We’ve all heard that age-old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Ugh. For me, that’s easier said than done. It makes sense. When something needs to be put away it ought to be put in the place where it belongs. But the hard part is finding a place for everything. I quickly succumb to analysis-paralysis, not able to see my way to assigning a place for everything. And so things piled up with the intention of assigning homes one day.
Guess what. “One day” never comes. And the pile grows. During our move last year we weeded out A LOT of stuff. But in a new home, the things we are choosing to live with needed new home assignments. Some of it was easy. The rest of it, not so easy. And so the piles began, and grew, with good intentions.
As the traditional time for spring cleaning has arrived, I have decided to tackle some piles. The most visible ones and the ones that are most in the way of our daily living. As I work through the house, pile by pile, I’m following a few simple rules to ensure I make progress.
Define a boundary. I either set a time limit or limit my work to a specific space. I accomplish more knowing I can stop when my allotted time is up. I can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes or an hour, knowing at the end I’ll be rewarded with progress and coffee break.
Sometimes I choose a section of floor or a table top or one shelf as my boundary. Tackle this one space and I am finished. This corner space behind my bedroom door has been a catch-all for things that are found (but did not belong) in other parts of the house during pick up sessions. My goal was to clear this space, not the whole room, not the whole closet, just this space.
Throw out the trash. I made a quick assessment and threw out what I knew was trash. Expired coupons, crumpled holiday decor, packaging with no product inside. All these and more went into a trash bag and right away I saw progress. As I worked through I found more stuff to throw out, but right off the bat it was easy to weed out the obvious trash.
Do the easy stuff. See the shoes in the picture above? Duh. I knew where those belonged. Done. Plastic Easter eggs? There’s a box of holiday stuff to hold things like this. Done. Business Marketing Supplies? I have a drawer for those. Picking up the items that already had a home and taking each one there immediately made visible progress. Now I’m motivated! Notice I did not make piles for putting away later? That would mean I would have more work after I finished this work.
Make quick decisions. The pile is much more manageable at this point, so as I pick up each item I ask “Where would I look for this if I needed it?” and then I take it there. Immediately. Wrapping paper? Top shelf of my closet. You might not keep your wrapping paper there but that’s where I’ve kept it for 30 years so that’s where I’ll always look for it. No analyzing, just the simple question. If I had no answer for my question, meaning I had no idea where I would look for it, it was time to donate.
After working for about an hour it looked like this:
I tackled one spot. I made progress. And I did not have other messes to clean up when I was done with this mess! I feel like I can tackle another pile (after my coffee reward, thank you very much.)
And where do I go from here? Another pile of stuff. On another day. When we moved into this house last year, I created a place for our craft and sewing supplies to be stored. When we unpacked boxes, everything crafty or sewing related went to this one corner area in our basement. It didn’t take long for us to see assigning an open space with no boundaries to house our supplies was a recipe for disaster. It quickly became a pile. And it was easy to just leave a box of stuff for later when I intended to get it all corralled and organized.
Yeah, you guessed it. Later never arrived. So instead of continuing in this state of overwhelm, I set a manageable goal. See that big box of sewing supplies? It’s hard to tell from the photo, but under that black tote and cast off denim is 7.5 cubic feet of jam-packed with sewing supplies.
I worked through the layers following the same rules I shared above. As I picked up each item, I quickly determined whether something was trash or belonged elsewhere or needed a spot here with my sewing supplies. And I took immediate action. My goal was not to have a perfectly organized sewing room, but to put like items together and make progress toward having a more functional space that is usable and manageable.
I focused on the box, not the space around it or the shelves behind it. Just the box. When I reached the bottom, my son flattened the box and took it out to the recycle bin and voila! Floor space! Room to walk and move. Room to get to the things we need.
Not perfect, but sooo much better! This clear space gives me hope and motivates me to keep going. By attacking a specific space and focusing on making progress without leaving more messes behind I am moving forward and no longer spinning my wheels.
If you would like to start winning the battle over clutter or if you feel overwhelmed and have not idea how to start tackling those piles, I recommend The 5 Day Clutter Shakedown video course by Dana K. White (ASlobComesClean.com.) I used her tips and methods as I worked through my decluttering projects. She made it so easy, and fun! Her books, How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind and Decluttering at the Speed of Life have been life-savers. They are my go-to manuals for help and motivation. You can find them using my amazon affiliate link or wherever books are sold.
How do you tackle clutter and keep all your stuff under control?