My life’s work is helping people organize their homes and offices to create and sustain a “productive environment”—an intentional setting in which everyone can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. With the upcoming gardening season, I have realized how many similarities there are between the organizing techniques which apply to creating a productive environment in your home, and to growing and sustaining a beautiful garden. Read on to learn seven techniques that apply to both!
1. Successful organizing begins with a vision.
Organizing in and of itself has no value. It’s simply a process to help get you from where you are to where you want to be. The initial question I ask every client is “If we were to meet three years from now, what has to happen for you to feel happy about your progress?” Their answers vary widely, and include such statements as “I’ll be making $100,000/year,” “I’ll be taking six weeks of vacation every year,” “I’ll be working at home,” or “I’ll be happily married.” If we don’t have something to aim for, we’ll never get there.
The most beautiful gardens are first planted in someone’s mind! Haphazard planting will most likely result in haphazard results.
2. Organizing doesn’t have a ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’
The most exciting aspect of my work is the “art of organizing.” I frequently tell our clients, “You paint a picture of what you want to accomplish, and we’ll help you create and sustain an environment to make that happen!” What works beautifully for one client would be a complete disaster for another.
And so it is with gardens. A friend of mine has a garden with incredibly beautiful flowers, but with recycled coffee cans containing new plants, piles of weeds for mulch, and no apparent order to the plantings. It would cause me great angst to look out my kitchen window and see it, but to her it’s full of promise!
3. Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile™.
One of the services we offer our clients is The Office Miracle™ — one day in your home or office, and we guarantee a system which allows you, or anyone else you designate, to find any information you need in seconds – or you don’t pay for the service! We start by organizing your desktop where you most likely have the newest papers. You can worry about all those old piles later! After you get the new system in place, you can incorporate the old files into the new system. If you don’t, they’ll eventually be old enough that tossing them will be easy.
While it’s certainly important to clean up the trash, weeds, and other undesirables in your garden, if you limit yourself to that activity, you can work very hard and see little results. One of the things my landscape designer taught me was to pick one small area and start planting. The results inspired me to keep going on to bigger and better things!
4. Clutter is Postponed Decisions®.
Closets fill up to overflowing because we haven’t decided if we’re really going to lose that ten pounds, what to do with the candlesticks from Aunt Sally, whom we dearly love, but they really don’t fit the decor, or whether we’re ever really going to use that exercise equipment again… Often we are afraid to decide because we might make a mistake.
For years, my fear of failing prevented me from enjoying the experience of gardening. Now I’ve learned that every attempt teaches me something, which permits greater success the next time!
5. Put Like Items Together.
When organizing anything, one of the first steps is getting “the big picture.” That means not getting bogged down deciding about each piece of paper or item of clothing, but grouping items together by category. Then you can decide how much space you’re willing to give up for each category, and deciding is easier.
One of the first steps in creating any rewarding garden is determining what kind of garden you want – vegetable, herb, cutting, perennial, etc. As great as all those options are, if you try to have all of them in the same space, the result will be disappointing. Creating a specific area in your garden for herbs, another for cut flowers, etc. will most likely produce more desirable results.
6. Half of any job is using the right tool!
Note I said “using” – not “having!” So many times, people struggle with organizing their lives simply because they don’t have the right tools. Often the changes required are simple ones: For example, instead of an “In Basket” which frequently becomes a depository for postponed decisions, substitute three baskets: In, Out, and File.
It took a blister to convince me to buy a new pair of loppers to finish trimming the butterfly bushes. With the new tool, pruning was easy and painless.
7. “Organizing is a process not a destination.”
Maintaining any system requires continually asking three questions: “Does it work?’’ “Do I like it?” “Does it work for the others I care about?” Be willing to take risks, don’t worry about mistakes, and just keep learning!
A garden, like organizing, is a continual process of reassessing what you like, what you don’t, rearranging existing plants, and trying new varieties. The results can be rewarding beyond your wildest dreams to you, and to others.