The proliferation of listicles and tips and hacks make me question the prominence of the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like to waste time on areas of life that aren’t important. For some problems, a small bump in strategy is all that’s needed. But while these quick fix approaches have their value, they can distract us from doing the hard work required to meaningfully and thoroughly change our lives. Sometimes confronting- full force- one difficult truth can be all that stands in our way of significant growth, or even greater happiness. It is a more difficult process but, typically, it is more effective and efficient. Sometimes an on-the-surface solution takes us in the opposite direction.
Doing the work is what downsizing and simplifying your life is about and it’s what I emphasize with my clients. This is where the transformation takes place, and it lasts far longer than my work with them or even their time in their home. Yes, there are many short cuts that can make your space more organized and accessible. They’re not all bad. Sometimes we need them on occasion as crutches to get through a moment. Being aware of this allows us to refocus on doing the real work.
Doing the work is the internal searching for and acknowledgment of unhealthy patterns. This is the unveiling or, perhaps, excavation that leads to true understanding of ourselves. The problems we thought we had (along with the assumed solutions) may not be correct. When we take time to figure ourselves out, focusing on what matters most to us, and articulating our tendencies, we’re more likely to get the solutions right, thereby improving our lives and saving time.
Doing the work can be tedious. Some of this work isn’t particularly meaningful, or inspiring or life changing. It may be picking out just the exact tools and home improvement items that will be used and getting rid of the rest. It may be collecting all of the things that require repair and making sure that work is done (or coming to terms with the fact that you don’t care to make the repairs and acting accordingly). Going through your photos, digital and hard copy, to decide which ones are worth keeping rather than keeping them all and rarely looking at them may be part of this tedium as well. All the work is message if listened to; don’t get yourself into this mess again.
Doing the work involves countless decisions and some decisions take a lot of time. As I wrote about in Cascading Decisions, decision-making ad nauseam is part of the downsizing process. There are ways to minimize this (ex. hiring a professional, making sweeping decisions that address multiple issues at once) but the decisions will still be there. If you ignore them, the struggle, dissatisfaction, uneasiness, and overwhelm associated with your home space will continue.
We become clever about ways to avoid the work: feigning ignorance about the details of what needs to be done (ex. finally dealing with the emotional weight of a parent’s death), convincing ourselves we’ll get to it later, or assuming it’s not important now because enough of it is out of sight, out of mind. But when you dedicate yourself to digger deeper, you are giving a gift to your future self, while building strength and understanding in the present moment. We all tend toward laziness sometimes. Make sure this time you don’t succumb to it.