Monday, January 27, 2014

Who Needs It? Challenge #2: Get Real

I mentioned SRB's decluttering challenge in a previous post, along with my desire to participate in it.  At that time, I also said I wasn't going to participate because I felt I did not have the time or the psychic energy to devote to the challenge.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that sort of attitude is one of the reasons the problem exists in the first place.

Also, I want to do more things that bring me pleasure and contentment, and perverse as it may sound, I believe that getting a handle on my clutter and creating more order in my home will actually do that.  OK, I'll agree that it's not on a par with spending a weekend away on a spa retreat in Sedona. . . but it's cheaper and easier, and it will involve less time away from my sons.

I'm probably not going to post before and after photos of my cluttered spaces, but not because I am ashamed to show them.  I'm all about shame as a motivator, and would not hesitate to share before-and-after shots for that reason!

Rather, I'm not going to post before-and-after shots because doing so would require a degree of planning, preparation and organization that are currently absent form my life.  If and when I am able to tackle some of these projects, it will be with little-to-no advance notice and with limited time available to me in which to do so.  Should I be fortunate enough to get that opportunity, I am not going to waste any of that limited time looking for my camera--not even my iPhone camera--or uploading photos to this blog.

So because I don't intend to do the before-and-after shots, I'm jumping right into part two of the challenge and skipping part one.  (The only other part of part one that doesn't involve posting photos is "identifying the areas of my home I feel are cluttered."  That's pretty much all of them, at least some of the time.  A few "highlights," meaning the most cluttered spaces, are our garage, our home office/guest room, the kitchen "junk drawer" designated for my use, our kitchen counters, and our bathroom cabinets.)


  • What is your emotional experience regarding your clutter? 
I often find myself feeling guilt, on various different levels.  Guilt that I have allowed things to pile up, without dealing with them, for such a long time.  Guilt that I am not able to keep my belongings and my space neat and organized.  Depending on what I am decluttering, I sometimes also feel guilt for parting with the items I am getting rid of (like gifts from my mother that are just completely unsuitable, but that I know were selected by her with love and with the best of intentions).

I also often feel overwhelmed by my messes.  Although I have learned through experience that often things take less time to tackle than it seems they will when you are simply contemplating taking them on.

  • What do you think causes clutter to happen in your home?
Living with my husband, who does not have my tendency to allow clutter to collect, has allowed me to gain some insight into this phenomenon.  He lives his life by what some would call the "Do It Now" principle.  A few examples: he immediately puts bills to paid in a designated drawer upon bringing the mail into the house (rather than tossing it on a kitchen counter to be dealt with later, as I am inclined to do); puts his dirty clothes right into the hamper as soon as he removes them or brings them in from the car (whereas I might leave them on the bathroom or bedroom floor where I've removed them "until later"); puts his dishes in the dishwasher right after he eats (while I generally leave mine on the counter or in the sink).

So I think that, for me, a lot of my clutter collects because I tend not to deal with things immediately.  I leave them "for later," and then when "later" comes, I am too tired or disinclined to deal with them.

Also, one reason some types of clutter collect in our home is that we do not have designated places to put certain things.  One example is that one of our kitchen counters becomes a catch-all for these items that have no "home."  The same can be said for many of the items in the garage and home office/guest room; things get pitched in those spaces to get them out of the common areas because we don't really have anywhere that they *should* go.

  • What are your roadblocks to decluttering? 
Historically, my biggest roadblocks to decluttering have been sentimentality and sheer laziness.  There are a lot of items I have had a hard time getting rid of due to emotional attachments to them.  (A few examples: old photographs, gifts given to me by friends over 20 years ago, old home decor items I once loved but no longer use--but think I might again "someday.")  I have made some progress on this front; a few years back, I winnowed down a few boxes of old cards and letters--dating back to high school--to just one shoe box's worth.  There is more progress to be made, though.

Nowadays, my main roadblock to decluttering is simply a lack of time and energy.

  • When confronted with an item or space, what things you do say to yourself about keeping or letting go of an item?
I have found the FlyLady's suggestions about questions to ask about an item when decluttering very helpful.  You can find them on her website (along with lots of other helpful tips about getting organized and keeping up your home), but I am including them below as well:

* Do I love this item?
* Have I used it in the past year?
* Is it really garbage?
* Do I have another one that is better?
* Should I really keep two?
* Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it?
* Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item?

  • If you have already started working on your spaces, what feelings came up for you? How are you feeling now?
I have recently had the opportunity to work on decluttering two areas of my home: our home office/guest room and our garage.  Interestingly, I did not feel guilt while I was working on these areas.  My primary emotions were relief at finally getting something accomplished and determination to get more done.

I am feeling inspired to do more but will have to continue chipping away slowly, as time permits.

  • Are there areas you are dreading? Why do you think this is?
I am dreading cleaning out the home office/guest room closet, probably because it contains a hodge podge of items: everything from holiday decorations, to clothes that don't currently fit, to items that fall into the "emotionally attached" category I talked about above.

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