Life Transitions – It happens to organized people too!
Every week we work with clients who are going through, about to go through, or have just been through a major life transition. These typically include a change in any combination of the following: marital status, death of a loved one, job status, living situation. In the last ten years of my life I have managed to hit most of these transitions. I have moved eleven times (I know, it’s extreme), gotten married, had several new jobs, and sadly lost people I wish I hadn’t. However, I have always managed to come through these situations with my routines and my sense of self intact. Maybe it’s because I’m young, so ten years ago I was even younger and now aware of how much I was disrupting my life by moving all around and changing everything up whenever the mood struck me. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky to have an amazing support system of friends and family. I don’t know. What I do know, is that two months ago I hit a transition that really threw me for a loop.
In January of this year, my sister-in-law and her three kids (ages 10, 8, and 5) came to live with me and my husband. They came all the way from California and we could not have been more excited to have them so close and to host them in our home until they were settled in and ready to find a place of their own. However, my husband and I don’t have kids and I found myself unprepared for all of the changes coming my way at seemingly impossible speeds. Suddenly, there were toys in every room of my house, silence was a thing I only barely remembered experiencing, and the socks that came out of the dryer did not always match up (the horror!). Yup. There were four new bodies, boxes full of stuff, and all sorts of new routines thrown into my life. And it was all too much.
The sheer force of so quick and so drastic a change knocked me off my feet, so to speak. I found it difficult to stick to my usual routines, I become forgetful and had trouble focusing on tasks for extended periods of time, and I also began to avoid tasks that felt unpleasant. The mountain of things that needed to be accomplished and the world in which I was expected to accomplish them were simply too much. I didn’t feel that I could successfully do them, so I did not even bother to attempt them. For the first time in my life, I truly felt what it is to be overwhelmed by one’s own life.
But fear not! After a few weeks of wandering the planet like a lost kitten, I decided it was time to pull myself out of my defeatist mindset and get things back on track. Step one – focus on solutions, not problems. I went on a checklist rampage! Everyone got one. The kids got a bedtime routine checklist, a chore checklist, and a lunch packing checklist. Adults got a giant family whiteboard calendar to track our schedules and alleviate confusion. Step two – attack the physical clutter. One quick trip to the furniture store and two full days of organizing with my amazing sister-in-law and our home is now the most organized it has ever been. Everything has a designed place (clearly labeled) and anything that wasn’t necessary, loved or used was donated. Clean-up time becomes easier when we all know what we are expected to do! Step three – enjoy the benefits. Now that my home is once again decluttered and my family has a strong routine and structure in place, we have time to really enjoy each other. We can go to the pool, the park, the zoo, or just the grocery store worry-free because we know that we have still taken care of the important things like paying the bills and taking out the trash.
What’s my point? Sometimes life comes at us faster than we can handle in the moment. But there is hope. If your daily life has become too complex and overwhelming, do not resign yourself to it. Find a way to make the necessary changes to enjoy the world and the people around you. Look to family and friends to support. If you would rather not involve them, know that there is an entire industry of caring, compassionate professional organizers out there who can help you get your life on track.