Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bear With Me

Hear me out, okay? Here's my thing: Every day I am beyond overwhelmed by my house. Specifically by all the STUFF in it. My brain works better in a physically clean environment. Really. I actually think I'm not the only person who has this particular affliction; I remember in college when lots of people had large assignments due on the same day, that's when there would be a sign up sheet in the dorm for who gets to use the vacuum cleaner next. Seriously. The night before big papers, etc. were due, suddenly EVERYONE had to clean their dorm room.

Anyway - unfortunately I am not an organized person. This fact about myself is beyond frustrating, because I REALLY REALLY WANT to be organized. I HATE having to stay up late or rush around at the last minute to get things done on time. But that is almost always what happens, even when I make lists and plan and do things the night or even the week before.

Part of my problem is that my perfectionism has very strong kung fu; it can, and very often does, stop me in my tracks and keep me from accomplishing anything at all. For instance - there's no way I can clean the house in one day, so why even start? Common sense does not live here. I am most often unable to see large things in parts or break activities into baby steps. Thus, I am staggeringly overwhelmed all at once by EVERYTHING that needs to be done.

In an effort to move myself along, it occurred to me that perhaps if I take pictures of some of the parts of the problems and could see them alone, disembodied from the rest of the house, that would help me focus on just one area at a time. Below are some pictures of a few places in the house where mess collects without me even remembering putting anything there. And while these places bother me, when I am cleaning it seems they are invisible to me, I think because they are relatively out of the way in terms of usage. If the kitchen sink is a mess, I have to clean that up before I can cook, but if the windowsill is a mess, oh well. The windowsill doesn't get in my way so I don't look at it except while I'm washing the dishes. But I'll bet our company sees it when they come over!

Everybody loves a good post-makeover photo comparison, right? I know I do. So as I clean up these messes, I will post the before picture and an after picture of each area lovely and clutter-free. I make no guesses or guarantees as to when each mess will be tackled and conquered, but it'll sure be fun to see results! :o)

Exhibit 1: The Kitchen Windowsill.
I have already removed three dead plants from this plant window, yet there is a fourth that needs to go. See the blue cup on the top shelf? That's where we planted the pumpkin seed that sprouted up out of the downstairs half-bath sink drain. No, really. But we didn't keep watering the poor thing. The red cup on the same shelf is full of seeds from many of the pieces of fruit Sweet Pea has eaten over the past year or so. She intends to plant them all at some point. It'll be great - we'll have apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, tangerines, and on and on and on. There must be a better place to keep those seeds, though. I could go on and on but I won't. What I really want to see in this windowsill is the art glass. There are glass pumpkins and a beautiful yellow glass pitcher with a cobalt blue handle on the top shelf. They look gorgeous in the sun. Can you see them in the picture? The yellow pitcher, yes, but not its handle, and the pumpkins are hidden behind things. And I want the actual tile part of the windowsill, atop the sink's backsplash, to be clutter-free enough to actually wash. Yech.

Exhibit 2: The End of the Kitchen Counter Nearest the Table.
This bit of counter is the first thing you see as you come in the front door, when you look all the way to the back of the house. It really makes a visual difference coming in the front door if this area is dirty or clean. Obviously the fruit bowl and basket full of cloth napkins will stay there, but all the rest of the little odds and ends? Away with them!

Exhibit 3: The Top of the Cabinets on the Upstairs Landing.
This is the weird thing about all these places. I don't remember putting most of this stuff there. It must have accrued over a very long period of time. I can tell that at the time those things were left there I didn't know what to do with most of them. Others were meant to rest there only for a while until I had time to put them away in a different room, and then that never happened. I walk by this area zillions of times per day. It would make me feel so much happier to see it clean!

Beyond just wanting to live in a clean house, I really want to teach my daughters good habits. For that reason I feel a very pressing need to find a useful way to keep up with our house and our lives in general while still having fun with my family, instead of constantly being stressed about cleaning like I am now. The most obvious way is to determine what is clutter to us and what is useful, and remove the clutter from our lives, which I do from time to time by leaving things out for charities on pick-up days and freecycling other stuff. I need to crank up the sorting and get back to giving away what we can and trying to sell what we can.

I am really going to try to start again with Flylady's baby steps (and her encouragement to just do something for 15 minutes and then quit, because getting 15 minutes of work done per day is way better than getting nothing done per day!). While I have made some of her practices part of my everyday life, I have FAR to go to get a system down, and my biggest problem in following her plan is the perfectionism. I want to do one baby step per day, and if I fail at that, I quit. :o( But I am going to try again and again, because if I can just incorporate small new practices into my life, everything and everyone around here will benefit.

How do you keep your life/house sorted? I'd love to hear about it!
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Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

It is difficult to get it all done when you see so many areas of your home that need organizing or cleaning. My issue is with my closets. I tend to just stuff things in and close the door.

I'm like you, 15 minutes a day. I little here and there will eventually add up.

Christina said...

I admire you for having a plan and a goal for your organizing. Any time I try to get organized, I get overwhelmed and give up. Pulling stuff out to find a home for it results in cluttering up another part of the house, because I don't know where to put it.

I'm wishing you luck with your adventure. I think the areas you highlighted are common clutter areas in many homes. (And for the record, I never noticed the clutter when I was there! I was more in awe of your awesome dining table.)

dlub said...

Apartment Therapy had a post about organization last month. Not that we're actually getting organized around here (new baby - gonna post soon!), but I did find it helpful in terms of getting my mind around what I need to do. I DID manage to get some stuff thrown onto the donation pile in an effort to get it out of the house. I think our strategy is going to have to be getting rid of stuff to reduce the clutter.

I've found that if I get an area cleared, it helps a lot to both find an actual spot for everything that was there, and to refrain from dumping inappropriate items back into the area...

Our new-baby-stuff explosion has laid to waste all those plans though. :)

dlub said...

Oh, baby-brain --- Here's the link to that post:

crunchy carpets said...

Mine appears to be the same as yours.....little piles of stuff everywhere.

Couldn't find my blue mixing bowl...finally realized it was sitting on kitchen counter with STUFF in it..

kara said...

"But I'll bet our company sees it when they come over!"

Actually, my dear, not all of your company does. =)

Neil said...

The disorganization of my house was a big factor in causing marital strife. I am unorganized, and my wife is even worse than me because of her perfectionist streak which doesn't allow her to do anything half-ass, but prevents her from doing anything when it gets overwhelming. I have been living in NY after we separated, but I have flown back to LA twice now simply because she called me unable to handle the growing piles of dishes and laundry herself.