Archives for clean

I Gave Myself The Gift of Space

Cleaning by Duane Storey on Flickr

I just celebrated a milestone birthday, and while some people dread these milestones, I’m actually very optimistic about the decade ahead. There is a ritual I do every year on my birthday that makes me look forward to it every year, even as my age climbs.

Traditionally, I put up the Christmas tree, decorations, and lights on my brother’s birthday, December 3rd. There has always been a mild day approaching this date to be outside putting lights up, and a cold day or snowy/rainy where we (my kids and I – this is my husband’s busy season, so the holiday preparations are on me) move the toys, sort some into a donation pile to make room, and assemble our fake, but beautiful, Christmas tree. Every year, without fail, there are either extra branches or missing branches. I’ll never understand how that happens but accept it, just like socks disappearing in the wash.

Then from December 3rd on, I may add some accouterments, but we’re well decorated for a good three weeks before Christmas and by my daughter’s birthday, December 10th. With her birthday and then Christmas, space is difficult to find. We live in a small rancher (with a full basement – full in that it is the size of the first floor, but also full in that there isn’t much space down there.) By the time my birthday hits, I’m anxious to have more space. I at least need to do yoga without stuff invading my peace of mind.

While I appreciate white wall space and clear counters and tables, my husband is an accumulator. He’s one of 10 kids, and it never fails when I clear a space, he tends to fill it. We have accumulated a lot over the past 17 years in our house, and even though I started to get much better at cycling more out than in, we still have a LOT of stuff.

For my birthday every year, I make sure the outside decorations come down and get put away, the tree comes down, and the inside decorations go back down in the basement. We manage to find places to put some of the toys the girls received, and get a good idea of what still needs to be donated, which is my Martin Luther King, Jr. project.

I have heard, even recently when reading a blog about the secrets of tidy people, that some people attribute a clean home and empty space to a high-functioning mind, a moral person, or even a “good” family. I don’t make that connection. That seems very superficial and arbitrary to me.

My reality is, I don’t always have space. It feels like an everyday struggle to create space. I value empty space, organization, and order. At the same time, I love my husband, my kids, and my pets and I have had to compromise. My threshold for what I can tolerate in chaos an disorder is much higher than it used to be and probably higher than most. While the life I love to live doesn’t always afford me the time to create or maintain order among my things, I give myself the gift of space every year for my birthday, and it’s a ritual that makes my birthday something to look forward to even as I get older.

When I can’t create order and space in my physical space throughout the year, I meditate to create order and space in my mind. Sometimes this is a ridiculous endeavor – I mean, I do work at home with my kids. This means I have to take time out of my workday while they are in school to meditate, get up before they do (which does not always work out,) do it after they go to bed when I’m sure to fall asleep early and then wake up at 3 AM, or attempt meditating with them at home, or with them. I know meditation is great for them, but I don’t get the benefit of meditation when I do it with them; they can’t sit still, not just because one daughter has ADHD, but because they’re kids. I find if I can manage to take a shower without interruption, it has a meditating effect. I tend to come up with the best ideas in the shower. I’ve even written songs in the shower.

My daughter’s doctor, upon her diagnosis of ADHD, actually suggested that, when they weren’t looking, we get rid of ALL toys in our house, leaving them with wooden spoons and pots and pans. It’s some school of thought she subscribes that associates toys with the death of creativity or the birth of consumerism. I have tried to have my kids participate in the project. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. One daughter can function at a very high level in the middle of chaos, and while I’m sure this will serve her well someday, she tends to not notice the mess, even when she is expected to help clean it. The ADHD daughter doesn’t love to clean, sort and organize, but does get a sense of joy when we are able to achieve it, however how long it lasts. I have learned that they are much more engaged in tidying when there’s something in it for them, like a play date.

I won’t deny them toys – I have uncovered beliefs around worthiness in myself stemming from not having the same toys as my peers and being treated poorly by said peers. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that they aren’t worthy of good things, as in objects. I have faith that they have very strong imaginations and make sure they spend time creating, not just consuming. One of my common questions to them, however, is, “What’s more important, people or things?” I say this a lot when they fight over things. I always want them to value people over things. My ADHD daughter will sometimes play with a new friends’ toys rather than the friend. I watch and manage this thoughtfully.

 

I’m not sure how I’ll manage it with all of my other priorities, but I have created an intention and vision of more space in my home, and believe that by making more space, I am making room for new good things to come into our lives. While I can tolerate a mess and function just fine, I recognize how much better I feel when I can close my drawers without grunting, locate my brush on the bureau, just push play on the yoga video without taking an extra 20 minutes to tidy up, and have room to chop vegetables on my counter and a place to craft and create. Of course, there’s having a home where other people feel comfortable, too.

the space between by dave matthews band lyrics

i do not own. all rights go to dave matthews band. with lyrics

My Labor Day of Labor – I’ve Come Clean

This may still be cluttered to some, but it is zen-inspiring to me.

This may still be cluttered to some, but it is zen-inspiring to me.

No, I didn’t have another baby. I spent my holiday fighting dust balls and licking paper cuts.

After 3 years of compiling papers and collecting nonsense in my office, I “clean sweeped” (I know it’s swept, but it doesn’t sound right in this context.) There were literally 60 lbs. of paper and other junk purged from my house. I have two big boxes of great fall clothes to sell on e-bay, donate or turn into crafts. I know where everything is in my office. What is most important is most prevalent and within easy reach.

The adjustment to working from home with my babies, who are now grown up enough to know when the house is messy, happened very slowly.  While I expanded my roles as primary caretaker and entrepreneur, some of my other priorities and values were placed aside. I justified that it was what I had to do because of the choice I made to stay home and work, but in the meantime, crap accumulated and inhibited my growth. That’s where I was; I had no more room to grow because I had no room in my home and most sacred space.  The choice I made was no longer empowering; it was an abyss. While I continued to learn more and teach clients about efficiency, time management, resource management, etc., I was ignoring fundamental best practices of success – simplicity of organization and accessibility of information.

Especially because I do so much on my computer, where it seems everything is at my fingertips, these fundamentals were easy to ignore for so long. Until, enter financial advisor and partner Brian Brogan.

He asked, “Where is the space dedicated to managing the lifeblood of my family and business?”

“Oh, here and over there and I can even work outside…”

“STOP!,” he pleaded. “What are you saying about your priorities if you have no place dedicated to managing the very thing that allows your family to function?”

While he has been here at our house, he never new we had an office because the door stayed shut when there were visitors. We even kept the vent closed so as to not heat or air condition it. It was, essentially, a junk room.

After reading some of The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes, by Allyson Lewis, I had started to make a little progress on my office. I sorted unopened envelopes one day. Then another day I opened them. Then another day I took out any files older than 2009 to make room for the newer files. Then, I left the office alone for a week. I avoided it. What happened?

If my house were a factory, I think they would call it a bottleneck.

I needed to renew my car registration, but I couldn’t find the form. I had to make a return, but I couldn’t find a receipt. The CPRW (Certified Professional Résumé Writer) certification exams that I am supposed to grad within 2 weeks piled up for a month. ssential functions took 10 times longer than they should have. I was wasting time looking for things, feeling like a hot mess, and my temper and patience were getting short. Friday I had a gentleman tell me that I wasn’t able to listen to him. I didn’t even realize it, but I kept interrupting him. Instead of listening compassionately first, then advising appropriately, I was defensive and curt. This was impacting more than just tasks – my credibility with peers, my authority with my kids and my ability to effectively coach were hampered.

Enough – I had to do the work. The clutter had to be confronted, and so did my feelings about the clutter. With the exception of a break to have tea with my husband, make princess hats with my daughters, and hit up a local playground where we could all get a workout in, I pounded away – from breakfast to 2 or 3 in the morning. I finished at 4:30 Tuesday morning. The process, while tiring, was cathartic. What Brian said was reverberating in my brain and I thought very consciously about where I placed things based on how important I wanted them to be. Even choosing what size folder to attribute to a project made me process what amount of time I was committing to dedicate to that project.

Once it was done, I didn’t care anymore that I didn’t get to go the shore or the Poconos or that I didn’t see any concerts or even go out to eat. I had forgotten how much I value organization. For a while, I had been wishing I could just hire someone to find a place for everything, but I couldn’t wait for that to happen.

Now that I am in my office, and I can work in my office and find things in my office (and elsewhere,) I am able to think. I feel lighter and can breathe easier. Brian says that I have now made room for the harvest. Those books that I read, while portraying the importance of organization to taking action also echoed his sentiments: If you want something to show up, you have to make room for it. Now that I know I have room for growth and expansion, I have more confidence making strategic plans for my business. I want to spend time here. I want to show it off. Here. Have a look:

One thought leader I follow, I can’t remember which or perhaps it is all of them, says that people take action when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Why is that? Why did I have to let it get to that point? Even though the disorganization was certainly having an impact on my family and me, I waited until other people were being impacted by my disorganized house before I resolved to get it cleaned up for good. I resolve now to be proactive in keeping order in my house, in my office and in my mind.

 

Have you ever been sick and tired of being sick and tired? Are you waiting until to feel this way to take action?