Order: Organizing Strategies to Reclaim Your Life
The Pruning Principle
We all could use a little help organizing at least some area
of our life, couldn’t we?
I want to thank you for reading these organizing columns and engaging
with my advice. The input I’m sharing with you comes from years
of experience in the field (or should I say “in the trenches”?)
as a professional organizer. I’ve been in homes and offices across
America restoring order and if you think your place is the “worst,”
believe me, you are NOT alone! Every one of us has room to grow. The
good news is: there is always hope and anyone can reclaim their space
and their life if they’re willing to change their thinking and
We Want a Quick Fix
I know that most of us are used to seeking and finding “quick
fix” tips in glossy magazines. Just like in our dieting habits,
the quick fix feels so good and productive. It feels like we’re
doing at least something to address our problem. Unfortunately, though,
in all my experience, I’ve never seen a quick fix radically transform
a disordered household. I know this may be disappointing to hear, but
shortcuts can’t address our mess nor do they help us dig out of
it. Since they don’t work in the real world—as much as we’d
like them to—I won’t be sharing simpleton tricks; instead
I’m offering you some strategies and principles that will help
you create sustainable change.
The post I responded to last week was a page out of someone’s
life…it could have come from almost any client my organizers are
working with at this very moment. The person had a limited space and
budget, had donated some of her overage, and had used plastic bins to
containerize her belongings. She really had tried to get organized.
Even so, she was searching for a better answer. I shared with her some
specific suggestions on navigating closets and some low-budget solutions
and I reminded our brave subject that organizing is a process and a
Our next message board visitor was asking for a “magical cure”
for paper; she suffers from the “dash and stash” I discussed
in my prior article. (I will answer this post specifically in the future
since no one knows what to do with the onslaught of paper and everyone
seems to be drowning in it. Dealing with paper is the number one request
I receive.) Here we are again, though, looking for a magical cure for
something that I think deep down we know is going to take longer than
we’d like. Sure, I could give you a quickie “cure”
for paper…but resorting to arson isn’t recommended! When
we get practical, we all recognize that we need strategies for digging
out that really work and a new set of behaviors. We need to understand
The Pruning Principle
Since both of our posts this week dealt with overage (you know: pile-up,
backlog, extra stuff) I’d like to focus on one of my favorite
organizing principles here: The Pruning Principle™. It’s
a principle you can apply in any room of the home, at the office, and
even in your schedule.
Something about eliminating useless stuff just feels right. When we
disentangle dead branches from a growing tree, we pull out the matter
that is no longer good. When we cut back the yellowed reeds of a perennial
flower, we know that its energy returns to the bulb. Ridding plants
of the superfluous material makes us feel good about restoring them
That kind of trimming feels good for a reason. Cutting out that which
isn’t useful in our life is a spiritual experience! The Bible
applies the metaphor of pruning to our spiritual life. Jesus explains:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off
every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does
bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John
15: 1-2). Here we see that the gardener’s purpose for cutting
out deadwood and pruning back living stock is to produce more life and
fruit. We shouldn’t be surprised that spiritual principles prove
true in our experience of the physical world as well.
The Pruning Principle is this: We will flourish in our personal, spiritual,
and physical life when we expose ourselves and our environment to frequent
pruning. Organizing, then, is not simply sorting, categorizing, and
tossing, as many believe. Authentic organizing includes a purposeful
and ongoing process of elimination and refinement. It’s a perspective
before it is an activity.
So, how do we apply this principle to gain a more organized life?
First, we cut out the deadwood from our space. We get realistic about
the amount of stuff we’re keeping and whether we really use it
and love it. Isn’t it sad that America is one of the only places
in the world where we actually get stressed out because we have too
much stuff? Donate your overage and take a healthy tax deduction this
year. The Salvation Army has a nice valuation guide to help you determine
the value of your items. Share things you don’t need or have outgrown
with another family. I ask my clients that hesitate to let go of their
overage “could someone else really be blessed by this?”
and they brighten up with the thought of passing their goods along to
someone in need.
Next, we assess the “opportunity cost” of keeping all
our stuff. Opportunity cost is the trade-off for keeping something.
What is it costing you to save it, group it, store it, label it, insure
it, dust it, stuff it, cram it, or lose it? In the case of a storage
unit, we can spend thousands per year to store stuff we forgot about,
don’t like, and don’t use.
Moving onto our schedule, we then can trim a crowded calendar. We
can prune our commitments and activities as well as our belongings.
When we cut out extraneous activities, we can focus on investing our
time with the people who really matter to us. If you can’t find
time to discover and live your God-given purpose, exercise your gifts,
and pursue your passions, it’s time to cut back less important
activities to make room for your kingdom calling!
We must learn to say no. How can saying no help us get more organized?
A crowded life (and space) make it hard for us to focus on our priorities
because we are doing too much and confused by the noise of clutter.
Organizing is about making room in your life for the things that truly
matter. By resisting that bargain at the discount store, or by opting
out of that fourth committee or volunteer group, we are in fact saying
“yes” to our core values.
Now, applying The Pruning Principle in your life doesn’t mean
that you must throw everything away. A lot of people fear organizing
because they think it will involve parting with their favorite things.
On the contrary, I advocate being surrounded by those special treasures
and collections that you love and I never prod anyone to toss anything
unless they’re ready to do so. The Pruning Principle allows you
to zoom out and gain perspective. It allows you to see the relative
value of your belongings and your time in relation to other more important
I hope you can take this therapeutic principle and run with it. As
you prune back your space, belongings, and time, may you bear more fruit
and strive for what is ahead!
Adapted from: Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki
Norris (available now at www.RestoringOrder.com and in July 2007as Reclaim
Your Life™. Copyright © 2007). Published by Harvest House
Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.
About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business
owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people
to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally
syndicated Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor
to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine,
Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also
author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household
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