Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Clear the clutterbug!
What bugs you?
That the cat box looks gross?
Is it the precarious stack of books and papers near the bed that cascades over when you try to climb in or out?
How about the pile of shoes by the front door that you constantly trip over?
What about the stack of tupperware on the kitchen counter?
Or the overflowing toothbrush holder in the bathroom?
Pick one thing, something specific, and not gigantic (i.e. the entire garage may bug you but for this exercise you'll have to figure out what part bugs you the most and start there).
Don't pick something you *think* should annoy you. Some people don't mind a few dishes in the sink, or a couple of towels on the floor. Pick something that habitually, when you look at it, or trip over it, makes you crazy.
Now, you're going to learn to see it for what it is and how it got there. You are going to change it, and create a new habit around it.
First really see the mess, the clutter, whatever it is.
- Sit near the mess (or across the room from it) and just look at it. Notice how it makes you feel. Jot down in a notebook, or talk out loud, about what it feels like to have that mess there. Sit there for at least 5 minutes. You're not allowed to clean it up yet!
- Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, pen, crayon or colored pencil. Draw the mess. It doesn't have to be a great work of art. It's actually better if it isn't. A pile of laundry can be a big grey blob. Limit yourself to 5 minutes for this part. Once you've got your lines and circles on the paper, jot down what the mess is, where it is, and how you feel about it.
- Do you remember a time that the "offending items" weren't there? Where were they? Did they live at Macy's or Wal-Mart or Goodwill? Were they originally from your mother's house or the old guest room at your larger, previous home? Did your son bring it home from camp in the 7th grade? If you are jotting things down, write a few words about this. If not, say it out loud.
Now, it's time for solutions:
- Ask yourself: "Why is this here?" Answers might include: because it's easy to put there when I come home from work. Because it doesn't have a proper "home" in my house, because I thought I would like looking at it etc.
- Look at the area again. Now close your eyes. Imagine it doesn't have the mess there. What does it look like? Is it empty? Is something else there? Is the same thing there, but in a beautiful container, or sorted in a way that is easy to maintain and looks great?
- Look at the mess again. Ask yourself: "Do these things belong there?" If the answer is no, we will clean them up, get rid of them, relocate them etc. in a second.
- If the items *do* belong there, ask what you can do to make it so they are not so darn annoying to encounter!
- Really let your creativity go with the question about how to make the mess less annoying to encounter. Write down at least 10 ways you could deal with it. Feel free to be farfetched, e.g. "pay the neighbor's kid a dollar to come over twice a day and restack the magazines" is a perfectly acceptable solution for this exercise.
- Look over the list. Does anything catch your eye? What would it take to implement that idea? Would it make the space look more like what you saw when you visualized it without the clutter? If not, ask yourself what you can do to bring it more in line with what you would like for that little patch of your house.
- If the mess doesn't belong there, figure out where the items that make up the mess belong. The answer may be "in the trash" or "at my daughter's house, because it's hers." If it's a pile of mixed up stuff (bills, magazines, socks, tupperware) sort it out into different containers, putting all like items together, and tossing out anything that is obvious junk.
- Put the boxes in the right area of your house (tupperware in the kitchen or wherever you keep it etc.)
- If the items don't have a new "home" in the part of the house they belong in, either make one now, or put the box as close as humanly possible to where you would like the items to eventually live. Work out of the box for one week and see if that approximate home works for those items. If it works, then make them a permenant home there, and buy them a house if you need to. :)
- If you have a huge amount of items in one box, see if you can't let your least favorite go. Just one. More if you can stand it. Let it move on to someone who needs it, or if it's useful life is over, thank it and release it. I know this is hard. It's good stuff after all, and it's *your* stuff.
Remember: You deserve to not be annoyed by this particular mess. And you have the power to change it, to eliminate a stressor from your life. How great is that?
Perhaps you read in an organizing book that you should keep your reading materials close to where you read. Now you have a tall pile of Fabulous Thick Magazines by your favorite chair. Only they look messy and they slide over twice a day and almost kill the dog, who naps nearby.
You decide they belong there, because before they were in the kitchen on the counter, where they were not getting read. Congratulations, they have found their *home* (yay!). But perhaps they need a *house.* When you "look" at that place on the floor in your mind's eye, you "see" a wicker basket with a lid, and the dog safely snoozing next to it. The magazines won't fall over or look untidy, and they are conveniently located. Viola!
So, my challenge to you: what bugs you? Are you willing to change that one thing?