In the first post on Conquering Chaos, I proposed the idea that we must stop thinking, overthinking, and having feelings about organizing, and get to DOING the things that lead to the stability and calm organization brings to our lives.
To conquer chaos, you must alter your behavior so new habits can form.
First, let’s talk about physical habits, and some ideas for changes that can become part of your standard operating procedures.
Habit #1: Keep and buy ONLY the things that are useful and valuable.
This doesn't mean you can't keep Aunt Lucy's soup tureen or a ratty sweater you've had since childhood. Things can be valuable in an emotional way - it reminds you of a loved one or wonderful memory, it encourages and inspires you, or it is valuable as a good investment.
But do not buy or keep ANYTHING that does not serve an important purpose in your life.
There are several methods of decluttering, but they all boil down to a few basic steps:
- Go through your house one drawer, one closet, one room at a time.
- Empty each drawer, closet, or room as much as possible.
- Clean the drawer, closet, or room thoroughly.
- Only put the things back that meet the criteria of useful or valuable.
- Put your stuff back in an order that suits how you use the drawer, closet, or purpose of the room.
Be honest, and be ruthless.
What isn’t going to go back in the room can to into bags and boxes. Put these immediately in the trunk of your car and take them to the thrift store or charitable organization within the next three days.
Do not waver, or you are giving back control of your life to material things you had already decided you could live without!
One of the reasons decluttering is so satisfying is a change in our surroundings can motivate us ever further to change our attitude.
- When your space is cleaner
- When you can see what you own
- When you know where to find the things you need when you need them
You will experience the same warm fuzzies athletes feel when they hit their stride. But you have to run the race first to reap that sense of accomplishment.
Habit #2: Respond immediately whenever possible.
Deal with every single thing that come into your life at once and to the fullest extent possible. For example:
- Put a calendar in an obvious, easy-to-reach place, and as soon as ANY plans are made, write them on the calendar. Even in our digital age, you may not always have a smart phone, tablet, or computer handy, but a dry erase board or some Post It Notes kept in strategic locations are available instantly when you need to jot something down.
- Open and sort the mail when it arrives. Keep a trash can and a paper shredder near where you open the mail. Discard junk and shred anything that has identifying information on it.
- Set up bill pay with your bank so you can pay your bills automatically every month, or with one or two clicks.
- Take out the trash as soon as it is full.
- Wash dishes or load the dishwasher as you use them instead of letting them stack up in the sink.
- If you have laundry issues, do at least one load of laundry every day, from start to finish, including sorting, folding, hanging up, ironing, and putting away.
- Wash the tub and shower at least once a week while you are in it.
- Keep cleaning supplies handy. Bathroom cleaner in the bathroom, mop and broom near the kitchen, furniture wipes in a drawer in the living room can save steps and help you maintain cleanliness and order with little spiffy-up sessions.
Take every possible action to control your life and environment, no matter how small.
There are other ways you can create a better life with good habits.
- If you want to eat healthy, declutter your pantry of junk food and empty calories. Fill your pantry and menu plans with more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. The presence of fatty and sugary foods in your cupboards can be frustrating, and this is mental clutter with a real physical side effect.
- If you want to start exercising, put specific activities into your daily schedule. Walk for 15 minutes every day at 8am, or for 1 mile every afternoon at 1pm. Then take advantage of other ways to increase your physical activity. Instead of circling the parking lot 14 times looking for a spot close to the door, park as far away from the store as possible. Walk the dog. If you don’t have a dog, walk the kids. Do chores together and make them fun with music and a stopwatch. Don't sabotage yourself by thinking you have to have a gym membership, wardrobe, and equipment to burn a few extra calories every day.
Whenever you procrastinate, the weight of that task is a burden you carry in the back of your mind. Decluttering your home, your desk, and your To Do List frees your mind and your space. The burden of stress is lifted because important tasks being completed, you aren't wasting time and money, and you can relax with a cup of tea without feeling guilty about it.
Don't wait until you feel like changing your behavior - when you change your behavior, your attitude will come along for the ride. If you've been conquered by chaos, work these two habits into your life, and watch the physical, mental, and emotional clutter diminish every day that you practice them.