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Life Packing a Punch?

Learning How to Reorganize and Reorient After Upheaval


It’s a fact of life that when we face one of life’s great upheavals — it can be from an environmental disaster such as the tragic fire and flood we recently experienced or from major milestones such as a birth, new job, illness, or divorce — the ways we had once successfully organized our lives suddenly run off course.

It is good to remember that when life happens, we need to get back to basics.

Allow me to mansplain. It’s like Major League Baseball’s spring training. A few weeks before the official season begins, players and coaches meet at a training camp to review and practice the game’s fundamentals. These professionals have played baseball for decades, yet there is a proven benefit to going back to the basics before beginning their quest to win the World Series.

Couldn’t we all use a “spring training” to get back on track?

What would a getting-organized spring training tailored just for you look like? Try the following five basic tools and rules to create your vision and to get you going in the right direction.

(1) Know what is important and what is not.

First, take a minute to get quiet for a bit; think through what’s important to you now. Make it the center of your organizational plan. For example, a few years ago, I worked with a family after a flood. When we sat down to re-create their systems, they realized not much of what was lost needed to be replaced, which changed their daily organization drastically. Think through this piece, and don’t skip it!

(2) Group like with like.

If you are reorganizing after one of life’s milestones, then it’s likely that everywhere you look there is stuff. And more stuff. Every. Where. Begin by simply grouping like with like. Put items together in a manner that makes sense to you: Group by room, by project, by season, by sport, by area of the house, by color, or by your own personal logic. Some semblance of order will start to take hold very soon, and a system will emerge.

(3) Position yourself in the center.

Think in concentric circles when setting up spaces, no matter if it’s the kitchen, desktop, office, or garage. Place yourself in the middle of a series of circles. The items you use most often should be placed the closest to you, and the items you use the least the farthest from you. Soon you will find your way back to a functional space — one that’s based on your way of working.

(4) Work in time blocks; use a timer.

One of the simplest, smartest, sustainable tools is a timer — even an old-fashioned kitchen timer. A few true “weekend warriors” have the stamina to plow through a project in a flash, but for most of us this type of organizing, sorting, purging, and prioritizing is very draining. Upheavals bring up unexpected emotions that can exhaust you, so set time frames that will match your energy level. I suggest never working more than three hours at a spurt. Take a break when you hear that timer go off.

(5) Ask for help!

Too often we live with clutter and chaos because we won’t ask for help. It could be an ego thing, a shame or guilt thing, or just a good old-fashioned case of perfectionism thing. (Nobody can do it as good as you, right?) Say goodbye to all that, and get some help — family, friends, or hired professionals — anybody who will help you iron out life’s wrinkles after a major shake-up.

Did any of the above five steps strike a chord with you? Did you find one particularly annoying? If so, consider that a good sign. It could indicate the path you need to take. Here’s the thing: Getting organized is about clarifying priorities. Period. The end.

And remember: KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly). Don’t overthink it. JUST. GET. STARTED. You got this!

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase productivity. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, Forbes, and other national and regional publications. She can be reached at sara@saracaputoconsulting.com.

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