“…’cause I’ve built my life around you but time makes you bolder, even children get older and I’m getting older too…”

Landslide by Stevie Nicks.

Okay, TECHNICALLY Fleetwood Mac.  

Do you know how many times that song has been covered?  The Smashing Pumpkins.  Dixie Chicks.  Bush.  Tori Amos… What is it they say about imitation?  It’s the greatest form of flattery, right?  I don’t think anyone sings it quite like Stevie though. Especially that line up there.   “…I’ve been afraid of changin’ ’cause I’ve built my life around you…”  I dunno what it is about her voice and that line but it gives me chills.

Maybe it’s the absolute truth of the lyric.  It’s the understatement of the century to say that change is hard.  Positive change.  Negative change. ANY change.  And I think it’s because change makes us uncomfortable. To do something different feels weird. Off- kilter.  Even when it’s something good.  Change, you see, opens us up to the unknown.  And the unknown can be…terrifying.

I think that’s THE biggest thing people forget when they’re trying to get organized.  Getting organized means there’s going to be change in your life.  It’s gonna feel uncomfortable.  You’re gonna feel squirrely and creepy crawly on the inside until that change becomes a normal part of your life.  Even if you want it.  Even if you’re excited.  That’s just how change works.  You know, most of the time.

But why?

Well, anything that’s unfamiliar is gonna feel weird, right?  Even good weird.  You’re gonna have to get used to it.  And anytime we’re not 100% comfortable with something we feel discombobulated.  It’s like when you’re trying to learn something new.  You get SO frustrated because you can’t make heads or tails of- let’s say square roots!  You wanna quit! You wanna run as far away from those damn square roots as you can possibly get so that uncomfortable feeling GOES. THE. EFF. AWAY.  The thing is, the only way to actually understand stupid square roots is to push through the pain (The technical term  for the “pain” would be cognitive dissonance.) until it gives way into understanding.  Pretty much, we have to wrestle with the it until somebody wins and hopefully it ain’t the square roots!

I think more than we’d like to admit though, we’re afraid of changing because, like Stevie says, we’ve built our lives around something and change means giving up a part of our identity.  Even if it’s a negative part of our identity.  And it opens us up to the possibility of failure.  For so many people it’s better to be the disorganized carpool mom who’s never on time or has her kids’ field trip money because it becomes your “thing”.  If you try to change it, who are you anymore?  Even if you HATE it.  Especially if you hate it. And what if you try and it doesn’t work? What if you’re trying your ass off and you’re STILL the disorganized carpool mom who’s never on time or has her kids’ field trip money? What then? You’ve put yourself out there and you’ve failed.  And not only have you failed but now you associate that creepy crawly feeling with bad stuff. Anytime you feel it, even though it’s a normal part of change, you immediately think you suck so you give up.

Ohhhh failure, you’re a smarmy bastard.  I am not a fan.  But- BUT- failure doesn’t automatically turn you into a loser.  (“I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.”  Oh, Beck, I love this song!)  Failure feels like shit, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also extremely informative.  Failure gives you feedback.  And we get to choose how we use that feedback.

Let’s go back to square roots.  To say I’m not good at math is an understatement.  I mean, I can do basic math but anything that’s more complicated than addition, subtraction, multiplication and division? Yeah, not my strong suit.  At least I’ve always struggled with it.  And because I struggled with it, when I didn’t get the right answer the first time I had NO idea what to do.  I wasn’t able to backtrack and figure out where I’d gone wrong.  All I knew is that I did what I was taught and my answer was WAY different than it was supposed to be.  Hell, on the SATs I was SO excited because I thought I’d finally figured out the ole’  “You go to a movie.  You’re sitting three seats away from Robert, eight seats away from Bobby and Bob is right next to you.  Roberto comes in late and sits three seats down from Bob.  There are fifteen people with you at the movie.  Who’s sitting beside you?” kinda questions.  I mean, I was PSYCHED!  And then MY answer wasn’t one of the multiple choice options.  And you know what I did?  I said, “Huh, haven’t chosen C in a while.” and moved onto the next problem.  I was completely tapped out. Demoralized.  I did what I was supposed to do, failed and gave up.  That creepy crawly feeling inside me didn’t pay off AT ALL.  It made me feel worse than I did before because I thought I’d pushed through it into the promised land.

Thank God organizing isn’t like math.  In some ways it’s worse.  I mean, at least in math you know there’s ONE right answer.  Even if you never get the right answer, you know it’s out there.  It exists.  In organizing, there are MANY right answers but it can totally feel like NOTHING works. The trick is figuring out which answer is right for you. See, there’s trial and error built in.  That’s the wonderfully terrible thing about it.  One size doesn’t fit all but holy balls there are all different sizes available! This means you’ve gotta be okay with a little bit of discomfort as you try out different options and NOT associate that discomfort with failure. Think about it like labor.  You know, birthing a baby.  Contractions HURT, right?  Pushing hurts, right?  But at the end of all that crappy stuff, you get this wonderful little human.  You don’t just push once and when the baby doesn’t pop out decide you’ll just stay pregnant.

So I’m curious.  What organizing strategies have failed for you? Seriously.  Which ones have bombed like nobody’s bidness?  Have stunk to high heaven?  Have completely pooped the bed?  What organizing changes have you made that just flat out didn’t work?

(For real.  I’m starting a Facebook series on multiple ways to organize the same thing and would love to incorporate your heartbreak!)

GO!