Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bringing Humor to Organizing

Tip of the Week, April 1, 2007

Unless it's a task you really love, or unless you're a fantastically happy person in general, getting organized probably doesn't strike you as being a laugh-a-minute sort of activity. Indeed, clearing clutter, sorting and weeding, creating filing systems, and re-ordering clothes in a closet aren't quite hilarious tasks--but there's a lot to be said for approaching organizing with a sense of humor. This week, in honor of April Fool's Day, I offer you a few ways of bringing some fun to getting organized.

Get kids involved
I call kids professional DISorganizers, given their penchant for creating disorder (delightful, charming disorder though it might be) wherever they go. It might seem counterintuitive, then, to involve the small people in your life in your organizing processes, but the truth is that they can make otherwise dreadful tasks a lot more fun. Kids have the ability to see almost anything as a game if the circumstances are right. Clearing clutter from the family room can be a race against the clock, with the winner being the person to put as many things as possible in their rightful homes before the buzzer goes off. Playing dress-up while weeding out an adult's closet can bring laughter to a ho-hum task. Use your imagination--and your kids'--to create fun, funny ways of keeping on top of organizing.

Look for and delight in absurdity
At a recent speaking engagement, I was asked lightheartedly whether the fact that one of the attendees had given his garage over to storing stuff worth "dozens of dollars" while his many-thousand-dollar car languished outside meant he needed to bring a bit more organizing to his life. The group got a good chuckle, but his point was well made: how many times do we place more importance on things that are relatively worthless while the valuable things, people, and tasks in our lives get displaced?

Serious, chronic disorganization is no laughing matter, and if you suffer from disorganization to such a degree that you can't use major areas of your home as they're meant to be used (can't cook in your kitchen, for example, or bathe in your bathtub) or find that disorder has an appreciable negative impact on your life, it's important to seek professional help.

But if you wrestle with less serious (though still annoying) disorganization, try looking for and finding humor in examples of absurdity. Are you, like the fellow mentioned above, devoting valuable storage space to items worth "dozens of dollars"? Are your morning routines like something out of a Keystone Kops movie because you can never seem to find your keys, shoes, lunch, briefcase, and jacket when you need them? For a few minutes, let yourself enjoy the silliness in these situations, and then translate that into inspiration to make some changes.

Mock the overly organized
An ad in a modern design magazine I read yesterday caught my eye: it was a spot for kitchen cabinetry, and it showed a very sleek, very beautiful kitchen with a killer view out a lovely set of windows over a shiny chrome sink. With the exception of a tiny bowl that held a few perfectly arranged oranges, the counters were entirely bare. As I took in the ad, I snorted and thought, Yeah, right. WHO LIVES LIKE THAT?

Images of "organization" in magazines, on TV, in others' homes, and in the popular imagination can make most of us feel like we're not up to snuff. But if you can turn that sense of disappointment, of not measuring up, on its head, you can bring a bit of glee to the process of getting organized enough. For instance, when you come across an ad like the one I saw, make some modifications: draw in a stack of mail, a coffee maker, some dirty dishes, a roll of paper towels, a half-eaten sandwich, and whatever else might appear in the kitchen of an actual human who actually uses their kitchen. Then make a promise to yourself that your own kitchen only needs to be organized enough that you can efficiently do whatever you need to do there and can then get on with your life.

This month, approach organizing with levity and a sense of humor. If nothing else, you might find that what once seemed like drudgery or a series or boring, repetitive tasks can sometimes be fun.

No comments: