Where to start...

dawnpOctober 4, 2011

First, let me say that I really enjoy reading this forum and occasionally post.

I am wondering if this ever happens to any of you. On a day where I am motivated to start cleaning a drawer or a closet out, I get very anxious and overwhelmed thinking about all the other rooms in the home. It's hard to explain. Instead of focusing on one thing, I think of EVERYTHING need to clean out and organize. Then, I will sit down and do something else because I'm so overwhelmed! Not productive.

My home, on the surface, is minimaly cluttered, but the closets, some drawers, my craft room, basement, and attic have so many things stored in them. My heart beats faster just thinking about it all.

Does anyone else feel this way?

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I just wanted to add that it is not overwhelming thinking of parting with things - just about havin so much to do!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 1:26PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

I hear you and certainly understand. Been there, done that. Still doing that.

They tell me that Rome was not built in one day and to just concentrate and think One drawer at a time.

Good luck. I hope others have answers.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 5:02PM
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Maybe the session you create is still too intense , so it's the drawer- anxiety that makes your brain skeeter away. Try setting an even smaller goal. Also may try happy music or favorite radio show or low- key video for company and too keep part of your mind distracted.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 5:44PM
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That's a common problem. One thing that helps is to set a timer and say "I'm going to clean this drawer for 15 minutes".

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 10:25PM
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The way I look at decluttering, is that it took years to collect and store all those things so you don't have to get it sorted in a week, or a month, it really is a process. Everytime you toss something or fill a box for charity, or declutter a drawer or cupboard, that is success, and one drawer leads to another drawer, before you know it a cupboard is cleared out, and after a bit, you have a whole room decluttered and organised. Bit by bit it all adds up but it does take time and when you start thinking about the big picture and getting overwhelmed, just bring yourself back to the task at hand and set yourself goals that you can achieve.

You don't have to be perfect at decluttering either, because the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more ruthless you'll get with it. Starting is the hardest thing, just start small and build up your success with it, and allow yourself to feel good about every small success along the way because that will keep motivating you.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 11:10PM
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Flylady gave me the answer to this. She has a website (Flylady net) and a book, "Sink Reflections." Both give the same advice. Start by emptying your kitchen sink and clean it completely (make it shine), then move to cleaning your kitchen, then slowly add other rooms. My house has three floors (a split level, not a huge house) so I try to clean one level a week. That's a whiole lot easier than looking at my whole house and saying "Where do I start?"

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:58AM
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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I guess it really is a matter of consciously forcing the thoughts of "everything" that has to be done out of my head. I will work on this.

It just feels so endless. But, you're right, Trancegemini, I did not collect it all in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. It is going to take time. Of course, that is on top of housework and all the other things I have to do in a day!

I actually have done some Flylady, Jannie, and I find that setting a timer and just working for a few minutes really has been helpful. I use it primarily for cleaning up daily clutter - mail, empty dishwasher, etc. It seems like her site is more focused on living areas of the home where my problem is the closets, basement etc like I mentioned before. I'm sure I could adapt her system to my needs if I work on it.

Thanks again everyone! I'll let you know how it goes!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 9:37PM
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Dawn I can totally relate to that. I find I get that way even with decorating. If I do this then I might need x but then q might be better but then again, maybe y is the one? So it goes full circle with no accomplishments. A while ago I got into the mindset that ANY step forward was the right one and that helped me immensely. I really did a lot. I need to get back to that mindset because it worked for me, and it IS true. Progress is progress.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 2:37PM
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my problem is the closets, basement etc

Again, just do one at a time. And arrange your decisions so they are always binary: yes or no ... If you try to do a multiple factor sort ... keep / fix and keep / donate / trash ... you will end up paralysed in the decisions on what pile to put things in.

Take everything out of one closet or small area of basement and clean the shelves, vacuum, etc.

FIRST: do a sort to get the trash out (a yes/no decision "is this trash"). This gets rid of things you don't want to handle any more.

NEXT: Do a second sort for "is this currently worn or in use in this household" and put that stuff back neatly on the shelves. Put duplicates and related items together, perhaps in small boxes to corral the clutter. Anything way out of place, like the hammer in the kid's closet, goes in a box to be replaced later. Don't leave the area to replace one thing ... the last thing you do is take the box of displaced stuff and distribute it where it's supposed to be.

NOTE: I did this on an overflowing laundry cupboard, and by the time I had tossed the broken and dried-out stuff and special cleansers for things we didn't have, like marble, and corraled the light bulbs and shoe care into bins there was plenty of room. Using up the duplicates made even more room.

LAST: You now have a pile of stuff that either needs repair or it doesn't. However, anything in the pile either doesn't fit anyone or you have no use for anymore because of changing lifestyle.

Do one last sort into boxes as "needs fixing" and "can be used as-is". I set the immediately usable stuff in one spot for whatever charity calls me next with a pickup date, and the things that could be fixed but I don't have the parts or skill or desire go to Freecycle or Craigslist as "fix it and it's yours".

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 3:12PM
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I do "five at a time." I either give myself 5 minutes, or set a goal to pick up 5 things. I got through my entire basement in 3 months doing this. It was a WRECK when I started, with over 15 years of accumulated junk. By throwing away or giving away 5 things a day, and straightening up 5 minutes a day, I got it entirely cleaned out.

I just tell myself FIVE AT A TIME over and over while I'm working so I stay focused.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:14PM
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Five at a time does work. My bedroom dresser had become a dumping ground for receipts, jewelry, photos, all sorts of things I couldn't throw out. I looked at it and just "guessed" there were 150 random objects on it. I decided if I removed 5 items a day, I would be finished in a month. I started on a Friday, by Sunday it actually looked better, I just kept going and finished the whole darn thing in three days!!!I simply picked up one thing at a time, then threw it away or put it where it belonged.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 3:02PM
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@dawnp, I can totally relate. The only thing that works for me in those instances is having someone help me.

I seem to become frozen and can't move forward. I'm not afraid to part with things but I become paralyzed at the overwhelmingness of it all. I too start to think of everything that needs to be done.

If someone is here to keep me on track the project will go much better (usually my Mom comes to help or my husband has taken days off for big projects too). I need someone else to keep me focused or I get overwhelmed and don't finish.

My second baby was very difficult (at least for me). He cried 24/7 for 4 months straight and became a challenging toddler. He is SO much better now (5-1/2) but I fell into depression and everything seemed like "too much" for a long time. I think depression definitely contributes to the overwhelmed feeling.

I am just now coming into the light again and trying to get our home back in order. It sounds dramatic but everything just fell apart.

I am slowly making my way around the house but for major organization I need back up or I just freeze.

We tackled my eldest son's room on the weekend and it felt great. My husband and both kids helped to go through all the toys and pack up what he no longer needed and organize what was left. His room hadn't had a good scrub in far too long. It looks wonderful now!

I have so many more projects to tackle ...

I have found great inspiration in a few blogs. These ladies are incredibly organized and I am taking many of their ideas and implementing them.



Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:12PM
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Five at a time does work. My bedroom dresser had become a dumping ground for receipts, jewelry, photos, all sorts of things I couldn't throw out. I looked at it and just "guessed" there were 150 random objects on it. I decided if I removed 5 items a day, I would be finished in a month. I started on a Friday, by Sunday it actually looked better, I just kept going and finished the whole darn thing in three days!!!I simply picked up one thing at a time, then threw it away or put it where it belonged.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 6:01PM
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Wow, you all have such great ideas and input. Thank you!

Sheilaus - Yup, that's me too. Decorating and organizing ADD! I really like that thought that ANY step forward is good. I think that's important! I think I get in the mode to organize and then want it all done at once. I just wish had the time/energy to stay working on it everyday until it is all done.

Jannie and Mommabird -It is encouraging to hear what you all did "5 at a time". I am going to set a goal for myself to spend a few"5" minutes each day as you all have suggested. This has to be above and beyond the daily duties. Otherwise, I am just treading water. I will think of you when I am doing it.

LazyGardens - Thank you for your detailed suggestions. I especially like the idea of not putting something out of place in an area where it belongs one at a time. I do get distracted that way!

Livebetter - I'm glad you're doing better. Of course you got off track! A crying baby is VERY stressful. I do think getting someone to help is good. I think my young adult daughter would be my best helper or a friend. DH definitely doesn't have the patience! Thank you for the blog links. I will definitely check them out!

Do you think that going through each room and making a list of organizing tasks that need to be tackled is helpful? Sometimes when I sit down to go on the computer I conveniently "forget" what has to be done. Then, when I open that closet or whatever, I "remember"! That list might be a good reminder of where I could spend a few minutes before I get lost on Gardenweb. :)

Thanks again everyone! I'll be checking back in.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 11:47PM
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I just overcame the problem of "where to start" in the back yard, something that has been overwhelming me for some time. I went out and of all the things to make decisions about and all the areas I could start in, I zeroed in on one thing where I knew what I wanted to do - move the compost bin. Once I did that, I looked at the newly opened space and decided what to do with that. And that, in turn, took me to another open space, another task, and as I went, decisions I'd been mulling over indefinitely suddenly had clear answers as options opened up that I had never considered before. I suddenly hit on a name for what I had done... I had unleashed a cascade. Every task that I completed opened up new options: now here's a space for that pot, for that plant, and now it's clear I don't need this or where I should keep that... and I have finally completed some things that have been on my plate for YEARS.

It's not the first time I've set a cascade in motion, of course, one always does with an organizing decision. For example, I was looking for some screws yesterday to hang up a hose hanger in the front yard (15 years overdue!) and I went to my 2 nail-and screw-organizing boxes that I bought a couple of years ago. As I quickly located the screws I needed, it struck me that much of what I've been able to achieve in the house - to the degree I've had any success getting the house under control - can be attributed back to having those nail-and-screw-organizing boxes. Every drawer, surface, or box I used to clear out used to end with me facing a plethora of odd screws and other hardware that I was at a loss what to do with, and so I often didn't quite finish clearing things, and each emptied drawer seemed to leave me with a new jar of "odds and ends." I sorted all those jars into my organizing boxes. And once I had my screws organized, I could always find one that I needed, and this has allowed me to accomplish many other small tasks that had previously seemed overwhelming. So that too had been a cascade-starter, but it had unfolded so slowly I hadn't really perceived the outcomes.

This past month in the garden is probably the first time in my life I have had the leisure to follow the cascade fairly quickly, as well as having the determination not to be derailed. Usually I am derailed by a constraint on my time or my space related to family, neighbours, what have you. For example, my husband hates it when I leave "stuff" on the patio and nags me to clear it, which always leads to me compromising the areas I'm working on. This time I insisted that stuff stay on the patio (it's a "staging area," I said) until I worked my way back to it. That worked since I have enough control over my time now to be sure I could do it within a few weeks at most.

If I had to cull some advice out of this success, I think it would be this: start with the one thing where you have the highest degree of certainty. That one task will enable you to do something else, often something you can't see yet until that first task is done. At the outset I knew only that I had a problem organizing my nails and screws, and that I had to move the compost bin and where I wanted it to go.

The cascade has an energy of its own that helps you keep up the momentum, and also, each action unleashes more than one option. So even set-backs and unexpected barriers can be handled. For example, as soon as I started using my new composter, the raccoons found it and dug in, making a big mess. It took me actually a couple of weeks to resolve that, but it didn't frustrate me because I could continue working on other tasks that had been "unleashed" while I kept coming back to deal with the compost bin as necessary.

Even when I wasn't positive the next option was the final solution, I did it anyway just to keep things moving, and the odd time I even went back a step to change something I'd done earlier. It was all about keeping moving, making some decision rather than being paralyzed. Nothing in house or garden is permanent anyway, so one has to come to terms with that.

So whether you can go fast or slow, see if you can start and follow the cascade that you unleash!

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: similar to my organizing boxes - mine are Black and Decker

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 1:45PM
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Here's a quote that I found in Oprah magazine; I keep it beside my computer to encourage me when I get stuck:

"Tiny steps allow action to slip through the cracks in your anxiety." Martha Beck

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 4:58PM
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Movement breeds motivation. Choose ONE thing. Just one however small thing to do, and do it. Once you start going, one thing should lead to another. Don't focus on the big picture. Just do that one small thing you've decided to do. The amount of satisfaction you will get at having accomplished your goal will motivate you to do more..even if it is just one more small thing. Maybe you could focus on cleaning off one shelf in a closet. Tell yourself you will clean and organize one shelf. Bet you don't stop there! You'll see how good that felt to get it done, and do another!

Do just ONE thing.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 8:36AM
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I saw that same concept on Hoarders yesterday. they showed a "Hoarders" marathon. It's my secret vice. I'm a hoarder by nature but have been able to keep on top of things. Right now my 23 YO college daughter is my sidekick. I keep the clutter down and she deep-cleans the entire house once a week. Anyhow, on Hoarders, they interviewed an older woman (maybe 60, not elderly)and told her. "We'll show you one item at a time, you need to gve us an immediate one-word answer" (yes or no). She managed to get her home organized and get her estranged daughter to move back in with her.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 11:35AM
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Iread06 - I LOVE that quote. It is so true! I have really been thinking about it over the past couple of weeks.

jeaninwa- What you posted really does help me. I will try to focus on ONE THING. If I can only get one thing done on any given day,then I guess that's Ok. It's so much better than getting overwhlemed and doing NOTHING! As I mentioned before, I need to do that one thing everyday which doesn't always happen.

Jannie - I watch that show too. I just can't stomach it when the homes are really disgusting - filled with rotting food or dead animals. Thank you for the yes/no suggestion. It's a good one and I will use it.

I cleaned out my bathroom drawers yesterday. It probably took me an hour but I did manyage to get them organized and I tossed/put on freecycle a bunch of things that I purchased but no longer use. I was happy with my progress and what got me started was iread06's quote and the other suggestions.

Now, today, I have been busy with other things and it's already 3:30 but I am going to tackle that ONE THING!

Thanks everyone. I have been going back and re-reading all of your responses. You have really helped me!


    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 3:40PM
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