24 November 2008

Book Review...When Organizing Isn't Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life

Like most people, I am constantly on the search for the next "big thing" that will fix my problems, to which I have no problem admitting. For years and years, it would be diets (a topic for another blog post). Another area I have felt a strong need to work on has been my organizational/time management skills. I have read literally dozens of books on the subject. I would take their suggestions, work with some of them for a while, and it would fall by the wayside in short order.

Last week, I attended a Ladies' Night sponsored by CYM/LOML's school Parent Council . There was a speaker discussing how we can bring balance back into our lives followed by a yoga session. One of the books the speaker recommended had the above title. It intrigued me because I had read other books by this author (Julie Morgenstern) and loved her idea in Organizing from the Inside Out that the best organized space we should aspire to creating would be like a kindergarten classroom. There are "zones" for various activities. Morgenstern has tackled similiar issues in subsequent books: Time Management from the Inside Out and Never Check E-Mail in the Morning (which is next on my book pile and focuses on those habits which drain our time).

This current book admits that NO organizational/time management system is successful without addressing what needs to be accomplished. A lot of us make space/time in our lives only to fill it with "more". Until we can address our goals, we will go through a constant cycle of decluttering. Our lives center around a theme, which can change whether we choose it to or not (new job, divorce, moving, children). If we look at the process as SHEDing, it allows us to create our space and time around that theme and move on from there.

To illustrate her point about SHEDing, Morgenstern tells the story about her decision to become a professional organizer. It was shortly after her divorce and she had to raise her daughter on her own. Until this point, she had worked in the theatre and realized the need for something more reliable. When she started her business, it was reasonably well for several years, until it plateaued. Meanwhile, she had stored under the dining room table of her Brooklyn apartment, 6 boxes of theatre production books (from every show she had ever done). She truly no longer needed them and they were taking up space. One day, she had enough of the wasted space (the books were "organized" and "safely containered" but were still anchoring her somehow) and she tossed all but the books from her two best productions. After this happened, her business stagnation left.

Separate the Treasures
Heave the Trash
Embrace your Identity
Drive Yourself Forward

This book inspired me to finally accept some facts about myself I've been wrestling with for a while. For example, I've been holding on to a bunch of boxes in my basement from my many years as an afternoon Hebrew teacher. When I packed up my classroom at the Talmud Torah, I simply threw the boxes in the basement. I figured when I have a classroom again, I would use some of this stuff. Needless to say, in the meantime, I opted to downgrade Jewish education as a "sideline" while I work on my credentials to become a "general studies" teacher. In reality, I may never use a lot of this stuff again. A step in the right direction for me has been to stop blaming the "majority" of the mess on the kids' toys in that basement area.

I am still working out a theme for the next chapter of my life, but at least I'm starting to face facts.

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