Discord to Harmony
In my last post, I mentioned that I've come up with some coping strategies for working with my weird brain (which honestly may be a bit ADD, and yes, I left out the H on purpose), and keeping my house consistently clutter free.
I promise, this blog will not turn into *just* a cleaning and decluttering blog, but I do want to share my whole journey as I work toward having more time to put into more exciting things, and I'm hopeful that my habit of overthinking everything could help others who struggle with this as much as I do.
The word "simplify" has been ringing in my ears lately, ever since a friend with tarot cards told me that simplifying my life would decrease my stress level and anxiety. Whether there's something to that or it's just a coincidence, it seemed profound to me given that I'd been thinking a lot about working toward minimalism and the freedom it could offer me.
How can I simplify this problem so that I feel capable of tackling it?
I remembered that there have been short periods over the past few years where I did have things pretty well under control, and I felt great, and I was excited to wake up every morning and actually spend my day doing things I wanted to do! But, did I mention I'm forgetful? It took me some time to remember what strategies I used back then that worked so well for me. This time, if I fall out of my routine, I'll be able to look back here and remember what it was that I did!
So. Simplify. There are a few things that have made a huge difference for me when I've implemented them in the past, and I'm going to share the most effective one with you in this post. This is something I've just started doing again over the past few days, and I'm already feeling SO much more hopeful about this process.
DO IT NOW
(a.k.a. Stream of Consciousness Cleaning)
This will not work well for everyone, but it works wonders for me. Every day, I am making it a habit to spend a set amount of time focused only on this: "Do it now."
Here's what that looks like in practice:
I might set a timer for one hour. I start by picking up the *first* item I see that I know needs to be put away. I put it away without allowing myself to internally debate about why I can't or shouldn't or don't want to put it away right now. I just do it now. If that item takes me to another area of the house, fine. I'm *not* trying to stay in one area when I do this, because that would enable me to say, "I'll put this away later when I'm ready to leave this room." (Helpful hint: you have to be fully dressed and wearing shoes before you start the timer, because this process may take you outside or to the basement or attic.)
Next, wherever I ended up when putting the first item away, I pick up another thing that is in the wrong location and I do it, right now.
I might do a *quick* task like picking up the broom and sweeping the floor if I notice crumbs or fur, or taking out the trash .
I continue this process for that hour, and I don't allow myself to take any breaks because I don't want to lose momentum. Momentum is the key here.
I also don't start any big projects, like cleaning out the whole pantry or organizing a closet. If something belongs in a closet that is disorganized, fine. It goes in there anyway and the closet stays as is for now, unless I see something that doesn't belong in there and I can quickly put it where it goes (which might be the "donate" box). I also wouldn't fold a load of laundry, though I might put a load in the washer or dryer or put already folded clothes away. But folding takes a big chunk out of my hour, and I can do that while also being attentive to my kids later in the day or listening to a podcast.
Why it works:
I've realized that even though I feel like I clean all day sometimes, I'm usually only spending an hour or so doing actual cleaning tasks. All those other hours are being spent thinking about how much I don't want to clean, looking at the piles and trying to decide where to start, wondering how things got this bad, and procrastinating. I'm *thinking* about cleaning all day and letting it hang over my head instead of just doing it and freeing up the rest of my day.
Also, it's even harder when I get stuck in that cycle because procrastination breeds more procrastination. If I have put something off for so long that six months later I'm still seeing the same mess, I think to myself, "If this stuff has been here for this long, surely it's a difficult task and will take hours to do."
It's *never* true.
Today, I cleaned up the back yard. We had toys back there that the kids don't play with anymore, and the puppy had strewn some of them all over the yard, mostly in chewed up pieces, and the trampoline was out of place from the last time Travis mowed, and a couple of the plastic adirondack chairs around the fire pit were knocked over, etc., etc.
I had been noticing how bad it looked back there for a month or more, but it's been cold and rainy lately and I just plain didn't feel like cleaning it up.
I came home from a memorial service today and no one else was home, and it was a nice afternoon, and for some reason I just decided to "do it now." Now, this was different from my daily, run-around-the-house, "Do It Now" sessions, but it's the same principle.
Lo and behold, it was not a miserable job. It did take about an hour, but I kind of enjoyed being out there with the puppy, and it was a good feeling to get it done. When Travis and the kids got home, my son even came out and played and helped pick up sticks to put in the fire pit. The actual task of cleaning up the yard turned out to be a pretty enjoyable part of my day, and now I can look out there and feel happy that it's done.
This method also works well for me because what I *am* allowing myself to do is to get distracted and change the scenery constantly. I am focused on picking things up and putting them away, but again, I am NOT focused on one area. This is the ADD in me. My brain doesn't like to stay on one subject for very long, especially when it's something mundane. When I force myself to, say, clean the kitchen and only the kitchen for 30 minutes, after maybe five or ten minutes my mind starts to wander to things I'd rather be doing, so I start to move more slowly. And as I've said, I also get stuck thinking, "I can't put this away because it goes in another room and I have to stay in the kitchen."
So, to reiterate and SIMPLIFY the "Do It Now" method:
I hope some of you find this helpful! If you have a weird ADD brain like I do, try it out and tell me how it goes, and if you know someone who might benefit from this, feel free to share!
More next time!