As a Professional Organizer, I love routine. The familiar procession of activities feels peaceful and comfortable. However, every now and then, I intentionally step away from my normal activities to stretch myself in a new direction. This past Saturday I had the pleasure and privilege of working with the CT Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to host a regional conference for organizers working in the Northeast (fondly nicknamed, “NERCPO”). The day featured three speakers, a session on appraising, time to peruse products and services, and some breaks to relax and chat.
In additional to helpful business-related information, I also came away with some insights that I think could apply to all people, in all walks of life. We are more similar than we are different, so hopefully these will resonate with you as they did for me.
INSIGHTS FROM A DAY AWAY…
=> Generous volunteers are a treasure.
Anyone who has thrown a party or hosted an event knows how wonderful it is to have timely, efficient, and reliable help. As my team hustled to pull together last minute details, I was reminded again of what a great gift it is to have people upon whom you can truly rely. Individuals who show up with a smile and quietly do what needs to be done are worth their weight in gold.
=> Most of us need a break from technology.
One of our speakers talked about the ways in which the digital environment has infiltrated our lives. In many respects, technology has improved our quality of life; I love the fact that I can FaceTime loved ones living far away. At the same time, many of us struggle to get away from our devices, feeling the need to be perpetually on call or constantly “checking in.” Awareness of the downsides is only beginning to emerge, as are strategies for erecting healthy boundaries. The struggle is real, and the solutions aren’t simple. Yet, even a few hours away from my phone on Saturday felt surprisingly refreshing, and I’m interested in seeing what other small changes I might be able to make to lighten the pressures this new reality is bringing to bear.
=> Eating together strengthens relationship.
As you may know, I love social media and the connectedness of liking, commenting and sharing. Nonetheless, there is something about sitting around a table and sharing a meal that really bonds people together. In a world of increasingly digital communication, I hope we don’t forget to spend time face-to-face, hearing the intonation of each others’ voices and seeing each other’s facial expressions. Conversations that take place over food tend to be less guarded, a bit more intimate, and peppered with thoughts and ideas that otherwise might never percolate to the surface. There is a little big of magic in the breaking of bread!
=> It’s always fun to win.
One feature of our event is a multi-prize raffle, made possible by the generous donations of vendors and sponsors. In a room of people who resist clutter, there was still a jolt of joy each time a participant heard his/her name called to win a prize. I don’t think we ever outgrow the thrill that comes from being declared the winner. I’m tucking this revelation away to remind myself to think more of how I might replicate that feeling for the people around me.
=> Wisdom deserves an audience.
In the midst of busy lives, we often lack the bandwidth to pause, listen, ponder, and reflect. We zoom past people whose life experiences have given them wise perspectives, gleaning only the bare minimum of what we need to get through the day. Granting ourselves permission to take a weekend, a day, or even a couple of hours to set the chaos aside and sit under wise teaching is an investment in our character. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
=> We are all experts at something, and will never know everything.
During our appraisal session, I was greatly impressed by the appraiser’s depth of knowledge about the various objects that participants had brought along. His knowledge must have taken years to acquire, and his expertise was both fascinating and inspiring. Yet even he admitted that a few of the items were not within his realm of expertise. There are many “sub specialties” when it comes to valuables, as there are within almost all fields. Whatever we do on a daily basis (taking care of children, studying, researching, conducting business, providing care…) will result in some measure of expertise. Still, there will always be things we don’t know, and that is perfectly fine. Knowing when to pass the baton or reach out to another resource is a sign of strength, not weakness.
=> Good communication is worth the effort.
All of us have different communication styles. The key to communication is thinking less about ourselves, and more about the person with whom we are seeking to connect. Our natural inclination is to speak or write in a way that makes sense to us. A better approach is to consider the other person, and speak or write in a way that makes sense to him. It’s a new twist on the Golden Rule: instead of “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” consider “Treat others the way they wish to be treated.” This takes a bit more intentionality, but may payoff in fewer misunderstandings and more positive interactions.
=> The greatest value of our belongings is in their story and emotional significance.
Much of my job entails talking to people about their physical belongings. We consider questions such as, Should I keep this? Does this have value? Will my children want this? What I learned this weekend is that the true value of physical possessions is rarely financial. Inherent worth of belongings (beyond tangible usefulness) is mostly in their stories; in other words, nostalgic value. The market is a shifting landscape, and what was worth $700 twenty years ago may be worth only a few dollars today. Since we can’t anticipate the shifting sands of demand of the future, we should keep, use and enjoy what provides us with an emotional payoff.
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Stepping out of the normal routine can be a great way to glean a new perspective or refresh a downtrodden spirit. Have you ever taken a day away? What insights did you garner?