Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom
Today’s column is an answer to an email I received from my friend Jennifer:
As I look around and see stuff just overwhelming me, I am working on paring down what I own. My question is that much of the stuff becomes clutter because I am interrupted and do not get to complete a project (or I under estimate how long it will take me to complete said project). How are you managing not to continue to have things out of place? I have gone through and organized things only to find 6 months or a year later that they are disorganized again.
Although Jennifer has posed this as one question, I see two problems here 1) she is interrupted while decluttering or underestimates the commitment, so the project is not completed and 2) things fall back into disorder.
Problem 1: Biting off more than you can chew
Any large-scale decluttering and organizing adventure can fall into this category. When you pull everything out of a closet, you’ve just made a commitment. Here at 365lessthings, we advocate decluttering one thing at a time, one day at time, because it’s a lot harder to get overwhelmed and in over your head that way, but I know that reality isn’t so simple. I often declutter a large amount one day, and “credit” myself for the rest of the week. In fact, in my 8 months of decluttering, I have eliminated more than 1600 things, clearly more than one item a day.
Nonetheless, if you’re feeling unsuccessful after repeated starts and stop, I recommend trying just one or two things a day. When there’s less to dig through and make decisions about, it will be easier. And go ahead and get it out of your house. Jennifer, like a lot of people, lives in the country and does a lot of errands at once when she sets out. Putting the now-decluttered items directly into the car allows them to be dropped at the thrift store while erranding and eliminates the possibility of them being reincorporated into the household mix.
Another technique for the overwhelmed is to do just one shelf, drawer, or basket at a time. If you’re working on the bathroom towels and you find things that don’t belong there, drop them in the corner, and finish the towels. Then put all other items where they belong (or where you best estimate that they should belong) and leave them there. Do not feel obligated to tidy these areas too. Remember, for this day, keep your eyes on the prize of the towels. Run out of time even to put the misplaced items away today? Fine, make that your chore for the following day.
When you’ve completed every shelf in the bathroom closet, go back through the whole thing and refine it. Now that the obviously misplaced and no longer needed items are gone, you can see what remains more clearly. Maybe you have too many towels or duplicates of useful items. The second time through is when you’ll really get the cabinet into shape.
Problem #2) Falling to disorder
The fewer things you have, the less disorder there will be. I’ve definitely seen this in my own home. In addition, the most important rule for keeping your home clutter free is to give serious consideration before you buy something new. The less you bring into the house, the easier it is to keep it from being junked up. This is Colleen’s Key #4 to successful decluttering:
Decluttering is a complete waste of time if there is as much stuff entering your house as there is going out. Limit your purchases to the things you really have put a lot of thought into, whether you will get good use out of it, or if it really suits your needs. Don’t wonder aimlessly through the stores looking for stuff you didn’t know you wanted. And try to convince your friends and family not to buy you gifts unless they are consumable in some way – Fresh flowers, chocolates, beauty treatments and the like.
Finally, it’s important to realize that no decluttering job lasts forever. Like housekeeping and tidying, it’s an on-going process. The children grow, hobbies change, people knock things over when they reach for something else, duplicates are accidentally purchased or discovered. Maintenance is inevitable, but remember, the less you have, the easier it is.
Today’s Declutter Item
I am grateful from anything that brings me joy. Below are five things that gave me joy today.
- Joining the last fragment of soap to the new cake – I love to use things up completely.
- A day out with the kids – I think we took in about 500,000 calories between the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and the fish and ship shop.
- My daughters plane was on time.
- I went for a brisk early morning walk with a friend and her dog Max.
- That it was cool enough again today to enjoy a warm shower after my walk.
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.