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Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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Posts Tagged ‘The Netherlands’

Organizing In Other Countries

Sunday, April 15, 2012 @ 06:04 PM
posted by admin

Organization and Quality of Life

             Organization is a little like art. We may not always know how to describe it but we know it when we see it. Without ‘organization’ the quality of our lives is diminished. I have been privileged, as a public speaker to travel to Japan and The Netherlands. I have had organizing clients in Bermuda and Costa Rica. And I’ve corresponded regularly with readers of my books in Korea, Brussels, England and Saudi Arabia. Everyone I have spoken with shares the view that quality of life and organization are paired.  “An organizer is uniquely able to influence a client on reaching goals, managing stress, and getting things done” notes Mayumi Takahari, President of the Japanese Association of Life Organizers. Reaching goals, managing stress, and enhancing productivity are at the very heart of a good quality of life. My Bermuda real estate client said, “I want to conduct my business efficiently but not lose sight of old ways that bring us quality of life in Bermuda.” In organizing terms, that meant setting up office hours rather than permitting constant interruptions, and developing routines at work so her fine 18th century home could be dedicated to family and leisure.

Organization and Demographic Shifts    

            The Japanese are known for living and working efficiently in small spaces. The average home is only 983 square feet. They enjoy the planet’s longest life span. It is common to see active 80 and 90-year olds. There are also many baby boomers. Elderly Japanese are increasingly moving into senior community homes. Many middle-age boomers no longer want their parent’s possessions. “Middle aged people and younger prefer to shop at IKEA”, my Japanese/American translator told me. Coping with multi-generational stuff that is no longer wanted or handed-down is an example of how professional organizers are smoothing out these demographic shifts. Demographics in The Netherlands are also shifting. It is common for both household adults to be working. Boomers are sandwiched between the needs of their grown children and elderly parents just like in the US. Affordable housing is in very short supply. And, more and more people are working from home as corporations outsource. Here too, organizers smooth the way helping families and businesses manage projects, time, clutter and space.

 Organizing Makes The World Greener

             The rain forests of Costa Rica with ozone-filled clouds wafting past 2,000 year old trees and bizarrely colored frogs jumping at your feet can turn anyone into an environmentalist. My client, a professor at a Costa Rican university, and I traveled miles to take waste paper from her office to a trade school where it is combined with banana by-products and pressed it into another generation of paper. Recycling, reusing and repurposing is important in small countries were landfills are not an alternative. Even small towns in Japan have modest recycling centers. Charitable-giving, with its roots in the Christian church, is not a big part of Japanese culture. In Holland these charitable thrift stores are common and known as ‘kringloopwinkels.’ “In the Netherlands we are known for frugality”, a leading organizer told me. “Our clients tend to want certain objects completely used up before they are willing to discard them.” Yard sales and garage sales are strictly a US tradition, though flea markets have there origin in Europe. My Dutch colleagues were unfamiliar with consignments stores but Tokyo touts high-end, designer brand consignment stores. Every country has its own reuse, repurpose and recycle methods.  

Organizing Is Universal and Personal At the Same Time

             Organizing has universal appeal, but it is still a fairly personal activity. This is very beneficial to chronically disorganized clients who require one to one assistance. A Japanese organizer asked me, “I am patient while my client learns the organizing process. I believe it is better to wait than rush her. However, it means the organizing takes a very long time. Can you tell me how to manage a client who works so slowly?” Organizers everywhere confront these issues with grace and compassion. The Netherlands, with its long tradition of psychology (think Freud) makes it easy for organizers to connect how the mind works to how people organize. If you are diagnosed with ADD you can get a ‘persoonsgebonden’, a personal budget from the government for services, including organizing services. In Japan, an obstacle to organizing like a neurological disorder or a learning difference might still be considered a personal failing though thanks in part to professional organizers, that is changing. In Bermuda, Costa Rica, and many countries throughout the world, asking for organizing support carries a stigma. Organizers are playing a role in helping to bring that stigma to an end.

 —-This article originally appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of NAPO News.

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“I Was Here” – A Universal Organizing Principle

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 @ 12:03 PM
posted by admin

I recently traveled to The Netherlands to address organizers from throughout the region. In Amsterdam, a city crisscrossed by small bridges over canals, I saw graffiti, in particular the ubiquitous “I was here” post written in Dutch. I’ve seen that graffiti expression in every city I have ever been in. One day I was organizing with Mary, a chronically disorganized retired teacher. Teachers have lots of excess stuff, especially older teachers who entered their careers before the internet was commonly utilized. Like many disorganized people, Mary has a lot of incomplete projects. She has kept a great deal of teaching materials now obsolete. She has saved student essays and writing projects, and hundreds of magazines about teachers.  While we were rummaging through her stuff,  I was reminded of that graffiti.

I believe that some people with lots of clutter find it difficult to discard because tossing it out undermines the sentiment “I was here.” I believe they are saying, “I was here. I became a teacher. I influenced all these kids. I did not finish everything I set out to do, but I had dreams.” I believe what looks like simple stacks of papers and piles of stuff to others, is actually the human need to be acknowledged, to say “I was here.” At the conference in The Netherlands, I presented this idea and it was received very well. Perhaps this is a universal organizing principle, that we keep stuff that is representative of our hopes and dreams, efforts and even failures out of a human need to chronicle being here.

If you are similar to Mary, someone whose disorganization is tied up with memories and the past with no room for the future, let this idea sink in. Realize that your clutter makes perfect sense as an attempt to be acknowledged. Then, when you are ready, I encourage you to find a way to honor your dreams and efforts and achievements without drowning yourself in the remnants of them. For instance, Mary and I gathered a few items from her teaching career: a photo of her students, her “best teacher” award, and a framed essay from a favorite student. We put them together on a pretty table with fresh flowers. Then we tossed out all the obsolete materials, and made room for the next chapter in her life. It was not easy. It took time. We had to stop now and then for Mary to process the emotional reactions she had to opening up not just boxes, but memories. She needed to tell stories and relive the past a bit. And retirement, the ending of a an entire career can be tough. But it was worth it. “I can move on now. I’m ready for the next chapter of my life”, Mary observed when we’d gotten things in better order.

You can find more organizing methods like this one that are compassionate and non-judgmental in Conquering Chronic Disorganization . And I look forward to hearing from you on what you might think about the relationship between universal needs and organization/disorganization.

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