Updated: May 6, 2020
Let's get real. Quarantine sucks. The novelty has worn off. Facebook photos reinforce the idea that SOME people have been incredibly productive with their forced "free time". Pictures of organized closets and pantries; home projects extraordinaire boast of remodeled cabinets to self-landscaped yards; the sewing of hundred's of masks by those way more talented than I am, some people have created home gyms or taken on new hobbies: we are constantly bombarded by the images that make us think some people can do it all! These images have us, yet again, comparing ourselves to the accomplishments of others even while remaining six feet apart!
In the room where I type this, the clutter on my desk beckons the question "why are you so disorganized?" Here I find myself with more free time than ever, yet the papers are still stacked up, the laundry is still sitting on the couch, the floors still need washing...What gives? Interestingly enough, the things that I didn't prioritize before this quarantine (i.e. organization) did not miraculously resolve themselves just because I had more "time on my hands."
In this post I want to address a few important observations that I hope will help you navigate some of the things that might be keeping you stuck and not able to move forward in accomplishing what you wish in order to accomplish your goals.
Examine the Stories we tell ourselves
When I look at the clutter on my desk my initial words to myself are "I am so disorganized." or "I am not very motivated." My words paint a story that my disorganized desk defines who I am as a person. Rather than simply having a disorganized house. I create a belief that I have a character flaw; that I AM a DISORGANIZED PERSON. When I take a step back, I realize that this is completely false. Often the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, are not true.
Many people would describe me as highly motivated based on many of the things they've seen me accomplish in my life. When I really examine myself, the issue is not that I am NOT a motivated person. Rather, I am not motivated to "clean and organize" my home, in the same way I am motivated to do other things, such as exercise.
Interestingly enough, this was not ALWAYS the case. There was a time long ago, that I was NOT MOTIVATED AT ALL to exercise. I used some of the same excuses: "This is too hard." "It doesn't feel good." "I'm too tired." These excuses reinforced the idea that I wasn't a "fitness person." I allowed my excuses to create a labeling of myself as NOT being a "fitness person" like the successful "fitness people" I would see exercising every day.
I concocted a story about THOSE PEOPLE that made me feel justified for my lack of exercise. I told myself, THOSE PEOPLE were so committed. I mean they were even CRAZY, the kind of people that you might see running out in the rain for goodness sake! I would even justify my lack of exercise by demeaning THOSE PEOPLE; saying things like, "well, they are just over the top, I mean they must exercise so much that they have no other priorities."
When I consider the clutter I'm dealing with in my own house; I find myself using the same labeling which keeps me stuck in the rut of making excuses for not cleaning up. I say things like, "well, I'm not naturally good at organizing like SOME PEOPLE." Or I imagine that ORGANIZED PEOPLE MUST spend EVERY waking hour of their lives cleaning in order to keep such a clean home. They probably neglect their families because cleaning is just so important to them. When I make up these stories; I justify my lack of organization, by believing that THOSE PEOPLE probably don't spend as much time with their kids and are just completely task oriented. So no WONDER they have such amazing houses. I'm not like THOSE PEOPLE, I could NEVER be so organized!
When I sit down and write this out and say it out loud it sounds completely crazy! But friends, this is a natural tendency that keeps us stuck! We make up stories about ourselves and others that are SO BELIEVABLE that we justify WHY we remain stuck while EVERYONE else who has it EASIER and better than us is so successful! I know this is a trap because I do it without even realizing it.
Create a Minimum Daily Practice and then Create a New Habit
The truth is, just as I have, over time, created a daily practice of moving my body that has become a habit rain or shine; people who have organized and clean homes do THE EXACT SAME DAILY PRACTICE and make it a HABIT to keep their homes clean, one day at a time. They aren't more amazing or more special than the rest of us. They just clean up more often and more consistently then I do!
So where do we start?
First give Yourself Grace
First of all acknowledge that this quarantine situation has changed a lot of things. Maybe you have been impacted financially or maybe you are an exhausted healthcare worker on the front lines. All of these challenges are real. Maybe you are feeling tired, overwhelmed and unmotivated. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and to have an off day or week. Then when you are ready, move forward. If you need help, acknowledge this and seek out support.
Interrogate yourself to get to the bottom of things
I found myself frustrated with myself. How could I be so disciplined in one area of my life and yet be so undisciplined in another area. Why can't I just get my house cleaned up? If you are wondering the same thing about yourself, why not sit down and write it out in a journal.
Start by simply asking yourself why? I know it sounds strange but act like an investigator and really explore what is holding you back.
The answer could be as simple as "I don't want to!" So write that down. Then ask another question:
"why don't I want to clean up my desk?"
List your excuses what ever they are: I don't have time, other things are more important to me right now, it's too much work, etc.
Then investigate this by asking another question:
"Do I really not have the time at all or am I filling up my time with other things?" Could I make the time?
Ask yourself what benefits the change might bring if you did clean up your desk:
If my desk is clean how would that make me feel? How would it affect my productivity? What would I be free to do if it was organized?
You may find that cleaning up your house is not important to you right now. If that's the case move on. If you find that it's something you want to pursue then move forward in changing the story you've been telling yourself.
Check your ALL or Nothing Thinking at the door
Am I having all or nothing thinking? Maybe I don't have an hour to clean my desk but what about 10 minutes? One of the main reasons I didn't make exercise part of my life for years was due to the all or nothing belief that I had to do at least one hour in order for it to COUNT. Who knows where this belief stemmed from but it kept me stuck in a rut for years. My children were little and I was tired so how could I exercise for an hour? It was too overwhelming. I finally gave myself permission to just work out for 7 minutes at a time and that was do-able. That was how I began and then one day at a time I developed a new habit and it changed everything. I gave myself permission to do SOMETHING every day and to let whatever that was be good enough.
Enlist a Friend
If you really want to make a change then enlist a friend who has similar goals. If this quarantine has revealed anything it's that we need others. It is not natural to isolate or do life on our own, we need support and we need encouragement from others.
Want to exercise more? Do a zoom exercise with a friend. Want to eat healthier? Join My Fitness Pal app for free and share your workouts, water intake and food tracking. Want to get a room in your house cleaned up? Take before and after pics and share your progress with a friend.
Hire a coach
Here's another story I told myself for a long time. I can figure things out on my own. I was quick to get my children to the right specialist for their medical care, the right tutors for school and the right classes to help them excel but when it came to myself, I didn't give myself permission to invest money into myself. I told myself that would be SELFISH. Then something happened, I found a Nurse Coaching Program th