I don’t know about you, but I could waste hours and hours of my life on Pinterest if I wanted to. One of my favorite things to look at are dream kitchens and beautifully decorated bedrooms. Once in a while, I’ll feel really inspired by some ideas and think that I’d like to recreate them in my own spaces, but as soon as I start digging into what it’ll take to make that happen, I’m oftentimes mainly inspired to just keep looking at more Pinterest posts.
This same thing happens to a lot of us as it relates to tackling cleaning and organizing our homes. We’ll feel really inspired to “finally get this da*n attic cleaned out” and then we look at said attic and the sheer volume of work it’s going to take to get it done is so overwhelming, we shut the door and see what’s on Netflix.
The trick is to forget about the big picture for a moment. This is easy for some folks, and almost impossible for others. Big picture thinkers tend to see the mountain of old toys, out-dated home decor, old clothes, random holiday decorations (when did we buy that? why?) and immediately feel confused or physically tired. Some people can even become just plain angry. I tend to be a big picture thinker and I’ve learned something over the years that helps me in these situations, and I think it could help you.
A Three-Step Approach
About a year ago on Mrs. Jones Could Use a Beer, I introduced a three-step approach to creating the life you want. Today, I want to apply this same approach to the idea of conquering the overwhelm as it relates to cleaning and organizing of your home.
First of all, unburden yourself from some false ideas that you may have about getting through certain tasks. For example, stop telling yourself the same story about how you’re always unorganized, how you never have a clean house, how you can’t get your life together, and how hard this is going to be.
Look at what’s true in this situation, and get your head around it. Organize your thoughts, and you’ll be able to organize a plan. Tell yourself something like, “this might look like a lot of work right now, but the work will get done a lot more quickly than we realize”, or “I’ve got plenty of time set aside today to tackle this project, and it’s going to feel great to have more space available, and to more easily access things we need.”
If you’re having trouble convincing yourself that you’re capable, change your old story. Instead of, “I’m a messy pack rat, just like my Mom, and just like my Grandma,” how about, “I may have been messy in the past, but I’m happy I’m not anymore.”
The trick here, is to ease your way into the shift. You don’t need to be super woman (are you imagining one of your uber-clean, organized, perfect hair, works out 7X a week, looks 10 years than she is, kids are over-achievers, doesn’t need sleep friends?) and you don’t need to keep up with anyone. You have to worry about you, and not question whether or not YOU are okay enough and living your life well enough to measure up to someone else’s standards. What you’re doing here is living life well enough to achieve your own goals and dreams, and to wholly embrace the happiness and contentment life brings. That is all. Comparing yourself to someone else, even if she’s a judgy mcjudgerson, is a horrible idea.
Let’s let the judgy mcjudgerson’s do what they need to do to stroke their egos to feel superior, and we’ll worry about completing things one step at a time. So in this case, perhaps you don’t try to clean and tidy a space in one day. Consider giving yourself windows of time to work in, or shifts. Consider only doing a section at a time over a few weekends if the project is really big.
The easiest thing to do when you’re working on a larger project is have a plan going in, and being organized mentally about it, while giving yourself some grace if it doesn’t look like The Container Store when you’re finished. I subscribe by the keep, donate, trash method. Have a bin for each of these areas, and go through things one at a time as quickly as you can.
Try to keep emotions in check so you’re not saving things you have no actual need or use for. If you’re having an especially rough time of handling the fact that your baby is now in high school and all of her baby things are too precious and you wish you could now have another baby but you’re too old and oh my god I look so old, I’m falling apart, I’m fat, I need Girl Scout cookies and wine…this maybe isn’t the day for this project.
As always, don’t forget to infuse some fun into it. Now, today’s task was a bit deep and introspective in nature, so we’re going to pair our three-step approach with a Cabernet Sauvignon. I recommend a blend of “I’m going to pretend to be pretentious because it’s more than $10.00 a bottle” and “look at me, I’m intellectual and mature because my wine is dry and I use a three-step approach”.
If you have any suggestions for ways you conquer the overwhelm, I’d love to hear them! Drop me a note in the comments.