by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: If your family's inclination is to drop certain items in the same place all the time, maybe that's the spot to place products that will organize items in that location.
Piles seem convenient. What you want is right there. Somewhere, there-ish.
I don’t know about you, but the stuff in my piles call out to me – “Do this!” “No, do this!” “Hey, don’t forget about me!!!”
Although leaving things in piles is my default (is it yours too?), those piles are exhausting. They usually tell me that I’m trying to do too many things while reminding that I’m getting nothing done.
Even if you think you know where stuff is in those piles, they still cause stress. For one, you probably struggle to find things. And it’s sooooo frustrating to think something should be right there, in the pile you’ve just shuffled through seven times.
And, two, piles look messy. The piles of paper that form while I’m working on a project create stress – for me. I’m not just talking paperwork; somehow my craft projects can go from organized to sprawled over the couch in a mere hour.
What Causes those Piles of Stuff?
Piles form when you set something down and then other things join this occupied space. If you put the thing down intentionally, in the place where you want it, then, no problem (maybe).
But, how often do you set things down “for the moment?” I’ve discovered that my moments can last weeks (and occasionally, months). Why do those moments last (and last)?
Usually, it’s a matter of not knowing what to do with something. Do I want to get rid of that pair of cocktail glasses? While mulling over my answer, they collect dust on a corner of my kitchen counter. I know the answer, that’s why I took them out of the cabinet, but I hesitate.
(Why? We don’t host parties where we serve alcohol; the most we’ll have in the house is beer or wine – and not regularly; and I’ve never had a guest ask for a cocktail glass.)
And, those albums that I want to scan all those print pictures? Because I didn’t decide when I would tackle this task, they sat and sat in a stack.
Piles – of paper, clothing, or any other objects – usually form when you don’t what to do with something. Maybe steps are required to complete a task. You need to think through the next step and when you’ll do it. Maybe you don’t know how to do the job, or you need to wait for someone else’s assistance.
Or perhaps piles require some decision-making. Where should I keep this? Should I toss or donate this?
You might leave something out in the open thinking it will act as a reminder; and, it probably will, but when you see this task-in-waiting it can add to your stress about a project that needs to be completed.
Identifying What You Pile and Where You Pile It
I’ll discuss resolving your piles in the next article. What I want you to do over the next couple of days is to notice what you pile and where those piles form. You don’t have to put away stuff in those piles just yet. First, ask yourself some problem-solving questions:
For each pile, ask:
Look for Patterns of Piling
Don’t go crazy analyzing each pile. Basically, you want to look for patterns. For example, you realize that you don’t have space in your closet to hang up the clothing sitting in a pile on a chair and you can’t file your papers because your file cabinet is bursting.
Not having the space to put things away means that you’ll want to focus on decluttering these areas or you’ll never resolve your problem of dropping things in piles.
If you keep telling yourself that you don’t have time to deal with things, then the solution is to designate a time to put things away. No, that isn’t an easy thing to do. You’re not asking yourself to tackle a one-time task but to form a habit.
I’ll discuss habits that can help you avoid piles in the next article. In the meantime, my new eBook, Conquer the Mess Your Way: Your Guide to Making Decluttering Work for You, shows you over twenty methods for tackling your clutter so you can use the techniques that work best for you.
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The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).