My sister came to visit over the holidays. By the second day she just couldn’t contain herself anymore. “How can you stand to live like this?” she said.
I confess, there’s a lot of extraneous stuff in my house. I used to have a store, and I ended up bringing home a lot more merchandise than I expected to when it closed. It’s more than I’ve been able to sell on eBay in…well, over a year now. I also still have several boxes from when my mother died. Then there’s my husband’s extra stuff from when he moved in. It adds up.
Sometimes it feels overwhelming, and I feel helpless to tackle it. But I’ve implemented a strategy for getting organized, and slowly but surely the piles of unfinished business are receding.
Break It Down
This strategy works for me anytime I need to tackle a project that intimidates me. Instead of saying I’m going to clean out a whole room, I pick a smaller task, like going through one pile of clothes or filling up one box with stuff to donate.
On a regular week day, this gives me a sense of accomplishment, and encourages me to keep going. On the weekend I may feel so motivated; I do a second task or even a third.
Before you know it, you’ve made a big empty clean space.
Replace Don’t Add
This is one of the best bits of clutter control advice I’ve ever received. If I buy a new pair of shoes or shirt, or whatever, I have to get rid of one I already have. When I hang the new item in my closet, I must immediately take one out and put it in the donation box.
This works great both in terms of maintaining a manageable wardrobe and preventing me from ever wearing those 80s stirrup pants or other embarrassingly shrunken, stained or torn item ever again.
Tidying up doesn’t have to be torturous. Make a deal with yourself. If you get all your shoes cleaned up, dusted and culled, you get to buy a new pair. Want new carpeting for your office? Dreaming of a game room? Do it! Keep your focus on the wonderful things you could have in place of the pile of junk.
Treat It Like a Job
I take care of elderly patients, a job which always includes a component of “light housekeeping.” The other day one of my clients said, “I hope your husband knows what an excellent housekeeper you are.”
I assured him my husband doesn’t have a clue, but it got me thinking. What if I cleaned my house with the dedication I bring to a paying job? Suddenly house cleaning made sense. A different perspective can go a long way towards making an unpleasant task seem merely routine.
Give Yourself a Break
I have four jobs, and I work seven days a week. That’s really the main reason my house is so disorganized. You may work one job for 65 hours a week or have two toddlers and a newborn, or be like my friend, Sherri, who doesn’t work for pay, but volunteers at least as much as a full time employee.
Either way, there are limits to what you can accomplish no matter how much you push, pull, manipulate or encourage yourself.
Sometimes you just have to turn off the lights, relax and leave the rest to another day. It’ll still be there when you get up tomorrow. Trust me.
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