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A Professional Organizer's Theory of Contraints

Blog post   •   Aug 26, 2015 19:52 SGT

As Professional Organizers, we've seen homes of all sizes - from shiny condos in the heart of town, to stately black-and-white bungalow tucked in shady green hills.  

Regardless of how large or small a space is, there is always one thing in common, besides the fact that it is built with brick and mortar, has doors, and has electricity and water supply.  And the word starts with the letter "C" - CONSTRAINTS. 

In all of our workshops and consultations, we always share this story - constraints is a fact of life.  Even Bill Gates, the world's richest man with a net worth of $79.2 billion, has to contend with it.  For example, Xanadu 2.0, Bill Gates' sprawling home-on-a-hill has a garage for 23 cars.  For all the money he has, alas Mr. Gates can only stock his garage with a grand total of 23 Ferraris, no more.  Of course, Mr. Microsoft can definitely afford more than 23.  After all, 23 Ferraris cost only $9.2 million (only! GAH!) - but nonetheless the physical space in his garage just does not allow him to a smidgen more than 23!  

Moral of the story - every house has its constraints.  Some houses, like shoebox condos, just have more constraints than others.  But more constraints doesn't always mean a lesser quality of life, and less doesn't always mean more.  And more doesn't equal more either...or less....oh, enough about this more and less thing already!!!

Rather than thinking about your home/office on a "more" or "less" scale, here's how you can maximize your life, whatever size the space you live/work in. 

1.  Accept the constraints for what they are

Recently, we worked on a project for an single client who lives with the family.  While our crew were decluttering and sorting things out, we overheard this client complaining about the size of his/her room to a friend over the phone.  For us, that is a big no-no.  Imagine if the room were a real person - how would it "feel" upon hearing this statement?  

Remember, you've already made the choice to live in this place, so embrace it and move on.  There's freedom in accepting the place for what it is.  You no longer feel frustrated at its inadequacies or flaws.  Instead, you feel more relaxed and the void of "not good enough" will disappear. 

2.  Appreciate the home you live in

OK, we know this sound funny, but it's like Brad Pitt's love letter to Angelina Jolie when she was going through a dark moment in her life.  This is what Brad Pitt wrote: 

"Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself....I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon… But then I decided to act. After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on the earth...

...I began to pepper her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised her and pleased her every minute. I gave her lots of gifts and lived just for her.

I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of our mutual friends and her own. You won’t believe, but she has blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she loved me even more than ever."

Alright, the home/office ain't people, but you get the point. 

While acceptance (point #1) is a silent acquiescence, appreciation is about celebrating, enjoying and even luxuriating in the constraints and quirkiness of your home - be it the size, the funny corners, the beams that stick out for no apparent reason.  

Should you feel there's nothing to celebrate about the home/office you have, at least appreciate that you have a home to live in or an office to work at. 

3.  Ask yourself how you can work with the constraints of the home/office

It's not about maxing out every possible nook and cranny with storage cabinets, or tearing down walls to create a walk-in wardrobe.  It's about having "just enough" - restraint and moderation is what gives your space its elegance.  Contrary to what we are usually told, the extraordinary can be found in modesty. 

So rather than wanting more, recognize what is "just enough" (in storage spaces and possessions) for your home/office, and work with it.  The constraint of "just enough" will make you more inventive and creative in how you make full use of what you already have. 

Recently we had a client is moving into a 900 sqft home with two generous balconies.  The corollary?  Much less storage space than her previous spacious home.  When she met us, the first thing she said was, "Just tell me how much of my items I can bring along, and I'll follow your instructions.".  We sang "hallelujah" in our heads. 

So the next time you are space-starved, think of the 3 points above: 

  • Accept the constraints
  • Appreciate the space
  • Ask how you can work with the constraints

Till next post, enjoy communing with your home/office!

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