Clean It Up

Rosalene Bowler
November 29, 2022

Odds are you have at least one designated space of your own that you're responsible to keep organized and clean. It could be a backpack and its contents, a bedroom, an office, or all the former plus an entire house and a car. This can be exhausting and sometimes disheartening, especially if there are other people who “adjust” your space now and then, adding clutter and chaos to your organized (or maybe disorganized) space.

You’re not alone!

I’m the CEO of my home, and I have a husband, a baby, and a cat that seem to do their very best to “adjust” my mopped floors and cleared countertops to their own standards just as soon as they see them. In the past, I’ve tried ripping my hair out to solve this never-ending problem, but that hasn’t worked. I don’t advise it.

What has helped, however, is the advice I’ll share with you here. The first 2 are from the book 10 Time Management Choices That Can Change Your Life by Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims. I won’t share all the advice, only the points that have been most helpful for me.

1.       “Do it carelessly. If perfectionism is holding you back, just do it, maybe even in a deliberately slipshod way to break the hold perfectionism has on you.”

I find this particularly helpful when the table is covered with groceries, dishes, homework, toys, and other creative additions my family members have generously shared with it. Even if I’m in a rush to clean the baby’s play area while he’s napping, finish a homework assignment, and get the chicken cooked for dinner, I can give myself permission to get the table just a little cleared off. With the food put away, the homework in a pile and my husband’s computer tools on the papers, the table is still cluttered, but now functional. I don’t bother to wipe it off or clear it completely.

Later when I’m feeling less rushed, it’s easy to put the piles away and wipe off the table surface. I use this same advice for when I see my victory garden dying in my yard—I water the plants that seem to need it the most, and I leave the others. The magical part is how I always seem to remember that I need to finish the job later, and I do, feeling less stressed.

2.       “Act as if. Become an actor and pretend you are an achiever who can and will do the task that awaits you.”

Perhaps I take this one a little too literally, but it makes it more fun. I can go all out with it now, since my baby and the cat don’t tattle on me, but I’m sure I’ll have to reign it in a little once my child realizes his mom’s behavior is a bit too strange. We’ll deal with that later.

There are lots of people I pretend to be to get stuff cleaned up. My favorites are Tony Stark, Mary Poppins, and Gandalf. I even imagine that there are other people I can order around with me, and I have quite a blast blaming them for making the messes, getting pent up frustration out, and cleaning the mess up. You should try it sometime when you’re alone. It’s fun, and you don’t have to confess to anyone that you do it (in an article that’s destined to be sent to LOTS of people). What do you have to lose?

This last tip is from Marie Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.

3.       “When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish. To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not by place.”

I used to hunt the house over for dark-inked pens that worked well, but I had 3 locations for pens and most of them were gifts and had neon-colored ink. The same was true for my husband’s tool collections, our cord collections, and our book stacks.

Recently, my wonderful husband bought me some shelves, and now we have a box for our cords and a shelf for our books. I scavenged for all his tools, and now they live happily in the toolbox. I have a small pen box in my desk with almost all the blue and black pens from the house, and the neon ones, the colored pencils, markers, and lead pencils are in their own box on a shelf.

I know that if I were to follow Marie Kondo’s method completely then most of those things listed (and most of the things on the shelves) wouldn’t be there at all, but I’m not ready to commit completely to that yet. For now, baby steps are enough.

That’s all for today, my friends. Pick one of these 3 items of advice and give it a try! Your space will be cleaner, and you’ll be able to better focus on your work and play.

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