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How to Find Stability in an Unstable World

How to Find Stability in an Unstable World

“We are what we choose to be.” 

- Graham Brown

When I tell clients they really can choose how their lives look and feel and what is IN those lives, I can feel their skepticism or self-doubt bubbling up to the surface.

It all sounds good in books or movies like The Secret … but not for the rest of us ordinary folks, right?

I’m not particularly woo-woo—and I struggle with magical thinking as well … and at the same time, I know that things shift in the direction I point my mind and my intentions.

I heard a colleague say once, “Everything is always working out for me,” and I remember thinking … I guess for YOU it does … but not for me.

And then when I starting thinking about it, things did usually work out for me, too.

A mentor told me once, “Inside every disappointment is the seed of an equal or greater opportunity,” and that has definitely turned out to be true.

So maybe I am magic?!

Either way, you CAN change your life just by changing your mind.

Simple breathing exercises physically change your brain, so imagine what the power of focused thought can do.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about what to do with unwanted gifts, and how to change your behavior if you’re a giver of unnecessary gifts.

The underlying theme was: find ways to achieve stability in an unstable world that don’t throw others off balance, too.

This week, I want to share how I’ve done that on a larger scale, and some ways for you to do the same.

FINDING ORDER IN CHAOS

One of the reasons why I LOVE my work as a professional organizer and coach is that it’s built around creating order where once there was chaos.

Have a mess? I can help you clean it up.

For most of us who aren’t nomads, our homes are the foundation of feeling safe and stable in the world.

And even if you are nomad, you can still create stability and predictability with the few belongings you do have. If you only have 15 things and a backpack, it would still be a drag to be constantly searching through each pocket looking for something instead of it always being in the SAME pocket.

For the rest of us who choose to be more stationary, knowing you have a place to return to where you feel safe, where you are in control, is incredibly important as a foundation for how we show up in the world, for ourselves and for others.

People may fantasize about living in a magazine layout from Dwell, Elle Decor or Better Homes and Gardens, but for most folks maintaining that level of perfection just isn’t practical.

And really, underneath the glamour of photo-worthy rooms is a desire for zero clutter, comfort, beauty and high function. That you CAN have. 

We want order and organization because of the way it makes us feel and what it lets us do.

So, to counter the chaos and uncertainty in the world right now, a great place to start creating stability is in your home environment.

Many people have moved house as a result of COVID, either voluntarily or involuntarily … and that pull and impulse to create a stable nest is still running, even if all your stuff is in a van or stacked in boxes. 

So relocation or not—HOME is always where I start to make sense of things. 

In fact, I do a mini-version of this in cars, even rental cars, and hotel rooms.

Setting up homes for things, using The Organizational Triangle® just calms me down and helps me adjust to any environment even when I’m on the road and feeling particularly untethered.

You would be amazed and how much your confidence can soar from the simple act of creating a home for your keys or organizing a sock drawer … or your bag.

So whether you have moved recently or stayed put, where you live doesn’t define your happiness … did I ever tell you about the 6 months I spent living in a touring bus performing plays in prisons? I still knew where things I needed were.

The where doesn’t matter.

How you live does.

FEELING WOBBLY?

If you’re feeling off-kilter from the chaos of the past year, you’re not alone.

So start today, and take action to do something about it, no matter how small.

My life was upended from Covid as well. I had planned to BE a nomad for a year … and then I found myself “stranded” in Florida.

First off, it’s Florida … sun and beaches, shorts and flipflops … so definitely not a hardship—just unexpected!
I had thought to escape winter and then keep traveling. But when Covid hit, the thought of couch-surfing for a year was totally unappealing.

I wanted to know where I was and where the things I needed to both survive AND work would be.

Given how much we didn’t (and still don’t) know about Covid, I wanted to be able to self-isolate someplace steady.

Trying to avoid contagion while traveling felt too daunting.

So I hunkered down in FL.

I headed up to NYC to get some things and bring them down so I could “camp” here and function.

So regardless of how permanent or temporary your living situation is right now, there is always some action you can take immediately that will benefit your mental state AND help you function better.

Here are a few ideas—you can start small or go big … it all depends on your bandwidth and how uncomfortable you feel at home. 

If you are feeling particularly beat up or weak, go for a quick win.

If you’re feeling fierce, go big.

Either way, do something and you’ll instantly feel less impacted by the chaos OUTSIDE your home and that’s essential for good mental health and less stress.

This is not a comprehensive list so if none of these appeal, use this as a springpad to come up with your own idea.

The last one is amazingly powerful while seeming superfluous.

Of course, if the choice is between food or flowers, and I know what that’s like, you know what to do.

But if you have even $3-4, you can find something at Trader Joe’s.

I would NEVER buy myself flowers in the past—too extravagant. 

I’d get them as a host gift if I were going to someone’s for a visit … but for myself? You’ve got to be kidding. They’re just going to die … why spend the money?! That was my mindset.

Now I give them to myself as an act of self-care.

Not all the time.

But I have certainly spent 3 bucks on stupider things that did not even last as long as flowers do and brought me less joy.

And the alternative is waiting for someone to give them to me … now, how long would I have to wait for that?

So today I choose myself.

And that’s what I’m suggesting you do, too.

Flowers or the sock drawer—either/both are a way of slowing things down, quieting our minds and taking care of ourselves.

And over time, these small, simple actions add up to a greater sense of control and well-being.

When you choose yourself and take action to stabilize and order your living space, you choose to prioritize your health and happiness.

Because when you’re miserable and feeling out of control, you’re not much help to yourself or anyone else.

These choices have powerful ripple effects down the line, much bigger than organizing your socks might suggest.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The way that we think about our lives (and our spaces) shapes our experience more than we realize. 

If your thoughts run along the lines of, “I hate my living space and my circumstances,” on a loop 24/7, that negativity shows up elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you think, “I choose this,” or even better, “I choose me,” you’re suddenly back in the driver’s seat.

And, by the way, you ALWAYS have a choice. Even if it doesn’t feel that way.

If you’re living in a place you love, that’s great. Take a step today to make it even more your own than it was when you woke up this morning.

If you’re not living in a space you love, do one small thing TODAY to make it just a little bit better and feel a bit more like YOURS.

Then do one more thing.

And that’s how you move anything forward. Step by step, day by day.

Every day that you gain more control over your environment is another day you have more energy and focus to deal with the chaos outside your front door.

Build this as a practice and before you know it, your home will start to look different—and by extension your LIFE will start to look different.

You’ll consistently have the confidence AND steadiness to meet uncertainty with grace, patience and even a bit of curiosity rather than fear.

Hurry—The Unstuff Your Life System® starts on January 26. Sign up today to reserve your space!

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Written by Andrew Mellen

Andrew is the Wall Street Journal,Amazon and Audible best-selling author of two books: Unstuff Your Life! and The Most Organized Man in America’s Guide to Moving.

He has been a professional organizer since 1996, and has helped over 500,000 people + businesses get AND stay organized ... so far!

Sharply dressed Andrew Mellen smiling at the camera.

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