Tuesday, December 8

One Thing At A Time

If you've been paying attention, you know that I have clutter issues. Not dirt, or actual messes, but just plain clutter. As in "too much stuff." Over the last few years I've tried various methods to get a handle on the problem including the "put it down once" school of thought. But what do you do when you encounter something else that needs picking up? What about when you have something in hand and suddenly something on the stove is burning? I mean, come on, life happens. It happens frequently to me, and I have to figure it happens occasionally to other people.

A few years ago I heard about this person who calls herself "Flylady" (I don't know why; it's not a very flattering moniker) and runs a website and email service designed to get people organized. I checked out the website and she did have some good ideas. For example, breaking down tasks into small, manageable portions. Maybe you don't have time to clean a room, but you can clear off one surface - that kind of thing. She also suggested limiting yourself to 15 minutes per chore and then moving on before it turned into an all day deal. You're even supposed to set a timer. This makes sense to me. I think the sense of being overwhelmed is the main reason people don't get a lot of things done. And I'm sure there's a corollary to Murphy's law about things that get put off growing exponentially. If not, there should be because we all know it happens.

Anyway, "Flylady" had some good stuff, but some of it was a bit silly. For instance, if you subscribe to the service you would get pinged with emails throughout the day, telling you what room you were going to work on this week, and what other chores to accomplish through the day. But it seemed to me that I'd be getting pinged to, I don't know, scrub the tea kettle or some such thing, when I'd be at work and couldn't do anything about it. And, focusing on one room per week, it could be a month or more before I got around to the room that needed the most work. Remember the corollary? Also, she has an unhealthy obsession with having a clean kitchen sink. I thought it was bad enough that she instructed people to shine their sink every day .... EVERY DAY?!?! But she lost my respect completely when she suggested hiding unwashed pots and pans under the sink just to keep the sink looking good. Am I the only one who sees this as a problem waiting to happen?

I figure some of these tips will work for some of the people some of the time, but I don't see any of them being practicable for all of the people all of the time. Certainly not for me. However, there was some good stuff in there and I didn't see any reason why I couldn't make use of the parts that would work for me, like breaking chores down into small parts.

Take those black holes otherwise known as closets. Things accumulate in there. Possibly they even breed. Tackling the closet is a daunting task and, for that reason, a perfect place to try out the "small parts" system. In this case, I placed 2 trash bags, one white and one black, just inside the closet, and every time I looked in there I had to put something in one of the bags. When the white bag was full, it went to a charity. When the black bag was full, it went out with the rest of the trash. This worked fairly well for the bedroom closet because I access it at least twice daily. But other places don't get visited that often, and/or were too easy for me to ignore. Which is what gets me into trouble in the first place.

At the beginning of November I decided to try a twist on the traditional New Year's resolutions by making an old year resolution. That way, I reasoned, I'm getting rid of the old with the old, and there's the potential for starting the new year with a clean slate, which I like. I kept the rules very simple; in fact there's only one. Each day I must either put away or throw away at least one thing. One thing. I can do one thing.

We're now approaching the middle of December and I think it's going well. Keeping it simple is the essence of any successful plan, to my mind. Make anything too big or too complicate, set the bar too high, and you are setting yourself up for a fall; and once that happens, the negativity sets in and you stop bothering. Me, I only have to do one thing.

So far my "one thing" rule has encompassed getting rid of forgotten and decades old spices from the back of a cupboard, ditching stuff from under the bathroom sink, and relegating old, unused bathroom towels to rag status, either under the kitchen sink (I can do that because I don't store dirty pans there) or in a bag in the laundry room. I only have to do one thing, once a day. I often end up ditching two or three at the same time, but I'm not going to raise the bar because then it will become a time issue and get put off and not get done. But one thing, one day at a time, I can do that forever. And I'm seeing results. Slowly, but it's happening.


The Merry said...

Oh dear. You have clutter issues?
Better not invite you over.

Oh wait. I already did. Seems to me the mere thought of you coming to visit drove me into a cleaning frenzy. Y'know, people could pay you to come over and sit (sneezing) on the couch while they frantically clean around you.

eneue - how you spell ennui if you've bought a wrong vowel off Vanna.

The Merry said...

Oh, and while I'm at it...

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy BIRTHday dear MccccBbbbbb
Happy Birthday to Youuuuiiiiiii!

Sorry it's a day late and a dollar... er, vertically challenged. To say nothing of vocally challenged.

pestrap - you know you're in trouble when the bedbugs start to do hip hop music...

McB said...

I'm pretty sure that the blame for sending you into a cleaning frenzy can be spread around.

And thank you for the post-birthday good wishes.

jenb said...

You are setting an excellent example just wish I would do a better job of following.

McB said...

Oh, well. I didn't say that I was actually organized. But now I'm starting to see bits of space in my spaces.

Theresa said...

I really, really should give this a try. Really.