Removing a Band-Aid can be a painful but necessary process. As you wait for a wound to heal, perhaps the Band-Aid starts looking ragged or begins to fall off. Right before ripping it off, we might feel a jolt of anticipatory dread and think, “This is going to hurt!” However, we remember that the pain usually subsides pretty quickly. After all, if the deed were that bad, we would never use them and consciously decide to suffer the consequences. Instead, we remember that the pain is bearable. So, we continue to use them, rip them off, and keep Johnson & Johnson going strong.
Starting an organizing project is not that unlike ripping off a Band-Aid. Clients tell me that they avoided it for many years because they anticipated a horrible experience, remembered failed attempts, or worried about becoming overwhelmed. So, they avoided the organizing project, sometimes until the consequences became severe, such as threats of evictions and divorces.
Family members might feel exasperated and wonder why a loved one procrastinates. Fear can be a potent motivator for avoidance. It is only natural to avoid a task if we anticipate that it will result in negative consequences, especially if we remember painful past attempts.
In the online course, Learning How to Learn, Barbara Oakley explains that the brain’s insular cortex lights up when we predict that a task will be unpleasant. It calms down once we start performing the task. Essentially, the anticipatory fear can be worse than the actual task itself. (You can read more about this process here: https://www.tes.com/news/how-to-stop-procrastination.)
This science is helpful for those who avoid decluttering projects. If one remembers the insular cortex, it will be easier to start the task that is perceived to be unbearable. It is similar to occasions when we rip off Band-Aids. We know that we will experience momentary pain, but we will be better off for having done so.
So how about it? Perhaps you are looking around your home and are dismayed by what you see. Maybe you also know that procrastination is becoming an impediment to your overall enjoyment of your home and potentially causing other issues as well. So why not rip off the Band-Aid today and get started? You can even employ James Clear’s Two Minute Rule: https://www.twilightorganizing.com/blog/real-world-examples-of-how-to-use-tactics-from-james-clears-atomic-habits-to-declutter-your-space.
I am only a phone call away if you cannot start without an experienced guide. Clients are surprised to recall initial anticipatory dread before our first session and see how vastly different they feel after gaining traction. It is not uncommon for them to say that they look forward to future decluttering sessions, whether with me or on their own. Once we rip off that Band-Aid, we’re off to the races.
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.