Tag: space

Seven Elements of Organising

Our view of organising tends to be quite concrete, focussing on discarding objects and sorting the remainder into containers. Its true that organising does involve these activities. However there is a bigger picture. We may be able to recognise a mess when we see one, but its not always obvious why things build up as they do, or what to do about it. Before we start searching for solutions, it would be helpful to understand what is really going on. What would it look like if we stripped organising down to its essential elements?

Drawing on ideas from science and spirituality, organising can be stripped down to some essential aspects, that I am going to call Objects, Structure, Flow, Space, Time, Energy and Consciousness.

Objects

Objects are things in themselves, created for a specific purpose. They may be part of the physical world and have physical characteristics such as size, shape, colour, texture, materials, and so on. When we talk about clutter, we are usually referring to objects that have become detached from their place or their purpose. Seen more broadly, objects could be any form, such as a thought form, that has its own unique qualities and identity.

Structures

The function of structures is holding, containing, limiting, setting boundaries. Some structures have a high degree of Containment, meaning they hold other things without allowing overflow or movement. Other structures are designed to Direct Movement, rather than limit it altogether. Structures  may be literal physical structures, such as scaffolding on a building. They may also take the form of mental constructs used to guide thinking, such as categories, lists, rules and guidelines.

Flow

In this context flow refers to the movement of objects, through a space or a structure. Fluids are so called because they flow easily; flow is in their nature. Solid objects also move, and this can also be regarded as a type of flow. The flow of thinking is influenced by our mental structures such as ideas and beliefs.

Space

Space is the emptiness within which activity takes place. Objects and Structures occupy Space, and Flow through it. Without space, movement isn’t possible. In this sense it represents freedom and potential.

Energy

Energy is the impulse to move, the strength to move. Inanimate objects can’t move – people are the main supply of energy which causes objects to move within a space. Movement results from, and creates energy. Movement of thoughts can translate into physical movement of the body, and of objects.

Time

Organising is not something that happens once, but a continual process, it occurs over time. Our bodies never stop operating while we are living, even in sleep. In a similar way, we are always in the process of orienting ourselves in relation to our environment. Time brings factors such as birth, change, decay and death into play.

Consciousness

Consciousness refers to the self aware intelligence that allows active decisions to be made about how all the other Elements fit together. Unlike simple organisms, humans are aware that they are organising their living environments and their internal life, and can make active decisions, and this is a significant difference. We can decide what objects to own, how to organise them, where to locate them. We can also influence our own thoughts and feelings. We need to apply our time and energy for this to happen. Its our capacity to act consciously that draws all the elements together.

Distilling organising back to these essential elements may seem very abstract when faced with a specific task that needs to be done. However it does provide a way of viewing a situation that is stripped of labels, judgements and assumptions.  It allows us to view an organising task according to first principles and to see a situation with fresh eyes. From here we can begin to think about the interactions between the elements, and how they work together to create a harmonious and life supporting envirnoment.

The Possibilities of Inner Space

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

~ Lao Tzu 

We can become so focussed on objects that we forget about the space. Houses, rooms, furniture, storage solutions – these are all ways of defining spaces in which activities can take place or things can be kept. The walls we construct provide the limits, but its the space that allows movement and creates possibilities. Once we fill our containers with objects their potential is used up, until we chose to empty them and use them in another way.

Our materialist culture encourages us to focus on the form of our containers and our objects, but often forgets about the possibilities of emptiness. Can we appreciate an empty shelf, a gap in the bookcase, or a clear flat surface? Can we tolerate not filling things up to capacity? In a similar way western culture encourages us to fill our minds with thoughts and ideas, allowing ourselves very little space to just be.

Even two and a half thousand years ago, Lao Tsu used simple objects such as a wheel, a pot and a house to point out the fundamental truth that without space, nothing is possible. He uses physical objects to turn our attention to the power of the ” non-being” aspect – the hole in the wheel, the emptiness of the pot, and the inner space of the house.

Quote taken from Chapter 11 of The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

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