in equally significant ways. The words, "I do," in the marriage ceremony, for instance.

The words I heard were far more ordinary, and you could argue the result has been trivial, but for me, the change has been profound.

"You are not disorganised," said Kate. She is the business systems consultant I engaged to help me organise the mess. She looked round my haphazard office cum craft room. She looked at all my craft supplies in their labelled boxes; she looked at the ordered books on my shelves, and the rainbow of ribbons in their rack fastened to the wall. She looked at my pictures and corkboard. "Not disorganised in the least," she said. "You just need to have everything visible." She paused for a moment. "And colourful."

With those words, she changed my life.

Until that moment, I had believed my fate was to live in a chaotic mess.

I have written many times on the joy of decluttering, the wonder and space of clear surfaces and the bliss of tidy drawers. But as many times as I decluttered, space cleared and tidied, it would take only forty-eight hours at the most before the tide would turn. Miscellaneous objects would appear, as if by magic, and glue themselves to the table, the counter-tops, the window-sills. From nowhere, a figurative hurricane would gather up my carefully tidied away objects, and scatter them, in a bewilderment, over every room I inhabited.

Kate changed my view of myself. From being a messy disorganised person, I now see myself as someone who needs to have everything easily to hand, everything visible, and everything attractive and colourful.

That meant another reorganisation of my office. But this time, with a difference.

If the secret to staying tidy is to have a place for everything and everything in its place, I had too many things and not enough places. So, rather than tidying up, I looked at what I need and use frequently. Those things are all now where I can get at them and (more importantly) put them easily away. Everything else has gone, and I haven't missed it.

I needed a system for the wild paper which would regularly stage a takeover bid for table and floor space. It is now corralled in a pretty box, with another pretty box for what needs dealing with today.

I have a colourful rolling calendar/year planner which takes up most of one wall, so I can see the whole year at a glance.

The important thing is that this system works for me. My office has stayed tidy since 5th July. That's a whole month longer than it ever has done before! The whole space feels different and when I walk in I feel joy instead of guilty overwhelm.

Having systems that work feels wonderful!

What systems have you found that work for you?

Mary

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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Comments

Duma

Aug. 14, 2018, 11:31 p.m.

Evening Mary. I don’t really have one, except for my medication. I’m really strict about that. I always take my pills, even at the hieght of mania. Works for me - I haven’t been in hospital since ‘05. So, yeah - that. Cheers, Baz.

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:01 p.m.

I totally understand the medication routine, I have one of these "old lady" pill boxes. That way I can check that I have taken them. and reorder as necessary. Absolutely vital. Well done on staying out of hospital, Barry.

Duma

Aug. 16, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

Thank you Mary.

Molly

Aug. 15, 2018, 1:29 a.m.

You had a Business Systems Consultant? Must get one myself, and then I might be able to answer your question. How much do they charge? I'm on benefits, so I would hope to get a discount. Molly xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:11 p.m.

Yes, Molly, I hired a business consultant, for my business. I considered it an investment as I had lost business in the past owing to my lack of systems and chaotic admin. In the end, she did not cost me money as we agreed to trade services. I did her colour analysis in return for her business advice. There are a surprising number of people around who absolutely adore helping people to clear their clutter and sort out their mess. Often they will do it for love, but they usually have to be asked, as they know from bitter experience, that offers of help are not always well-received. If you look around, you may find you have an organised friend who would love to help. But - as I have found to my cost, you really need systems which work. And that requires some insight, and determination not to end up with systems that work for your friend, but not for you. The only general advice I can give is that I have honestly found that I can do more with less and, that - when I have less - there is more space to find homes for it all. But - it has to be easy to get at and easy to put away. I wish you luck with your own systems, whatever they are.

Molly

Aug. 16, 2018, 12:27 a.m.

Mary I do not have a relevant problem that needs help with in the first place. I am tidy without OCD. I do not have clutter. I do not have to hire someone to sort out a 'system'. My response to you was totally sarcastic. I think you live in a different world than us depressed people. My 'systems' involve getting out of bed and coping with another day. I can't even work let alone employ a business consultant. An open mind would be nice Mary. We are not all as fortunate as you.

Bunnykins

Aug. 16, 2018, 9:34 a.m.

Hi Molly, I feel that your comment is unkind and unwarranted.

Molly

Aug. 16, 2018, 11:47 p.m.

Sorry Angela. I should have worded it better, but I was in a bad mood after some upsetting news. Mary (I believe) knows NOT to take things personally with me. Somehow I took her reply personally, don't know why now as I read it again and see it was nothing personal at all but that is the nature of my illness. Sorry Mary.

Isabella

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:52 a.m.

My head is very cluttered at the moment, my home has lots of piles, paper mainly but also boxes for charity, ‘things’ to pass on, jobs to do. My heaven is that everything has its place and I stay ‘tidy’.....I’m trying hard to get there. I used a couple of friends to help and they didn’t charge me!!! Thank you Mary, for reminding me that I’m not alone! Btw, I like the ideas of colour coded....

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

I once read a story with a heroine who was the child of a hoarder. she refused to have any paper. She photographed everything and then recycled the paper. I am not sure I could do that, yet I remember in the 1980's operating a microfiche machine so that the rooms and rooms full of paper could be cleared. What is it with paper? Do we need it to feel secure? If we throw magazines out it means admitting that we will never read them. It means we lose that bit of control. Simplifying our lives means letting go. That's tough, but it feels good afterwards.

Sally

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:07 a.m.

Clutter and I go together like a knife and fork, alas, Mary! But I am tidy : a) away from home. b) with others people’s things. c) when things are going well for me and mine. BUT back to YOUR systems, Mary: Good that it works for you. And long may it last! By the way, I love colour, so the colour system would really appeal to me. Thanks for the interesting piece. Xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:17 p.m.

How interesting that you can be tidy within certain parameters. How well I know the "tidy when away from home and with other people's things". Does this suggest that we have more respect for others and their spaces and belongings than we do for ourselves and our own? An interesting thought, isn't it?

Orangeblossom

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:14 a.m.

Hi Mary, thanks for the blog. As ever, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. We are in a chaotic mess as we are redecorating at the moment. Wall paper stripping has released toxic smells in the dinning room which I occupy most of the time when at home. My other half thinks of me as disorganised. I do have to work very hard at being tidy.

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:18 p.m.

I respect you for redecorating! For me - that is a task from ****!

Orangeblossom

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:17 a.m.

Perhaps it is important to look at our self-perceptions and this seems to have unlocked your struggle with decluttering. Thanks Mary.

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LP

Aug. 15, 2018, 7:03 a.m.

Hi Mary, This is really interesting. I do have a lot of clutter and my living spaces are often untidy, but I do know where everything is! Now and again in conversation (not when at home!) people have said (You’re really organised) which always surprises and confuses me. I have seen myself as cluttered untidy and disorganised with little hope of change. I do lack storage though and my place is small. When I do get around to tackling it, I think about where I always gravitate towards to put things and make a tidy home for them there. They may not be where they would traditionally go, but it feels right to do it organically. Because I always seem to have to rush, I do keep a lot “To hand” and yes, if things are packed away, they get forgotten. I do like pretty or stylish looking things too. Often they don’t belong on view, but I leave them out just for the little bit of pleasure I get from seeing them. I feel like I need to get a grip. I know it’s a horrible phrase and unkind to myself, but The toot has to go! :) I’m in the middle of a major sort out at the moment. I have a lot of bits and pieces that it seems wrong to throw away because they aren’t empty or can still be used, but I don’t. Yet they’re not good enough to give to anyone. It’s hard to be wasteful. Really hard. So I put them in boxes. I have boxes of old unused stuff, that need to go that I just keep. That I’ve just kept. Maybe this time I will throw them in the bin and accept that I will feel guilt, but be able to enjoy the more free feeling having created a little more space. Maybe I should play Freddie Mercury’s “ I want to break freee!” Who’ll I’m Doing it! :) I’m happy for you that you’ve found the help and got it sorted Mary, it doesn’t sound trivial at all. It’s a big deal. Thank you for sharing a more positive and gentle way of viewing one’s self. Sending good wishes to you and all. LP xx

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Lara

Aug. 15, 2018, 9:31 a.m.

Plenty of charities that would be more than grateful for donations. I look at when I last used it, do I love it..... who would be able to make use of it? There are plenty of clutter clearing articles on line. Start slowly. Good luck. Lara

Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:22 p.m.

And yes - that half finished - whatever it is... You could look at it that you got your joy from it - and your joy is complete. Therefore it has served its purpose even though there is some left. It can go - because the space it leaves is more valuable than the unlikely potential of it's continued presence. Potential is a burden and merely creates guilt. I am going to write a blog on the freedom of not achieving our potential!

Sally

Aug. 17, 2018, 8:37 p.m.

Freddy Mercury’s I want to break free! I feel like singing that too, LP! And , just for good measure “ Don’t stop me now, cos I’m having a good time, having a good time”...(also by Queen), is that the actual title tho? I’m not sure...

Lara

Aug. 15, 2018, 9:28 a.m.

Morning Mary I have a wonderful image of your room. Sounds like a lovely place to spend time. I'm picturing it with a beautiful view as well. I don't have a lot of "stuff" as I have recently moved and am in the process of getting rid of more. I know it can drain me if I am too cluttered. I'm a pretty simple soul and as long a I have my wellies and walking boots I'm sorted! I'm aware stuff can hold emotional ties. I love clearing clutter. Help friends quite often but it usually needs to be done slowly as can be quite draining and emotional. Thank you for sharing Mary. Hugs Lara xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:25 p.m.

Oh Lara, I wish I could share a photo here with you. My view is of the garage wall with a water butt! However, there is an apple tree against the wall and in my window I have hung a flying purple glass dragon and a couple of other things which give me joy. I also see a sliver of a park with trees and sky, so I look at that. If I could transfer my office down to the beach with my current view I would do it like a shot!

The Gardener

Aug. 15, 2018, 10:04 a.m.

Hello Mary. I've had a fantastic 2 days selling things and meeting lovely people. Promised myself lunch out today and am not hungry. 'Hate mail' partner been in, he's in an invidious position, she needs a psychiatrist, but thinks she is right. I have always had a system - mainly because I am so greedy to do everything possible without a system life impossible. Must see Mr G, do lots watering, so am relaxing with Moodscope and a G & T for the next stage of the day, Good blog xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:28 p.m.

I hope you enjoyed your time with us and the G&T. Which reminds me - time for my Seedlip (non-alcoholic sort of gin) and tonic. It does surely sound as if your hate mail acquaintance is in sore need of a psychiatrist. these are more frequently spoken of than available. I hope he is able to make an appointment for her to see an appropriate professional - although if she does not feel she needs one, then that's difficult.

Sal

Aug. 15, 2018, 11:05 a.m.

What a lovely positive blog Mary, encouraging too. I have a persistent clutter problem. (hereditary, lol !) I am far from on top of it, but hopefully on an upward path. Currently I have allocated a specific time each day (8-9 a.m.) for decluttering my spare room, and plan to keep it up for 4 weeks. I like that it's finite, and that I can walk away with a clear conscience at 9, having done my stint for the day. A few years ago, when the clutter was even more widespread, it helped me that I had a friend who just accepted the cluttered place, and said, well maybe just look at a shelf and clear a 12" length - you don't have to clear the whole thing. I also took photos of the mess, so I could look back and compare, because I hated the feeling that I wasn't making any progress. The paper piles did gradually get smaller ... :) Sal xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:29 p.m.

Sal - what an encouraging reply! I should love to know how your decluttering is coming along. I have many more spaces to clear - my kitchen cupboards are next!

Duma

Aug. 15, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

Redemption Slowly aquainting with the contours, wandering, losing ground to the Inevitable chase. Believability threatened Spouts understanding underwent for the sake of simply put life. Redemption.

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:31 p.m.

I am going to have to look at this Barry. And mull it over,. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Oli

Aug. 15, 2018, 3:07 p.m.

Mary, I am liking the idea of boxes for rogue papers. I find it really awkward to read journals on a laptop screen -- journals are portraits with two columns; laptops are landscapes. I'm seriously thinking of getting a tablet just for reading journals but it seems a bit extravagant. But what's happening now is that I print the journal and it goes on the floor afterwards. It got to the point where I couldn't see the carpet! So maybe a tablet would be a good idea after all. I wish I could be tidier. I really do.

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 4:32 p.m.

I don't think a tablet just for reading journals is extravagant - depending upon how many journals you read, whether you can afford it and how much joy clear floor space would be. do a cost benefit analysis and see! I look forward to hearing what you come up with.

Night Owl

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:15 p.m.

Hi Mary, Thanks so much for your blog today. I need to ‘see stuff’ too... And i have also had external, professional support, that says i need to organise my own way... time to listen... I’m on hols, and its doing its magic, making me feel more me. When i get home I need to tackle the overwhelm, before it overwhelms me... maybe its about trying not to box it away.... ...how i arrange what I need to see in the spaces i share with the family is my creative challenge... but away from it all, i might find that creative thinking... thanks to your blog getting me thinking! NOx PS Hello to the Gardener, enjoyed your blog just the other day! And bloggers all, thankyou... i only comment occasionally but often find fresh ideas from your thoughts. Xx

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 15, 2018, 8:36 p.m.

Thank you, Night Owl. I think many of us here can identify with the overwhelm. One thing which worked for me, was to have a focussed hour where I gathered all my papers into one big pile. I then went through them rapidly. They were sorted into "action needed", "action desirable", "filing" and "bin/recycle". I then went through the "action needed" and listed everything, with the date it needed to be done by. "Action desirable" was ignored - it was part of the overwhelm. I dedicated 10 minutes each morning to filing (let's face it, the filing system may need an overhaul, but schedule that in later). After a week or so, I felt free enough to let the "action desirable" box just - go.... Magazines I wasn't going to read, letters I wasn't going to reply to, events I wasn't going to go to... We can't do everything. To maintain sanity we must simplify. Yes - I still grieve over all those magazines which look really interesting but which I didnt have time to read and the projects I don't have time to make. But they have gone and I don't feel guilty any more. The grief is cleaner and easier to live with than the guilt. This may not work for you. I don't know your business or office setup, but it was a beginning for me with my little one-man-band office. Best of luck.

The Gardener

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:52 p.m.

I got muddled between time management and paper management. I have 30 years Punch, carefully guarded. I have years of the Oldie, then Patchwork magazines dumped on me (French) I put them out the front, please help yourself, they will have to be pulped. Mr G's Alzheimer has spawned masses of paperwork, but the department has been good. Had my celebration meal, eventually, as chemist decided (public holiday) that he could remove one of my age-old signs- dined cheerfully, in warm air! New-ish moon, all sorts of nationalities, nice.

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The Gardener

Aug. 15, 2018, 6:56 p.m.

Mary, and others, re the hate-mail sender - absolute deadlock - lots Moodscopers probably been there. I got through to the man by sending a letter via the priest to the church, no way she could intercept, scorns all religions. He came to the shop - really happy atmosphere - we hugged, shrugged shoulders. She really needs help, occasionally mentions it, then goes back to being always right. Can only await a crisis, that she admits the need for help, or she will go so far in current behaviour that she could risk being sectioned, grim all round.

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Molly

Aug. 16, 2018, 12:41 a.m.

Is this coming through on emails gardener ? I am guessing not. I was a victim of anonymous emails a few years ago. Hard to understand completely what is going on with you but you may have to contact the police if they are affecting you so badly. I had to contact the police and it all stopped after I did that. Not sure how serious the problem is or why they have a vendetta against you but a warning from the authorities may frighten them off and my advice is not to respond to anything they send you because they will then get bored. Sorry if I have misread the situation xx

Li

Aug. 16, 2018, 2:13 p.m.

Hello Mary. I don't know how to express it well but I am so glad for you. I am so often thankful for your writing, so I am happy to ready this today. Cheers!

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Mary Wednesday

Aug. 16, 2018, 9 p.m.

Thank you Li, it is lovely to know that my writings give pleasure. I appreciate your comment very much.

Little Drop

Aug. 20, 2018, 1:34 p.m.

Hi Mary, I have been catching up with the blog so this is a few days after your post, but I just couldn't let this one go as it struck such a chord with me and I realise that I am just the same! - I need to have things visibly to hand - and I have way too much stuff. The thought of clearing it is just too daunting - or at least it was... Now I have a picture of how I will organise things, so thank you so much for sharing this. :-)

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Nicco

Aug. 25, 2018, 8:42 a.m.

Hi Mary, don't know how I missed this one but it is a subject close to my heart so felt I had to comment. It's like the fourth bridge here sometimes. I have a lot of bits & clothes from my daughter which she asks me to eBay for her, also a shopaholic friend asked me to help her eBay her stuff so I have bags of clothes listed or to be listed in the bedrooms & a box stacked high with bits in my tiny office - I have a system which seems to work but as soon as the bags & boxes go down, more seems to come in. I've also been trying to sort/revamp the spare room, & have bought new mattresses so the old ones are propped in the bathroom & my studio! I live in the hope of one day being what I call 'all ebayed out'! Paperwork is a continual bind - I sort into piles of 'deal with', 'file', 'recycle' & 'shred' but by the time I've done that i'm too knackered to do anything else with it so it gets put back in the in-tray! Magazines - oh my! I have ones which come to me free & always intend to read but never get to them so they are stacked neatly under a table. My studio/craftroom shelves are heaving but neatly stacked & labelled - I have so man'y half-finished projects I sometimes wonder whether i'l ever get them finished in my lifetime! I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all, especially with having such limited energy & mobility but I do what i can when I can & have to be content with that. I really like the idea of a 'bartering' consultant! & how you apprlached it & dealt with it. I admire you for having the courage & energy to see it through, & the revelations it brought were wonderful. I realise that I need some things around me - bookshelves are places where i put my nicknacks - but that I also need other areas to be fairly tidy & clear. I realised recently that i didn't need a desk-tidy for the office - I just put stuff in the drawer! Putting things out of sight in cupboards is great - until I open the cupboards! Thanks again for your thought-provoking blog, & to others for their comments - it made me feel less alone with what is sometimes for me an overwhelming problem. I am grateful too that I have trees outside most of my windows to look at so thank you also for reminding me of that.

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