I help my clients eliminate clutter of all kinds — piles of stuff, stacks of paper, overflowing schedules, more expenses than they can afford, toxic people in their lives. And one of the first questions I ask is, “Do you really need it?” The concept of “necessity” is central to organizing — and I firmly believe that if people had a better understanding of what they truly needed (and didn't need) to make them happy, they would have an easier time getting their lives in order!
What exactly is a “necessity?” According to Merriam-Webster, it's a basic requirement of life — which most folks would define as things like food, clothing, shelter, maybe transportation or a job. Sure, these are essential for bare-bones survival on this planet — but who wants to spend their life clinging to the bottom rung of Maslow's hierarchy, just barely getting by? I'm a self-actualization kind of gal, and I prefer to view necessities in terms of what my clients require to function at optimal capacity. Unfortunately, most folks ain't got a clue what they should have (or maybe shouldn't have) in their lives in order to truly thrive — and that's where disorganization and chaos start taking over.
Of course, one person's necessity is another's luxury — you might think that you can't live without cable, while I am quite happy without 163 channels of nothing good to watch! But you would be amazed at how often what we perceive as being “necessary” in life is actually the reverse — a frustration, a hindrance to achieving our larger goals, a complication in what could otherwise be a much simpler, less chaotic, more organized life. Sometimes, that thing we think we “need” so badly ends up costing us more than it's worth in terms of clutter, expense, and wasted time — and identifying those hidden non-necessities is half the battle. Are those 16 different credit cards a necessity — or do they complicate your finances to the point that you can't stay on top of it all, and are endlessly plagued with late fees and interest charges? Is that satellite service actually a necessity, or is it an excuse to sack out on the couch instead of finishing your degree or completing that project that will earn you the big promotion or writing the great American novel that's been living inside your head since 1973? Are the housekeepers and lawn maintenance folks and pool guy a necessity — or does paying their bills keep you trapped working 80-hour weeks and prevent you from ever being able to spend time enjoying the home you've created?
You can clean out your closet and re-organize your garage and color-code your files all you want — but when you allow trivialities to overshadow your true necessities, you'll always be spinning your wheels. If you're buried in magazines you never read or end up buying duplicates of something you already owned because you couldn't find it in all the clutter or have no time for your family because of that two-hour-each-way-commute — you're not focused on “necessities.” I started out by asking the question “do you need it?” — let me end by asking about the things you don't need, the non-necessities. Do you find yourself always complaining about having too much of the bad stuff (clutter, responsibilities, stress, expenses) and not enough of the good stuff (space, time, freedom to do what you want)? How much of your time is being spent on activities that don't really matter to you? How much of your money goes to pay for things and services and other expenses that are in no way improving your quality of life? How much of your life energy is wasted dealing with unnecessary frustrations and tolerations? How much of your space is filled with things that you don't need, never use, and couldn't care less about? It's time to let 'em go!
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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