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On Saturday morning my husband and I unloaded everything in our pantry cupboard.  It was time to organize. We could no longer stand the disarray of outdated cans of beans, half used boxes of pasta and the loose tumble of bags with long forgotten contents. We took everything out and separated items into keep or toss categories. We then put the dry-goods into new stackable containers. As we purged we scolded ourselves for not consuming what was once good food but now well past expiration. We cleaned each of the shelves and made a logical storage plan based on use for daily (vitamix smoothie section), weekly (rice, pasta) and occasional (sauces, flour, sugar). We then recycled the leftover packaging and put the food waste into the organics bin. We stood back to admire our accomplishment, pleased to have reclaimed a space that had annoyed us for some time. This morning as I reached in for my flax, chia and coconut flakes I felt a great sense of pride in our weekend project.

Being organized creates an immediate feel good boost. For instance, in the last couple of days I have frequently opened the pantry cupboard to admire its contents, displayed in esthetically pleasing order. In fact, my husband and I felt so good about the cupboard that on Sunday we moved onto the freezer. All freezer-burned items and suspect frozen leftovers have departed. What we wondered though was why we tolerated the disorganized state for so long. We had complained about it. We intended to get to it. But we lived with it. Then on Friday night we decided. And on Saturday morning we made good on that decision. Whew! It’s done. It took a decision, commitment and action to arrive at a positive outcome. Simple, yet somehow procrastination came easier and at a greater cost to our time and the enjoyment of our kitchen.

My husband and I have also decided to make more meals at home and eat out less. We have resolved to make food that is healthy and delicious. Not a revelation. Just common sense in the interest of living better. Yet, we have been “trying” to do this for a long time, as well. It was partially our disorganized food storage that led us out of our kitchen and into the convenience of restaurants. A new environment, properly set-up, has reinvigorated our desire to use our kitchen as gathering space at the end of the day to cook, connect and share food. A few weeks ago we purged all dishes that we no longer use, need or want. Having now done the same with food storage, the kitchen feels at peace and we are at peace in it.

 

In her wonderful book called the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, Marie Condo explores the connection between our environment and how we feel. Condo writes:

Tidying brings visible results. Tidying never lies. The ultimate secret of success is this: If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mind-set. A change so profound that it touches your emotions will irresistibly affect your way of thinking and your lifestyle habits.

Condo advocates decluttering your entire home because she believes that if you do it a small amount at a time you will not stay motivated and your efforts will fall off. In other words, you will be back to excess stuff and disorder in no time. She writes:

If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after.

Fortunately, my husband and I agree on a clutter-free home for the most part. It is in the hidden spaces – closets, drawers, cupboards and storage area, that we “put” things and plan to deal with them. You can get a lot of stuff into small spaces! He and I have occasionally re-purchased items that we know we already have but cannot locate. Hence the pantry and freezer situations of unused food. Yet, we are both against excess and waste and are making renewed efforts to tackle our areas of shortcoming. We also reduced our use of plastic knowing that now over 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our oceans every year. We recyle meticulously but we know that reducing waste has to be the primary goal. I may not be on Condo’s level but I respect her insights and wisdom on getting organized.

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Our weekend work, our discussions and our decision to do better on the home front caused me to consider why it is that we, as humans, are reluctant and downright lazy when it comes to making changes that so obviously and powerfully improve our lives. What does it take to jolt us into action? Will we have to bite into plastic in our seafood at dinner to prompt the kind of significant changes required to avert environmental catastrophes that our grandchildren will otherwise be left to address? What is this thing, this inaction that we endure and live with, day in and day out? Why do we resist doing what will change our environment, and ultimately change us, for the better? My cupboard may seem a small change but it is emblematic of the procrastination endemic amongst us humans. We know we should, we want to, and still we hesitate. Then when we finally “do” life changes, improves and smiles upon us.

In my work as a mentor, I teach that action is key to progress towards your goals and your dreams. They will not happen without doing the things required to make them real. In my head, I wanted a beautifully organized pantry but it was not until my husband and I got our hands dirty making it happen that the vision in my head appeared.

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I agree with Marie Condo’s advice to revamp your entire home is the right thing to do to banish clutter and achieve lasting organization. I enjoy reading her book because it speaks to my inner Virgo that thrives on order and good form. I know that our home environment, properly appointed, “feng shui’d,” cleaned and cleared of excess establishes order and tranquility where we are happier and calmer and more productive.

When we surround ourselves by simple beauty so that we can appreciate the things that have meaning and value, set free from clutter, we live more joyfully. Thus it is with working on our personal projects and goals. We have to clear the space, rebuild order and focus on what matters. We must pay attention to the things that move us in the direction of our intentions. We must declutter and rid ourselves of the noise, distractions and busyness that can overtake our attention. Successful organization means first eliminating what is in the way so that what matters can appear. Otherwise, a few months from now we may be left to wonder why our 2017 goals never really got off the ground, or failed. Remember those January goals?

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My advice is to clean your metaphorical cupboards first. Make your work space (physical and inner) as calm and inviting and happy as possible. Do that work so you become free to create. Be tidy in your thoughts. Give yourself ample room to make progress each day towards your best life.

As Marie Condo says at the end of her book:

As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.