Organizing vs. churning

Frankie_in_zone_7May 16, 2008

Sometimes I have to step back and determine whether I am actually organizing, or just "churning." This site has helped me do that, sometimes.

For me, churning is what I am doing when I realize I am just moving the same stuff around or caught in the same rut. It is also a temptation to me to spend time "organizing" when in the grand scheme, I would rather, or I would rather I would rather, do something "real" with my time, whether it's read a book, or visit, or climb a mountain. It's not quite the same thing as being a little stuck in an organization project, although it can be close to that.

Fundamentally, what is at the route of churning is too much "stuff", using the term stuff to include not only physical things, but fixed habits or have-to's. But in its worst form it is too much investment in things/objects/material appearances rather than on characteristics, relationships and non-material goals.

So the only way I can break out of churning is to get to some point where I can "see" that the reason I am spending Saturday morning "organizing" a room, or closet, or whatever, is that I just need to chuck half of what's in there, and then there would be nothing much to organize. Or that maybe for some reason I am using the "I need to get more organized" as a way to avoid some other thing, like maybe I don't really know what I want to do with that time instead, if that's possible.

I went through a phase where I was really "in" to collecting certain things, not exactly a lot of the same things, but kind of sucked into the home decorating thing. The more things I bought that I liked or thought would look just like the magazine--and interestingly, it often did and looked "good"--the more time I spent churning, because I had nonetheless made my physical environment a little more complicated. As you know, almost all of the magazine-type decorating ultimately results in making life more complicated rather than less ( see the great post on Courage, change and clutter). This is also because I learned that while technically I can do the one-thing in, one-thing-out deal, it is much harder to get rid of something once you get it, and so that led to churning because I would put the new thing in place but still have to put the old thing somewhere, or even spend time and energy saying, hmm, do I like that better than that, or what? Or get sucked into making "seasonal changes" when I should be out taking a nice walk and enjoying the season.So this may be quite different from person to person, but I learned that if I were getting something new as an "upgrade", I had to be darn sure I was willing to let the old one go, or maybe chuck it ahead of time, or the old thing would now become part of a collection, or be the second-stringer, and then I'd be worse off.

Also I found that if I could find the strength to change certain habits not because I had to, but because I would like things better ultimately, then I could benefit from the trade-off. For example, I have too many magazines and I rip pages and save them. So of course one thing is to buy fewer, another is to rip less, and yet another is to rip only in a designated place, have better files, and so forth. (the fewer magazines is the most beneficial approach, naturally) This sounds funny, but it really helped. I would tend to read a magazine in any of various reading spots, and also read them at bedtime. So I ripped out recipes, favorite pages, etc. Then I had piles lying everywhere. I finally determined that bedtime reading would be limited to novels, basically. No magazines to fire me up about projects or have room-envy or house-envy, and no ripping piles in the bedroom. I would rip only in my study, where I keep the files.

So, sometimes discipline of leisure activities is needed to lead to real leisure. Or discipline of normal activities--such as, I actually have to think ahead and say, hmm, my usual approach to dinner tonight would be to go to the store and buy these things and go home and cook them and then clean it all up and wonder where the evening went, but if I really want to accomplish this or that other thing, I will just make sandwiches with what we have.

I will say that the above example has nothing whatsoever to do with guilt or nutrition. It is just some kind of habit that seems hard to break away from, or perhaps it is linked to a lack of focus or purpose.

Churning is also tied to things that are hard to get rid of, like photos or memorobilia.

So one goal I have is to do less churning and more limited true organization, and try to look at my days or weeks and measure true progress by actually spending less time organizing or thinking about organizing.

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You can't organize clutter.. you have to get rid of it.

'churning' is a good word! :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Frankie, I have just written 2 posts and deleted them, because I am so full of what I've just learnt. Originally, I came on here to respond to your post, and give some advice about de-cluttering, then I learnt something as I wrote, and deleted that post. So I wrote another one, and learnt something else, and whew... I have had a major "aha" moment.
I was going to tell you I didn't exactly know what you meant by "churning", that organizing is simply a matter of keeping only what you love and use, and getting the rest out of your home. But even while I was typing I realised that I do know exactly what churning is. I even use the term a lot, because that is how I worry. I churn in my mind. I churn over my thougts.
I'm a stressor and a worrier to the point that if I haven't got anything to worry about I'll worry about someone else's worries for them! LOL. DH is not a worrier, thankfully for my sake, and often tells me to "Stop worrying!", So last week I sat up in bed and said, "Ok I want to, but HOW do I do it". His answer, "Just stop thinking about it.". So I gave a sigh and said, "But HOW? No one says HOW to stop the thoughts." "You just do it, don't think of them anymore, put them out" he says. Right!
And then as I wrote to you, it clicked with me. I have successfully de-cluttered and organized our home, and it's a peaceful calm haven that we love to come home to. I no longer churn when it comes to the house, so I DO know how to stop churning my thoughts.
Exactly the same principle. I've read Flyladies "De-clutter your body", and even then it didn't actually click. I understood the principle, but didn't know how to "do" it.
Just the same as when I read of people who have trouble getting rid of stuff from their homes, I think "Huh? it's obvious isn't it, you just take it away somewhere else or you trash it, what's the problem". Well, I see now why people get stuck, because I get stuck with my own thoughts.
Well, I'm trying not to write such long posts, so I'll just say that I'm going to give my mind the same treatment I gave my house.
Ask each thought,
Do I love you, do I need you?
Are you still there because someone gave you to me?
Am I hanging onto you because you might fit in the future?
Am I hanging onto you because you fit me in the past?
Oh, I could go on and on with this.
Now tell me, where do you trash junky thoughts to?
I recognize all the "stuff" now, but I have to take the steps in getting them out of my mind.
Frankie, thank you for your post. It helped it all to finally "click" for me.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 2:12AM
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Frankie, I know exactly what you mean when you say you'd rather "do something real." I would like to spend more time doing "real stuff" and not just wasting time on activities that don't further my goals, such as stressing out over the clutter. The clutter seems to suck at my soul. Fortunately, my hubby agrees with me that we need to get rid of everything that we don't actually need or use or somehow love. It hasn't even been a year, and already things are much better, for me AND my home.

Lily, I am very much like you. I tend to churn my thoughts as well. I had never thought to use the exact word "churn," but that is a good description. I usually think of it like the old fashioned adding machine ... click click click ka-ching! Numbers crunching, gears turning ... and sometimes, after much calculation, a solution! But not very quickly, and most of the time not at all. I know I'm caught in the trap of thinking that I can figure out a solution, but I don't know how to stop worrying.

Until recently.

I have known for a while that if I merely pay attention to my emotions, and allow myself to truly feel them ... without logic ... without thoughts at all ... they kind of evaporate like smoke.

Just yesterday I was reading a book that my mother-in-law gave me. It is called "Taming Your Gremlin."

It explains meditation in a nutshell, without calling it that.

Anyway, one of the concepts that had never occurred to me is that my mind and all its "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" is just like the emotions. Allow myself to listen to that "gremlin in my head," let it voice its concerns without trying to argue with them, and ... "poof," the shoulds start to go away. The churning stops.

Like you, I have noticed that a lot of the frustration and dissatisfaction have just gone away somehow, now that I have been decluttering. Things seem to bother me much less.

I have had a lot of "a-ha" moments when reading on this forum. It really gets me thinking about what truly matters.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 1:09PM
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I used to be a big "churner". I call it "ant behavior", just moving clutter from one room to another. I would hide things in closets, till the closets became too crowded to function. I then "churned" stuff to the attic and garage. I understand you can't organize clutter. Great ideas here!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 2:34PM
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Well, this is familiar! I struggle with the brain that won't shut up, too. What I have realized is that many of us (particularly women, I think) have long lists from many categories, our days are disjointed, and we are used to spending our time doing rather than just being. I think we are conditioned to confuse activity with responsibility, and since we don't want to be irresponsible, we think we have to be continually accomplishing something that we can see. But it is the things we can't see that give us energy, that give our loved ones joy in our company, and that give meaning to our lives.
Physical clutter behaves like visual noise...every pile nags us and makes static that interferes with the reception between us and the quiet that is the source of peacefulness. So before we clean up all our messes, I think we have to sit down and really think about what we are assuming and what we are doing that creates the clutter in the first place, and make a plan to stop doing it. Then the cleanup can start, and if we do it in manageable bits, it can stay done.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 1:28PM
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I would rather, or I would rather I would rather, do something "real" with my time

actually, this creates "churn" for me.

Maybe it's bcs I'm applying the "doing something real" stuff badly.


I'd rather read, or I need to make a prom dress. So, I DON'T toss out old socks that don't fit. Eventually, the maintenance stuff I don't do gets SO bad that it MUST be dealt with.

The other thing that creates "churn" for me is not making a decision. I don't know if I'll need something, or I can't bring myself to be fierce about whether I should throw it away.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 10:12AM
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Frankie -
Great post, and I do understand, I think, what you are saying. It sounds like me when I'm out gardening and enjoying the beautiful day, but there is this voice in my head saying "and just when are going to get around to re-organizing all those books?"

I am also ambivalent about the value of organizing. It sometimes seems to me to be giving material objects far more attention than they deserve! I often wish I could be more like dh, who just stows stuff and forgets about it. It will have to be dealt with sooner or later, but how much mind space do I want to devote to just thinking about it?

I am no expert at organizing, but that is not what it sounds like you need. What I find most helpful is to determine exactly what I MOST want to be doing at a particular moment and then try and forget everything else. You can make out a regular schedule, or decide in the morning, or just make your decisions on a moment's notice. But once you've made your decision, you keep it whether it's "I'm going for a nice relaxing walk"; "I'm going to kick back and read for 2 hours"; "I'm going to pull out everything in the closet I don't need and take it to charity NOW".

It sounds like you're coming to the conclusion that de-cluttering material stuff is cluttering your real life, or as you said,
"true progress (is) actually spending less time organizing or thinking about organizing."

p.s. I second the recommendation for "Taming your Gremlin." Useful little book.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 7:00PM
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Those are good replies and food for thought. I like the "ants" analogy. One way I can tell when I'm "churning" is that I keep seeing the same thing turn up. Sometimes of course it means I need to "break through" to a new system, but a lot of the time it is something that I just don't need. I like it when I can finally see that.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 5:10PM
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