This past Friday, for the first time in a few weeks, we had a whole day at home, with nothing (in particular) screaming for attention.
This should have felt like a break, of course – a respite. But instead, my mind began whirling in the vacuum, and I started a mental checklist – to clean the kitchen cabinets and tighten up my out-of-control tea collection; to purge the cabinets of junk and bags full of 14 pretzels; to go through the school books and take a blowtorch to our insane linen closet.
Why does it seem like simplifying always involves so much work?
I want the kinds of simplifying I see online – I want the single potted plant on the shelf; the capsule wardrobe; the curated bookshelf. But I don’t want the planning and piles that go with getting any of those things.
And I have such a hard time seeing through the clutter to even decide what to tackle first.
A few months ago, I simplified one thing*, and it immediately changed my world.
Here’s what happened: I was on a video call with one of my bosses when she asked me if I had gotten her email. I didn’t think I had, and so I opened and searched, making the best smalltalk my mind could manage to distract from my disorganization. It was probably about weather or Outlander.
And then I realized I wasn’t finding it.
“How many emails do you have?!” she asked, and I didn’t want to tell her. I knew her to be an organized person – someone who most definitely cleared emails immediately – trashing Joann coupons and Nordstrom Rack sales announcements like a boss, and carefully tucking important messages into color-coded folders.
I had some folders. One was for knitting patterns (I haven’t picked up my needles in a couple of years). Another was for a completed project another boss had assigned me two years before.
Because sure – I had made attempts to get organized, but I had never really developed a system.
I didn’t want to tell my boss this, though, because part of my job is to develop systems.
“I’ll send it again,” she said, and then she mentioned a class, and I wrote it down and said a quick prayer for the lights to go out so she couldn’t see me blushing.
Instead, I signed up for that class the next day – hopeful that I would learn to manage my email, or at least that I would figure out how to get a fresh start without changing my email address entirely, which is what I had always done before.
Sure enough – that first day I purged more than 60,000 emails from my inbox.
And when I say 60,000, what I mean is 70,000.
It took maybe an hour, and it was so satisfying that I wanted to jump into the second day of class right away, but because Mystie Winckler, the creator of this all kinds of organization programs for moms and homeschoolers knows her business, she breaks the class up over days so you don’t try to do it all at once.
That, it turns out, is a trick that truly organized people seem to know – you can’t do it all at once.
And, unless you develop an actual working system moving forward – you’re just going to end up drowning in emails (clutter, pretzels, etc.) again in a few weeks.
I’m thrilled to say that currently in my inbox, I have just 4 emails.
I do have some new folders that I really use, but not a lot – most stuff I just process in a timely-ish fashion.
Email is no longer a full-time job for me.
It actually feels like one part of my life that’s under control.
So – if like me, you have a massive case of Spring Fever (my Spring Fever always, always looks like purging like a mad woman and then going to church a lot) I want to encourage you to pick one thing.
Start simple. And start with something that you can complete.
Because fixing one thing won’t fix everything, of course, but clearing the path a bit sure feels good.
Have a great week, friends – and tell me in the comments below: do you get Spring Fever? How does it manifest in your house?
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*NOTE: Mystie’s email class is currently only available as part of Work The Plan Premium, which would be such a wonderful spring time boost!