Organizing for the Spirit…Are the details of your life meaningful and manageable? An interview with Sunny Schlenger
By Barbara DeGraw

Inner Realm Magazine
June 2004 Sunny Schlenger is an internationally recognized professional organizer and coach who has helped thousands master the dual challenge of staying productive and feeling good. The author of the best-selling How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, and her new release Organizing for the Spirit (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, May 2004), Sunny has been featured on Live with Regis and CNN, as well as in the New York Times, USA Today, Working Woman, Self, Success, New Woman and Prevention. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her new book just out this past month. Read along to find out what being organized means for our spirit.

Barbara DeGraw: Organizing seems to be your thing. How has organizing helped you? What were some of your struggles with becoming organized?
Sunny Schlenger: Except for the normal sloppiness of my teenage years, I’ve always had an innate sense of order. I have to admit, though, that parenthood did challenge me, and I’m convinced that if you have children 2 years of age or under, you can forget any serious attempts at organizing. What I did learn from my children, is that one’s style of organizing is definitely individual, regardless of what genes you inherit from your parents!

BD: What is the importance of becoming organized?
SS: Being organized is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. It enables you to become more of who you are, where you are, enjoy your life, and give something back.

BD: What are the different styles of becoming organized?
SS: In my first book, How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, I outlined 5 styles of organizing time, and 5 styles of organizing space. Whatever your style, be it Hopper, Everything Out, Pack Rat or Cliff Hanger, for example, what’s important is that you understand your tendencies and know how to make them work for you, rather than against you. It’s not a question of right or wrong, good or bad, but rather a matter of your understanding yourself, and thus being able to select what systems and products would work best with your style.

BD: What if someone isn’t naturally organized? How can s/he become so?
SS: Most people aren’t born knowing the best way to get organized. Fortunately, organization is a skill that can be learned. Once you learn your preferred way of doing things, it isn’t difficult to find approaches that match your needs. What’s more problematic for people, is finding the motivation to learn the skills. Unfortunately too many folks wait until their house is overflowing, or their time is spiraling out of control, to take the necessary steps to improve things.

BD: Can you be a total slob in some areas of your life and totally organized in others? Is it important to become organized everywhere?
SS: It all comes down to your priorities. Many individuals are more organized at work than they are at home, or vice versa. Or maybe they’re just “neater” in one place than the other. The bottom line is, effective organization doesn’t depend on how your environment looks. If you can do what you need to do in the time available to do it, and find what you need to find in the time available to find it, you’re organized.

BD: How can we “organize for the spirit?” Is this like “cleanliness is next to Godliness?”
SS: Great question! But no, organizing for the spirit is not about cleanliness. It’s about realizing that everything in your life is connected. Organizing is not something separate from you — it’s part of who you are. The simplest choices about how you arrange your life can have a tremendous effect on your spirit’s ability to flourish.

BD: Can you become organized for good?
SS: Nothing is forever, especially organizing. And this is for a very good reason. Most people don’t realize that nothing stays the same; the value of things doesn’t stay the same. What you treasured 10 years ago may have a very different significance to you today. It’s important to stay current with what has value in your life. How you use your time and how you use your space need to be re-evaluated periodically to make sure that they match your current values and interests.
That being said, it *is* possible to develop effective systems, routines and approaches that will serve you well when it come time to makes decisions about your schedule and belongings.

BD: In “Organizing for the Spirit” you say there is no such thing as clutter. What does that mean?
SS: Clutter implies random littering, and I believe that your belongings carry significance; they are more than just things that lie around your house or apartment or office. And the contents of your To Do list are more than just the items not completed by the end of the day. They’re extensions of you — representations of what has had some sort of value in your life. Nothing is separate. Evidence of your personal style, your needs, your idiosyncrasies, your priorities, and your passions surround you.

BD: How is “organizing for the Spirit” different from Feng Shui?
SS: OFTS incorporates the elements of Feng Shui. Everything has its own energy, and working with that energy in a positive way can make a significant difference in your life.

BD: How can you “Be who you are” through organizing for the spirit?
SS: There’s only one you. Your individuality should be driving everything you do. But sad to say, many of us end up being someone other than who we really are. Whether we haven’t discovered our uniqueness yet or we’re trying to please someone else (alive or dead), we’re not living as authentically as we could. We’re settling for lives that are absent the challenges and contributions that rightfully belong to us. In OFTS, I present personal stories and exercises that help us connect with our authenticity and rediscover our personal passions.

BD: What is one thing you can tell us, as the reader, about OFTS?
SS: OFTS means to become who you really are — to discover what makes you unique and personally powerful so that you can experience the joy of living and of sharing your gifts with others. It’s a lifelong process of discovery and self-development, and the ultimate personal adventure.

To learn more about Organizing for the Spirit, visit

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