Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had problems with “redding up” my space. I’ll go on a cleaning binge, and it’ll stay clean for awhile–often a good long while. But then something will happen and I’ll be too tired to clear up the last of a project or put away some papers. And then I’ll put a book away later. And then I’ll shut a drawer later, make my bed later, vacuum later…
Oh, does it ever snowball.
I’ve come a long way in countering this tendency over the past year. When I was preparing myself to move out of my parent’s house and live by myself (I didn’t know I’d get accepted into a co-op then!), I tried to figure out how I could balance maintaining a navigatable house with the crap-ton of grad work I knew was coming. Somewhere in my search of time management programs and “how to iron shirts” manuals, I came across FlyLady.
Formally launched by Marla Cilley in 2001, FlyLady is a concept that’s evolved into a huge network of people–largely women with children–who support each other through the process of getting control of your lives, your space, and your bodies. Cilley’s FlyLady is an extension of sorts of Pam Young and Peggy Jones’s “Sidetracked Home Executives” that had its heyday in the late 70s and early 80s. Both emphasize that doing something is better than nothing, and to not feel bad if you don’t do something perfectly. Both also show you that it doesn’t take two hours to do something–if you time a task, like making your bed, you’ll likely find that it takes two minutes rather than the 15 you thought.
What FlyLady asks is that you set a timer for 15 minutes and start picking up (or doing some other task). When the timer goes off, walk away. Honest to Pete, I know it sounds silly, but I can get so much done in 15 minutes. Lately, though, I’ve been forgetting this powerful fact.
So what’s Roderick’s exercise? Cleaning.
Find some part of your home that has become a mess. Before you do anything about the mess you find, take time to contemplate it. Sit in front of the clutter and ask yourself how this happened. What part did you play in allowing clutter to take over? Was there fear? Anger? Was there sadness underneath it all? Take time to fully examine your feelings. Now take time to explore how you might feel right now facing teh prospect of clearing away the clutter. You might take time to commit your feelings and thoughts to paper. That process in itself clears away some mental clutter.
Now go through the physical mess. Clear away things that have no use to you anymore. Why are you still holding onto these things? Find at least three things in this clutter that have some value, but that you do not use regularly. These are things that you should give away. After you have straightened out the mess, take time to stand back and admire your work. What effect did clearing away the clutter have on your mind and spirit? Almost everyone can notice a difference in energy before and after cleaning a space. Explore your experience now.
I know what my part in my clutter was: feeling inadequate. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m not equipped to handle my graduate work, so I self-sabotage to make sure I can’t actually handle it. Part of that is reflected in my personal space. I’m shooting myself in the foot.
I am, however, very excited at the prospect of changing and of clearing out my clutter. I’ve made crazy-huge strides in decluttering since I’ve been Flying, and I no longer have tons of sentimentally kept clutter. I’ve got the things I need, and the things they are are quality. I just need to periodically catch some of the flotsam that floats into my life.
So that’s what I did. And look at how nice my home looks now! Even my “office” side of the room looks tidier, and so much paper has found itself a new home! Alas, I use pretty much everything in here very regularly, so I didn’t mark anything to go to St. Vinnie’s, but I will if I notice anything later. Clearing all the tossed pillows, scattered books, and assorted papers away has totally lifted my mood. I rather feel like I could take on the world.