Just One of Those Days, and How Not to Declutter

Some days are like that... so this morning when I got up the cat had been sick. Then, when that was sorted and I was sitting bleary-eyed  with my first cup of tea of the day, Posy sidled up to me, gazed at me with those big baby blues, and said, 'Mama, when you were a little girl, did you ever imagine you would reach the age of forty one?'

Clearly I looked as though I was about to shuffle off this mortal coil..

And the house, well, it was filthy, though for once not entirely due to my slatternly ways. We have had builders in. Now, don't get me wrong, I love having builders in. Mainly because they build things. In this case, window and door frames, and they also hung doors, so that downstairs, which was very open plan indeed, with arctic draughts whistling up the staircase, is now decently enclosed, which will help along our project to save electricity immensely, and also make using the downstairs bathroom a less nerve racking experience.

But the trouble with builders, however nice they are (and ours are lovely), is that they descend like barbarian hordes, make an enormous amount of noise and mess, and then leave in a cloud of dust. So today was all about removing dust from every surface and mopping, mopping.

While the builders were here this week, and making more and awful noise than I could believe possible (it was raining, so they had to use the downstairs unfinished room as a workshop to rip up all the wood for window frames etc), I kept running next door to seek sanctuary and cups of tea, but eventually I ran out of neighbours to bother, so locked myself in my bedroom at the other end of the house and started cleaning out cupboards. It still amazes me, that although I have ridden myself of so much stuff over the last couple of years, it still manages to accumulate in the backs of cupboards. Most of it, by now, is stuff that I actually want, but it has been thrown in a cupboard for want of a proper storage space. And thanks to the noisiness of builders I cleaned out the art cupboard, the last of the home schooling supplies, and redistributed them in drawers around the house, which gave me some more lovely wardrobe space, ruthlessly thinned out my clothes again, and wondered how twenty seven items had surreptiously made their way onto my bedroom chair.

And it was while I was doing this that I realised how the standard decluttering advice is a trap for the naturally disorganised. Most advice includes the need for bins/bags/piles for rubbish/ recycling/ charity donations/ reorganising, but what happens in reality is that seven minutes into the job, the phone rings, or a child falls out of a tree, and by the time that has been sorted it is time to cook the dinner, pick up someone from soccer, help build a science project out of balloons and juice bottles by tomorrow.... and the next time you return to your decluttering site its volume has actually increased because the bins/bags/piles of stuff have invited more clutter, and the whole depressing cycle starts all over again. Which is why I have developed a much more inefficient but more effective solution.

I never make a pile. Piles are the enemy of effective sorting. They are just Moving Stuff Around. The only effective way I have found to deal with mess is to only handle an item once. If the item on the top of the pile is a piece of paper, I decide what to do with it, and walk it to its new destination, rubbish or recycling bin, or filing cabinet, or receptacle for precious pieces of paper. If it requires action, I do it, transferring dates into my diary, writing a cheque. If it requires more thought than that I put it into my 'inbox' in the hall table drawer, and heaven help it if it ends up there, where paper goes to die. If the item is going to be donated, I take it out to the car and put it into the bag that always seems to be there. The Man calls our van The Mobile Op Shop, but he doesn't realise it is always a different bag. It goes off to be dropped off every week, and replaced with a new one. Actually, these days it does sometimes take weeks to fill up a bag.  And if the item in question needs to go and live somewhere else in the house, I take it there, maybe staying to rearrange a drawer to fit it in.

This is all very inefficient, and sometimes I might get through only a couple of items before the phone rings, child falls out of tree etc, but at least those thing are gone, sorted, never have to be looked at again, and there are no piles of Things mocking me later.. they do mock, you know. Piles are mean.

In other news, I have completely failed to cook breakfast again. Pancakes were literally a flash in the pan. I am using the builders as my excuse. They arrive at dawn and start asking questions about bannister brackets, then making ear splitting sawing noises, and it makes me jittery. They have gone now, so maybe I will be able to devote some headspace to early morning cooking. Maybe.


Jen's Busy Days said…
Hi Jo,

Sorry to hear about your builder dilemmas. I do think I will try your method of decluttering next time I am brave enough to try it. My bedroom is covered in piles of things that belong elsewhere. It took until just a week ago to get the last of the Christmas decorations out to the garage.

Check out the Breakfast Casserole on my blog. It is make ahead and just put in oven to bake. You could have freezer biscuits ready on a tray to cook for lunch boxes at the same time so you save on electricity. :-)

Nice to see you blogging again, I can't keep up with you so I am sorry I am not commenting even though I am loving your "chats".

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Hello, I just discovered your blog and think it's marvelous! I'm in the process of doing some major decluttering, and I think your no-piles advice is spot on.

Looking forward to reading more!

Jo said…
Jen, I will certainly look up that breakfast casserole, sounds intriguing, very 70's. And freezer biscuits! Brilliant! I had forgotten how useful it is to have a 'log' in the freezer.

LHHW, lovely to have you, what a fantastic blog name! But advice - so easy to give, isn't it? I am glaring at an incipient pile growing at the end of the kitchen bench as I write. Eternal vigilance!

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