17 Mar 2016

Deal differently with your stuff

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An everyday kind of thing

“Why do I always hit EVERY red light when I’m in a hurry?” wailed Peggy as she unloaded her bags of groceries from the car and dashed to the front door. She stood there rooting thru her purse trying to find her keys while the grocery bags did their very best to escape her grasp. Dig, dig, dig, FINALLY!! She gets in, runs to the kitchen and drops the bags on the pile of mail on the counter.

“OK, now to start dinner and pick up the house”.  Ten minutes later the food is in the oven and it’s time to pick up.

“ARGHHH! How am I going to get this all done in time???” Running around, Peggy starts stuffing her clutter in every available drawer and cabinet. Things get thrown in boxes and boxes are tossed into the guestroom, which is now just a junk room. Finally, Peggy rushes thru a shower, changes at the speed of lightning and is just putting on her shoes when the doorbell rings.

After all that, Peggy is so tired she can’t enjoy her friends. Nothing seems to go right and she’s just waiting for the night to be over so she can go to bed. Of course, she doesn’t sleep well because she realizes that since stuff got jammed everywhere, she isn’t sure where that bill is that needs to go out tomorrow.

In the morning Peggy wakes up grumpy and still tired. She’s fed up of living like this and promises she isn’t going to any more.

What Peggy needs is a Plan

Having been organized off and on during her life, Peggy knows the things she has tried have only worked temporarily. She also knows that she is prone to backsliding but that she can get back on track. What she needs is a system that works for her. She knows what has worked in the past and what doesn’t. Her first step is to write down what worked, what didn’t work and try to figure out why they did or didn’t work for her.

Not every system works for everyone – otherwise we would never have needed to create new ways to do anything. One kind of shoe storage, one kind of car, etc. Some of the things to think about include was the system too complicated, not detailed enough, too time consuming, too expensive, did you even have a system or did you just wing it?

Once you know what didn’t work, don’t do the same thing again or you’ll get the same poor results. If you can’t figure out why things did or didn’t work, this may be the time to call in a Professional Organizer. Many organizers will help someone with this type of task even if the person is going to do the work themselves. The Professional Organizer should have several years of experience, so they have seen many plans put in to place and know how things work for different people.

How should you start?

When you’re ready to start pick one area to work in or one system to implement, and finish it before moving on to the next. Most people get distracted and never complete any system fully. This leaves a lot of half implemented systems and nothing can make a bad situation worse faster than multiple systems in place at the same time. You have to try a fully implemented system for a while before you can know if it will work for you or if it can be tweaked to work for you.

Start with what bothers you the most, the thing that gives you the most pain. For example, if you’re getting notices in the mail because you are not paying your bills because you can’t find them, this is a LOT of pain and should be attacked quickly. But if you spend half an hour every day trying to find your keys, making you late to work, then this may be the place to start. It’s different for every one, so figure out what is most important to you.

How to stay on task

Once you get down to work, put a “somewhere else” box (Peter Walsh) nearby. When you come across an item that does not belong in the room you’re in, put it in the box. Once you are done with the area, go ahead and deliver these items to their correct room. This will keep you from running from room to room and will keep you concentrating on the task at hand.

You may find that your mind wanders when sorting. You may find that you do better with someone else, whether they just sit and chat or lend a hand. The most important thing is that they know that their job is to keep you focused on the work and they shouldn’t convince you to keep something you’ve decided to get rid of.

Music in the background can help.

Set a timer. When the timer goes off, ask yourself if you’re still on track. If yes, keep going. If not, re-direct yourself to the task at hand or pick a new task.

How to pick a task

You can do a little or a lot in any session. Just pick a task you can complete in about ¾ of the given time. If interruptions happen you have some extra time available. If you finish before the end of the time, you can do a small additional task or put away the items in the Somewhere Else box. What you don’t want is to leave a job partially finished. You will forget where you left off and looking at the mess will be a de-motivator for you.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tackle a big job, just break it down into smaller ones.

  • Today I am going to get all of my pants together and hang them in one place in the closet
  • Tomorrow I am going to sort my shirts by long and short sleeves
  • Today I am going to empty, clean, and restock the pencil drawer in my desk
  • Tomorrow I am going to purge the files starting with A in my right hand lower file drawer (specificity is a good thing here)

Eventually, you’ll have all the small tasks completed and the big job will be done.

You should inspect the items you decide to keep to see if they are still in good condition. If there is a problem, put repairing or replacing the item on your calendar and put it in a location where you will remember to take it where it needs to go. If it’s not worth getting cleaned, repaired or replaced in the next week is it worth having at all?

So, what happened to Peggy?

She set her plan in motion and steadily worked her way through her home, drawer by drawer, cabinet by cabinet. The next time she had a party at her house she already had the groceries she needed, the house was picked up and when she got home all she needed to do was get the food in the oven, shower and dress leisurely, and enjoy her time with her friends. She spent the night having fun and slept well knowing she was not waking up to a mess. Her home isn’t always perfect, but it’s comfortable and easy to maintain. When she backslides she knows just how to fix it and it never gets very far “out of whack” and in a very short time, life is back the way she wants it.

Who could ask for more?


© 2016 – Maria Spetalnik

About the Author

is an author, a speaker and the founder of Conquer the Clutter.

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