A friend of mine re-posted this tweet. I am quite certain that because of this friend’s (VERY REAL) struggles there was a feeling of being seen and validated. And that’s a valid point of view. If something comforts you in your struggles, that’s valid, no kidding. And this article might annoy you. Scroll on by. I’m not wanting to dump on what keeps you going. Times are rough enough. Seriously…
My initial reaction before logic kicked in was nearly incandescent rage. Which led to this rabbit hole as I tried to deal with it.
Why did a little meme make me so mad?
So, remember how it took me thirty years to vacuum a closet? I could have as easily said it took me thirty years to pay my bills or cook a meal or several other things.
Oh sure, I’m organized now. I’m talking “color-coded boxes when it is time to move” level of organization, ‘kay? But even though other people don’t see it, I still remember being shamed in fourth grade because of the desk cubby crammed full of books and papers, and being asked, “You’re so smart, how come you can’t–” about So. Many. Things.
I didn’t become organized by ignoring reality
I am not naturally organized. I am not naturally industrious, and I am not naturally all that productive. I’d call myself lazy, but that invites a lecture from anyone who loves me about being too hard on myself.
I did, at some point, need to accept certain realities. Not paying bills can land one in court. Disorganization can be a big problem in one’s professional life. In my own case, I also have a big problem with depression, so I cannot count day to day being on the ball and thinking clearly. (I mean, really, this rant was because of an initial reaction of NOT thinking clearly)
So, shooting for some damn Platonic Form of “Organized and Disciplined” in my case is a recipe for failure. I’m going to bet it is for you, too.
- If your plan has no way to account for delays and failure points, it’s a wish, not a plan.
There used to be a fashion in self-development on YouTube to have The Perfect Morning Routine. You know, get up, do twenty minutes of yoga, make yourself the perfect nutritionally-balanced breakfast, read some Improving Literature, and bike to work… that kind of thing.
To tell on myself, yeah, I’m trying to get in more stretching and yeah, I use a yoga app for that. My general idea is that I’ll get up and do twenty minutes of yoga (stop laughing at me) and then do my day.
I did not, in fact, get right up and do that. It’s almost ten in the morning, I’ve been up since six, and I’m here writing this incredibly detailed rant and not getting in that stretching. So I’m failing, right?
- “Imperfectly Perfect” has a lot going for it
My goal for the month is to get in ten minutes of yoga a day as an average measured over a month. I’ll throw in a few minutes today at some point. Probably after I write this.
While an organized person looks like they’re doing things in a strict way and in a specific order, that may not be entirely the case. Sure, you have to show up at the dentist at a specific time, or take your meds before you eat or something. But what time you do your writing or wash your dishes has a lot more wiggle room.
Let it have that wiggle room and let goals that don’t need to be exact be inexact.
- “Good Enough” and “Perfect” are two different things. Good enough is better than Perfect.
Bed making… I’ve heard people say that bed-making is too much trouble. When I hear that, I almost always presume another choke point — bed against the wall makes making it a pain in the ass, depression makes it hard to get OUT of bed, never mind making it, things like that.
If the only time you make your bed is when you have the energy to make it neatly enough you won’t be yelled at on Parris Island, you have absolutely confused “Perfect” and “Good Enough.”
I took that picture thirty seconds before I wrote this. I did no adjustments on the bed. It’s just how I made it this morning. I woke up this morning cranky and wanting to punch Humanity in the mouth. So, not motivated. This meets my personal definition for good enough. It’s made. I’m dressed and doing my day.
Defining Good Enough will help you. What is “Good Enough” in your life?
- Ignoring real issues of executive function will set you up for failure.
Are you distractable? I am. In fact, this article is a prime example of distractability for me. I haven’t written what I plan to do for the day in my Bullet Journal and haven’t done most of my Wednesday morning chores. I got ranty and just had to sit down and write this. That yoga I was going to do? That planning out the day I (usually) do? Obviously not happening right now as I ranty, ranty, rant.
But my life is set up to account for things like this. I accept and plan for the fact that stuff like this happens! I have a means to track what needs to be done that won’t let the genuinely important and urgent things fall through the cracks. Even though I am currently caught up in the glorious dopamine hit of ranting, those things that need to be done are quietly sitting in their places, waiting for my attention.
Thing is, it’s more than just a to-do list. It’s setting up your life to account for how your brain works.
That might mean storing your extra sheets under your mattress so you will immediately re-make the bed when you wash your sheets, or hanging a mask on the back of your door so you don’t forget to put then thing on before you leave your apartment. (Yeah, I know, that looked oddly specific, didn’t it?)
- Being organized and disciplined is a skill. Mastering skills take time.
Think of anything you know how to do — playing an instrument, cooking a meal, writing fiction, driving, whatever.You might have wanted to master it overnight. But if you actually developed the skill instead of stopping the activity, you probably put in a lot of time and effort. You probably had failures that made you wince at yourself.
Learning the skill of organization is no different.
I know that saying it took me thirty years of solid work to get organized seems like hyperbole. It’s not. It was really that difficult for me.
Which is, I know, why images like the above set me off a little. I know the intention is to make people feel better about a mutual struggle.
But it also makes me feel like in the common cultural mind, my life’s work was mostly a waste of time.