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Monday, February 1, 2016

Motivational Monday: Is The Key To Happiness Hiding In Your Closet

Is The Key To Happiness Hiding In Your Closet?
Thought for the Day: I never cease to be in awe of the creative process. Inspiration often comes in strange ways. Today's post proves that even mundane chores or tasks we dislike can be inspiring. I've always struggled with trying to keep my closets in order. Every few months, I get frustrated when things get disorganized and I try to rearrange things. The order lasts for a while but the disarray inevitably returns. In drawers, I can't see what I have, so when I pull things out my order becomes a mess. On shelves things never seem to fit properly. Eventually, what were neat piles start falling down. 
     Therefore, about a week ago when I saw a teaser on Facebook that said, "A video on how to organize your closets will change your life," I was intrigued and clicked to view it. This is not a post about how to organize your closets, but the 3 minute clip taught the viewer to fold clothes so that you could store them tightly stacked them so you can see every item, even in drawers. I watched and decided to try the technique.
       Now, not only can I now see all the clothes I have, I was able to consolidate things and have more room in my closets. You may be wondering, "What does cleaning and organizing a closet have to do with psychology, inspiration, motivation or happiness?" Read on and you see that the key to happiness may have be hiding in your closet. 

     Watching the video reminded me that closets and the psychological defense mechanism of compartmentalization go hand in hand. Take a minute and see how the video reminded me of this psychological mechanism and then how it relates to happiness. Compartmentalization, one of many psychological defense mechanisms, has not been well documented. Defense mechanisms are coping mechanisms. They help people cope with life's challenges. Freud was the first to explore the use of these unconscious mechanisms which help people ward off anxiety and other negative feelings. Most people are more familiar with the defense mechanisms of denial, repression and sublimation. 
     All defense mechanisms can be healthy when used in moderation or unhealthy when overused. For instance, in the midst of a hurricane or a car accident, denial can help you survive. If you paid attention to the pain after an accident, you might not survive, therefore people often don't even feel pain till help arrives. In a crisis, people are able to act heroically and overcome their fears by not thinking about or even realizing the dangers. On the other hand, overuse of denial in day to day living can be harmful to our lives and relationships. When people ignore the signs of discontent of their spouse for too long, they often end up in divorce court wondering what happened. 
     Much less has been written about compartmentalization. The easiest way to explain how it works is exemplified by the saying, "Divide and conquer." When things become overwhelming in our lives, dividing them into smaller tasks, prioritizing them and then conquering them one by one, can make them more manageable. Once they have been turned into smaller tasks, you can "compartmentalize" the less important ones, put them in a box on the "to do" shelf and ignore them until you are ready to address them. We all use this defense mechanism every day when we put aside family issues when we go to work. This works well if our priorities are straight and we don't ignore a "compartment" for too long. If you reopen the family issues box when you come home and put away the work box until the next day, it functions well. If compartments are ignored, it can be problematic.
     My closet's disarray is a metaphor for one way that compartmentalization can get out of control. Our lives are like a huge walk in closet made up of multiple compartments, drawers and hanging clothes. To manage the multiple compartments of our lives is a balancing act. In my closet, I was making the time to straighten things out every few months. I tried many times to do it differently. I added storage boxes to try to keep things from falling out of place, but I did not try to look at the problem from a totally different perspective. The video taught me a new compartmentalization skill. In a way, it was "closet therapy." 
     So this morning, when I began to think about what to write for a Motivational Monday blog, inspiration came from how compartmentalization helps us cope with the myriad of things we handle in our lives. When we can see everything contained in the walk in closet of our lives, we can prioritize which drawer we want to open or close. When we know where to find the items we want to use, it gives us a feeling of control. Feeling in control of our lives leads to a sense of happiness. Sometimes we can rearrange our life closet on our own. Other times it helps to speak with a psychologist so that we can learn new skills and gain new perspectives. 

     Have you learned a compartmentalization skill that has changed your life? How did you learn it? I'd love to hear about it. Have a wonderful week!

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