Marilyn Paul, PhD

Organizing as “Setting the Stage”


setting the stage

What if, instead of tidying up, we viewed decluttering as creating our environment, as setting the stage for our life story?  What if we understood organizing as creating a place for our lives to unfold in?  What if we knew deeply that the environment we create at home or work shapes our feelings and our experiences?  Maybe this would help us understand how important the setting for our world is.

What if we understood decluttering as an act of creating a setting we want rather than struggling against what we don’t want?  Creating our stage, creating our world, creating the backdrop for our life experience.

We shape our environment, and our environment in turn shapes us.  Feel the difference between a sloppy, uncared for messy space and a cared for, clean, and simple space.  These spaces evoke different experiences.  Moreover,different parts of ourselves emerge depending on our environment.  We could spend years in therapy, but if we create an environment at home that signals to us that we don’t matter, we could easily revert to feeling depressed.

I went to the theatre last week and saw a wonderful play.  It was the story of a grown son who was leaving his very traditional home to head into the wider world.  With a very few props and outstanding acting, a whole world was evoked for the audience.  We laughed and cried with the characters who struggled with the age-old theme of leaving home.

I saw how little it takes to evoke a world.

Our apartment is small but well designed.  There is so little excess stuff that it’s easy to declutter.  After dinner, the three of us often read together or play games.  Last night we watched an old episode of a nineteen sixties Western called “Have Gun Will Travel.”  We aren’t messing around with the mess.  Even our nine year-old Jonathan is able to create a lot of order in his room.

The architect who designed our small apartment here in Jerusalem knew a lot about creating an elegant space.  With a few design elements he created a place that evokes spaciousness and calm.  In contrast, in the Boston area, we live in a standard issue 1950’s split level ranch house.  It evokes clunkiness and a feeling of disconnectedness.

Architects know the power of environment to shape feelings and experiences.  Let’s not neglect this knowledge as we create the world that we live in.

One Response to "Organizing as “Setting the Stage”"
  1. Hi Marilyn,

    I’m studying for the ICD’s CD exam, and the recording refers to your book “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys,” which then led me to your website and blog. Your writings and ruminations on what “organized” and “organizing” mean resonate with me and my own organizing philosophy.

    I’d like to have permission to quote from this blog entry and link back to your site, since the other activity to do today (or this week, if I don’t hear from you!) is write my almost-too-late-for-March March blog!

    Thanks, Judith Houlding

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