Celebrating Freedom

Next week Americans celebrate Independence Day. This may be my favorite day of the year, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I love summer. Hot weather and a beach are my ideal combination.
  1. No gifts or special obligations are required. Just grab a cool drink, cook out, be thankful, relax and maybe attend a parade.
  1. I am very patriotic, and so thankful to live in this country where I’m free.
  1. It happens to be my birthday.

Seven years ago, when I was forming my company, I chose the phrase, “Freedom Through Organization ” to be my tagline. I love the word freedom as it evokes a variety of positive emotions.

As we approach Independence Day, I thought it might be timely to consider a few nuances of freedom, and share how I believe they relate to living an organized life.

Freedom means....Living organized means...In other words...
Living at liberty, rather than under confinement or restraint.Having space to move around in our living and working environments.Less is more.
Living free from external control or interference.Minimizing the impact of outside forces on our private spaces.We hold the power to decide what to acquire, what to retain and what to let go.
Possessing the ability to determine our action without restraint.Mindfully considering our options and obligations and making the choices that are best for us.We need to set our own priorities and establish our own agenda.
Being released from bondage, captivity or slavery.Removing commitments and belongings that weigh us down with worry, fear, self-criticism or guilt.We own our stuff, not the other way around.

Some may imagine that freedom implies a lack of obligation, work or rules, but this really isn’t so. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” We have freedom in this country because we willingly submit to a Constitution, Bill of Rights and legal code.

Likewise, to be organized, we can’t behave as if our choices don’t matter. For example:

  • Purchasing recklessly undermines our ability to save and can result in financial ruin.
  • Acquiring too many items can make it hard to find what we need, when we need it.
  • Failing to prioritize can leave us feeling that we aren’t pleasing anyone, including ourselves.
  • Holding onto things we don’t want, need or use clogs up our space and hampers productivity.
  • Not putting things away can result in loss or damage of precious possessions.
  • Pretending we don’t need to write things down means we are likely to forget things that are important.
  • Failing to plan leaves us vulnerable to spending the day reacting instead of accomplishing.
  • Denying that we need help creates unrealistic expectations and undue pressure.

The birth of this nation more than 200 years ago took sacrifice, commitment and compromise. Freedom was deemed worth the effort, and because of this belief, I now live in a country with a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” (Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address) We have a voice (no matter how small) in determining how the country is run, which is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Pursuit of the organized life is similar, requiring both self-discipline and self-control. It isn’t about being perfect, or having a “photo worthy” space. Nor is it a formula for avoiding life’s pitfalls and trials. Instead, living organized is about choosing to do what it takes to create an environment in which we are content to live. I find that freeing. Do you?