Podcast 144: Organizing to soothe your soul

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This is podcast 144 and it’s about organizing to soothe your soul. If you’ve got the motivation, energy and focus for a project, you’ve probably already started one. I hope you’ve gotten some helpful info from my podcasts.

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If you’ve been feeling too distracted or worried, or busy with work that’s more tiring than usual because you’re doing it remotely, you probably haven’t. And that’s fine. But it occurred to me that some organizing tasks can be relaxing and take your mind off things for awhile.

A homey little activity like sorting socks or alphabetizing your spices is what I’m talking about. Something that doesn’t require decision making at all, so I’m not talking about decluttering. Simply making a category of stuff be more useful and presentable. Take a whiff of each spice as you go. Make it a sensory activity.

A task like this has practical benefits, of course. I once spent almost an hour sorting my embroidery thread by color and putting it into separate bags. It was very helpful going forward to find the color I was looking for. And at the time I did it I found it very pleasing to spread out all the threads and then group them by colors. The colors were so pretty and the thread was soft and pleasant to handle.

The best kind of project for times like this when you want some mental relief is one that involves beauty, one that you feel will make your home look nicer. Forget being productive for now. Forget about using your time efficiently.

Also important is to find a task that involves using your hands or otherwise being physically active. That helps ease the mind. And it should be something simple enough to be almost mindless, so your mind can relax.

I know many of you are busy with work and family trying to juggle in new and different ways. Even so, there are probably periods of what I call spaciousness. Times when you would have been meeting friends, going out for dinner, catching a movie, or otherwise out and about.

I’m doing some projects at home, like learning to play the ukulele from Youtube videos. I can feel a difference in how I’m approaching it since I’m not fitting practice around other professional and social obligations.

I have time to do this.  There’s no reason at all to hurry. There’s no rush to get to the finish line. This spaciousness makes me feel more grounded in the present moment where everything, for this moment, is fine.

I certainly don’t mean to make light of the seriousness of this pandemic, but it’s okay to feel good about some aspects of our current situation. Some of us are cheerful about staying home more. Some of us are finding our calendars agreeably decluttered of events that we are realizing we’re happier doing without. Some of us are happy just doing less, resting, not pushing ourselves and having it be okay not to because we’re all in the same boat. That’s a gift.

My regular listeners will know that I’m against productivity for productivity’s sake. That’s just keeping busy. Being productive should always be at the service of doing something truly worthwhile, just as being organized is at the service of making your life easier and simpler. Let this be a time merely to notice what you don’t mind not doing. Let there be some emptiness, some time just to be.

Here are a few other ideas. Do your shredding. This is a decluttering task people often put off until they have a whole box, and then they start a second box because they don’t want to pay for shredding and can’t spare the time to sit there and feed the shredder.

Play a game with it. Can you feed the paper in continuously enough that the motor doesn’t stop running? You can vary how many sheets you do at a time so the motor’s tone is higher or lower. You can create a rhythm feeding in sheets slowly and then quickly. Or just become mesmerized by the drone of the motor and the movements of your hands.

Organize your jewelry. I don’t know about you, but I’m not dressing up or putting on jewelry much these days. But I love my jewelry and enjoy seeing it and touching it. You can sort earrings by color or length or group them in a way that’s pleasing or fun.

What you can do right now:

Don’t try too hard with this one! It’s meant to be a pleasant, relaxing way to spend a little time away from current events. You can sort anything you have in quantity. Arrange drinking glasses in the cupboard. Hang clothing by color. Sort your collection of shot glasses alphabetically. It’s up to you to decide what that means.