Instead of fighting who you are, facilitate who you are

The folks on my mom’s side of the family (loud! fun!) gathered at Louie’s in Yukon last week when I was at home visiting in Oklahoma.  (Good food, lots of space, highly tolerant staff — I recommend it.)  I rode with my mom and James in her car, and to get into the backseat I pushed a batch of resistant shopping bags over into their own half of the back seat, got in.  I then began battling them as they tried to spread out again.  I realized, of course, that they needed was (ooh, and oh yes) organizing — heaven!

My mom really does use her reusable bags.  Unlike me, whose bags languish, out of the way — and unused — in my trunk.  About 10 different-sized reusable shopping bags had free rein to run amok in her back seat.

Once we were on our way to the restaurant, I began to fold each of the bags.  I folded them in thirds, and tucked in the straps.  As I went, I stacked them by size on my lap. neat bag of bags.JPGAfter adding the last bag to the stack, I could see what size bag would hold them all.  If only I had a stack of bags sorted by size, I could find one that would hold them all… guess what — I found a bag!

A few days later we were thinking through arrangements for taking my mom’s across-the-hall neighbor Willie to lunch at the Thai Orchid in Yukon.  (Yes, I do recommend it also.)  “You can drive,” my mom said.  “And Willie can sit in front with you… and there’s a lovely place to sit waiting for me in the backseat now!”

And it was indeed a lovely place to sit.  I had put the little back seat pillow in with the bags, since there was room, and I had put the ice scraper and collapsible umbrellas in the seat back pockets.  The back seat was pristine.  (The little bit of trash in the back seat footwells was of course also in a neat little pile when I was done with it.)  I noticed that I felt calmer when I was sitting in the cleaned back seat than I did when I had ridden there the day before, holding the bags at bay as they slid around on the seat next to me.

And to keep it a nice space, there’s really no need for my mom to change what she does.  In the future, as she uses the bags each day or week, she can drop them on the backseat as usual whenever she heads out next, if she doesn’t feel like folding-and-tucking-and-putting right then.  Then once in awhile — maybe when she gases up — she can refold them and return them to their home. 

When things have a home, they tend to find their way back to it.

The point is not to deny or try to change who we are.  If you’re a person who uses the reusable bags that live in a riotous pile in your backseat, there’s no reason to try to “re-home” them and change your patterns.   Just make a home for them where they live, and carry on as usual.  Telling yourself that you should keep your bags in your trunk to keep your car looking nice is likely to lead to a) not using them at all, or b) pretty quickly ending up right back where you started with a riotous pile of bags in the backseat — only now they’ve spread to the trunk as well.. 

The key is to notice and facilitate what we already do.  If we keep a batch of bags or boxes or tools in some convenient place where they are easily retrievable and we use them often, we need to simply recognize that that is their place, and then honor them by figuring out how to give them a secure home.  Then we can just keep being ourselves, more comfortably and more powerfully.

Similarly, if we find that we spend a lot of time doing a particular activity, we might benefit from giving a little attention to where and how we do that activity.  How can we make doing the things we do often more easy, more comfortable, more deliberate, less haphazard?  

Grading, reading the paper on the couch, playing with the cat…  alright, that’s the list of things happening at my house pretty regularly.  Each of those activities could be make more enjoyable if Bryan and I spent more time thinking about what we really need to be more comfortable in the spaces where those things happen.  Like the back seat bags, each of these things deserves a little attention to the needs associated with their reality.

How about you — what’s happening in your spaces?

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My purse-pocket organizing hack

My keys are what I’m most often looking for in my purse pockets.  They sink fast to the bottom of whatever pocket I put them into, and I often give a cursory reach into this or that purse pocket, seeing if I can land my fingers on them.  When I haven’t found them on my first casual round of all the likely pockets, my blood pressure spikes instantly.  I immediately spring into a cold sweat envisioning the way all of my plans and dear god my entire life! will fall apart when I don’t find my bloody keys!

I usually find them nestled deep in one of the pockets — usually, contrarily, the first one I looked in.  “Oh blessed be, there they are.”  For the love of Pete, calm down, Laura.

But, really, there must be something I can do.

I have four very useful roomy pockets on the outside of my beloved Brighton purse.  They are perfect for items I want to retrieve quickly and often.

Here are the precious things I look for in these four lovely easily-accessible pockets:  My keys.  My sunglasses.  My pens.  My phone.

And it feels that never! do I find the precious thing I want in the first pocket I reach into.  And, it truly seems that it’s seldom in the second one either.  So often I find it patiently waiting for impatient me in the very last possible pocket available to search.   So much for quick retrieval and seeming, you know, organized.

I have to  find a way to identify which pocket is home to which thing.

But whimper! my amazing Brighton purse is so lovely.  I don’t want to risk making it less classy.  Listen, I’ll take all the classy I can get.  I don’t want to add lots of random symbols or words or pins to my pretty Brighton bag…

But maybe I could add just one classy thing.  If I designated just one pocket as being the pocket where I could find X precious thing, I could organize out from there.

I had a Brighton silver heart pendant scavenged from my exhausted former beloved Brighton purse.  The pendant matched the silver decor on my new purse, because … Brighton.  I asked my mom the-wonder-sewer to please attach that pendant to one of the pockets.  She did so in her usual classy fashion.

That heart pocket became the keys pocket, because … blood pressure.  I know to go immediately to the heart pocket for those. That sounds really corny now that I say it, but no one else ever needs to know.  Um, except you.  I trust you.  The sunglasses naturally go in the other pocket on the same side of my purse as my keys — I usually need my sunglasses at the same time I’m grabbing my keys.  Say, are those Brighton sunglasses?  Hey, yes they are!

That leaves the other side for the phone and the pens.  I need a thoughtful way to decide which pocket makes sense for each, so I’ll more easily remember where each precious thing goes.  Otherwise my system isn’t as useful as it could be.

My cell phone’s needs determined the solution.

Because I have now made it a habit to put my purse on my shoulders with the little heart pendant on the outside, then the pocket across from it, on the other side of the purse, is always closest to my body.  To foil would-be thieves, that’s the obvious ninja pocket for the phone.  That leaves the last pocket for the seriously 12? pens (opposite the sunglasses).

I cannot tell you how blissful this system makes me.  Now I always find what I want in the first pocket I reach into.

…Except for when I store my precious things thoughtlessly.  Actually, the bad is even occasionally worse now.  Because now when I don’t find the thing (my keys!) on the first search, my blood pressure shoots up even faster because oh god I’ve obviously lost them because they live right here!   Don’t even get me started on the madness that ensues when I thoughtlessly toss them inside the purse.  What?!  Why did I do that?!

I’m learning it’s worth the tiny bit of time it takes to do it right.

(In the meantime… blood pressure medication in designated inside pocket?   Check.)

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Hello world!

Whoo hoo!  I’m blogging!  I’m experiencing jet-lag from my sudden leap into the 21st century! 🙂

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