Negative self-image. Fantasy-induced over-spending. Marital tension. A new kind of airbrushed fantasy-land is wreaking havoc on our homes and our psyches: org porn.
“Org porn is that glossy, airbrushed fantasy world where everything is pristine, serene and perfectly in order, sort of Playboy, but with chore charts and name-plated cubbyholes,” said Sarah Welch, who wrote Pretty Neat: The Buttoned-Up Way to Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection with co-author Alicia Rockmore.
“It’s everywhere you look these days: in magazines, coffee table books, advertisements, and TV shows. And when consumed in excess, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, binge spending on organizational products, and even marital discord.”
The two have interviewed hundreds of women on the topic of organization and an astounding 80% of them feel they fall well short of the mark when it comes to getting organized.
“Don’t get us wrong, gazing at beautiful images of meticulously organized rooms, perfectly displayed collections, color-coordinated closets, flawless family schedules, pristine kitchens, tidy mud rooms, and picture-perfect work spaces can be titillating – even meditative. There’s a reason we call it ‘org porn,’” said Rockmore. “But when they become the primary yardstick by which you measure your own general state of organization is when it becomes unhealthy. An airbrushed land of perfect organization cannot be sustained in this messy, unpredictable world called real life.”
Chasing perfection fuels something the Buttoned Up co-founders call “organizational inertia,” a type of paralysis that makes it virtually impossible to get started. Nearly every woman surveyed agreed that the most difficult part of getting organized was knowing where to start. If perfection is the objective, that paralysis makes sense. Keeping your house, work and schedule magazine-ready requires a superhuman effort to achieve and constant, superhuman vigilance to maintain. The goal of getting organized isn’t necessarily to have everything picture-perfect, but rather to eliminate inefficiency, so that you have more time to do what you actually want to do.
Instead of holding yourself to impossible org porn standards, the authors advocate ditching perfection and instead focusing on why you want to get organized in the first place. Remind yourself that org porn is merely entertainment and an escape that few if any actually achieve. Reality is something entirely different. If it helps you, use those org-porn images to focus on the benefits you are trying to achieve: calm, efficiency, etc. Once you are clear on the real objective, then you are free to define your own rules for achieving that end goal (and what that end goal will look like for you).
If you’ve been poring over a few too many glossy images and feeling that you’re falling short of the organizational mark, consider the following:
#1: Focus on the Fundamentals
Having everything perfectly in order is not essential, in fact it may be detrimental to organization. What you really need to have buttoned up are the three basics: schedules, important papers (financial/medical), and major project plans (task lists). As a rule of thumb, you should spend 80% of your organizational energy staying on top of the three fundamentals. Having these core elements of your life in order will give you the peace of mind that you are on top of what matters. When these things are disorganized, they can wreak havoc on your life. A perfectly put together, color-coded closet may be nice, but it’s not essential.
#2: Learn to See Perfection as an Illusion
Organization is not an end state, but rather an ongoing fact of life; it’s a process. The notion of perfect organization is an illusion because it can only be achieved fleetingly. Life is too messy and unpredictable to be able to sustain it for any length of time. It’s called real life, and sooner or later, it will wreak havoc on “perfection.” When you’re pressed for time, there’s no need to waste energy worrying about those toys strewn on the living room floor, the dishes lingering in the rack by the sink, or the unmade bed.
Remember, if you’d rather live an organized life, not a life of organization – you’ll need to embrace a little imperfection.