Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You walk into a room with the intent of cleaning it out. By the time you get done, by golly, it’s going to be clean and decluttered! You don’t have anything to do for the rest of the day, so you’re going to devote the next 4-6 hours to making sure this room is sparkling.
Fast-forward 30 minutes. You’ve been cleaning and decluttering for half an hour, and you just don’t feel like you’re making any progress. You’re mentally tired, and what you’d really like – more than anything else – is to just go read a nice book. Or take a bath. Or pretty much do anything other than finish this room.
Has that ever happened to you?
What you’re experiencing is a feeling called overwhelm. And in many cases, overwhelm is a side effect of our brain’s internal notion that something should be easier than it is, should be taking less time than it has, or that (frequently because of the first two) it’s just beyond our skill set.
The Ghost Of “Clutter Future”
When you get to the 30-minute point with that room, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s not done. In fact, you might feel that the clutter is worse than it was when you started.
This means that when we get done cleaning the room, you’re frustrated because you didn’t finish it today. You got 30 minutes in, but you didn’t finish. So when you spring out of bed tomorrow morning (okay, okay, maybe “when you halfheartedly roll out of bed tomorrow morning”) your mindset regarding that room is that you failed at it yesterday – and you don’t want to fail again today. So you don’t even try today, because if you don’t try,, you can’t fail. And days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months.
And eventually, you despair of ever getting that room taken care of – because you “tried and failed”.
I’ve had this happen to me. I know where you’re at.
But here’s the thing….
Let’s say there are 4 hours of cleaning to be done in that room. You won’t know this number before you start, but every room does have a finite amount of cleaning necessary. And 4 hours in one room is a huge amount of time to accomplish something.
You’ve already done 30 minutes of cleaning.
That means that you have 4 hours minus 30 minutes, or about 3 hours and 30 minutes left. If you do half an hour a day for the next 7 days, that room will be done.
The math is pretty simple, and the principle is obvious – so why don’t we realize this when we’re working on the room?
What’s Blocking The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
The problem with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is that things come up that derail even our best-laid plans. There are three huge things that block out that light at the end of the tunnel – and you can do something about each of them, proactively.
You don’t have a vision of “the end”. As mentioned before, you don’t know how long this particular tunnel is. This may be a 3-hour room. This may be a 20-hour project. And while not knowing isn’t any fun, the one thing you know absolutely, 100%, is that if you stop now, it will never get done. Scheduling some decluttering time on a consistent basis is the only way to get this problem solved. So plan that this is going to take longer than one session.
Things get messier before they get cleaner. All the time, pretty much without fail. When you start with a room that’s cluttered, and you start pulling the clutter out to deal with it, your room is going to become more cluttered, not less. You can minimize this by not pulling everything out all at once (doing 1/3 of your closet at a time, for example), and by tackling small, self-contained projects first – but eventually things are going to start looking worse, not better – at least for awhile. There’s no solution for this, but realizing that it’s normal helps a lot!
Cleaning & decluttering sucks. At least for many people. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be okay with cleaning; we’re supposed to “suck it up and deal with it”, etc. But beating yourself up over the fact that you don’t like to clean or declutter is both ridiculous and counterproductive. Scheduling shorter bursts is helpful here, as is listening to an audiobook or fun music, talking on the phone with a friend (with a headset – you need your hands free!), etc. Come up with something that either minimizes the duration of your discomfort, or that helps occupy your mind in a productive way.
The light at the end of the tunnel is not burned out – it’s still shining bright. The only way you can fail is not to try!
What About You?
What are your challenges with decluttering? Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed? Any insights that I missed? Hop on over to the Facebook group and let’s talk about it!