I’ll admit that I’ve been a neat girl most of my life, but my Crayolas never maintained the perfect tonal and hue-aligned order that was originally theirs. My crayons went back into the box when I finished using them, but that was about it. Still, by putting them back in their box, (the one with the cool built-in sharpener), I was assured that they would be there for me when the next spasm of “I must draw it!” creativity hit. And that was important to me. To feel the desire to create and to not be able to find the tools with which to execute that desire was an uncomfortable, anxiety-riddled moment for this girl. I believe now that seeing the relationship between being creative and being organized early on was, well, a kiddie epiphany. Here’s my earliest memory of how this came to be.
When we were in elementary school my sister and I would play “art gallery.” We’d set up shop behind the nubby red armchair that stood in front of bookshelves that held the family copy of Compton’s Encyclopedia. Here we would feverishly draw images of dachshunds (based on our dog, Charlie), Barbie dolls with bubble hairdos (the latest in Barbie coiffure), daffodils (just because they were daffodils), and anything else that suited us on any given day in suburban Ohio. Then we would file our artwork alphabetically in the fronts of the appropriate volumes of the encyclopedia. As soon as we had a somewhat healthy stash of drawings, we’d begin to receive calls on our toy telephone asking if we had a particular subject in the gallery’s stock. One of us would earnestly say to the imaginary caller, “A bubble Barbie? I believe so. Just let me check for you.” And my sister or I would open the B volume to find a Barbie right there along with a couple butterflies and a boy with a balloon. The art would be slipped into an envelope with an invoice (!), and placed on the seat of the chair for a fictional delivery boy to transport to the buyer. Thus was the relationship between being creative, being organized, and yes, even making a buck, born in organizational consultant Julie Mihaly.
You may, by now, wonder why I mention any of this and that’s a good question. I always talk about how organization and creativity have been linked for me because people often think that being organized boils down to sticking something in a file folder or rolling your socks “properly” before putting them in neat, color-coordinated rows in your sock drawer. In a very basic way I suppose you could say these statements are true, but I’ve found from experience that people will only behave in certain ways if there’s a reward on the other end of that behavior. BF Skinner wasn’t just blowing smoke when he asserted that positive reinforcement works, and the positive reinforcement behind getting organized is the fulfillment of desire. It can be the desire for more time- more time for fun, family, personal indulgence- or in my case, being creative. It can be the desire for space- making room for furnishings, clothing, activities or just life- where once there was just clutter. Or it can be the desire to know the satisfaction of keeping a promise to yourself- that you will clean out that closet before the next millennium, that you will create a system for paying your bills that will keep the collection agents from your door, or that you will no longer keep cans in the pantry that passed their expiration dates seven years ago.
So, as this year draws to a close, take a moment to think of what you might gain by becoming a bit more organized. Don’t worry about the “how”- we’ll get to that. For now, just imagine what’s on the other side of the clutter. What’s your version of a bubble Barbie, dachshund or daffodil?