Tag Archives: reality

Designing An Organizing System That Sticks

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Just as not having enough of a clearly defined system can be the quickest path to chaos, having an overly complicated system can similarly derail even the best intentions.

I once knew a woman who operated a clothing resale business. To keep track of her ever-growing inventory, she instituted a system wherein every garment received a bag, which was tagged with a code number, which went onto a particular shelf. Now, if hers was a standard clothing retail operation, this might have been a sound system. That level of detail is necessary when tracking inventory.

But small retailers don’t usually carry 400 unique SKUS. They carry closer to 40. 

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Merci via Just One Suitcase


She quickly realized that her hyper-detailed system was not sustainable; she never had enough time to keep up with incorporating new items into the system, it was far too complicated for anyone but her to do, meaning that it wasn’t a task she could delegate to her assistant. More over, it wasn’t actually helping her to drive sales. No one was coming to her asking whether she had a vintage Diane Von Furstenberg sweater dress in an abstract geometric, black and white print and jersey material circa 1970, size 10. They would ask for a dress in their size. 

What was needed was a much Simpler system that required less minute sorting and more reliance on categories–clothing grouped together by type, color, and size.

This is one example of many I’ve seen wherein people’s efforts to get and stay organized fail because doing so requires a completely unrealistic amount of work. 

File folders are commonly created to be way too small in scope, with a folder made for every specific heading (think: Alaska Airlines, and Delta, and American Airlines, and Jetblue, and on, instead of just Milage Accounts). This can lead to overcrowded file cabinets, confusion about correct location, and then, eventually, a giving up, as it all becomes too complicated.

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Style At Home


Laundry, too, is often made to be overly complicated, with such extensive delineation between what constitutes a load, what soap to use with each type of load, and what water temperature to use with each. Socks are segregated; everything with the exception of t-shirts must be ironed; towels cannot be combined with bedsheets, bathing suits cannot be washed with beach towels, and on and on. No one can seem to pull off the feat of cleaning the clothing properly. And so the laundry piles high.

(For reference, there are three very clear rules regarding laundry in my house, which David has come to know like his middle name: 1. Use maximum soap, 2. When in doubt, wash everything on cold, 3. To be safe/avoid divorce, hang dry everything, except the things for which you have been given specific permission to dry.) 

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: IKEA


I love that people actually love and crave structure, that we do better when we establish rules for ourselves and our household, that we live more freely with more self-selected discipline. And I admire the goal of designing and executing detailed systems. I also know the importance of designing a system that yields to reality. I know that a system that requires that necessary 5% less upkeep has a 95% higher chance of maintaining over time. 

We all have a limited number of hours in the day. As we grow, our lives usually become fuller and busier, leaving us less time for the riff raff of the unnecessary, and, some may say sadly, less time for the overly vigilant systems. It is what it is.

Better to have the toys put away than to not ask the kids to clean up because they won’t be able to successfully put each toy back into the respective bin. Ya falla?

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Jamie Lynn Sigler via My Domaine


If you’re the owner of a very detailed system that’s mysteriously, against all your preferences and ambitions, devolved into chaos, ask yourself: is my system designed with reality in mind? Are my standards unmatched with my current free time? Would I and my family be better equipped to maintain order were I to Simplify the system?

Report back. 

Monday’s Meditation: On Not Believing In “Supposed To Be”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pre. S. Massive apologies for the recent lack of posts and the post mix-up today for email subscribers –we’re currently having some backend issues and are working to get it sorted out ASAP.

Monday's Meditation: On Not Believing In "Supposed To Be"

There’s a picture of my parents I’ve seen over the years; they’re standing on a beach, newly married maybe, long before my sister and I came along, at least. My dad’s beard is thick and his hair, now silver and sparse, is as brown as a coconut shell.

In their eyes is a distinct mix of grandeur and impishness; the delighted twinkle of young love, the mystical significance of a young love grown old.

So many times, I stared at that photo with one thought crashing over me like a rogue wave: they don’t know. Those two people standing there–laughing, so happy, so vital–they don’t know what’s in store for them. They don’t know how the happy, idyllic, easy life they’re envisioning they’ll have will never be. Or, it will, until it gets hit head on by the semi truck that is chronic illness, the picture they had fracturing into a million and three tiny pieces upon impact.

I wanted to warn them. Or, more likely, I wanted to change the present so those two shining faces never had to learn the fate of their future.

Perhaps my interpretation of the photograph of my parents is invented, and my parents never once envisioned whether their future would be hard as boulders or as easy as sitting calmly by the sea. Maybe they’ve never considered themselves to look any way other than they do.

For myself, I spent years grieving over my family’s failed chance to be the way we were supposed to be, which is to say: healthy and happy, everyone in their places with sunshiny faces. That was where we were headed for so long, it seemed. Until we were unfairly, tumultuously, incorrectly diverted.

At some point, though, I let that thought go. 

I realized how futile it was to grieve over an imagined reality, thwarted. I realized how hopeless it was to feel heartbreak at our inability to be what we could never now be. The vision I had held for years in my mind of a life in which my mom had never gotten sick ceded from memory. Not that it wasn’t hopeful, but that it wasn’t helpful. Our picture was never ruined. This was just how it looked now.

Of the several lessons this Multiple Sclerosis business has taught me, chief among them is the realization that there is no such thing as “how it was supposed to be.” There is only “how it is.”

The more you understand that fact, and learn to move with the fluidity of life, the better off you are. The more easily you disavow your expectations and remain focused on the present, the more lush the moment in front of you becomes.

It was when I forgot to keep comparing our reality to a hypothetical version of life that all the beauties of our present circumstance became clear to me. Not all at once, but little by little. Like the tide moving in and out over your toes as you stand on a beach, yourself the portrait of a young love grown golden, turned back to young love, again.




Monday’s Meditation: On Dreams We Dream Alone Becoming Reality

Monday, December 14, 2015

a necessary reminder about visions and dreams we have for ourselves.

Carrie Bradshaw once described a popular children’s song as “the co-dependent national anthem.” At first blush, I would have said as much about John Lennon’s line “a dream you dream alone is just a dream, but a dream you dream together is a reality.”

What a crock, Lennon! I’d have wanted to say. What happens to the validity of my dreams that are just for me in your rulebook, huh? 

What about all the dreams people throughout history have dreamt that were entirely self-born, and, in their earliest, most fragile stages, self-fulfilled? Huh??

So, what: if you don’t have someone to share in your dream you’re S.O.L. Lennon; is that what you’re telling me?

Only, looked at from a different angle, I concede: he might have had a point, after all.

The dreams you have for yourself, that no one else–not even those who love you most–will ever yearn for in quite the same way as you do because they are dreams of your fulfillment as a person, those are as valid as any other.

And yet there is an inherent requirement in the process of converting dreams into reality that, yes, Lennon, fine, involves a kind of partnership.

A vision becomes a reality the moment that you speak it out loud to someone else.

Up until the moment you speak your desire or intention to another person, it’s a hypothetical thought like the myriad other ones swimming in your head.

You may think you’ve decided on a course of action within yourself. You may believe you’ve arrived internally at your answer. Still, there is nothing like hearing yourself say those words out loud to someone to create the possibility of your dream being real.

It is only through the verbal declarations of our thoughts that we reveal our own intentions to ourselves.

It is not until we hear ourselves saying the words that we, ourselves, understand we are really serious about them.

It is not until we know someone outside of us knows that we begin to hold ourselves accountable to the fulfillment of our dream (we are very skillful at letting ourselves off the hook, it turns out).

This doesn’t mean that we should go around oversharing, blabbing people’s ears off with every thought that crosses our mind, naturally. We must always be impeccable with our words if they are to be believed. That’s what a mental filter is for, hello.

But it does mean that we understand that not until we tell someone else our intentions do we consider ourselves truly committed to them.

Because who we hold ourselves to be is deeply rooted in our being seen by others. With each intention established, we evolve ever so slightly. And so, it becomes necessary to constantly edit the information we give others about who we are; necessary to recalibrate the person we give to the world. And this is done through sharing.

We may be a zillion and a half things. We may dream an infinite number of dreams. And out of those we speak out loud, maybe only half will actually come to be. Maybe the half that never comes to fruition is merely an exercise, a mental spoke that moves us one notch closer.

The moment you hear your voice tell another person of this, your newest evolution, your whole being initiates its rewiring. Cells vibrate and change places and paths open up for us. The space around us changes. It reflects back to us what we say.

And so the precious cycle repeats itself: thoughts to feelings, feelings to expressions, expressions to action, action to actualization.