Moonlighting: The Clutter Cycle

August 23, 2012

I think most readers will relate to the whirlwind times we all see in life. One day you pause and look around, only to find that you have socks in the living room, dirty dishes in the den, and piles of laundry that you can’t quite remember if they’re clean or not. Maybe there are pet-hair dust bunnies lurking about, or mail that needs to be processed. Certainly, these things are indications that it’s time to regroup.

How to go about recovery? Well, here are some of my rules when the scary light of day shines on my world. First is the mantra: No new messes. This is a commitment to stop the madness. Even if you can’t take a couple days off of work and make your home look like something from House Beautiful Magazine, at least you know it won’t get any worse.

Second is: Clean up one extra thing. So, not only have you vowed not to make any new messes, you’re taking a few seconds to make progress in the chaos.

Third is: Do what you can. Maybe you don’t have the time for a total purge and clean of the bathroom… but you have time to clean the sink. Maybe later on you can find a few minutes for the shower stall. If you keep at it, even a few minutes at a time, the bathroom will be caught up sooner than you thought. That principle works in any room you choose, and no matter how busy you are.

Fourth: Focus on what bothers you most. If seeing fingerprints on the door jamb makes your spine stiffen every time, then take a few minutes and get rid of them. Every time you see that door frame without the fingerprints, it will make you feel good and will reinforce your recovery from the Clutter Cycle.

Some people work better making a game of reclaiming their environment. A lot of these methods work really well when children are a part of the process. Pick a color, and go through the house looking for anything that color which is out of place, and put it right. Another fun one is to set a timer and have a cleaning frenzy in one room at a time, until the timer rings. Then have a cookie, or a few minutes of Frisbee as a reward, and move on to the next room. Some folks like to make progress by category: I’m not picking up anything except clothes today. Or papers. Or toys. Or stray dishes. Whatever works.

Just remember that the houses on TV and in the movies are just that – Hollywood houses. If you don’t have a live-in maid, and if you don’t have a life of complete leisure, there are going to be times that you really just hope that no one drops in to visit. You aren’t a bad person for it; you are blessed to have a life full of things that are richer than dusting your bookshelves.


© 2012, J. Cools

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