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Do you obsess over long list of projects?

| Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

What is it about getting to the bottom of our lists?

Do you find that, as soon as you cross things off your list, other items automatically appear? It's like that multi-headed monster or the whack-a-mole syndrome! I believe far too many of us are going about this in the wrong way. What we're actually seeking is a sense of completion, and that's a mindset.

We're certainly not alone. The magazine covers and online teasers that boast “five easy tips to get organized” are poised to edge out those that promise “five easy ways to firm your abs!”

And how ‘bout that multimillion organizer industry? Truth be told, I just love “school supply season.” For us grownups, that's now been extended to the office supplies sections of our favorite circulars, stores or websites. And I know it's a very big club! I've gotta come clean. In the past, I've often felt that getting just that right organizing system – in just the right color, of course – would help me get to that clean slate. Here's a clue: buying the system doesn't actually get the job done. Yikes – my husband, John, was right all along! With my summer sweep project this year came some amazing insights, though. It occurred to me that this obsession with completion — that always seems to be a few projects down the list — is all in our heads. So, I devised a new thought pattern to deal with this.

I divided my tasks into “Macro” and “Micro” and devised a mantra to anchor in the new thinking.

Macro deals with major areas of household and office furnishings and closets. Once those contents are sorted and tossed, repaired or donated, an affirmation of completion is in order. This is a huge step, not to be neglected. Repeat after me: “My life is in order.” Trust me – it will make sense.

Micro projects come next. And this is where the colorful baskets, bins and storage systems come in handy. Whew – now I can rationalize all that shopping! My “a-ha” moment came when I acknowledged that the content of our lives – and our living laboratories – are dynamic and changing. So, we're always going to have some projects – and these need to be welcomed, not shunned.

In fact, if we always got to the bottom of our lists, life would be pretty boring. And who wants to be listless?

The trick is to engage the mind so that it “gets” that sense of completion, while also engaging (and even embracing) the projects that still need tended along the way.

The mantra I came up with is: “Micro flows – so Macro can go.” To me, it reframed everything and gave me peace of mind. So, whether I'm still converting digital photo files, spending thoughtful time on correspondence or learning to use some electronic device, that's okay – because it's in the Micro section.

I definitely have a new found respect for the Micro world – preferring to think of those elements as weaving the rich tapestries of our lives (instead of those drudgery items that drag us down). No wonder they call if Microsoft! I can now affirm that “my life is in order,” and that's a beautiful thing. It really works wonders. And it feels authentic. I'm not pulling the wool over my eyes and fooling myself into this.

If you decide to adopt this system, you'll need to set your individual parameters of Macro and Micro. For me, it took 16 trash bags to be hauled off. And the setting up of my Micro projects, tucked into a closet – temporarily.

Now, here's the rub. This is an evolving consciousness. My particular nemesis is “pile creep.” While I consider myself a fairly organized person, I noticed I was allowing information stacks to build in different areas – on the kitchen counter, nightstand and dining room table, among others.

So, I set out to do some major “surface mining.” I pulled items off every surface. Cue the colorful canvas bins! They became temporary holding tanks for sorting and contemplation. In most cases, the elements were reassigned.

It's amazing what a clean surface can do for one's mindset. Along with rearranging things from time to time. Putting up a hand-crafted mirror where a picture had previously hung. Or putting items from an ottoman into a magazine holder.

It's all about energy. And, believe me, our personal energy is very much affected by our environment. It's an ongoing process, though, and needs to be tended. For me, I need to guard against the reemergence of “pile creep.”

So, rise up if you're so inclined – and redefine what completion means to you! Here's a setup for success you can try. It's all in how you measure your progress.

Rather than telling yourself you'll devote an entire weekend to organizing your house (or office), only to come up short on Sunday evening, devote an hour at a time to specific areas. And then give yourself a positive check mark and affirm that you've completed that goal, rather than beating yourself up because you didn't get the entire closet/chest of drawers/set of boxes/shelf of bins/fill-in-the-blanks completed.

Here's to respecting the Micros in our lives – and doing so with a joyful and willing mindset. Because “Micro flows so Macro can go!”

Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a psychological counselor, certified wellness instructor and syndicated columnist. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda at

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