“I’ve got to get this place cleaned up before my company arrives.”
That is a collection of words with a remarkable range of meaning. For one person, it means sweeping fresh cut grass off of the front steps, arranging wildflowers in a vase, and washing the dishes they used to prepare a homemade feast for twenty. For someone else, it means, “Does anybody have the number for that Hoarders show?”
Most of us, of course, fall somewhere in the middle. Most of the people I work with have more stuff than they have space, so this isn’t actually about simply dusting or running a vacuum. There isn’t an organizing system strong enough to make 600 marbles fit in a soup can. This isn’t even about cleaning, at least not at first. For lots of us, it’s about living beyond our means, and to bring it back into balance, we have to find a way to reduce the volume.
Let’s pretend we are in a room together, looking at a bookcase. It is the kind of book case that holds 40 books and eight trinkets perfectly. When those items are thoughtfully arranged, it looks attractive and inviting, and maintaining it (or keeping it attractive and inviting) is easy. Now, let’s imagine that we have 60 books, 25 trinkets, and three stacks of miscellaneous papers to put on that same book case. Clearly, it doesn’t work as well.
We may not actually be able to get all of that safely onto the bookcase, but let’s, for the sake of this conversation, pretend that we can. Then, when we want a book, we will probably have a hard time finding it, and when we do, retrieving it will probably result in other items being knocked off and falling to the ground. Also, we are less likely to maintain it because we can’t get to the surfaces of most of the items, or the book case itself, for dusting. And since “where it goes” isn’t a place that we can actually find, returning items to it isn’t going to be easy, or maybe even possible.
When more comes, the stacks grow, and the space becomes even less functional. Naturally, there isn’t usually just one space like this in a house. I’m using the idea of the bookcase for clarity’s sake. There is also the kitchen counter, the office, the spare bedroom, and the garage. It’s easy to understand how it happens but it is not always easy to turn the situation around. If that is the situation you’re facing, then I offer you the following strategies straight from the Sick of Being Stuck classroom.