Whenever I meet with a new client, we take a tour of her house and she shares the issues she has been having with clutter and disorganization. I almost always hear the phrase: “I just don’t know where to start.”
She can see the stuff covering her house, but she can’t see her way through it.
She knows she needs to declutter and downsize, but whenever she has attempted to do so in the past, she finds herself walking back and forth through different rooms, shifting things from table tops to shelves, from shelves to bins, from bins to table tops.
Does this sound familiar?
Spending an entire weekend working on your house with nothing to show for is frustrating! When you make changes without a real plan, those changes don’t really change anything.
Let’s Not Run in Circles
Before I even attempt to help her decide anything, I ask her to take some time to put things back where they belong. Let me give you an example…
Adrienne was hopelessly frustrated with her kitchen. During our first consultation she showed me her entire house, but continually returned to the kitchen.
Her biggest desire was for more counter space. If only she had more counter space everything would be easier!
She was convinced that her only hope was to buy a rolling kitchen cart. But her husband didn’t think it was worth the money. (She was secretly hoping I would take her side and give her ammunition to win over her husband!)
Start With Counter Space
I told her to do one thing first: Clear the counters. Put all the kitchen stuff where it belongs. Anything that didn’t belong in the kitchen was temporarily placed in a bin on her dining room table.
Working together it took us a little over an hour. When we were done, all of the dishes were washed, dried, and they fit nicely into the cabinets. All of the food fit nicely into the fridge and pantry.
When everything that didn’t belong in the kitchen was removed, her usable counter space had more than doubled!
She was shocked at the improvement. But more importantly her anxiety dissipated.
Freedom that Comes with Clear Counter Space
The urgency, the hopelessness, the frazzled confusion she was feeling while complaining about her counters was gone. She no longer felt lost and frustrated because the problem areas had become clear. The only real problem with her counter space was that she had too many small appliances.
When we looked in the bin on the dining room table, we saw that most of the stuff that had been smothering her counters were:
- office supplies
- household tools
- kids’ homework.
Having that clarity meant she could make an effective plan.
Now We Can Start Planning!
Adrienne knew exactly what to do.
She would chat with her husband and choose a few appliances to delete.
She needed a mail sorting station, and I helped her organize one.
We also talked about strategies for getting her kids to put their stuff away. (This meant she had to set a good example putting her own stuff away.)
Of course, changing those habits wouldn’t be easy, but her motivation was strong because she knew without a doubt that it would give her counter space.
When I first arrived, Adrienne felt overwhelmed, lost, and about to lose hope.
After just one hour, and the simple act of tidying up, she was confidently making her own decisions.
Her counters didn’t control her, she controlled her counters! And she never mentioned a kitchen cart again.
Decluttering Doesn’t Always Come First
If you have been toying with the idea of de-cluttering and downsizing, but you feel blinded by scattered stuff and you want to see your way ahead, take this simple first step: Put your belongings where they belong.
It doesn’t have to be everything all at once. Just pick the most obnoxious corner of your home and start putting away the easiest stuff.
If you come across something that doesn’t really have a “correct place” yet, temporarily pop them in a bin. Don’t try to make any decisions, just clear the path a little.
When you take the time to put your stuff away, the same three things will happen to you:
Your anxiety will ease, because you will see the problems clearly, which will enable you to make an effective plan.
And that is more than half the battle!
Win Even More Battles at Home
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