I often say that the way to deal with overwhelm is to break down a project into manageable steps and tackle them one at a time. We are standing on the threshold of a shiny new year, with 12 months all in a line, much likes the ducks of life I wrote about in December. It might be a great opportunity to look ahead and do some planning. If planning sounds really odious, perhaps you could think of it as stress reduction. When projects are on a calendar you can take them out of your head, leaving room for more pleasant thoughts!
Wait, there is more – this does not lock you into some diabolical regimen, after all; you get to invent it. That means that you can change your mind, rearrange the parts and respond to the realities of your life and schedule.
If one of your ducks of life is “getting your house in order”, perhaps rather than making a bunch of the same old “resolutions”, you could design a step by step, realistic strategy for reclaiming your closets, and inhabiting your domain.
Below I will offer a proposal for a month by month, top to bottom approach. But before leaping to see just how frightening that might look, there is a central question to address.
Do you understand your clutter and how the situation has happened?
Too often the answer to this is one of the following, none of which are going to help you make lasting changes:
- I have no idea and I don’t want to think about it, it just is.
- Other people in my life did it and I can’t control them
- I don’t have time or energy to maintain anything, so why even start?
- The stuff just shows up and I have to move it in order to …fill in blank.
- I can’t ignore good deals, even if there is no more room in my home.
- I was taught that I am morally responsible for things in my care – whether I actually care for them or not.
- As a “visual” person I like things where I can see them.
- With so much stuff around I get overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next.
There are many more of these patterns or stories. I invite you take a good hard look at the very first mental reactions you have to the concept of planning out a path to order and functionality in your home.
This is an important aside: Many people say BOTH OF THE LAST TWO items and do not see that there is fundamental flaw in the thinking behind the first, which leads straight to the second. The challenge is recognizing when a coping strategy has begun to hurt, not help.
These are not questions for the faint of heart, I know from years of walking people past them. But consider that awareness of why your space has settled into a particular personal state of chaos is the only way forward.
I invite you to start the New Year by looking at the suggested menu of monthly adventures in your environment.
Month by Month in 2017
Deciding to get “get your house” in order is a pretty tall order indeed. Especially if you’re hoping it can be done in a couple weekends of not much besides will power, elbow grease and some draw string plastic bags.
Having a plan can save you a lot of agony in the long run. By turning the project into a set of realistic tasks, each step along the way supports each other and you.
Ideally, if you take the information in this month’s article above to heart, you’ll also be learning things as you go. It’s an opportunity to test your understanding of how clutter accumulates.
Here is a suggested plan for getting at all the places in a home needing attention. Naturally the order can be customized to your situation, so just have a look and see if this breakdown might make the overall goal feel like one you can reach:
A House in Order!
January: Storage in all its variety: Linen Closet, Front Hall storage, and small and over packed spaces. Remember Holiday storage, especially if it’s in the attic, garage loft, or otherwise hard to get to spot. By clearing these first, you might just gain some space for things that deserve to be kept, but are taking up room you need.
February: Information Processing. Do you need a system for staying on top of mail, and all media, including on your computer or phone? Take control! It might help with taxes.
March: Laundry rooms or areas. Reconsider how your process works or if it gets bogged down somewhere.
April: Paper Filing. Now that you’ve survived or are facing taxes, get your file system in order so it’s easier next year. Feel free to do this in January instead, if you are feeling brave.
May: Kitchen: Start under the sink, then move on to the cupboards. Only keep what you use!
June: Clothing: Make it a seasonal update, and donate like crazy!!
July: Garage: hope for warm weather, plan for a hauling service to take away big stuff. Think categories: automotive, garden, sports equipment. This may need to expand into August!
August: Bonus Month – How about that storage unit??
September: Pantry: review ALL food, in all locations and purge like crazy. Consider marking dates in bold sharpie to simplify the task in the future.
October: Media, including books, CD’s, records. Donate and give away, but try to only use the space you really have. These things should NOT be boxed up somewhere – they need a home on a shelf.
November: Children’s rooms and if you don’t have any, your OWN playrooms: hobby spaces, workshops, craft areas, exercise equipment.
December: Take a deep breath; pick up anything missed so you can start the next year, ready to enjoy your domain
If any project does not apply to you…take a MONTH OFF!! If I have missed something really important, go ahead and substitute freely. The point is that these projects reflect areas that matter to you! And the order is pure speculation on my part, have fun rearranging to suit.