Tantrum –> Cleanathon

1 01 2010

Last night I had another mini meltdown that almost put me over the edge. Luckily, I was able to channel that distress into an incredible New Years’ Eve office cleanathon! The things I found!! (more on this later)

But first, the meltdown. My husband got a notice from Fastrak, the electronic toll collector, that he had violated a toll passing. It included a bill for $29. But we HAVE a paid account, so this was an error. Tried to call and go online to clear it up. But couldn’t because we did not know our account #, OR the PIN they had sent us like 5 years ago. I had signed up for automatic bill pay (good, right?) and then basically forgot about it. When a payment notice comes in the mail, I usually just toss it, thinking it’s been taken care of.

So basically, without the account information we could not deal with this bill.  I could feel my frustration mounting as we kept hitting dead ends because we had no account number or PIN. And to me, it was just another indication of how messed up we are that we can’t keep track of our lives, and we have no file, either paper or online, that is accessible to us. That once again we are at the mercy of our insane disorganization.

Well, I could’ve downed an entire bottle of champagne OR eating a box of truffles, but I did neither. Nor did I scream at my spouse, but I wanted to do that too. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH UUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSS?!?!?” Instead I came into my total pigsty of an office, and set to doing the homework that LM set for me last week. I took out some empty cartons and set about Removing Things From My Office that Do Not Belong Here.

I found: a soccer ball, a sheet of Christmas tags, a pile of random clothing, a half-finished hook rug, a sock monkey dog toy, a bunch of CDs, a pair of fuzzy rabbit ears, two silk scarves, a Tide destaining pen, some earrings, a purse, a bunch of Weight Watcher snack bars, a Chinese takeout menu, a loofah sponge, some soap, a necklace, kids’ school notebooks, DVDs. I sorted these into two boxes: My Stuff and Other Peoples’ Stuff. Amazingly, as I searched around for the Stuff that Did Not Belong, the surfaces began appearing.

And guess what ELSE I found: two manila envelopes, one full of stamps and the other full of address labels. (I did not blog about the other internal meltdown I had last week when spouse asked, “Where’s a stamp?” and I COULD NOT ANSWER.

AND: (this is the cherry on top of the sundae) Underneath all the debris, a plain little envelope, SEALED, with my mother’s handwriting. Happy Birthday. (note: my birthday was in AUGUST) I opened it.

Here’s what was inside. 🙂

And here’s my  after.

Note: this entire process took ONE HOUR.

Happy New Years to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Advertisements




A Million Little Choices

31 12 2009


Hangers

Originally uploaded by Marc Pinter

I would not be the first person to point out that decluttering/organizing is very much like losing weight/getting healthy and fit. But oh it is so true. And it’s interesting to be aware of this right now, since the healthy part of me is pretty much on track, and the decluttery part of me is just learning the alphabet and veering around wildly. It’s just interesting to observe myself.

I can pretty much rely on a year of good habits to carry me through for the most part, even though there are certainly moments/days of veering off. But I have NO good habits to go on as far as organization goes. It is incredible to watch “what I would normally do” and to try and replace some of these habits with better ones. Sometimes it is almost physically painful and I can feel some wild beast inside me trying to resist, resist, resist.

I read recently that habits are “first cobwebs, then cables.” Which I think is such a great analogy. And it goes for both bad habits and good ones. Sometimes those bad habits feel as strong as steel cables, impossible to break. And the good ones are as fragile as cobwebs. But the more we do something (good or bad) the more it builds on itself.

I’m really trying to pay attention to myself these days. Carving a new way of doing things is, wow, just exhausting. But I do have some patience, and some confidence that I can eventually do this and eventually I will have some good cable-strong organizing habits. Just not yet. SO not yet.

I notice that when I come home, my tendency is to:

1. leave all the crap in the car. I have to nearly twist my own arm out of its socket to get myself to bring even 50% of it inside, unless it is something perishable, like vegetables. Otherwise, I’m likely to just think “I’ll bring it in later.” It’s not like I have to haul it up Mt. Kilamanjaro or something, I only have to walk it through the garage and into the house. But the idea often exhausts me. Why? I spend hours at the gym exhausting myself way more. Not sure I understand this, but there it is.
2. Arrive in house, and disrobe (jacket, shoes) wherever is most convenient. Thus, you will find my shoes (and I will later be UNABLE to find them) next to the couch, under the dining room table, against the wall, in the middle of the kitchen (I am not kidding). Same with coats and jackets. Tonight I just gathered up all the jackets and coats from various pieces of furniture, and HUNG THEM UP in my closet. Which actually shocked me, how weird and foreign that felt.
3. Bring mail in from mailbox. Open and read in the most convenient/comfortable spot. Like my bed. Toss a few magazines into recycling basket nearby (that’s good, right?). But inevitably, bills or Important Communications will end up under the bed, behind the bedside table, or buried under a mountain of books and socks and stuff.
4. Get ready to go to bed. Disrobe. Toss the socks and underwear in hamper basket (that’s good, right?). But if any clothing stands the remotest chance of being worn again before laundering, hang on bed. Do this until bedpost is completely obliterated. Tonight I took off my sweater. I HUNG IT IN THE CLOSET. I took off my skirt. I was momentarily befuddled because I currently have more skirts than I own skirt hangers. Considered tossing it on the floor. Instead, folded it in half and hung it on a regular hanger. Felt INORDINANTLY proud of myself.

So this is how it goes, right? I’m just trying to develop some mindfulness and stop myself in these moments before I add to another one of my hundreds of piles. If you were to come in my house you would not know I had made the tiniest bit of progress. But I have. Believe me.

And it’s kind of exhausting. But I will keep moving forward.





Baby Steps

30 12 2009

Things are moving very slowly, although I am still having daily mini-meltdowns over things that are lost. I am pleased to report that my bathroom counter is STILL clean. That is a huge victory in itself, maintaining a clean surface for more than a week! And I have another small positive step to share.

Yesterday, I was going to go work out and I opened my I-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-this-piece-of-furniture. It was originally an antique Japanese kitchen thing, but we have two in our bedroom which we use for clothing, instead of a bureau. It has three sliding shelves and then two big deep drawers underneath. This thing holds all pieces of clothing that aren’t hung on hangers in the closet.

I really WISH I had taken a before pic, but this decluttering happened so fast I barely knew what was happening. It took me about 15 minutes. Started out with a minor tantrum because I couldn’t find a shirt I wanted in the smashed in piles of random clothing. Each shelf was just a mishmash of shirts of all kinds, in no order, and not really folded, just stuffed in there. I started to freak out but then just said, I’M DEALING WITH THIS. I started throwing stuff I know I’ll never wear again (or which got misfiled in my room but actually belongs to one of my daughters) onto the floor. Here is that pile.  It’s now sitting against the wall, and I swear I am taking it out of the house tomorrow!!

Then with what was remaining (a lot less!) I organized into: camisole tops, tank tops, logo Tshirts, “nice” Tshirts, and (haha) “performance” wear (ie. wicking shirts). And a little pile of tights that are too big to go into the tiny drawers for socks and underwear.

Literally, it took me 15 minutes. And the absolute relief and pleasure I now get (instead of homicidal rage) when I open these drawers, is indescribable. Ahhh.

But there is much still to be done. MUCH. I am really beginning to understand how very very long this project is going to take. But there is no turning back now.

BAD THINGS THIS WEEK: bought my 3rd pair of exercise headphones. Lost the first, then bought a truly sucky pair of replacements, got frustrated and bought a 3rd pair of nice ones. THEN found the first one in an (of course) un-unpacked suitcase. Grrr.

GOOD THINGS: At least I now have 2 pairs of nice headphones and one pair of stupid ones, just in case. AND, I was able to readily find my passport when I needed it today for a job application. That was very, very good. NOW, I just have to remind myself to TAKE IT OUT OF THE CAR and PUT IT BACK IN ITS SAFE PLACE. What is wrong with me?!!!!!? (oops, that good thing just almost turned into a bad thing. As soon as I hit “publish” I’m gonna run out to the car, promise!!!!)





The Most Cluttered Day of the Year

26 12 2009

I think the day after Christmas has to win the prize on this one. Even the normally “neat” areas of our house are just a crazed jumble of boxes, presents, wrapping paper, STUFF! There is stuff everywhere. I’ve finally hit my low point (or high point, of piles!) and am SO READY to tackle this. And even though we had one of the nicest Christmases ever, I am so relieved it is over and I can just DEAL. I am thrilled that my schedule is pretty empty this coming week, and we have no plans to travel, so I am just going to spend it trying to find my way out of these piles.

I almost had some mini (and maxi) meltdowns this past week. The things I couldn’t find (which I’m updating on Twitter) really threatened to send me into a very dark spirally self-loathing place. STILL can’t find my Mastercard, but I was reluctant to cancel it because 1) I know it’s LOST and not stolen, 2) I really needed it for online shopping for the holidays. But I may have to break down.

Lost my work keys. This is so bad.  I have a bright orange lanyard thing (SO I WOULDN’T LOSE IT) which has keys to two separate work sites. It is a huge, huge deal to obtain these keys (it took MONTHS) and if  I lost them it will be a very very very bad thing. I HAVE TO FIND THEM.

Lost my ankle brace, so had to do stupid modified workout. Happily, it showed up yesterday, in the guest room.

I’m actually pretty proud that I think I did not “lose” any Christmas gifts this year.  This happens to me every year: I buy stuff, then “hide” it but I hide it so well from myself, I do not find it in time for Christmas. I think I managed to give all my gifts this year! But how sad is it that this is like some big victory.

My declutter partner is returning midweek. I cannot wait for her to get back. I’m desperate, in fact. And I’m getting as much of a head start as I can before she arrives. For one thing, I have to do my homework from last week.

How do the rest of you deal with post-Christmas clutter? Do you have a method? A plan? Tell me, please!!





Unbelievable! It’s Contagious!!!

21 12 2009

I can’t believe it. This blog has been in existence less than a week, and already the decluttering energy is spreading throughout the country! I just got an amazing email from one of our readers, who read this blog and was immediately bitten by the declutter bug. See her incredible laundry room before and afters!!

Our friend says:

I made 3 piles to take to the garbage and 3 bags to Goodwill.  I even cleaned out the cupboards hence the Shake and Bake (expiration 2006, purchased in 2003!).  The bakers rack has been a pain since I got it and is now going to Goodwill as well.

A few things I realized in this:

I keep things that I think can be used.  I may never use them so the fact that someone may be able to makes me hold on to them.  That is why I thought of the Goodwill pile.  It does not seem like a waste.

Solution: I am going to keep a tote out and fill it up all week for Goodwill until I no longer have things to put in it. And to make sure not to have an issue drop it off once a week.

As for the good stuff I kept.  When I clean the not good stuff out of the cupboards there was room to put it properly away.  Who knew! LOL

Thanks for the motivation. I will keep going and sending you the pictures.  You really have motivated me.  I needed this so thanks so much!

Isn’t that AMAZING!?! That laundry room is incredible! GO GO GO girl (who wishes to remain anonymous) AND I invite all Clutterbrained readers to submit your photos and stories to us! Pile by pile, we will tackle this!





Christmas Cookie Meltdown

19 12 2009

OK people, fresh off the victory of my pretty bathroom counter, I am now about to crash and burn. But this is a PERFECT example of the madness that will come from a cluttered life.

So. I’ll go waaaaaaay back to the beginning, to my lovely childhood in a hamlet in New Jersey, where our jolly neighbor Mrs. Kiesselbach would gift us with this incredible plate of buttery spritz cookies each year. We LIVED for these cookies. So beautiful and perfect and delicious. Imagine my delight when I reached adulthood and realized I could purchase this nifty contraption and make them myself. (Mrs. K was long gone by then)

I bought a fancy metal imported cookie press. I made spritz cookies which awed and delighted my loved ones. (and me, too) But then one year the little metal ring that holds the cookie mold forms onto the tube went missing.

You can’t make the cookies without the little metal ring.

I really wanted to make the cookies again. But I did not want to spend big bucks on a whole other fancy metal contraption. So I bought a cheaper plastic version. I made cookies.

You can guess what happened: THAT ring went missing, too.

You an see the photos. We also have these beautiful metal rosette forms for making these dip-and-fry snowflake and tree cookies that melt in your mouth and are so delicate and amazing. But guess what? THOSE forms, which I have managed to save since my high school days, came with a little metal stick with a wooden handle knob on the hand.  The stick screws into the form so that you don’t burn your fingers in the hot oil.

Can’t make those kind of cookies, either. And, we have been invited to a holiday cookie exchange party TOMORROW, which I was so excited about. Until now.

Now, I KNOW there are other cookies I can make that require nothing more than a bowl and a metal sheet. But that isn’t the point. The point is that I am so completely MADDENED by the absence of these small essential items, that render the entire collection of baking things USELESS, that I could jump off the roof. But I won’t.

But this very thing is what is emblematic of my Problem. It isn’t 100% about aesthetics, it’s about many aspects of my life NOT WORKING because I can’t find some stupid thing.

It’s ALMOST functional. But not. We keep all the baking things together in one special baking cabinet. The cookie cutters, and sprinkles and food coloring and other fancy stuff all stays together. So in that way, I know where the stuff is at least SUPPOSED to be. But then these small things go missing and the whole thing is shot to hell.

This is one of the functions of many people living together. AND we are fortunate enough to have someone who helps us clean once a week. (I can only imagine the sheer horror if that was not the case) But what happens is, these little things go in the dishwasher or the sink, and then Someone (I am not pointing fingers, it could be ANY of us) sees this random piece of plastic or metal and has no idea what it is, and maybe it goes in some random Junk drawer, or maybe the trash. I have sifted through the junk drawer and found no cookie-press rings. I am so sad.





OMG! My first “After” Pic!!!

19 12 2009

Some wise people say, all you need to do is to set an Intention to get things moving into place. I’m finding this is so true. It was only two days ago that I started this blog. Yesterday that I met with my decluttering partner for the first time. And today, I felt a great shift inside me.

I was standing in my awfully cluttered bathroom, surrounded by a ridiculous number of containers and products. And this terribly ugly, empty, nonfunctioning stone zen fountain thing.  That I had asked for for Christmas like SEVEN years ago, because I thought it would be lovely and restful. Well, it wasn’t. The sound of the gurgling fountain sounded a lot like someone was perpetually peeing. Soon I turned it off and the water evaporated and it just became this big heavy ugly plastic bowl o’stones. BUT I could not give it away or throw it away because it had been a Gift from my Loved Ones. (does this sound familiar anybody???)

Somehow this morning, it felt like getting rid of this dumb fountain was the catalyst I needed. I picked it up and put it on the floor. And suddenly the rest of the countertop almost cleaned itself. I swear. Suddenly I realized (??!?!?) that I have about eight DRAWERS in this bathroom and a huge under the sink cabinet as well. I could even ORGANIZE my multitude of products into: makeup, hair stuff, eye stuff, medicine stuff, etc. Which took me about TEN MINUTES to do, once that dreaded fountain got out of there. Now every drawer is not in the most pristine shape, and could probably use some micro-organizing, but… STILL.

LOOOOOOOOOKK!!!!!!!!!!!