Tag: emotional organising

Pink Lotus on a Pond

Seven Realms of Organising

I like to think of organising as a natural, organic process.  As humans we are undoubtedly biological creatures, but many of us a have a sense that we are also more than this. We are complex creatures that defy simple explanations. I sometimes wonder how we can incorporate the many different aspects of what it means to be human into our thinking about what organising really means.

Lets consider seven perspectives on organising based around different aspects of what it means to be human. I like to think of them as realms, as each seems to have its on character and language. We can use these realms to focus our attention on how our living environment supports and reflects our needs, capacities and difficulties in each area.

Organising Questions Using the Seven Realms

Following are questions based on seven realms that I find helpful to consider – physical, social, personal, emotional, thinking (content), thinking (process), and spiritual. I’ve adopted a question format to demonstrate how these areas can be used to focus our thinking.

1. Are basic physical needs being met?

Basic physical needs include food, shelter, clothing, a safe place to sleep, heating, hygiene and sanitation. This is the most primary level of need and is reflected in the very structure and design of our homes. Kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and toilets, are designed to allow us to meet these fundamental requirements. Many of the objects we purchase, even luxury goods, are also pointing to these essential needs. In affluent societies problems arise with excess, as well as lack. Difficulties in these areas can threaten health, wellbeing and survival at a very basic level.

2. Does the living arrangement allow for social and interpersonal interaction.

The interpersonal level is where people interact with one another. It’s the level of partners, families, children, and flatmates. The living environment is not just a personal space, but a collective habitat which the actions of everyone have an impact. Homes include spaces that are public and private, for collective or personal use. They also include furniture and objects designed for use by more than one person. Difficulties which impact on this level can inhibit social interaction, or lead to interpersonal overwhelm, creating a strain in relationships.

3. Does the home environment allow for personal expression of each individual.

This is the realm of individualty where each person has their own unique character. Here we are considering personal style and preferences as well as the desire for self fulfilment. Its the area of creative expression and self actualisation and manifests itself in spaces and objects involved in hobbies, interests and creative activities. We may also consider how the style of the environment fits the personality of the individual. Difficulties in this area inhibit personal expression or cut across personal styles and preferences. This can lead to a sense of feeling suppressed, unfulfilled, out of step, or out of place.

4. How does this environment support emotional wellbeing?

Now we consider the realm of feelings. Love, attachments and emotions of various kinds burst forth here. Its about having the safe space to be who you are and navigate the sometimes turbulent river of human emotions. Is this an emotionally safe and nourishing place? This is also the realm of memorabilia and sentimental objects; photographs and family heirlooms reside here. Emotional turmoil and strong feelings affect all aspects of our lives. Strong emotional attachments to objects can create difficulties if they start to swamp other needs.

5. Does this environment support and reflect clear thinking and helpful ideas and beliefs.

Here we shining a light on mental constructs in the form of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. It’s the world of rational thinking, logic and systems; the realm of knowledge, education and skills. We may have books, CDs and other material that reflects our thinking and need for education and skill development. Approaches to organising may be very rational and systematic. Difficulties appearing in other realms my have their roots in unhelpful or self-limiting thinking and beliefs. Overly intellectual approaches may fail to recognise the needs and contributions of other realms. A shift in thinking, or away from over-thinking, can have a major impact on other areas of life.

6. Is the way of life supporting strengths in thinking styles and cognitive processes.

Here we are concerned with the process of thinking, rather than the content. It’s about how our neurological systems work to generate thought, initiate action and control how we perform activities. We each have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executive functioning. Difficulty getting started, concentrating, paying attention, making decisions, keeping calm, and maintaining energy levels have an impact on how we organise ourselves. Objects in this realm include clocks, diaries, and alarms that help us manage time and activities. Difficulties in this realm are often not recognised or mistaken for problems in other areas leading to unhelpful labels and misguided solutions.

7. Is this lifestyle reflecting and supporting spiritual beliefs?

This question is about how each person views the world is in its essence, and who they feel they are, at the deepest level. Meaning, consciousness, spirituality and faith belong here. This is a very personal matter and often not talked about in the context of organising, yet for many people this is a fundamental aspect of who they are. What we choose to own and how we choose to live can be deeply impacted by our view of life and its meaning. Our homes may contain objects and spaces related to this realm such as meditation rooms, shrines, religious artifacts, holy books, crystals and incense. A sense of connectedness can support overall harmony across all the aspects. A sense of disconnectness or meaninglessness may express itself the other areas.

All Connected

A list of this nature is not intended to be a complete or perfect representation of reality. It role is to act as a tool for focussing attention, in a similar way to  mediation on different parts of the body shines awareness to each area. It draws attention to the parts within the context of the whole, and the connections between the various aspects. Having given attention to each area in turn, and taken action where needed, the whole benefits.

A model like this helps us to remember that these aspects don’t exist in isolation from one another, but are all interconnected. Imbalance in one realm may show itself at another level. Limited thinking or turbulent emotions may display themselves at the physical level in the form of clutter and disorganisation. Cognitive challenges such as difficulties with concentration and staying on task may impede the best of intentions. A sense of stillness and calm at the spiritual level can open the way to clear action. These are just a few of the many interactions between the realms.

Organising solutions (and helpful advice or many kinds) tend to focus on knowledge and techniques drawn from specialised areas. Concentration on specific realms allows the development of specialist expertise, theories, and techniques relevant to that area. This can be a good thing, as a targeted approach can be helpful if the method matches the need. However unless this specialist knowledge resides within a bigger picture, we can get bogged down in narrow or incomplete solutions. Taking a wider perspective that acknowledges the existence of other realms, and the interplay between them, allows for deeper understanding of the complexity of the situation, and opens they way for a common language between different perspectives.

The selection of titles in the Books pages reflect a mix of interests drawing on expertise from the different realms. They may seem like odd companions, but what they share is an interest in how we organise ourselves as complex human beings.


Running water represents freshness and change

Making a Fresh Start with Stuff

Traditionally the New Year is a time to reflect on the year the gone by and make plans for year ahead. Perhaps you have made a New Years Resolution that involves decluttering and organising. Having a clear intention and firm plan is great way to get things done – if it works. However sometimes things don’t go as planned.

The tricky thing with resolutions is they tend to focus on the difficult stuff. Its the things we couldn’t get done last year because they are not easy for us. We want boost our chances of success by tying the job to a timeframe and adding some resolve. However with an ongoing activity like being organised, just starting and pushing through can fall down when “life happens”.

Rather than perpetuate a cycle of failed attempts, self blame, and pushing on, perhaps you could consider adopting a curious, creative, playful approach. Instead of “toughing it out” by forcing yourself in to the spare room in a “do or die effort”, you can adopt a gentler attitude and explore what’s really going on. Three common issues are overwhelm, uncomfortable emotions, and boredom.

Its confronting to face up to a backlog of unmade decisions and its easy to feel swamped. Organising plans may fall down because you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. An antidote to this is to add some structure to the task. Find a way to divide the big picture up into smaller chunks and start on one of them. You could choose to focus on a room or a category of belongings for example. There are a lot of books and blogs available on basic organising skills that could give you some ideas on techniques that you could use to tackle the task.

Another issue that can stop us in our tracks is the emotional aspect of organising. Stuff isn’t just stuff – its attached to all kinds of feelings, memories, hopes and disappointments. If you are going to be digging around in the garage you need to prepare yourself for what you might come across. If you know there is very personal memorabilia in there somewhere, plan to set it aside and deal with it later. Or plan to dig it out an deal with it first. You need to be in a good place to confront the most emotionally charged items. The most effective organising techniques work with your feelings, rather than trying to pretend they don’t exist.

At the end of the day, it might be that you just find the whole idea of tidying up a room or a cupboard too boring to contemplate. Or maybe you contemplate it, but never get to the action phase. Its the process itself that gets in the way. If this is you then consider ways to make the task personal and interesting. For example you can play music to lift your energy levels or as a reward between jobs.  You can add interest by setting yourself a time limits and see how much you can do in 10 minutes, or half an hour. You might consider how you can incorporate colours, textures, rhythms and sounds. You don’t have to do it by the book – do it your way.

These are just a few ideas to loosen up your thinking about how to have a fresh start with your stuff in the new year. Of course if you are really stuck, asking for help is also a plan. Decluttering and organising doesn’t have to be a solitary affair. Some people work best with others around or actively participating. Reaching out to friends, family, a professional organiser or even a counsellor, might be the first step to making your vision a reality.