by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Once a day, ask 'why' you're doing a task to gain clarity about your life.
If you’ve just started to clear the clutter from your home, or if you’re feeling frustrated by your efforts of the past few months, you may be wondering when you’ll finish. Chances are, you started the process of getting organized by listing your goal as decluttering your home. However, when do you finish that task?
There won’t be some sparkling moment when you finally toss your high school yearbook that makes you stop and look around and say, “Hey, I’m done!” Instead, you may spend years tweaking your belongings with no clear finish line. So, what does that mean for setting a goal to declutter?
Although many people start January with a list of goals, your goals may not be enough to keep you going. It was an email from a company that deals daily with the goals of thousands of people, Weight Watchers, that got me thinking when I clicked on their article, “What’s your why?”
Your Goal 'to Get Organized' Isn't Enough
One of the lines from that Weight Watcher's article – “Your ‘why’ isn’t the same as your goal – it’s the reason for wanting to get to your goal; the motor that gets you to your destination.” Hmm, your ‘why’ isn’t the same as your goal.
How often do we think, “I need to get the clutter off the dining room table” or “I need to declutter my craft room.”? If we went so far as to think, “Why do I want to do that?” our answer would be something along the lines of, “To get rid of the clutter.”
Is your ‘why’ really just you repeating your goal? When we get frustrated that the clutter isn’t going away as fast as we’d like (or the kids left the remnants of their diorama projects for school on the dining room table or your partner decided to use the table to sort the contents of a file box), we are left spinning around our why/goal.
Why 'Why' Give You Perspective when Faced with a Mess
If our why for clearing the clutter that collects on the dining room table is, “To eat dinner with the family, seating around the table, at least four times a week,” then the craft supplies that can get cleared away in ten minutes, becomes less of a problem. The file box contents aren’t a problem – yet – because you aren’t eating dinner at home for the next two nights. You can then calmly explain that the table needs to be cleared an hour before Sunday dinner.
Although the clutter may be upsetting or annoying, you can put the mess in the perspective of your why.
As you declutter, your why can change. When I started clearing my bookshelves, my first why was that I wanted to be able to locate the book I was looking for. Later, my why narrowed in on my desire to stand all my books vertically on the shelves instead of laying books on top of other books to fill every available space. Now, I’m starting to question the individual titles that have survived many purges, so I’ll be left with the books that inspire me and I’m happy to read again.
Clarify Your Why
If you aren’t certain what your why is, take a moment to visualize what you’d like your life to look like in a year (or six months, or three months or five years).
Have trouble visualizing the future? Take out paper and pen and describe what isn’t working in your life now and what you’d like instead. Go for specific details. So, “In a couple of years, I want to visit Italy for two weeks in the autumn” is a much stronger image and goal – and why – than, “I’d like more time to travel someday.” Then, when it comes to deciding what you no longer need to own and selling these items, you’ll know your why.
However, if your why is centered on another person – your mother who announced at Thanksgiving that she’d like to give up hosting dinner but you’re too much of a slob to fit guests into your home … or, the friend who asked if you were preparing your house for an episode of Hoarders – it probably won’t help.
Your reasons, your why, need to be based on your own desire for change.
Although you may come up with a why that encompasses your decision and desire to declutter your home, you may also find that you want more specific reasons for tackling your closet or your craft room or your kitchen. When you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by the task, you have a heartfelt reason to keep you moving in the direction you want to go.
Of course, identifying your why isn't limited to decluttering your home - the question can bring clarity to all areas of your life. Gaining that clarity can help you focus on the most meaningful tasks before you. The digital download, Getting the Right Things Done, helps you identify your intentional values and bring purpose to your days.
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The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).