Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

Learning How To Quantify

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500

** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

A Not-So-Fine Line

This is what Nate had to say — “Here's the difference between a collector, which I consider myself, and a hoarder: A collector has no shame involved. It doesn't keep you from having people over. It doesn't impede anything in your life. In fact, it enhances it, because it's so fun to keep looking for the collection.”

My response is “maybe.” My mother considered herself a “collector,” but that didn't make my life any easier when I had to clean out her house after she died. Perhaps the difference has less to do with shame and more to do with focus.

I think true collectors focus in on one or two things they love to accumulate, while hoarders keep lots of everything — collectors seem to have more of a plan or a goal when they acquire something, while hoarders do not — collectors also care about what will happen to their collections (passing them on to someone who will value them), and hoarders definitely don't. It seems as though everyone in the organizing community has a different take on hoarding. There's even talk of making it an officially classifiable mental illness. Check out the proposed DSM-5 criteria:

  • persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions (this difficulty is due to strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding)
  • the symptoms result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible — if all living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities)
  • the symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not due to a general medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., hoarding due to obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, decreased energy in major depressive disorder, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in dementia, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder, food storing in Prader-Willi syndrome)
  • specify if “with excessive acquisition” if symptoms are accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space

That defines the behavior, but it doesn't look at the reasons behind it. So I asked my colleagues to share their thoughts about where hoarding came from — I've summarized and paraphrased their responses:

  • “hoarders tend to define themselves by the objects they own, while collectors do not”
  • “collectors tend to keep their collection in a way that keeps themselves and those items 'safe,' while hoarders do not take safety into account”
  • “hoarding is just collecting that has gotten out of control”
  • “collections are confined and contained, while hoarding occurs in random piles that eventually end up taking over”
  • “collections are organized — hoarding is when there is so much that it can not be located”
  • “collectors see the world as full of abundance and celebrate that — hoarders experienced lack in their life and feel they need to keep everything because they might need it someday”
  • “hoarders feel they are less of a person without their things — collector keep themselves separate from their things”
  • “hoarders accumulate items to boost their self-esteem, while collectors create something that can be admired and possibly have financial value”
  • “collectors have a healthy emotional attachment to their stuff (it makes them feel good), but hoarders have an unhealthy attachment (it makes them feel bad”
  • “collecting improves quality of life, but hoarding deteriorates quality of life (income, relationships, peace of mind)”
  • “collectors choose one or two categories of items to collect (carousel horses, hummels, first editions, etc.), while hoarders keep anything and everything”
  • “collectors become attached to things of value — hoarders become attached to what is essentially trash (newspapers, recyclables, string, used aluminum foil, butter tubs, spoiled food, etc.)”
  • “collectors accumulate out of love, hoarders accumulate out of fear”
  • “collectors choose to collect, while hoarders are driven by compulsion”
  • “hoarders often hide their accumulations away, while collectors display theirs with pride”
  • “collectors look for unique additions to their collection, but hoarders will accumulate numerous identical or duplicate items”
  • “collectors enjoy sharing their collections with others — hoarders find that eventually their obsession with 'stuff' alienates their friends and family”
  • “collectors get a positive sense of satisfaction when they add to their collection — hoarders are simply trying to alleviate negative feelings (anxiety, inadequacy, worry, pain, etc.)”
  • “collectors recognize when their collections have become unmanageable and do something about it — hoarders live in denial”
  • “collectors still insist on a functional living and working space, while hoarders are willing to sacrifice this for their 'stuff'”
  • “collectors only add new items when they feel it will enhance the collection — hoarders can't resist the urge to constantly acquire more”
  • “hoarders refuse to part with anything they own, while collectors are often willing to sell portions of their collection if the right price/buyer comes along”
  • “hoarders can't tell the difference between what is valuable and what is not — collectors understand very clearly the value of the items they own”
  • “collectors honor their collections, while hoarders have a less respectful relationship with their 'stuff'”
  •  “collectors will stop collecting when they feel they have enough, but hoarders never feel they have enough”
  • “collectors will get rid of a collection if they tire of it — hoarders feel compelled to continue accumulating even when doing so loses its joy”
  • “collectors can draw healthy boundaries around their collecting activities, while hoarders are obsessed”
  • “collectors create conscious themes with their collections, while hoarders experience an uncontrollable pile-up of random things”
  • “hoarders value things over relationships, while collectors keep their things in perspective as secondary to the people in their lives”
  • “collectors can trade or sell their collectibles — the things hoarders accumulate are only valuable to them”
  • “collectors pay very close attention to their collections, while hoarders often allow their 'stuff' to languish unused and serving no purpose for years”
  • “collectors take very good care of their things — hoarders let their belongings rot and decay and go bad”
  • “collectors take into account their space restraints and are constantly making room for new items, while hoarders just pile more on top of what is already there”

What do you think — where should we draw the line between collecting and hoarding?

Learning To Work Together

When Matt and I first got married,  I was highly anal-retentive about my living environment (big surprise!) I wanted no visible clutter anywhere. My hubby on the other hand, while far from a slob, had a much more relaxed attitude about putting certain things away — like the clothes he would change out of at the end of the day. He left a trail of wardrobe items around our house that used to drive me up the wall. I tried everything to get him to hang up his clothes as soon as he took them off (pleading, cajoling, threatening, bribery), but nothing worked — because that simply wasn't important to him.

Now if I had kept pushing and he had kept resisting, this could have very well ended our marriage (I've seen breakups happen over less!) But we decided that it was silly for us to get so worked up over something so relatively insignificant. However, we also realized that it would be unbalanced for one of us to simply “give in” (God knows that when a spouse surrenders a single battle, it feels as if you've lost the war!) We talked about what we each valued. I wanted a tidy-looking home without piles of clothes everywhere — but at the same time, I didn't want to be constantly picking up after him in order to achieve that. He on the other hand, wanted to come home from work and immediately relax, without having to worry about spending his precious down-time putting things away (this was back in the day before self-employment!) — but he promised he would get it all where it belonged once or twice a week.

Fortunately, we each had a divided closet — so we agreed that when Matt shed his skin at the end of the day, he would pile his clothes in the floor of his side (rather than the floor of the bedroom or living room or bathroom) and shut the door. That way, I didn't have to see it or deal with it. And when the pile got to big for him to stand, he'd hang everything up (or do laundry) and start over again fresh. It was the perfect solution, because both our needs were met at the same time. And that arrangement has followed us into the Airstream and around the country — of course, it's a smaller closet, but we still each have our own section, and Matt's got a series of “cubbies” where he can easily stow his clothes as he takes them off. A good system (one built on give-and-take) is adaptable enough to last you forever!

I always say that compromise is the soul of family harmony — and it's doubly true when you're talking about getting organized. The best way to fail at your organizing efforts is for one family member to lay down hard-and-fast rules, expecting everyone else to just fall in line — ain't gonna happen! Instead of each person insisting that it be done “their” way, recognize that there is no one “right” way to organize. Talk it over, discuss each person's needs and expectations, and find someplace in the middle where you can all be happy. It works with kids, it works with life partners, it even works with mothers-in-law!

Getting On The Same Page

I spoke recently about the idea of setting up a “family calendar,” and I'd like to explain that concept in a little more detail — because it's really the only way to avoid scheduling conflicts and last minute scrambles. Start by setting up a wall calendarin a centralized place, so you can review the entire household's activities with one glance. You'll want to write each person's appointments, deadlines, and other responsibilities with a different colored marker — blue for mom, green for dad, red for Sally, and purple for Johnny. Keep this in a high-traffic area of the house (kitchen seems to work well, because everyone goes there daily) where everyone can see it.

However, hanging a calendar is less than half the battle — the most important step is to take the time to coordinate your schedules. Family members these days are often like ships passing in the night — you see each other for a few minutes at a time on the way from one activity to the next, and it's no wonder so many time-management conflicts occur! It helps if you have a “family planning session” at the start of each week. Ask each person what they have coming up in the near future — extracurricular activities, days that your kids need a ride somewhere (as well as days you have to work late and can't pick them up), school project due dates, parties, vacations, dentist appointments, meetings, social engagements, sporting events, you name it. Everything should go on the calendar. If you carry a personal planner or PDA, this is also the time to update your portable calendar with the current info (it doesn't do you much good to plan out the week if you can't see the schedule while you're out of the house!)

Then from that point forward, every time someone brings home a birthday invitation or permission slip for a field trip, write it down. Every time the school sends out a calendar of upcoming days off, transfer it to the family calendar. When your boss asks if you can work late or your child's piano teacher wants to switch from Tuesday to Wednesday, change the calendar. Add the week's chores to the calendar. Get in the habit of putting EVERYTHING related to your family's schedule in one place. You're trying to accomplish two main goals here — to address any conflicts and to avoid last-minute rushing around. So when you know that mom's got to work late and Jimmy needs a ride home from the game, you can instruct him to make plans to go with a friend, rather than having him sit around waiting 3 hours for mom, when she has no idea she's supposed to pick him up. When Susy agrees to bring cupcakes for the school party, dad knows that they've got to go grocery shopping at least a day or two before so there's time to do the baking. When Bobby (don't ask my why I've chosen such Brady Bunch sounding children's names) has to put a diorama together for history class, he's not popping up at the eleventh hour, asking for shoe boxes and paint after all the stores are closed. Your stress level will drop by a factor of ten, just having each person's to-do's and responsibilities written down in one visible place.

Start Off On The Right Foot

You may not realize it now, but you have complete control over how you spend your time during this festive season — I swear! Well, let me restate that — you have complete control over how you spend your time during this festive season, as long as you're willing to call the shots. When you find yourself spending time on holiday activities that you don't enjoy, you have to be the one to draw the line. And if you feel that you don't have enough time for the fun stuff, only you can carve out a little extra space in your schedule — no one else can do it for you. But of course, that's all easier said than done!

First, you have to be clear about what you actually want (and don't want) from this holiday. When was the time you took a second to evaluate your seasonal responsibilities, to question whether or not you're getting any value out of each activity? Most of us go along on auto-pilot, participating in traditions out of habit (“because that's what we've always done.”) Well so what if you've always done it that way? Who says you have to keep on? That's the kind of mindset that would have denied women the vote and kept slavery intact! When the past ain't working, you let it go and move on, and that's what needs to happen here.

You might also be stuck with some less-than satisfying holiday experiences because of presumptions you make about other people's expectations (“the family will be so disappointed.”) How do you know they'll be disappointed? Have you asked them? It could be that your kids are humoring you with the annual carol-sing or cookie-baking ritual because they thought it was important to you. How stupid would you feel if you're all tolerating a tradition that no one enjoys just because you're all too polite to speak up?! The best way to cure this problem is to find out each person's priorities.

Take An Inventory

Perhaps for the first time in your life, I'm going to ask you to be really honest with yourself about your holiday expectations. Start by making a list of activities that you absolutely don't want to miss this holiday season. Then make another list of those that you hate, despise, and dread. No cheating or couching the truth! If you loathe baking, don't try to convince yourself that this year you will turn into Donna Reed with a batch of homemade gingerbread — ain't gonna happen!

And you can get very specific if you need to. You might love visiting with your parents, but can't stand seeing your critical Aunt Louise. That's fine — add visiting your parents to your “do” list and seeing Aunt Louise to your “don't” list. It might be a good idea to have everyone in your family make their own lists — everyone has different ideas about what activities are joyous and which ones are miserable.

Now take a look at your two lists. It's all a trade-off from here — your goal is to remove the “don'ts” and make time to fit in the “do's.” Notice I didn't say “find” time — the best way to assure that you will never get around to doing something is to say, “I'll do it when I find a few free minutes.” Somehow, they never seem to appear until you MAKE it happen! If you want to include an activity in your holiday season, actually schedule it into your calendar. If walking around your neighborhood with your family singing carols and looking at holiday lights is a priority, sit down together and pick an evening and have everyone block it off. It's as simple as that! At the start of the season, decide ahead of time which activities on everyone's lists are the most important.  Of course, you'll have to be realistic about what you have time for — you may only have enough room in your schedule for each person to pick three priorities instead of eight. And you may need to do a little trading with your loved ones — “I'll go to Christmas Eve services with you, and in return I'd like for you to go for a nature walk on Saturday with me.” Creating harmony in any situation is about compromising — just don't allow yourself to bend so far that you give up all of your priorities for someone else's. Everyone should feel that his or her needs are being met.

Finding A Sense Of Balance

Now you have to make your dreams and your reality mesh. The big question is “how do I fit in all of these priorities when I've got chores to do?” It's hard to make time for the good stuff when you have other obligations — those “have to's” will kill you! But why do you “have to”? There's no law requiring you to put up a tree or send out cards. You're not being graded on what you accomplish during the holidays! If you don't want to do it, a simple “no” should suffice — especially when you find an activity that everyone has on their “don't” lists.

You might be worried that others will judge you if you take a break from some of the season's craziness — but the truth is, they will probably envy your ability to take charge of your schedule (and hopefully follow your lead!) Just because you think that you “have” to, that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else feels the same way. Most people are overwhelmed by the holidays and would like for them to be easier — but no one seems willing to make the first move. Be honest with folks about what you want and don't want this year, and you may find your to-do list dwindling all on its own. And your family is guaranteed to thank you when you have a calmer, saner, and more peaceful time together this year.