Getting organized is work. Staying organized is habit.
On any epic trip, but especially on Grand Canyon trips, there’s so much to organize and plan:
- Gear (backpacks, sleeping gear, boats, etc.)
- Emergency equipment
- People (and in some cases oarsmen and oars women)
- Where to stop for lunch and where the group sleeps
- Where the dangers might be (tricky places on the trail; major rapids on a river)
- Plans to be shared in case something goes wrong and/or part of the team doesn’t return when they say they will
First, there’s organizing all of that information and the people using it.
Pulling together a private Grand Canyon trip is an epic production. On the morning we were to head to the put in, 16 of us assembled with our personal gear and bags of beer in the parking lot of a hotel.
Scene: an enormous flatbed trailer pulled by a big truck.
We’d hired an outfitter to assemble all that necessary gear and food for us. They helped us with menus and planning and cooler organization.
When they arrived with their flatbed truck, it was time to load all our personal gear up and head for the river.
On that trailer were five rafts, oars and oar rigs, waterproof boxes (called ammo cans), and several enormous coolers filled with ice and food to feed 16 people for 16 days.
Bags, colorful collapsible camp chairs, kayaks, helmets, paddles, life vests, beverages, and more littered the parking lot. Eventually, everything was loaded up and tied down securely for the several-hour drive to the Lee’s Ferry put-in.
Upon arrival, a production line was formed. Rafts were laid out and filled with air. Oar rigs were assembled and tied down. Coolers and gear boxes were laid in place and tied down as well. Oars were handed out. Rafts were assigned to oarsmen and passengers (like me). Ammo boxes, personal gear bags, and finally assorted odds and ends were loaded and tied securely into the boats. It took several hours in the very, very hot sunshine and 110 degree heat. We drank gallons of water, used tons of sunscreen, and everyone wore hats.
At the put-in, Grand Canyon Park Rangers inspected our life vests, checked our launch paperwork, and everyone’s identification. Then the ranger gave a lighthearted but serious talk about the cold water (49 degrees at the put in), the heat (we were expecting highs nearing 115 during the day) and the animals, reptiles, and bugs of the Canyon. Emergency plans were discussed and it was confirmed we carried a Satellite phone.
From the very beginning of the trip, organization and teamwork were strongly encouraged. The safety of the group depended on us adopting a routine day-in-and-day-out and sticking to it. From unloading and reloading the boats, to washing our hands before each meal and every time we used the bathroom, staying organized and developing habits were KING.
It took us a couple days to settle into those habits and routines, and with just a few issues (see the spaghetti story in the last chapter), those organizational habits held us in good stead.
As an example, with limited space the kitchen boxes need to be repacked carefully. The whole of the kitchen boat does as well. Our teams were most successful when one person (the main oarsman or woman) handled the packing and organization for each boat. And each individual does well to keep their own personal gear organized. Losing gear on a long trip is no fun. By putting items back in a methodical, thoughtful way, you’ll both ensure everything is there – and you’ll notice right away when something is missing.
I believe there are no small numbers of flip flops left behind at campsites throughout Grand Canyon (and probably all over the world).
From the beginning, we tried to organize our kitchen duties and the schedule. We organized how we loaded and unloaded boats. Our Groover team organized themselves into efficient potty set-up and tear-down machines.
Beyond the Canyon
I think now is a good time for me to reveal a couple of life’s truths I saw in action during our trip and that I’ve seen in real life:
- Getting organized is WORK.
- Staying organized is habit.
In the larger scheme of life, I realize how just a few key habits will go a long way towards keeping me (and my team or family) organized.
First, though, I want to go on a tiny rant. It is something that I feel really strongly about and I hope you will hear me out.
There are no magic bullets when it comes to getting organized.
There just aren’t. I become really frustrated when people expect the process of getting organized to be fast and easy. (In contrast, the process of staying organized can be quite fast and easy.)
I’ve discovered that getting organized isn’t fast and easy usually because most people have TOO MUCH and they are reluctant to let things go.
Examples of “too much” can include:
- Kitchen drawers and cabinets
- File drawers
- Travel bags and suitcases
It is my personal rant to say: you are spending too much time on unimportant things like email, TV, and internet surfing. Your To-Do lists are too long. Your “to read” piles are too high. You have too many bookmarks on the computer. And you try to squish too many obligations into any time you can find.
It really is all TOO MUCH.
I do not know how I, you, or we can keep up this pace. I see it on the faces of business people, moms, dads, and every day average people I talk to. Everybody is overwhelmed and it is coming to a point in our society where it’s nearly unmanageable. We are becoming fat, sick, and broke (there’s even a movie out with the same name).
My answer to this sickness of too much? It’s really simple:
Stop doing so much. Stop having so much. And even stop *thinking* so much.
Seriously, give yourself permission to step away from the “too much.”
Let’s talk Commitment
When I think about getting organized and maintaining that organization as a habit, I think of one thing: COMMITMENT.
When I decided to participate in this Grand Canyon experience, I basically committed on Day 1 (the day we pushed away from shore). Between the put-in there at Lee’s Ferry and the takeout 16 days later, there were only two ways I could leave: at Phantom Ranch on day seven or eight (which then requires a 7+ mile hike out) or by helicopter (but only if I was seriously injured). Otherwise, I was committed to floating the entire 225 miles over 16 days.
I’ve found the same is true (though the consequences are usually not so severe) for me to say YES to a commitment to getting and staying organized.
A commitment starts with a decision. Decide what I want. Decide how I think I’ll get it. Then commit myself to the actions needed to reach my goal.
For the longest time, I couldn’t even spell commitment, much less really understand what it meant. A gifted coach cleared things up for me. “It’s about integrity, Angie,” she said. “You figure out what you want, commit to it, make a plan, and follow through.”
Everywhere in this book, I’d like you to think long and hard about any changes you get excited about making. Choose small steps and manageable goals. Commit to them. And with integrity, follow through. In the beginning, it might feel like work. With commitment and practice comes the ease of habit.
Getting and Staying Organized
Being on this 16-day river trip allowed me to simplify. To slow down. To make room for my thoughts, my friends, and for the sheer pleasure of doing nothing but staring at the river.
On this trip, I realized exactly how little it takes for me personally to be blissfully happy.
I realized exactly how little the group and I needed to “do” to be comfortable and content.
It’s a lesson that applies off the river, too.
In fact, realizing how little we used and needed kick-started an effort by my husband Nelson and me to really purge our stuff. Now, we live in about 280 square feet and love only having the stuff we need.
I want to encourage YOU to try it! Use the first few chapters as your blueprint:
- Keep up rather than catch up
- Two minutes now saves hours later
- Staying organized trumps getting organized every time
BONUS CHALLENGE: box up everything you own. For one solid month, only go into the boxes for things you need. Keep them out only if you use them regularly. Give the things you keep out and use regularly a specific “place” in your home. Everything left in those boxes? They have the potential to be sold, donated, or given away.
Suggestions to make some room – the Power of a Simple Daily Routine (especially morning and evening)
Every single day in the Canyon had a routine about it. Each meal had a menu and each day had assigned kitchen leaders. Trip leaders made decisions based on weather, miles, and where we would camp each night. Boat captains packed and unpacked their boats the same way each day.
Routines were critical for ensuring everything went back in the boat where it belonged, no straps were left loose, and all people and their belongings were in the rafts ready to go each morning. Safety was key and the key to safety was people paying attention to their routines.
I want to share two examples of daily routines you could adopt.
- Sitting still while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea
- Writing or journaling
- Preparing for the day and week
- Tidying your office before you leave
- Creating a To Do list for your next day
- Savoring a meal with friends or family
- Taking a hot bath
- Writing or journaling
SIMPLICITY is KEY
Routines become guidelines – lines of guidance – to help you anchor your day, your activities, and even your attitude.
Just a few simple routines support you staying organized and become the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life.
A final note: your thoughts, habits, and choices today determine who you are tomorrow. Be purposeful and deliberate and choose them wisely.
Did you miss any previous chapters?
- Chapter One (Your brain is not for remembering)
- Chapter Two (It is easier to catch up than to keep up)
- Chapter Three (Two minutes now saves hours later)
Also, stay tuned for Chapter Five (Take the time. Get quiet. Feel into it. Immerse yourself.) next week!
[All content and photos are (c) 2016 Angela Mattson Stegall and Nelson Stegall for the book, Make Some Room: Powerful Life Lessons Inspired by an Epic 16-day Colorado River Rafting Trip Through Grand Canyon.The book will be available mid-June through Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.]