Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Special: Organization Inspiration: Julie Morgenstern
My ongoing quest for organization arose from a need for an attitude adjustment. I was changing offices at work, and I wasn't happy about it. After doing more than my fair share of complaining, I decided to turn lemons into lemonade and to view the move as an opportunity to take control of my stuff and my space.

I started reading books, and the first one I read that resounded with me was Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out. I went on to read others that gave me ideas and support, but in the end, it was Julie Morgenstern's philosophy that informed everything I came up with:

"Our philosophy is that every system should be designed from the inside out, based on your unique goals, natural habits and style, so that your system lasts."

Once I began incorporating this philosophy into my professional workspace, it occurred to me that my students might benefit from learning this sooner rather than later, so I took my show into the classroom. Eventually, Mrs. Hess's crazy lessons on organization became a fifth grade staple, with kids identifying themselves as I love stuff and cram and jam and making adjustments in their organizational plans before they crossed the bridge from elementary school to middle school.

They didn't all need this, mind you. Many of them were well-organized, and while they enjoyed entering monthly drawings to win stuff (tools they could try), the lessons didn't impact their systems
much. But those whose self-confidence had taken a hit from years struggling to do what seemed so easy for everyone else? They shared stories, poked fun at themselves and relaxed. Best of all, they smiled. I watched faces change from pinched and dubious to hopeful and optimistic over the course of a class period. Suddenly, these kids realized there wasn't anything wrong with them. The systems had failed them, not vice versa.

When I moved on to sharing these ideas with adults, the same thing happened. Suddenly, people couldn't wait to tackle cluttered spaces, papers crammed in folders, drawers full of who knew what? They experienced renewed faith in themselves and their ability to create order in a way that made sense to them.

When I write and teach about organization, my goal isn't to un-clutter the world. Sure, I hope that people will be able to apply these strategies and make it easier to create spaces that work for them. But what I really love is that moment when they re-discover faith in themselves -- when they realize that failing to organize the way "everyone else does" is not a failing or even a personal flaw. It's a part  of who they are, and given time and the right tools, they can create the level of order they crave in a way that makes sense to them and is manageable.

Apparently you can take the counselor out of the school, but you can't take away her desire to change the world, one person at a time.

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