by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: Do some problem-solving when you see piles form in the same location you recently cleaned; tidying is only a temporary solution.
In the previous article about the piles that seem to form overnight on every flat surface in your home, I suggested that you look for patterns as to why and where your piles formed – as well as what were in those piles.
My piles seem to be the result when I’m working on multiple projects at one time. Whether I’m planning classes or working on craft projects, I can end up with sprawling piles faster than I can say, “Hey, I need to finish that.”
The piles clear up as I finish my planning and projects … and I’ve learned that putting stuff away can make that project “disappear” from my attention. As a generally organized person, these temporary piles cause stress.
Examining the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘why’ of my piles has made me realize that they form when I’m rotating between multiple projects. The pile isn’t the problem but a symptom of being involved in too many things at once.
This assessment makes me realize that if I see piles forming, I need to step back and pay attention to what I’m involved in.
So, if you haven’t already, I’d suggest a walk around your home noticing where different piles have formed and what these piles contain. Otherwise, your decluttering efforts will merely be a temporary cure.
Avoid the Piles
Clearing away piles is a time-consuming pain. By the time you clear them away, chances are that they’ve been nagging you for a while. Preventing the piles requires less effort, but, alas, considerable intention to avoid piling things
Put It Away - Now
Piles are often the result of not putting stuff away. Yes, it’s easy to convince yourself that putting things away takes time that you don’t have in the moment. However, once you set something down, it becomes easier to excuse adding to that pile because, “you’ll take care of it later.”
When “later” rolls around, you’re faced with a pile of stuff that involves identifying what each piece is, figuring out where it belongs, and then putting away the components of the pile. What could have been done here and there in twenty or so seconds now drags on for a couple of mind-numbing hours.
Clear Surfaces Every Evening
Piles happen. Take a few minutes at the end of the day to move through the house and put away any items that have accumulated on flat surfaces (including the floor). One piece of mail left on the kitchen counter is a pile in the making as is the shirt that you throw over the back of a chair, not to mention, (at least in my case) the ball of yarn and crochet hook I’ve left on the seat of the couch.
Throw It Out
You finish reading your magazine but instead of dropping it into recycling you leave it on the coffee table just in case you want to flip through it later. I often find that I’ll move something that I want to get rid of to a different location, putting it into limbo for no good reason.
Create a handy “donation” box where you can set things you want to donate. Chances are these things won’t go out the door immediately, so if you decide you want it, it’s there; but, likely, you won’t go looking for it.
And, clearing surfaces every evening will catch the daily paper clutter.
Create a System
Although having systems sound fussy, they really just come down to knowing what to do with something. Taking off your coat and knowing that you’ll put it on a hanger and put that hanger in the coat closet by your front door is a simple system.
Tossing your junk mail the moment you walk into your home and putting the rest of the mail in the basket on the corner of your kitchen counter so you can go through it on Friday evening is another system. Knowing that you’ll clean last year’s paperwork out of your file cabinet on the first Saturday in January is a system.
Creating a system involves asking some simple questions. What do I want to do with this? Where do I want to store this so I can find it when I need it? When will I do this task? How often does this task need to get done? And, perhaps most important, do I really need to keep this?
Use Organizing Tools
Organizing tools – baskets, file organizers, in boxes, etc. – will not organize you. Too many people think that color-coded files (or some other gadget) will solve their organizing issues. Alas, these inanimate objects will mock you with their unused presence.
Using organizing tools can help you, but first you need to declutter so you can see what you’re trying to organize. Organizing things that you don’t need wastes your time, money, attention, and energy!
Remember, decluttering and organizing will only temporarily clear your piles. Habits and systems will maintain the order. In my new eBook, Conquer the Mess Your Way: Your Guide to Making Decluttering Work for You, I cover several techniques for maintaining your hard-won order at home as well as “invisible decluttering” techniques that help you clear the piles without devoting your weekend to decluttering. You can purchase the eBook on Amazon.
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The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).