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Control is the key, simplicity is the strategy

Evan Zislis
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
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Coach Karwatka was my soccer coach when I was in the second grade. He used to say, “Control is the key.”

He meant it about soccer, but somehow my mother adopted the phrase and began saying it about everything. Thirty years later, she’s still reminding me that “control is the key.”

While this well-intentioned fixation may be the genesis of my life-long organizational neuroses, it has well served to prove a point once or twice over the years.



The definitive example that best illustrates the sentiment is the sorcerer’s apprentice from the Disney classic, Fantasia. In this memorable scene, Mickey Mouse recklessly brandishes the sorcerer’s magic hat to recruit brooms to help with his chores. The brooms come to life, mindlessly hauling buckets of water until the room floods, leaving a gasping Mickey overcome and underwater. If you know the scene, you understand the metaphor and may relate to Mickey’s infamous plight.

To be in control is to exert confident influence. It is a state of independence, strength and resolve.



To many, exercising some measure of control delivers a sense of security and provides a deeply satisfying personal calm. When a situation is out of control, external influences can dominate to a point of exasperation.

Mickey’s circumstances required immediate intervention, re-evaluation and a resolute response. If your conditions have gotten that bad, it may be time to adopt the good coach’s treasured phrase, and start strategizing your triumphant comeback.

My professional practice is based on the belief that there is a profound peace and a unique happiness found in simplicity; that simplifying the stuff in our spaces and the systems of our life helps to achieve clarity; and that clarity is essential to implementing a strategic plan with lasting results.

I affirm that this is all easily learned and readily applicable to both tangible spaces as well as complex concepts using a very simple three-step method: purge, organize and refresh.

No matter the space, concept or problem, I return to these three basics: simplify, clarify and inspire. I have never encountered a set of circumstances when this strategic method did not return some considerable measure of control to the situation.

To start, focus on one thing at a time with this short questionnaire.

Thinking about your life, consider a specific space where you feel stuck or out of control. Write it down on a piece of paper in just a couple of words.

Beneath it, write your ideal vision for this space in just a few words. With your ideal in mind, make a short list of what can be purged – what you would be happy to see go away forever.

Next, think about what can be organized. Remember my four rules of organization:

1. Like things together

2. Easy to find

3. Easy to reach

4. Out of the way

In a short list, record what needs to be organized.

Lastly, consider how to refresh the space to keep it inspiring through your preferences of aesthetic, function, flexibility and lifestyle.

These three brief answers become your to-do list. Through this process, you will regain control, one small step at a time.

The process works just as well with complex concepts that have nothing to do with spaces.

Write down the problem. Identify your ideal scenario. With that in mind, briefly state how you can simplify by eliminating competing ideas; clarify by organizing concepts into working categories; and stay inspired by bringing the idea to life with concise functionality and vibrant style.

Think about how and where you feel most out of control in your life, and practice reaffirming your independence, strength and resolve.

Coach Karwatka was right about two things: practice makes perfect, and control is the key.

– “Life. Simplified.” appears on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant for Intentional-Interiors.com, offering hands-on organizational solutions for households, businesses, nonprofit organizations and students. Contact Evan Z. at 366-2532 or evan@intentional-interiors.com .


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