Irish dancers are a messy lot. Not as messy as the ballerinas I know (I dance in a ballet studio so I have first-hand knowledge) but pretty close. Once upon a time, my Irish dance bag was cluttered with all the things I currently needed — as well as dozens of things I didn’t: notes on steps, old performance programs, socks, bandages, bobby pins (kirby grips), hair elastics, old tights, ghillies, hard shoes, snacks, cds. I was too busy to organize it, and if I ever did get it cleaned out, it would pile up soon after.
It’s a different story today. These days my bag is always clear, except for my shoes, socks, and maybe a notebook and pen for jotting down notes, ideas, or to-dos as they come up. It’s a liberating feeling … it calms me … it reduces stress and chaos … it definitely makes things easier to find.
How did I make the transformation? Well, it wasn’t an easy journey, and I’ve improved over the years, but the basic steps are outlined below. The important thing to remember is that you must have a system in place, and you must teach yourself to follow the system. Otherwise, you just clean your dance bag, and it gets messy again.
Here’s the system:
1. First, take everything in your dance bag and put it in one big pile. Put it in your “in basket” (I use a cardboard box. If you don’t have one, pile it next to you or something). From now on, everything that comes in must go in your in basket, and you process everything as below.
2. Process this pile from the top down. Never re-sort, never skip a single item (even tiny elastics count), never put an item back on the pile. Do what needs to be done with that item, and then move on to the next in the pile. The options: trash it, put it away, do it, or put it on a list to do later. In that order of preference. Do it if it takes 2 minutes or less to complete. If it takes more, and you can’t trash or put it away, then put it on a list of to-dos.
3. Repeat at least once a week to keep your bag clear. The end of the day is best, but I tend to process and tidy up after Irish dance class. Once you’ve processed your pile, your dance bag is clear. You’ve trashed or somehow put everything where it belongs (not under your bed or stashed in a drawer). Keep it that way. You must follow the system above: put everything in your inbox, then take action on each item in the inbox with one of the steps listed.
It’s that simple. Have a phone number on a post-it? Don’t leave it in your bag. Put it in your phone or contacts program. Have a step combo you need to work on later? Don’t keep the note you wrote about it in your bag. Put it on your to-do list. What about all those hair accessories? Baggies work to keep everything together where you can find it.
Leaving stuff in your dance bag is procrastination (and as a procrastinator, I should know). If you put it off until later, things will be sure to pile up in your dance bag. Deal with them immediately, make a decision, take action.
What I’ve described is a good habit to learn, but it takes time to learn it. You’ll slip. Just remind yourself, and then do it. Soon it’ll be a habit you have a hard time breaking. And trust me, once you’re used to your dance bag being clear, you won’t want to break this habit.
What’s in your dance bag, fellow Irish dancers? And do you think it makes a difference on what you carry if you’re an adult or not? Let me know in the comments below!