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Where To Start?

Most of us are busy people, busy with work, busy with play, busy with our communities and friends and families. We look at our homes and think "Oh my gawd, there is no way I can get this clutter under control without spending weeks working on it full time!" It's so easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly vast distance between the way things are now in your life and the calm, clear, open life we'd like to be enjoying.

Sarah wrote:

I have a tiny house, and 3 generations worth of clutter. I need an action plan, especially as it's getting hot and I'm longing for long breezy vistas. Any game plan on where to start in the house? Has anyone here tried removing Everything from a room and putting things in from scratch?

I think taking everything single thing out of a room could just wind up being an enormous chore at the end of a day of which you might have one mostly empty room and the rest of the house worse off than when you started. However, the underlying idea is a good one.

There is a tremendous power in having a space where you can relax and not be bothered by the sight of undone chores and random junk. That island of sanity can be your goal and, soon, your touchstone for the kind of life you want to be living.

The first place to start is in stillness at your favorite time of day. Turn off the tv and the radio. If you share your home, get the other residents in on the project or out of your way. Set down whatever you're holding. Just walk through your house looking not at the clutter, but at the spaces, at the light. See through the contents to the place. Is there a view through a window which you particularly like? or a special corner where the sunlight makes patterns and warmth? a quiet corner or a central spot in the action which you love? We're not talking about remodeling here, so begin with the bones and breath of your existing space. Find the place that matters most to you and begin with that. Getting the clutter and chaos out of your life is hard; you deserve a big reward right up front.

Now, if it makes you feel good and pampered, get yourself a drink - cup of good tea, glass of wine, hot cocoa, whatever pleases your sense of smell and taste - and put on some of your favorite music to please your ears.

Look at your chosen space. What is keeping you from enjoying it to the fullest right now? Maybe the right furniture isn't there. If it's going to be your reading nook and there's no chair and no good lamp and no handy bookcase, that's got to change. If it's going to be your writing space and there's a tv where your desk ought to be, that's won't do at all. Or maybe the furniture is there, but it's crowded in by other furniture, knick knacks, magazines and flotsam.

In either case, some things have to change. Take a look at this suggestion I gave to someone planning to move and perform that kind of sweep on just your chosen area. Instead of "Unpack First", label a box "Better Place" for things that you still want out somewhere, just not here. Instead of "Unpack Soon", label a box "Storage" and today's date. Instead of "Borderline", label a box "Keep?". "Charity" is still a good name for the last box. Remember: the goal is to clear your chosen space. If you can't decide about something, put it in the "Keep?" box.

When you're done, tape the "Storage" box(es) closed. If in two years, they're still taped closed, you should open them and transfer everything in them to trash, recycling or charity. Maybe there's some old family heirloom that goes back into a box with a new date, but if you haven't even looked at this stuff in two years, odds are good you don't really want it. (By the way, if you think you might want something out of that storage box, or you have a lot of them, go ahead and write contents on the side. It's much easier to read boxes than to open them at random and paw through them).

Move the "Better Place" and "Keep?" boxes to somewhere else in the house. Unpacking them will be your next project after you have your lovely chosen space.

Now look at your new territory again. Better, yes? Does it have the wrong furniture in it? This is the time to start doing your furniture rearranging - not before you got rid of the clutter, you see, because if you get bogged down now at least you got that crap out of the way and you've made some progress. Also, if you're moving furniture out of the way here - whether to another room or to storage or out to the curb - before you bring the proper furniture in, clean up your chosen space. Dust, sweep, wipe down. Make it not just uncluttered, but fresh.

If you don't have exactly the right piece of furniture yet, see if you have something close to serve as a placeholder for what you really want. Partway to your dream is still a good direction to be heading.

Say now, look at that. Your space.

Enjoy it. Defend it against encroachment. Start your housecleaning here so that it's always the nicest spot. From this new castle you will plan your next campaign, or maybe just have the peace of mind to ignore the rest of the mess for a while.

Posted on May 11, 2004 | Permalink

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