Being in the Moment: Organizing Mindfully
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
There was a television show in the 1970’s (and again in 2015) called “The Odd Couple”. The program’s two main characters had diametrically opposed personalities. Cohabitating taught them both many lessons; the men, including the messy, chaotic “Oscar”, and the calm and collected “Felix”, learned to thrive, due to each other’s influence. Their opposing personalities worked together to create a better outcome than if they had resided alone. The road to this happy ending was bumpy; the pot-holes along the way were filled with arguments both big and small. Change is after all, never smooth.
Today’s odd couple, clutter and mindfulness, are as diametrically opposed as Oscar and Felix. The word “clutter” emanates an overwhelming feeling of chaos; visions of dirty clothes strewn haphazardly while wisps of stress and anxiety seep from every corner. Mindfulness, on the other hand, conjures visions of contented yoga masters; seated cross-legged while they quietly contemplate life’s bounties. Is it possible for them to work together? Could clutter and mindfulness also have a happy ending?
What is mindfulness?
Simply put: mindfulness is a way of life. It is a way of experiencing the world by infusing a sense of presence, intention and awareness into everything that you do. Mindfulness is focused on the ability to be fully present; to be aware of what’s going on, both internally and externally, and to experience the moment without either judging it, or by becoming overwhelmed by it. Furthermore, every moment should have intention behind it; your autopilot light should never come on.
With the uprising of social media and its propensity for distraction, the urge to live with awareness and intention is becoming more and more prevalent. So often, interactions and experiences are carried out with only partial attention. Smartphones and the fear-of-missing-out dominate; many people have become disconnected from the “here and now”. Mindfulness engages your brain. When you become mindful of the present and become aware of how your behaviour is affecting your physical well-being and your home, you can override bad habits in many areas of your life, such as clutter.
How does clutter affect your ability to be mindful?
In a recent experiment, people who sat at a messy desk, complete with scattered pieces of paper, felt frustrated and weary. They took nearly 10% longer to answer questions in a colour-and-word-matching task, compared to those who were seated at a neatly arranged desk. A disorganized environment appears to affect a person’s sense of control; this unease influences their ability to be in the moment and to answer the questions correctly.
Clutter can cost you both time and money, and can cause undue stress, embarrassment and anxiety. It can drain you of your positive energy and, just as in the experiment noted above, cause frustration and exhaustion. However, organizing and bringing order to your physical life, can bring order to your mind. Organizing and mindfulness can exist together in a happy home. After all, a space devoid of clutter allows you to be present mentally. But can you utilize mindfulness to eradicate clutter? Can organizing and mindfulness work together to create a better outcome, just as Oscar and Felix did?
Organizing mindfully; what does this mean?
When your home or workplace is cluttered, the various objects compete for your attention. This impedes your ability to focus on any one thing; there is no opportunity for mindfulness. But what if you turned that laser-sharp focus on one object at a time? What if you infused a sense of presence, intent and awareness into clearing away the clutter? Perhaps this way of life is the perfect antidote to the chaos that reigns supreme in your closet. After all, mindfulness teaches us to be in the present moment, not the past and not the future. As you declutter, you would be able to move steadily from one object to another, giving each your complete attention.
Organizing mindfully allows you to examine each item in the here-and-now. For example, those jeans in the back of your closet: do they fit you right now? As you pick them up to examine them, don’t think about when you wore them in the past, or when you might be able to wear them in the future; be in the moment. Choose to keep or donate them with intention: don’t automatically re-shelve them.
Keeping items that make you happy, allows you to “surround yourself with belongings that you need and love”. While it is true that organizing mindfully requires presence and awareness, it can make your efforts at decluttering more effective and long lasting. You are able to let go of remnants of your past, you can love your belongings once again, and you can find joy in donating your objects to someone else in need.
Organizing mindfully; how do you keep it organized?
How do you infuse your organizational systems with presence, intent and awareness? Once your closet has been decluttered and organized, you are able to create a space that will support how you want to live right now. “Why do you live and breathe – create a space to support that”. You are able to design your closet in such a way as to offer you comfort and joy in the moment. Because each item has been chosen with intent and awareness, your belongings truly belong.
Furthermore, as noted above, mindfulness is a way of life. This includes the mundane parts of life as well; putting away the laundry, clearing off the kitchen counter, and hanging up the kids’ backpacks. If you rush through the routine tasks that actually comprise most of your day, and don’t give them your full attention, you are in effect wasting those precious moments.
Mindfulness teaches us that every moment is special and deserving of our awareness. By completing each of these organizational tasks mindfully, not only will you prevent clutter from reaccumulating, but you will be living each moment with presence, intent and awareness.
Just as Oscar and Felix benefited from their opposing personalities, so too do clutter and mindfulness. By infusing your organizing with presence, intent and awareness, you are able to not only declutter, but to implement long-lasting organizational systems.