I have always been organised. While I do come from a long line of organised women, some of it also comes from my time as a gymnast. I trained five days a week, after school and on weekends. I would get home from school and train from 4.30 to 8.00pm. Once home I would have dinner and then fit in homework or study before I went to bed. I was good at school and quite contentious. So I was determined my schoolwork wouldn’t suffer. Looking back I’m not sure how I fitted it all in, but I did.
I also love a good routine or ritual. It’s how I get as much done during the day as I do. I’ve never been a procrastinator or someone who faffs about. I’d rather get everything done early and then have time at the end of the day to relax. Plus I find it hard to sit still if I know there is something waiting for my attention. Even if it’s just dinner dishes lying in the sink.
While some may say routines are boring, or they don’t allow for flexibility, I disagree. While routines may not be the sexiest thing in the world, I find they give me more free time. More flexibility. And the ability to be spontaneous. They also decrease my mind clutter.
The days I work are more structured than the days I don’t. And I always have one day, usually a Sunday, where routines and rituals don't exist. But because everything has already been done by then, it allows for that flexibility. If we decide on a Sunday we want to go out for the day, I’m not stressing because the housework still needs doing. Or a blog post needs to be written. Or our work clothes still need to be washed.
On the days I work I know exactly what I’m doing and in what order. Nothing much alters from day to day. We have the same breakfast and lunch. We have the same morning routine. The dogs get walked at the same time in the afternoon. And dinner is pre-planned. While I admit this may seem rather boring, what it does is it frees up the space in my head. The only decisions I need to make during these days are the ones at work. Everything else runs like clockwork. I also schedule buffer time. This means that there is space in my days for unexpected things. Like looking for my partner’s car keys at six in the morning - which is a regular occurrence! Mind you, if he just put his car keys in the same place each time that wouldn’t happen. He’s not as big on routines as I am.
On a weekly basis I have structured it so come Friday I have the whole day to do my own creative work and writing. There’s no quick trip to get dog food because I’ve realised we’re out. Or a dash into town to get this, that or the next thing. Because these days are sacred to me I am very precious about my time. Sometimes I will organise to catch up with a friend on the phone. But I always schedule it ahead of time so I can structure my work around it.
The weekends are less routine. But there are still things I know will happen on a Saturday to make the next week flow smoother. And it means come Sunday I have a whole day to do whatever I like. Without stressing about anything.
I can see why people think it is boring that I know exactly when I’m going to fill my car up with petrol. But the main thing routines and rituals do is free up the clutter in your head. You don’t have to think. Everything happens on autopilot. There’s no constant chatter. No decisions have to be made. And I can’t emphasise how much having daily routines has helped me feel less anxious and stressed.
People often say to me they couldn’t be as organised as I am. I don’t believe that. It’s a skill that can be learnt. But like all skills you have to keep practicing. You can’t decide you want to speak Spanish and then become fluent after one lesson. It takes time.
I've also had people say to me they wouldn’t want to be as organised as me, as it doesn’t allow for ‘being’ or ‘living in flow’. Do you know what I find a little bit ironic? These same people post regularly on social media about feeling anxious. Or that they have too much on their plates. Or that they can't quiet their monkey-mind. They are the one's meditating. Diffusing essential oils. Journaling and practicing inversion yoga poses.
Now don't get me wrong. All these things work too. But while some swear by mindfulness practices to quiet their minds, I swear by my routines.
I always say that if you want to declutter your mind, the best place to start is with decluttering your life.