Summer’s not nearly over and we’re bombarded with back-to-school ads. It’s an exciting time for school kids – time for new clothes and supplies, for moving up to the next grade and reconnecting with friends. One thing I miss about formal education is that fresh start every semester.

Growing up on a farm teaches a lot about seasons. Summer was a break from school, but farm life carried on.

There was hay to bale and pigs to ready for the county fair. Tomatoes and green beans from the garden had to be put up before family vacation. Then it was back to school and harvest right around the corner. Living life by the season was a necessity.

No matter what age we become, we need breaks in our lives, when we close one season and start another. Some of us do it before vacation: we tie up loose ends so our minds are free to relax and enjoy.

Now is a perfect time to absorb the back-to-school vibe, to wrap up summer and get recharged to turn the page to a new season.

Wiping the Slate Clean Feels Good

Before I copy the list of things I meant to do in July to August, I’m reminded just how hectic summer has been. What happened to the lunch date I was supposed to make with another busy friend? Well, I’ll just text her right now. Done.

How about ordering the prints I want to frame? Five minutes later, that’s done too. And those second quarter receipts I need to enter? It only took half an hour to wrap that up. I’m feeling free!

When we define our lives’ logical seasons – before or after the holidays, quarterly for a lot of businesses or back to school – tying up unfinished business helps create an excitement for what’s next. A ‘clean slate’ feeling is great motivation.

For me, the end of summer is the start of my slowest season at work. I’ll have time for projects I’ve put off, like unpacking the rest of the boxes from last year’s move and organizing the garage.

I’ll make time to paint the spare room, order blinds and hang some art. But I know that if I don’t wrap up what I’m doing now and make a plan for what’s next, those extracurriculars won’t get done.

Taking Stock of Spaces and Supplies

In Florida, we have back-to-school sales-tax-free days. When school supplies go on sale, so do a lot of office supplies. It’s the time of year I declutter my desk drawer and see what I need or, more likely, don’t need.

I think about what will make my office work better and shop the sales. Last year, I added a small stand-up laptop desk which gets me out of my desk chair.

If I take the time now to go through my closet, I’ll see my best pair of jeans is a little weak in the knees. I can pick up a new pair on sale.

On the other hand, I can resist those cute boots in the Macy’s ad because I know my own pair just needs a shine to go the extra mile. I won’t shop that deal on walking shoes, but I will promise myself to do more walking in the shoes I already own.

I used to love an empty desk or locker at the beginning of each school year. By the end of the year, my tendency toward clutter caught up with me.

I will never forget walking into class one morning in second grade. On the blackboard were two words: Terrible Desk. The teacher had circled my name, the Terri in terrible. I don’t think a teacher could get away with that now.

They say you can tell a lot about a person’s state of mind by the order of their spaces. Even if your spaces aren’t in order all the time, the occasional decluttering helps clear your head.

For me, it’s a back-to-school season ritual. Besides my desk drawer and closet, I tackle the glove box in my car and that drawer in the kitchen that attracts everything. There’s something about an organized junk drawer that feels powerful!

Planning Is Productivity’s Best Partner

It’s a perfect time of year to start a calendar or planner because so many 18-month ones are available at the beginning of the school year. My planner starts each month with a things-to-do-this-month page. It never all gets done, but I get it out of my head, which is my planner’s biggest purpose.

I email myself notes too. When I get stuff written down where I know I’ll find it later, my mind is freer for fun and creativity. My notes help clear my ‘psychic RAM’. As productivity master David Allen points out, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

From my notes, I organize my next actions. When I start taking next steps like gathering supplies, projects are likely to get done. I just ordered sturdy shelves for my garage project, though I admit to a fear of “some assembly required.”

I don’t like that back-to-school starts mid-summer now and has become so commercialized. It puts pressure on parents to provide and kids to be cool. Commercialism and rushing the season have become a way of the world.

It’s only early August, and I had to pass Christmas decorations to get to the framing department at the back of Hobby Lobby. I confess to picking up a snow globe and giving it a good shake… just for fun.

How to you define the seasons of your year? What can you do today to clear your ‘psychic RAM’? What does your junk drawer say about your state of mind? Please give us your idea of cleaning up and decluttering!

Terri Edmund WhiteTerri Edmund White is an innkeeper on Anna Maria Island, Florida. She enjoys life with her husband Jim and their cats, adopted from the Humane Society of Manatee County. A former corporate writer and editor, Terri is currently penning her way to her 100th birthday and has started a 100 Year Project website to write about the journey.

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