Where do I begin?
When you are looking around at piles of clutter, how do you know where to start? How do you avoid the past behavior of starting and stopping, or worse... starting and then starting in the next room... and then starting in the next room. And worse yet - starting and re-starting (sort of like editing while you are writing).
Let's outline the problems, then find some solutions.
1) Starting and stopping. The reason we start and stop is because we get discouraged. Maybe the task is too huge; maybe the pile keeps growing, maybe we have discouragers who keep reminding us that we can't do it. We've started before and we don't even trust ourselves. We get in the middle of the project and become overwhelmed. We really don't want to do it in the first place.
We start because we feel we have to. We stop because we feel we can't go on in the same way. It's a trap, and we are caught.
2) Starting, and then starting in the next room, and then starting in the next room... We really do work at the clutter, but it seems the more we do, the less we accomplish. Here's why. You are clearing off a surface and you find something that belongs in another room. You think, "this is easy enough " so you take the item to the next room. When you get in the next room you see an undone task, so you start working on it. You realize you need to get something from your car so you walk outside and notice you left a shovel on the walkway. You pick it up and take it to the garage and you notice there is an open bag of fertilizer. You go into the utility room to get a clamp and you see something that belongs in the office... You know the drill. Work just leads to more work which leads to more work. We could go on like this forever, and never make any headway.
3) We constantly "edit" our work. We clear off a counter and lay a tablecloth on it. No, it's the wrong color, so we go and get another one. No, it is frayed at the ends. So we decide to go and buy one, but the shopping list is in another room. So we use something temporarily to write the list on but we don't want to use that king of paper. We look for a notepad, but the one we find has scribbles in it, so we put it down and look for a different one... Sound familiar?
Here are some solutions. These are not the only solutions, but they may help you get un-stuck in the moment, and that's what we want to do. We want to get you un-stuck, and get you moving forward.
Here's the answer to all three: Try organizing surface-by-surface. For example, today you might decide to clear off a table, or straighten off your desk, or clear off a counter. Select your surface. Here's how surface-by-surface organizing will help you no matter what reason you identified with.
1) Starting and stopping; becoming overwhelmed.
If you are organizing a surface, just tell yourself, "it's just one little table in this great big room." Begin by removing the things that don't belong on the table, and putting them elsewhere. You don't have to worry about where, yet, because your goal is only to clear off the table. This will keep you from getting distracted or overwhelmed because you are setting a small, achievable goal. Once this goal is achieved, the rule is "NOTHING can go the cleared-off surface. (You must "guard it like a bulldog," especially from yourself.)
As Dr. Robert Schuler says, "Inch by inch everything's a cinch."
2) Moving from room to room and never completing anything.
Organizing by surfaces will help you to always come back to the origination point. As you are organizing your surface, say out loud where things you are removing go. Example: "nail polish; bathroom, pen; pencil drawer, hat; bedroom closet, whisk broom; utility room." Once you get a hand full, walk around and distribute everything... then come right back. Your goal is to clear the surface. By doing it this way, you are always reminded that you have more places to visit to return things, and you won't get stuck in the next room, and the next room... etc.
3) Editing while we are in the midst of doing.
Editing is good. We all want our work to be polished, whether we are writing an article or organizing a back room. The problem when we criticize ourselves, or self-correct ourselves as we are working is that we can never finish. Nothing is ever good enough and we continue perfecting it and perfecting it, but we never finish it. Organizing by surfaces helps with this too because we only have to perfect one surface at a time. Here's how to use it. Think about what you want for the surface when it is done. Does it have a tablecloth on it? Which one? Is it totally cleared off? Visualize that. Not totally cleared off? Okay, what will be put back on it once it is cleared off? Then, do it. Clear it off and put the things on it that you want to be there. Finish. THEN you can make changes, but not before.
Do it. Select a surface, and clear it off.
Do you like this blog? If so, please forward it to people you know. It's my 2013 commitment.
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