I admit, math has never been my biggest strength. Yes I struggled with fractions (I’m still not sure how to multiply them) and it’s truly a miracle that my 8th grade Algebra teacher, Mr. Simonton, didn’t retire from teaching after having me in his class. I’m not even kidding. Poor sweet man did NOT deserve that.
Fast forward to adulthood and I began to realize and appreciate the value of math in everyday life and in my work. As a passionate cook and baker, I constantly use math to reduce and expand recipes.
As a Certified Professional Organizer®, every time I make a scale drawing floor plan of a home office, I use math. Every time I measure a closet to create a fabulous new design, I use math. Every basement or garage shelving and storage system I design requires math. Heck, space planning requires the ability to think in three dimensions so now we’re talking CUBIC feet and inches. So yes, I suppose I’ve made friends with math after all this time. Have you?
Have you ever heard the expression, “Tryin’ to put ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag”? The meaning is clear and its essence is really just about math. You simply can’t FIT ten pounds of stuff into a bag that only holds five pounds of stuff. It’s not your fault, it’s just the reality of the situation.
The spaces where you live and work are nothing more than huge containers. Just like that five-pound capacity bag, your home and work containers hold a certain volume and no more. If you’re like many people, your math isn’t working, because you have more stuff than you have space for and the bad news is that you can’t outsmart math.
Here are some of the most common excuses people give for their math problems:
1. My house / office is too small.
2. My wife / husband / kids / dog bring in too much stuff.
3. I might need those dishes / clothes / tools / papers someday.
4. I don’t have time to get organized.
5. But I love all my stuff.
Here are the answers to those five excuses:
1. You think your house is too small? Your house will never be big enough if you don’t change your mindset and your habits. Clutter expands to fill the space available. The more space you have available, the more clutter you’ll have. I promise you, having more space is not the answer.
2. You think someone else in your life brings in too much stuff? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Regardless, be an example. Teach them another way. Simple systems such as putting incoming mail into a basket every day, or hanging action items under a refrigerator magnet are quick and easy to teach and provide big value.
3. You think you might need it someday. Sure, you might. But you also might not. And if you haven’t used that thing in a long time, or you forgot you had it, the odds are good you won’t need it someday. So why not err on the side that gives you less clutter, more space, freedom and room to move?
4. You think you don’t have time to get organized? Right now, you have all the time you’ll ever have. There is no secret stash of time lurking in your life just waiting to be pulled out at the right moment. Today is all you have. You can make time to do anything that’s important to you. But will you?
5. You love all your stuff? News flash! Math is cold-blooded. Math doesn’t care how much you “love” your stuff. Your stuff doesn’t care how much you love your stuff, and furthermore you can be sure your stuff doesn’t love you back. If you’re out of room, you’re out of room!
Before you catch yourself muttering one of the excuses I just rattled off, stop and set a clock or a timer and work for ONLY fifteen minutes on an organizing or de-cluttering project. Once your timer rings, walk away. If you feel compelled to keep working, reset the timer to fifteen minutes and do a second round.
Keep working in small increments and give yourself permission to stop whenever you want. It’s a process not an event. Before you know it, your home and work spaces will be back in balance, there won’t be “stuff overflow” and most importantly you’ll feel strong and powerful in your life again.