Kaizen is Japanese for change (Kai) towards good (Zen). Kaizen is all about bypassing the fight or flight response when moving toward change. Robert Maurer, Ph.D., in his awesome book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life (Workman Publishing 2004) says the way to do this is a simple 5 step approach:
- Ask small questions
- Think small thoughts
- Take small actions
- Solve small problems
- Bestow small rewards
Certainly I’d heard of ‘fight or flight’ before but had not appreciated how this mindset is a fairly normal reaction everyone feels at some point to greater or lesser extents.
I learned that an unwanted or unplanned change of any sort could incite this reaction. Also, some people feel it more readily than others. I instinctively understood that my clients, with their extraordinary attachments to their things, fit into this group.
I wanted to test this out, so the next time we met, I asked J., a client who had more magazines than I had ever before seen in one place, if she would be willing to spend a minute or two every day contemplating her magazines. I saw fight or flight (and fright!) right before my eyes! I quickly assured her this was not a decision-making exercise. “Just spend the time visiting with the magazines in your head,” I told her, “you haven’t seen a lot of them in a long time.”
Sounds ridiculous, I know, but over the next couple of weeks, J. went from near panic, to one day, I arrived for our session to a beaming J. who told me: “Okay, I’ve decided: all the Chatelaine’s and Canadian Livings can go, today!” Kaizen had worked.
The cumulative effect of small actions can lead to amazing results. Take B., who took 8 months worth of steps to arrive at his goal: a garage he could park in. In Alberta, Canada, that’s saying something!
B.’s small questions:
- 4 phone conversations about the possibility of change through a new type of workshop
B.’s small thoughts:
- each phone call ended with B. saying he would think about it
B.’s small actions:
- agreed to participate
- attended workshop once a week for 13 weeks
- read one chapter a week
- did the homework every week
- did the occasional behavioral experiment
- began brief and regular sorting sessions
The cumulative effect:
Eight months after beginning the process of once again trying to deal with a lifelong clutter problem, B. devoted an entire week to a mass clearing-out of his garage. “It’s taken me some time but I now feel like I’m really making progress and I’m thrilled.”
Progress often does take time when applying Kaizen techniques. Jackie knows this; her next magazine purge happened a little more than a year later, but when it showed up, 75% of the entire collection went to recycling.
Small single steps can also yield terrific results. This fall, I’ve begun working with a woman who simply wants to learn some skills to better manage her home and family life. We began in her closet when she identified getting ready for work in the morning as ‘a chore.’ Small questions from me led to the realization that folding clothes was the real culprit. We switched things around so that everything is on hangers. I saw T. again a few weeks later. The first thing she told me was that her closet looks the same as it did when I was there last. “I really can’t believe something so small has made such a big difference. I’ve never been able to maintain my clothes like this.”
Fine Line Organizing Inc. was born from a natural inclination to have things just so. Living in a small bungalow with a husband, 3 young children and a dog brought to light latent organizational skills upon which Deirdre built her small business.
Almost three years and countless small steps later, Deirdre focuses on helping clients with challenging organizational issues, running workshops for individuals experiencing hoarding behaviors, and serving as Chair of the Calgary Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada, the Institute of Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Ambassador for Calgary and sitting on the Calgary Hoarding Coalition.
Deirdre continues to acquire new skills and further her education in this fascinating field through continued education with ICD. Learn more about her at: finelineorganizing.com