Sunday, August 21, 2011

Take a Vacation from Organizing

Tip of the Week, late July 2011

I had the good fortune to spend the past ten days on the east coast, working for a few slivers of that time but vacationing for most of it. Having the opportunity to spend time with my friends and family doing things that aren't part of my everyday--such as visiting museums, playing at the beach with my niece, and wandering around New York City with absolutely no agenda--was the perfect way to take a temporary break from my regular tasks and responsibilities, and I came home relaxed, renewed, and ready to get back to work.

The temporary pause that a good vacation offers always reminds me of how beneficial it can be to take similar breaks in other areas of life. It's generally much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan, for example, when it includes the flexibility to enjoy an occasional treat, and committing to an exercise routine long-term tends to feel more reasonable if it includes days in which you're allowed to do little more than kick back on the sofa.

And, of course, the "vacation" benefits apply to organizing, too: giving yourself the chance to take a complete break from organizational tasks for a set amount of time--an afternoon, a day, a week--can be a super-effective way of regaining the motivation and inspiration to keep your space and your life orderly and running smoothly on a daily basis.

Choosing Your Ideal Vacation
The best type of organizing vacation to take depends on a few factors. If you feel like you've generally got things under control, have strong maintenance habits in place, and find that it's easy to get back to a point of equilibrium after a bout of chaos, a longer break from organizing tasks (a week or so) may be the way to go. During this break, you might opt to let all of your regular habits slide (temporarily): let the mail pile up without processing it, don't worry about keeping your daily schedule in tip-top shape, and let the coffee table get buried under a mountain of books, magazines, and newspapers.

On the other hand, if you're in the midst of a larger ongoing project--decluttering your house as you prepare to downsize, say--a short "vacation" may be better, as you'll reap the benefits of a bit of downtime without losing momentum (or, worse, starting to backslide). Your vacation should include not just a temporary reprieve from your organizing work, but also a task that's pleasant and relaxing enough to be an effective antidote, such as going to a movie, losing yourself in a guilty pleasure book, or catching your favorite sports team in action--whatever renews and re-inspires you.

When to Take It
As with a regular vacation, it's worth scheduling your organizing break for a time when it won't throw you off or make it difficult to return to "real life." If you're opting for a week-long let-things-slide fest, for example, choose a week when a bit of chaos won't make you or anyone else in your household stressed, and when you have time at the tail end to do a few hours of catch-up work. (Think of it like unpacking after an actual vacation.)

Taking a pause from a larger project? Aim for a day or two somewhere in the middle (or, if it's a truly hefty undertaking, go for a few short "vacations" every few weeks); that way, you'll make some progress but won't reach the point of being so burned out that you may never want to get started again once you're done with your break.

Share Your Stories
Once you've taken a vacation from organizing, leave a comment and let me know how it went. What did you stop doing during your vacation? What did you do instead? What was the time off like?

Here's to the rejuvenating, relaxing, reinspiring benefits of taking a well-deserved break.

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