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Organizing tips from Africa

Posted by SimplifyMe on February 12, 2013 in Simplify |

My Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Kenya last month was amazing! I got the rare opportunity to get to know some local Kenyan people in rural Bomet, Kenya and see first-hand how they live.

After experiencing what everyday life is like for these remarkable people, I realized that I would be out of a job in Kenya! There is no demand for organizers there because no one’s ‘stuff’ causes them stress…because they don’t have much. Therefore, I found it very hard to explain what I did for a living to the people of Kenya!

After returning home and facing the initial culture shock of integrating back into life in the US of A I thought about what information I could take away from my experience to help others organize and simplify! Not only am I now an expert (hehe) home builder, but I also learned these 3 important lessons from the people of Kenya:

Own less stuff: The family we were building the Habitat house for currently live in a 2-room (not 2 bedroom) mud hut. Their kitchen is a separate mud hut, where they place a pot on a wood fire to cook their meals. They have no running water or electricity. They are forced to be creative and are able to get a remarkable amount done.

House


Outside of kitchen


Inside of kitchen


Happiness is in the eye of the beholder: These are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, leading me to believe that your things can’t bring you happiness in the long run; they can only make you more or less comfortable in the now. The western mentality of “the grass is greener on the other side” often leads to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with our lives. I recently saw the documentary “Happy”, explores what constitutes happiness for people around the world.

What you don’t know about, you don’t need: Many of the things we take for granted in our lives, like owning a camera or even a mirror, is rare in rural Kenya. All the people in the village wanted their photo taken and then to immediately see the photo. At first I thought they were intrigued by the workings of a camera, but that wasn’t it. Most of the people in the rural community do not own mirrors and therefore don’t get to see what they look like. For some of the kids in the village, this was there very first time seeing themselves!

As a Professional Organizer it is my job to help people, without judgment. I hold fast to that, and by no means am I saying that we need to get rid of all our worldly possessions and live like the people of Bomet, Kenya. Frankly, I don’t think that I could! The point I’m trying to make is, if your stuff starts owning you instead of you owning it, it’s time to reevaluate what you have and what you truly need.

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