When to Apply Labels

Containers with LabelsIn the world of organizing, we organizers LOVE to label.  Labels add clarity, reduce confusion and help others support the system you are creating.  But labeling should only apply to things.

When we begin to label ourselves and others we often find the result to be harsh and limiting.  The language that you use to describe yourself not only gives other people an idea of who you are, but it is often the language that you use to speak to yourself. Labels based on behavior or habits create an image in your own mind that can become self-fulfilling.

Remove the labels

It seems that now, more than ever, we live in a time where people identify themselves as being “this way” or “that way”,  “either/or”, rather than a complex and interesting blend of traits, gifts and interests. No where is this more obvious than in the area of organization. So many people come to us with the idea that they must be “the worst” that we have ever seen, and that they have an unsolvable problem. They are invariably surprised when we tell them “No, there are many people with many of the same issues and no, we have never seen a problem that couldn’t be helped, if not completely solved. You are certainly not the worst.”

There is no one client that holds the record for “the worst”. Our clients are all individuals. They are all people with different gifts, desires, needs and challenges. They are all people with a need to change and the courage to step up and try. They are people that we admire for their strengths, and that we truly enjoy serving in their needs.

The lives of the people that we encounter are not static, they are not a particular type, with particular proclivities that are simply a problem to be solved.  There is complexity in all human experience and there is a special complexity when it comes the the ways and whys of our relationship to our possessions.

Applying the labels of the “best” or “worst” to a person removes so much that makes up that person’s unique identity. We are often surprised when we hear about the professional athlete or perhaps a leader in business, who becomes known for an indiscretion or addiction. We think, “How could someone so disciplined, who had so much going for him, get into that kind of situation?”  In thinking this way we aren’t looking at the whole person, but just at a piece of a person who is extremely good at one thing. That one thing is probably a gift, but it isn’t who the person is.

We all live in the real world

Our clients often tell us that they wish that they could  have it together all the time, that they could just “know” what to do with things, or how to let go of what they don’t need, as if it’s something that some people just have as a natural part of their make-up. It’s true that some people see things in a more linear way than others, and some people are able to let go of things easily because they attach importance to some other aspect of their lives. It doesn’t mean, however that those people are the “best” at having it all together. We all live in the real world and we all exist on the spectrum of human experience. These are skills and habits that you can learn and adhere to. The people that have a system and a place for everything learned those things somewhere. They had someone to mentor them. You can too!

Plan to aim for the middle

There is a lot of room in the middle of organized. We are all constantly developing and reworking a system, based on the different blessings, challenges, times and seasons of our lives. If you are a young executive with a new apartment you are going to need an entirely different system than a mom with a toddler and a new baby. The best system is the one that takes into account your own very individual situation. That is the system that will stick. That is a system you will live within and develop over the course of your life.

Trying to see the way forward with an eye to perfection can be a very discouraging approach. A better way is to think about steps that move you along the path from the chaos that you feel is ruling the day to the goal of clarity. Clarity isn’t necessarily found in the extreme of perfect order, but in the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have things under control.Room in the Middle

By leaving the labels off and seeing the bigger picture of your life through a lens that removes the best 25% and
the worst 25%. Now you have the middle 50% and that is just right.

Over the next few days, instead of feeling like you have “the worst” situation in some area of your life, look at the things that you are grateful for and try to see yourself moving toward control of one area of your day. Talk to a person that knows you well and loves you, and ask them what they think of when they look at you.

You are not the sum of your abilities, habits or inclinations.

Open the GiftYou are not the sum of your abilities, habits or inclinations.  You are an individual that has been given a place in this world that only you can fill. Those parts of you that can be labeled are only accessories. YOU are the gift.

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