When I started working with a life coach, I never imagined it would help me have a cleaner and more organized house. Of course, I hoped that coaching would help me feel better, reach my goals, challenge my beliefs, and help me be an overall better person and parent, but I never imagined that doing this work would also help me to maintain a clean foyer and organized kitchen! And as parents, homemaking is a major part of our lives, and not being organized can affect our entire family life and our own mental health.
“I am just not an organized person”
I never really thought of myself as an organized person. In fact, I feel like I’m pretty much the opposite of organized. I struggle with making cleaning schedules, having too much clutter, not being consistent with my systems, and not having a regular routine when it comes to maintaining my home, or even my sock drawer. There’s usually a lot of toys with no real place to store them all over my family room, my closet is a mess and can’t find my clothes, the basement has things in it that I don’t even know I own and at the end of every day, there’s a million little pieces of games and toys all over the floor, and all the cleaning I did the day before has been obliterated. Sound familiar?
Thoughts, core beliefs, and why they matter
In life coaching, we focus on our thoughts, because our thoughts ultimately create our results. If I have the thought “I am just not an organized person”, then you guessed it, my result will be that I am not organized. These kinds of thoughts can also can be identified as core beliefs I have about myself. I believe that not being organized is part of my identity, which makes it even harder to change because we think our core beliefs are concrete facts. But it is not a fact that I am not an organized person. In reality, “I am just not an organized person” is a thought, and thoughts are optional. So, if want a different result in my life, if I want to be more organized, then I need to change my thought. Let’s do a thought model:
Fact: I am a person
Thought: I am just not an organized person
Feeling: disappointment, apathy, self deprecation, discomfort, overwhelm
Action: giving up and not trying
Result: my house isn’t organized
Looking at the model above, we can see how my thought caused the exact result I didn’t want. If we add the new result that we want to the model below, we can see how we need to change our thought. Then this thought will change our feeling, which will then change our actions, which is how we get different results in our lives.
Fact: I am a person
Thought: I am capable of being a more organized person if I practice being organized and have a plan.
Feeling: empowered, motivated, excited
Action: I systematically declutter, I create and maintain systems around my house, and have a cleaning schedule.
Result: My house is organized
I totally know that organizing my house and maintaining these new habits are going take practice and I might fail or go back to my old ways temporarily, and that’s ok. Right now my brain feels like my current habits of feeling uncomfortable and frustrated with my disorganized house are easier to continue doing, so it will be easy to fall back into those patterns. It will take time for me to create new habits, which involves changing my thoughts and forging new automatic pathways in my brain, but if I acknowledge that my core belief about being disorganized is false, and allow myself to think the new thought that “I am capable of being a more organized person with practice” then I have a good chance of getting to the result I want, which is being more organized.
5 steps to change your results (and get more organized!)
1. Change your thought
This has to happen first for there to be enough motivation to start this change. Make sure you are not just identifying with a belief that is false. Write down all the thoughts you have about being disorganized or cleaning, and notice which thoughts you just believe without questioning, and then question them. Find the one thought that you can believe that makes you feel motivated to change.
2. Take action in spite of negative emotion
Sometimes our old thoughts about our terrible skills as organizers creep back in, and negative feelings follow, like discomfort, confusion, and doubt. These are not useful emotions to have and are completely unnecessary, so when you start to feel this way, instead use these feelings as a challenge to start taking action, even if it’s just to do step #3, making a plan. Taking action even when I wasn’t feeling motivated was crucial for me to make a lasting change in my habits and sometimes can be the most difficult step.
3. Make a plan
There are a lot of programs and books out there to help with organization, but starting with decluttering is a great way to begin your journey. Make three piles in every section of your house: keep, throw away, and donate and get to work!
4. Start super small
This is part of the above action item, but for me, I had to just start somewhere super manageable, so I started with my junk drawer, and then moved to my entrance way, since it’s the first thing you see when you walk in my house and we use it everyday. You could also start with your clothes and dishes (because we could all use less laundry and washing dishes).
5. Set a time limit
These tasks can seem herculean at first, so just pick an area to start decluttering and set a time for 15 minutes. If you’re feeling motivated to continue after 15 minutes is up, keep going!
Why we struggle to change: “I just don’t feel like it..”, or “This is too hard…”
We can still feel unmotivated at many points along our journey to change. That’s why knowing how to coach yourself can be so critical. When the the two phrases above appear in my thoughts, it can prevent me from starting the process of organizing an area of my house or to cleaning my kitchen floor for the second time that day (I have a young baby). These negative emotions frequently get in the way of me taking action in this area of my life, and these are some of the thoughts I have that cause those emotions. So in order to for me to take action in spite of feeling lazy or uncomfortable or confused or overwhelmed, I coach myself through these emotions and know that they don’t mean anything besides just that a thought is causing them.
To create a feeling of motivation, I have been sort of playing this game and when I feel uncomfortable, or am thinking “Its just too hard…” instead of allowing them to stop me, I use those feelings as cues that I’m on the right track and I take action. Then, I prove to myself that I can take action from a place of discomfort or confusion, and I will live. In fact, my brain stops feeling so uncomfortable with adding new thoughts or new habits to my life and it becomes a lot easier to change.
Remember, thoughts are optional, including thoughts you have about who you are. You decide who you are by curating which thoughts you believe. Choose the right thoughts, and your life will change for the better, and not just give you an organized clean house. Choosing the right thoughts will give you the life you have always wanted. It is true that an organized mind leads to an organized life.