Friday, June 15, 2012

The Tortoise and Hare Conundrum

You remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  Slow and steady wins the race, right?  I am a few weeks into my quest to organize and simplify, right now.  On the inside, I want to be like the hare--I just want to zip around and do everything, take care of it all, get it all done NOW!!!  The problem with this is, of course, that I'm in danger of burning myself out when I do this.  I have seen it happen to me before in so many areas--not just home organization.  There have been many years of homeschooling in which I have gotten us involved in too many things, or attempted to do way too much.  These years have brought burnout and guilt.  I won't say "failure" because I wouldn't call setting unrealistic goals and not meeting them "failure." But guilt is most definitely a byproduct of this formula.

 The other part of me wants to just keep it up slow and steady.  Work a little every day and slowly see things coming together.  But the "hare" inside me keeps telling me that it's not enough.  It's not fast enough.  I'm not making enough progress.  The progress that I am making is going to be destroyed as always because I won't be able to maintain it.  All the books I have read and even programs I have followed in the past have said that you can't do it overnight.  So, I have resolved to go ahead and keep plugging away at things slowly.  I am trying to make new habits, to look at things differently.  I am learning to look at the things that enter my home with a view to how this item will affect the space it will occupy.  Will it push something else out of the way?  Will it become lost in a pile of things I don't really need?  I am honestly trying to develop new habits.  This can't really be done the "hare'" way.  It's slow and steady wins the race, slow and steady wins the race, slow and steady wins the race.  Thus the new habits will be instilled in me (and hopefully the rest of the family as well).  I press on towards the goal I have set, and I see character building opportunities all around me!  :)

All this to say that I truly can see the improvements, slowly coming to light.  I smile when I open my kitchen cabinets and drawers and see less stuff.  I can find things again.  It's easier to see where things actually go!  Yesterday, I finished cleaning off my husband's small desk which is tucked into a little corner of the kitchen.  I threw away tons of clutter, much of it things I was thinking I would "get to later." Now the desk is serving it's function again, which is to provide a surface upon which to work.  It had been weeks since my husband could actually put his laptop directly on the desk!  Now it feels so good to have let go of all of that stuff.

 The biggest challenge for me right now, really, is getting the kids to help keep things picked up.  I'm also trying to balance being the mom who encourages creative play (building forts, playing make believe, etc) with keeping things picked up and organized.  Does anyone out there have any ideas?   Most of the time, I try to let the kids create and build and be free (yes, they still have to do work and chores), and then we will have massive cleaning times once or twice per week.  How do I balance the creativity with also keeping a pretty neat home (with no good places to really leave forts and other creations for long periods of time--we'd be tripping over them too much)?  I'm beginning to think that those two things don't really go together.  I would rather have happy, creative kids than a home I can "be proud of."  I really do feel that I can still declutter, which will help us at those cleaning sprees to put things where they belong and not have to cram loads of things that aren't useful in along with the things that we really care about or want.  More thoughts on that soon.  If anyone has ideas for me, let me know.

 We're off to Florida for two weeks of vacation!  I hope to have lots of time to write from there! 

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:12-14

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Ugly Truth

I have to face the ugly truth: I am a "hard-core hoarder" according to Peter Walsh's clutter quiz in the book It's All Too Much.  Mr. Walsh is the professional organizer from the TV show "Clean Sweep." I picked his book up at the library as extra help in my mission to simplify.  It sounds kind of harsh to me to be labeled "hoarder" when I really feel more like a "victim of clutter," which was another possible result for the quiz.  I'm thinking now that this is probably more like admitting the fact that I truly have a problem as the first step necessary to actually reach the "cure." It's kind of like an alcoholic admitting aloud before witnesses that he is an alcoholic and then taking the steps towards healing. 

So here it is out in the open: I AM A HARD-CORE HOARDER!!  Yuck yucky yuck yuck!!  The good news is that I have a plan and I *am* making progress.  Even my husband has noticed the improvements in the kitchen.   Sometimes progress seems so slow, and other times it seems to be amazing what I can accomplish in just 1/2 hour per day. I spent the last few sessions getting some of the kitchen drawers cleaned out and organized.  I am brainstorming about what to do with things I really do need but don't have a good, convenient and accessible place for.  One of these categories is chargers for things (phones, cameras, etc.).  

Now, I do feel that I am a victim of clutter to a certain extent due to the fact that I can be organizing and decluttering over in one area of the house, and my 9 wonderfully creative and exuberant children are in another area of the house creating art, forts, ransacking drawers, leaving towels and dirty clothes strewn on the floor, etc.  I think this is one of the reasons I scored high enough to be labeled "hoarder." However, I will readily admit that much of the junk that is pulled off shelves or out of drawers during fort-making escapades is due to my tendency to hang onto things "just in case."

Mr. Walsh's book has a chapter describing 9 excuses we hoarders tend to use to justify hanging onto our stuff.  I find myself guilty of using all of them at one time or another.  Here are the excuses:
1. "I might need it one day."
2.  "It's too important to let go."
3. "I can't get rid of it--it's worth a lot of money."
4.  "My house is too small." I can add, "I don't have enough closet space."
5. "I don't have the time."
6. "I don't know how it got like this."
7. "Its not a problem--my husband/child/etc. just thinks it is."
8. "It isn't mine (it's my dad's sister's husband's, etc)"
9. "It's too overwhelming."
10. Insert your own excuse if you have one.  How about "I have 9 children and live on a farm"?

Since, of course, to some extent the children are a part of our clutter problem,  I would like to get my kids on board as well. I plan to have them spend 1/2 hour cleaning their room with the goal of getting rid of things that are cluttering their areas and weighing them down.  My children are very good at cleaning up a room in a jiffy, but the problem is that often they are just "hiding" the clutter by jamming things into drawers or closets, and not really getting rid of things.  We are all guilty of the same problem--saving too many things!!

Even after reading through the excuses and admitting my problem, I continue to be surprised by my deep unwillingness to let things go.  I am not a materialistic woman!  What is my problem??  Part of it is that sentimentality.  I tend to hang onto things that were gifts.  I like to keep cards that people send to me.  I can't bear to part with a bit of art work a child has made.  This can add up to a lot of clutter when I consider the number of children who make precious art around here!!  I am trying to get better at throwing away art work after shooting a picture of it that I can put in an album.  I do save the special ones.  It is a delicate dance of the psyche to make myself decide which things are actually the special ones to keep!  I remind myself that I really don't want the children to have to deal with mounds of this stuff when Todd and I are not here anymore.  Just the few, simple things. I am planning to get each child a clear rubbermaid container in which to store these special things so I can give it to them later or at least let them look through it when they are older and decide for themselves what they want to keep.

As I work with the children, I will have to encourage them to do the same.  It is very interesting how their different personalities shine through when I look at their spaces in our home.  All the children except for the baby share a large room upstairs in our house.  So each child has a section in one of two closets as well as his or her own bed.  The oldest 6 children have desks to put their things in/on, and each has a few rubbermaid containers in which to store things.  There are also two drawer storage towers in the room with 6 baskets each in them for storage.  I have a couple of very neat children and a bunch of "messies!"  I have friends who have a child who lives to organize spaces.  I am not sure we have been blessed with anyone like that in our home.  If so, that is a latent gift!  :)  

I will post some pictures of the kids' spaces as well.  They will do a great job, I'm sure.  I may have to give out awards for pounds of stuff to give/throw away.  

By the way, I am open to suggestions on how to go about this journey.  So if anyone has ideas for me, let me know!