Unorganizing Your Life

This week was full of weird coincidences and faces from the past, and it turned into a meditation on choices made and roads not taken. And I realized I don’t want to get more organized. I want to get less organized. I’m looking at the list of to-do and thinking: is this really how I plan to use my time?

Instead, I want to spend the weekend listening to jazz on the radio while I work on a new painting. I want to sit in the sun and drink coffee and watch the world walk by. I want to talk – really talk – to people. I want to write a letter to a friend instead of catching up on FaceBook.

I spend my day, my workday, my week, my life organizing – my job is mostly organizing, and my home life is one giant, never-ending task list. You know what? No. These days I don’t want the (diminishing) mental rewards of a job well done. I want the rewards of a job not done at all. I want to look at the yard and not make a list. I want to stop planning my days, and live them.

So that’s what I did. It took me just fifteen minutes to score a drafting table off the neighborhood listserv.  I set up my art space again, out in the open where I can use it on a whim instead of hidden away like something I’m ashamed of.  Then I cranked up Mahalia Jackson on our local station and I painted. It smells like acrylic and Sennelier pastels and pencil shavings in here.  It’s delightful.  I hope that you, too, will consider unorganizing your life.





  • Ann says:

    Amen, dear — love this!! I’m naturally not very organized and so relaxing, enjoying yourself and/or doing nothing, is naturally very appealing!! Enjoy!!

  • Kathryn says:

    I suppose it dates me to quote Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke but a line I’ve always liked is “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand”. When you’ve got nothing on your to do list it opens up a lot of possibililties

  • grizzlesnort says:

    When you’re done painting don’t forget to kick back and watch the paint dry. Then post your work online so we can see!

  • Musette says:

    Congratulations! We all need to give ourselves permission to just live our lives – at least some of the time. I try to do that when I travel – I remember one NY trip, years ago – it was a Saturday and I was all ‘omg! MUST GO DOOO SOMETHING’ – then I realized a) I was beat from the work-week b) I had plenty of time to dooo something – later. c) it was kinda yucky outside. So I went downstairs for breakfast, then back upstairs to mah little Junior Suite where I lolled on the sofa, drank coffee and watched a Nelson Eddy movie! I’d never done that before, just ‘been’ in an hotel room. Always rushing. I LOVED it. So I did it again (again, on a Saturday) in Seattle. Lovely.


  • Jennifer S says:

    Good for you. Life is too short as it is so I say let the house get a little messy, let the laundry pile up etc and spend more time on doing the things you love just for you.

  • Nemo says:

    So so happy for you 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful uplifting (and inspiring) post!

  • Tara C says:

    Sounds like you are on the right track. I am extremely lazy and can put things off for very long periods of time. I’m also not very creative. Fortunately I am retired and can be as unproductive as I want, with occasional pangs of guilt. The one thing I force myself to do five days a week is exercise. After that, I give myself a pass as long as the critical things (like paying bills) get done.

  • DinaC says:

    It’s very hard for me to balance my OCD side that wants to organize, declutter, clean and be a control freak and impose order onto my “ecosystem,” and the artistic, creative side of myself that wants to sing, act, dance, write, draw, sew…you get it. It’s the artistic stuff that restores my spirit, my soul and gives me strength and endurance for each day ahead. So glad that you, too, have found the balance and practiced the self-care to allow yourself to paint. Yay March!

  • Kathleen says:

    Love what you said! “I want the rewards of s job not done!” I am learning the art of “let that shit go.” Not easy for me, being an organized perfectionist. I’m learning to understand that tempering unrealistic expectations of how something “should be” can greatly reduce unnecessary stress and frustration. Life is too short to work so hard to control everything. I’m givinh myself permission to take time to enjoy simpler pleasures.
    Thank you for s thoughtful post March!

  • rosarita313 says:

    I am so happy for you, March and I couldn’t agree more. I used to have a friend who was an incredibly busy, organized mom when my daughter was younger. She once told me that she liked cleaning green beans because it gave her an excuse to sit outside on a warm summer afternoon without feeling guilty that she was wasting time. That has stuck with me through the years because to me it’s so wrong! Summer days are fleeting and worthy of being cherished. I enjoy cleaning green beans too, it’s a pleasantly nostalgic activity, but sometimes just sitting under a tree doing nothing is vital. Survival of sanity in this world requires refreshment of the soul.

  • Portia says:

    Hey March,
    You know I’m basically the laziest person on earth right?
    Each week I clean the apartment once. It’s not spotless but it is vacuumed, dusted, kitchen and my bathroom cleaned (Jin looks after his own, or not, NMP). It takes around 3 hours and after it I feel so at peace with the place.
    Having a house it was never so easy. There were always gardens, gutters, pool, paving, painting, systems, sheds and a million things that needed to be done. It was time consuming, expensive and never done so we could sit back and leave it for a month.
    Though I dearly miss the pool everything else is thankfully over and I have so much extra time.

    Love reading that you got you’re groove on this week. Made me smile so much.
    Portia xx

  • cinnamon says:

    I think you are prescient, March. This is an issue my 16 year old son and I have been discussing for the past couple of weeks: how do you bring a balance of needs and wants into your life — ie, what you seem to pose as organisation vs less organisation. We haven’t reached any huge conclusion except that if you’re not Picasso, most likely you will have to make a very honest assessment of your talents and priorities and work out from that the best way to live (eg, how to earn a living in a way that doesn’t diminish you but still supports you comfortably and that one needs to make sure to maintain space to feed those parts of the self that keep you, for lack of a better descriptive, whole). Not necessarily an easy balance to achieve, but worth pursuing.

    • cinnamon says:

      I have Picasso on the brain, as we’re going to an exhibition in London soon and I’m really looking forward to that — one of those things that feeds the soul.

  • Tatiana says:

    All I have to say is “Sennelier pastels!!!!!” Time well spent if you ask me.

  • Neva says:

    Great decision March. That’s just what we all need. I’m a very well organized person but I also know how to withdraw from the everyday life. I simply switch off my phones and go out alone to do something I enjoy, be it a long hike, a visit to a museum, a nice lunch, a dance class, a movie…it helps me survive the “madness” surrounding me.

  • MaureenC says:

    It’s very easy to pour our organisational abilities into shit that doesn’t really matter, only benefits our employers or fulfills a long list of societal “should do” things. I’ve been through that transition over the last few years leaving full time corporate work behind and returning to acting. It sounds to me that you are at an important point in your life and that actually you were in fact brilliantly putting your organisational skills in the right place in creating the space to paint!!

  • Sarah says:

    Amen and amen.

  • Maya says:

    Ah, Mahalia Jackson. My mother loved her. What a voice. Saw a clip of her and Louis Armstrong at the Newport Jazz Festival. Two greats from New Orleans.
    You go girl! Life and living are not ever organized and it always ends too soon, so be as much of a free-spirit as you can be. It is wonderful.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    Oh how I wish. I’m in the middle of renovating my childhood home (which was also in a fire) and moving back and forth between old home and new, an 85 mile commute—-twice a day. I’m in complete chaos and I dream of just…not “having” to organize. Everything is “missing” right now. Your weekend sounds lovely and I look forward to living my life. That is what life should be.