A Radical Approach to Creating Lasting Change in Clutter and Chaos – February 2017 Newsletter

If you can identify, address and solve problems by learning new skills and consistently applying them, this article may not be for you. There are people who read about the latest organizing tools or solutions and off they go; issue handled.

On the other hand, a lot more of us struggle to make new habits stick, or simply rebel against anything that challenges a long held pattern or way of thinking. Even more to the point, thinking and knowing do not translate directly into ACTION.

I think there is more to behavior change than rational decision making. Taking a logical solution into action is the very step that seems to elude people. That crucial component, action, can be derailed if you don’t consider how you think and feel about the issue. Even people who do face all these aspects of being disorganized tell me they just need a FIX, a system, an app, a tool, a mantra, whatever. My sense is that they would like to skip the role they have in the problem and jump beyond it in one leap.

And yet…at the same time I hear a lot of frustration with things as they are, situations that spiral into total overwhelm, and ongoing hassles that just never get resolved.

As it happens I have some history with a system that does bypass the rational, to some degree. I would like to offer it as a series of tasks that build on each other, ideally helping to increase self-awareness and open the door to change. It involves writing, actual putting of words into the outside world and out of the head. Whether on paper or digital, it does not matter as much as the willingness to express what is in the mind.

Psychologists, social scientists, and diarists across the ages have found that if you write rather than think most people discover a lot more about what is really going on inside.

Another powerful aspect of personal growth and change is being able to step aside and see our predicament from the outside. A study headed by Eli J. Finkel revealed that couples could better resolve marital issues when they wrote about behavior, not thoughts or feelings, and furthermore considered the behavior from the viewpoint of a neutral third party.

If you’re still with me, I appreciate that this is way afield of clutter clearing tips and tricks. It’s not a new Email Client that deletes them by reading your mind, either. For this I am very sorry, but if you do struggle with why disorganization still makes life difficult, read on.

Disorder Deliverance Program

1. Face the reality that something isn’t working for you and you have not been able to fix it.

2. After trying everything you can, ask the question: Will I accept help or not? In either case, am I willing to look at both my thinking and behavior with fresh eyes?

3. In order to understand the problem better, write about it. Use either paper or digital means and put words down on a document. Make three columns and head them:

A The Problem.
B. What I am Doing.
C. What I think and believe about this.

It’s important not to “just consider” this, but to write it down.

4. Talk to someone you trust about it and listen to what they say.

5. Examine what you have learned and ask: Do I want to change and am I willing to act? Might I invite someone to hold me accountable? Either way, write down what you intend to do and how you’ll practice it.

6. Consider the broader impact this problem has in your life. Are there other places this process might illuminate?

The same series of tasks can be applied to anything that has either become a sticky problem or is just a recurring irritation. I have used it on communication stress with both co-workers and family members.

It has worked for me with getting too angry while driving, avoiding exercise, eating compulsively, and especially over-thinking things I have no control over.

I offer it now in the New Year, because I am encountering more than the usual number of people who feel trapped, stuck and helpless, even if it’s just in the face of their mail or craft rooms. I’d love to hear from any of you about your reactions to or experience with my little program.

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