The Scarlet Letter

A big red A.

Sometimes, I think I should just wear one on my shoulder. It would clearly explain to everyone why I have a pile of paperwork on my desk that never seems to go away.

A big red A would help others understand why I end up on the couch watching "Frasier" re-runs when there are articles to research, photos to edit, or dusting to finish. (Or start.)

My scarlet letter would excuse me from a dreaded confrontation, from stepping on the bathroom scales after an indulgent weekend, or sitting down to call an acquaintance saying, "Hey, wanna host an organizing workshop?"

My big red A? Avoid. It could just as easily be a capital P for procrastinate or I for ignore. Fingers-in-my-ears-singing-la-la-la-la-la-avoidance. I can rationalize my actions as a need for . . . well . . . anything. Like a two-year old reasoning with her mom for her NEED for the toy in the store, I want what I want when I want it!

(Cleansing breath. Okay, back to being a mature adult . . . )

Avoidance is, appropriately, a red flag. It's a warning sign that you're experiencing something uncomfortable, like:

  • the threat of failure

  • the threat of pain

  • the threat of loss

  • the threat of fear

  • the threat of shame

  • a strong dislike or distaste

When I kick in to la-la mode, my red flag is showing. And when my flag is showing, it's time for some quick questions. These questions may seem obvious but it's uncanny how quickly I can start tap dancing when my world is threatened by perceived pain.

  • What am I feeling?

  • What's actually making me feel this way?

  • Is the feeling based in truth or am I functioning out of a faulty filter system?

  • What options do I have?

  • Which option will serve me/others best and bring life to me/others?

I have a pile of paperwork on the corner of my desk. Do I ever file it and sort it? Sure. As often as I could? Nope. Do I enjoy having a clean desk? Yes. For some silly reason, I look at the pile and imagine that it's going to be mind-numbing and take forever. (You think I exaggerate? That's what I actually feel...)

So I tidy the pile! I stack it neatly and put the things I need on the top. Yeah, that takes care of it!


If I ask myself honestly why I don't manage the paper pile, it's really simple: I just don't like filing.

Options are available for making it more interesting or fun, scheduling a regular time, rewarding myself for getting it done . . . and when the pain of the pile outweighs the pain of filing, it gets done.

What happens next is the key: I "paint" a big red A on myself because I'm not a good filer.

When you perceive that you're failing in an area, like having clutter in your home, it's easy to slap a label on yourself. Failure. Shame. Lazy. Procrastinator.

Here's the thing: sometimes perceived failure has nothing to do with a deep, dark, issue. Sometimes, you Simply. Don't. Enjoy. It.

Avoidance, procrastination, and ignoring create clutter in a heart or a home. But don't immediately start labeling yourself as fearful, shameful, neurotic, or a failure. Let's start with: Do you enjoy putting things away? Do you like filing? Do you get a kick out of cleaning? Have you had time to do it? Is it important to you? Chances are your answer is "No!" You have the option of giving priority to your kids over the load of laundry. It's okay if you go workout instead of doing your filing.

Is it good to be aware of the fact that you're avoiding something? Sure. It's also good to understand the root of the avoidance. But even then, the most important thing is to wash the red marker off your shoulder with soap and water.

Hey, I'm an organizer. I like labels. But this is one kind of labeling I encourage you to avoid.

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