4 suggestions for organizing unexpected change

We’ve had a good bit of change in our family lately.

Maybe you have, too. Fall is coming, and somehow that makes everyone adjust something.

Maybe you find change exhilarating. Maybe it’s exhausting, emotional, or depressing.

I would agree to all of that.

I’ve been a mom and/or a teacher for most of my adult life, so September always marks changes that I like, namely a regular routine of school life and its appropriate activities. I draw up a table on my computer and create boxes for everything in my week, hour by hour, day by day. I figure out how and when to do everything by looking at the chart.

I find that change feels organized if it has its own box on the schedule. If things have a place to live and breathe, they’re not allowed to take over all the other blocks of all the other things I do. Even the unexpected needs a space on the schedule. I have to block flex time.

I welcome the dozens of events on my schedule. I don’t even mind the four different meal times I will expect to encounter or the daily smattering of texts every night from my people about when dinner is and what dinner is going to be. Dinner has a block on the schedule. It will somehow happen, even though I can’t control the participants.

Here are 4 suggestions for organizing change that you have no control over:

  1. Keep flex space in your life to accommodate the unexpected. This is best placed in time period where you know unexpected things happen, like before mealtime or bedtime or on your way to work.
  2. Divide your day into thirds: 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours of flex time for everything else. Be sure you have down-time in there.
  3. Leave space every week for something that has no other purpose but refreshing you. Hammock time. Doodling time. Nap time. You can’t embrace changes, much less handle them, if you are not renewed emotionally. Schedule it!
  4. Prepare yourself that things will take longer and be harder than expected. Assume that change will be exciting, but be realistic, too. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s bad, and just because something’s good doesn’t mean it’s easy.

This is what I’m doing right now.

In the last two weeks, I’ve experienced some changes that have changed everything on my schedule:

  • My oldest son quit his job in D.C. and moved home to run a campaign here. He moved into our guest room, which required me to take all the stuff that I keep in the closet and drawers and put it somewhere else. He mostly just sleeps here, but we will now experience a political update about his world and the world at large every evening. This is good for us, actually.
  • My middle son left suddenly for physical therapy school in N.C. This required us to collect and organize everything he needed to move back into an apartment in another state, plus loading, moving, and unloading it. This also required a good bit of shopping. It turns out, the spatulas, appliances, and linens he stored after his last apartment have seen better days. (Nothing that surfaces from a house of college boys should ever see the light of day again. It all deserves a proper burial.)
  • My youngest son left for his freshman year of college. Yes, this required a lot of shopping, packing, reminding, loading, unloading, settling, instructing, and emotional pacing. He’s the last child. Enough about that. (Click here to read “How to Help Your Children Walk Away.”)
  • My oldest son proposed to his girlfriend. This required multiple brainstorming sessions, hiding a gorgeous ring in my closet, a little party-planning, and hurrying back from college, as moving #3 son and celebrating #1 son occurred on the same day. (Click here to read “Dear Future Daughter-in-law,” something I wrote years ago. It also talks about change.)
  • My book launch is heavily underway. During these two weeks, I secured two amazing interns who can design invites and merchandise in about 1/1000th of the time it would take me. They are incredible, and we are humming right along. I’ve also been booking some speaking gigs and book events with my leftover brain cells. (Click here to order Soulspeak: Praying Change into Unexpected Places–presently on sale for $8.70.)

I’ve been rearranging my furniture, as I suggest everyone should do when someone moves out of their house. Change masks the dead space. It makes you feel proactive in this process of losing your children and having to re-arranging your life accordingly. (Click here to read “7 Things to do when your child moves away.”)

This change, of course, requires some shopping to replace things you’ve given your kids, and some re-decorating to cover the absence of the posters and other personal items they’ve removed from their rooms. And then, there’s the filling of their drawers and closets from the things that used to be in the guest room.

I now have two guest rooms that used to be bedrooms and one bedroom that used to be a guestroom. And the hall bath is now the guest bath, and the guest bath is now a personal bath.

This all makes sense to a person who likes to organize their life into blocks, as I do.

And so you know I haven’t gone completely crazy—yesterday, my husband and I blocked off time to sit by the James River and listen to the current rumble over the rocks. We prayed and thought and breathed the almost-fall air. We welcomed change, or at least we tried to.

And nobody texted me about when dinner was and what we were having. Nobody wanted anything from me.

And I could’ve stayed there forever, except that a big guy several rocks down decided he wanted to wade through the river in his boxer shorts, so he stripped off his pants and stood on the rock surveying the beauty of the river in his underwear.

And his presence ruined the beauty I was surveying, so I climbed back to land and took a walk through the woods along the river’s edge. And I thoroughly enjoyed it because the guy in his underwear was hidden by the leaves.

So now I must begin to prep for school next week because there will be some eager and not-so-eager high school students represented on my schedule by time blocks marked “teach.” These people will require my enthusiasm in order to learn ancient literature and draw conclusions about modern culture from the intelligent but screwed-up Greeks and Romans. I will help them box off their schoolwork and adapt to things they’ve not previously considered, like planning an essay and researching without plagiarizing.

My class is a change they’re not quite ready for, but perhaps it will prepare them for so many other things yet to happen.

In order to handle change, I suggest you give change a box to live in and let it breathe.