Guest Post! “Putting Things Away” by Caitlin

25 01 2010

This is a guest post written by Caitlin of Cluttercubed as part of a swap with Clutterbrained. Check out Ito and LM’s take on the subject over on ClutterCubed.

You’ll note that Caitlin has things together and is a lot further down the road then we are. Hers is a fantastic guide to PTA while ours is more like a stereo cry for help. We appreciate any and all comments!

Caitlin says:

Getting organized is simple! All you need to do is put things away after you are done using them. Easy as pie, right?

Wrong.


Photo by camknows

For people who have never struggled with clutter, it’s easy to assume those that do are lazy, undisciplined, or simply don’t care. “Just put things away”, they say, “It’s not that hard”. If you have struggled with clutter, you know it’s not that easy.

So why is it so hard to put things away?

Three major reasons are:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of motivation
  • Unsure of “proper” storage location

Lack of Time
When you’re standing in the middle of a cluttered, messy house, it can seem overwhelming. It can seem like it’s going to take weeks to put all your stuff away, and you’re a busy person. You just don’t have that kind of free time. Or do you?

Solution

Break the task down into smaller, bite-sized chunks of time. Cleaning up for 2 hours a day might be difficult for you, but anyone can find 15 minutes in a day. Get an egg timer if you like, but make sure you tidy up for 15 minutes each day. You can go longer if you like, but do at least 15 minutes. You’d be surprised how much can be done in that amount of time!

Lack of Motivation
It can be frustrating to spend hours cleaning up, only to have it seem like you’re not making much progress. You may feel like there’s no point in putting things away, you’re just going to get them out again later so why bother?

Solution
Remember that decluttering is a process, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Keep in mind that everything you put away is one less thing cluttering your house. The more you put away, the more often you’ll remember to put things away when you’re done using them. When you get up to leave a project, put it away. If you put it away in he same place each time, you won’t be tempted to leave things out in order to remember to work on them.

Unsure of “proper” storage location
This one is a biggie. If you’re not sure where something should go, how can you possibly put it away? If you set out to declutter for 15 minutes and then pick up and item and are not sure where it belongs, it can be tempting to just set it back down and let it keep being clutter.

Solution
Don’t worry about creating elaborate organizing systems just yet. Simply focus on putting like with like. Keep all your office supplies together. Paper, pencils/pens, stamps, stapler, etc. Put them neatly in a desk drawer, so you’ll always know where they are when you’re looking for them. Put batteries in one location, and keep your medications grouped together. If you’re still not sure where things “should” go, try organizing them into bins for now. If you don’t have a designated craft area, put all craft supplies (paint, glitter, scissors, stickers, etc) into a craft bin. That way, these items will have a proper home, and you’ll always know where to look for them.

Putting things away is one of the most basic aspects of decluttering, but if it were easy for everyone, we’d all have photos of our homes on Apartment Therapy. We all have reasons that make it difficult for us, but following these steps should make it easier.

What’s your biggest stumbling block when it comes to putting things away? Let us know in the comments!





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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





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.





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!





The Dream of Simplicity

18 12 2009

I have piles. Giant piles of papers. Boxes of papers from classes, research I’ve done, research I’m doing, projects I have, bills, taxes past and present, scrap paper, art paper, post its. I have piles of books that don’t fit into my bookshelves, I have piles of papers and articles in my closets just crammed on top of each other and those big giant plastic bins that are NOT see through piled on top of each other filled with more crap. My office, is in my front room. There is a constant and growing pile of papers littered on both the left and right sides of my desk from the projects I’m working on.

I have a bunch of bins that supposedly hold all of my tools and household hardware ‘thangs’. Please. I have no idea what are inside those bins. They are piled in the guest room closet.

My bedroom is a constant pile of clothes, clean clothes never make it into my closets. I have about 4 or 5 clothes baskets that you cant tell what is clean and what is dirty. My hamper is always full to the brim with dirty clothes. When people come over, I sweep the clothes off my bed, onto the floor and then shove them into my closet with the baskets piled on top of them.

I have a storage that I’ve had for about 6 years. Why? I don’t even know what is IN there aside from my camping stuff which makes sense because I live in an apartment without a garage or outside storage space. Its packed from the floor to the ceiling with … stuff. I don’t know what’s in there! Stop harassing me!

oh… sorry.

Whenever I’ve traveled out of the country, or gone on extended vacations or been somewhere for more than a few weeks, I always come back to my house wishing I could just gut this thing and start over. I look around, having lived with nothing but the clothes on my back, my computer and a few toiletries, I always think, I don’t need all this shit. Yet, somehow I hold on to it. My style is not a sleek, modern style, I’m definitely a gal who loves a little shabby chic, but messy and cluttered – NOT. However, I know there has to be a way I can marry the lessons from modern style and its simplicity to help release me from all this stuff. I’ve always been someone who believes the way that someone cares for their space is a reflection of themselves in some way. If this is my reflection, um, ew.

Its time to let go, release and get down to the simple things. I’m finding it hard to focus on my work with all these things piling up around me.





Tour of Shame

17 12 2009

This post is the equivalent of standing and being photographed in my underwear before embarking on a weight loss journey. It is humiliating. It is disgusting. But somehow, I feel it is necessary.  It is like those 400+pound people standing on the scale on Biggest Loser. The only way they can survive such exposure is the HOPE that things will change, and they will be different. That is my hope as well.

Welcome to my house.





Books Which I Have Purchased and Even Read

17 12 2009

… but which have not had a significant impact on my current situation.