Raise your hand if you like being told what to do.
I don’t see very many hands! We like to think that we are capable enough to take care of ourselves and make our own decisions. So when someone tells us to do something, we often find ourselves resisting. Why do we resist? Often it is due to our emotional response of where we are in the chain of command.
Take this example. Your boss has made a decision that a task needs to be done and asks you to do it. You don’t want to do it, but because she/he is in a higher position of power, you complete the task as requested. Even though you could dispute it, you don’t because there would be consequences. (fear of creating making your boss angry, internal anger, anxiety)
Now let’s take that same train of thought and apply it towards the pile of papers on your kitchen table. Because there are papers on the table, you are being “asked” to do a task. Again, you don’t want to do it (anger, fear, stubbornness, anxiety, time commitment), so you leave it for another day. In this situation you are in a higher position of power because there can be no resistance or consequences from the inanimate object.
Or is there?
According to Barbara Hempill, professional organizer “clutter is postponed decisions”. I would add that not only is clutter (papers) a postponed decision, but also a postponement to the emotion that is attached to the task at hand.
When you postponed a decision to act, you postponed the emotional response in dealing with the task. Perhaps you felt powerless, anxiety, overwhelmed, frustrated or angry. Perhaps you feel afraid that you might throw something important away or that if you file it, you won’t be able to find it again. Or perhaps you just don’t want to see that credit card, insurance or car repair bill.
So why do we postpone these seemingly simple tasks? Can it really be that our emotional response is so great that we feel powerless over the inanimate object? In his book “Why we make mistakes”, Joseph Hallinan presents the idea of the “role of regret”. That is to say that people feel more regret for actions than inactions. If we don’t do anything, we have less responsibility.
Unfortunately not taking responsibility and action often creates more responsibility and emotional distress that if we had just empowered ourselves to schedule time to complete the task. Consider our pile of papers. Does that pile contain your monthly bills? What if you didn’t open them and you were late for a payment? What if you had a dentist appointment and had made arrangements to take the day off, but missed the reminder notice? Do you now have to make alternate arrangements? What emotional triggers does that bring forth?
Taking control and action takes both emotional and physical energy. But be brave. Don’t resist. and you will empower yourself to take control. It’s all about doing it one thing at a time.
Now take a big breath and do it!
Kimberly Dahline, Professional Organizer
Welcome to my blog. I am glad you are here to read the musings on organizing and finding balance in your life. I hope you find them inspiring and motivating.