Organize Versus Simplify

Organizing and simplifying are not synonymous. They are certainly related and sometimes exist simultaneously. But there are notable differences between having an organized home and living a simple life. I focus on the goal of simplicity in order to prioritize peacefulness, freedom, and meaning. Organizing is merely a tool that can help build a Less Equals More lifestyle.

Imagine multiple bookshelves full of artfully arranged texts (by color for visual appeal) along with delicately placed decorative items purchased purely for color coordination. It would be easy say it’s organized. But how does it help the person living there who, perhaps, is keeping half the books by default? Some they never will read and some they read by didn’t like in particular. The objects taking up space on the shelves aren’t heirlooms or odds and ends from travels. There is no meaning or special quality about them. Because of the sheer number of books inhabiting the shelves and the color system being troublesome to navigate, it’s a missed opportunity for simplicity, efficiency, and meaning in deference solely to organization. This is a very basic example. There are far more unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies lurking in our offices, bedrooms, and garages.

The funny thing is that sometimes a simple life means not spending time to organize a group of items or delaying the activity until a better time for any variety of reasons. Being thoughtful and logical in your approach is key. Efficiency honors your time and effort.

One of my clients has a plethora of old letters, notes, and other written memorabilia. She tossed most of them in various bins in her basement, office, and bedroom before we met. As we worked together, we’d put any notes we found or that were newly acquired into one of the existing bins, without much regard to any sort of organizing. That’s because organizing would have been a waste of time. Her intention post-retirement was to read these one-by-one. She thought of that as an activity unto itself. And as she goes through them in the future, she will recycle them after reading. She may end up keeping a couple handfuls of these as her most special and meaningful mementos but any sort of organizing at this point would be inefficient and mostly useless. While organizing would free up some space now and possibly allow her to hold all of the bins nicely in one place, labeled, and lining walls, that would prioritize organizing over simplicity. 

It’s easy to mistake organization for simplicity because sometime it’s easier to organize than simplify. Undoing complexity takes time and mental energy and can be difficult to de-knot, especially if you have become accustomed to it. But if you follow through on the undoing, you will have a more efficient space and systems which will save you time in the long run, more than making up for your de-knotting efforts.

So while I’m professionally an organizer, and an organized person by nature, my goal with clients (and friends, and family, and basically everyone I ever meet) is to undue complications and invite simplicity. Organizing is one of many tools I use, but it’s not the driving force. I invite you to pay closer attention to whether your actions are meant to organize or simplify, whether you’ve consider the most efficient tactics, and whether all of these efforts together address what is most important and meaningful to you.