Live. Love. Let Go.
I was thrilled to set-up my first blog today. Finally, I would be able to share the wonderful things I've learned about everything having to do with organizing! What would I write about first, how could I entertain and inspire others?
I drew a blank. Nothing. Nada.
Then it hit me, you can't help others before you help yourself. And myself, and my place, needed some help. You see, I, like so many others, share a living space, in this case with my boyfriend. For you it might be a roommate, spouse or sibling. One thing remains the same - sharing sucks.
How are we supposed to create the serene living space of our dreams with you-know-who's dirty socks littering every hallway? Or how about a stinky old can of tuna mysteriously beneath the sofa (this actually happened with a former roommate of mine)! Junk mail, dishes, laundry and miscellaneous thingamabobs pile up and let's face it - you can't do it all, nor should you have to.
So, in examining my own current state of dissatisfaction with my living space, I did the most logical thing I could think of ... ate chocolate and silently stewed. Then I did the next most logical thing ... went back to basics and followed my own advice that I give every day to my organizing clients.
START WHERE IT NEEDS IT MOST
For me, the biggest source of my frustration was the living room - that's where I like to be able to relax, play with the dogs and curl up with a cup of tea and magazine. When you start in an area that is most important to you or is causing the majority of your anxiety, the pay off is greater and the results make a more dramatic difference, helping you feel better immediately. So, START WHERE IT NEEDS IT MOST.
FOCUS ONLY ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
This is tough, but crucial. Usually, in shared living situations, we are most aggravated by the other person's habits and clutter, not out own. The problem with this is that as much as we'd like to try, we can't control that person and we're only hurting ourselves by being angry, stewing in that anger and yet never getting any relief. For me, I chose to distinctly differentiate between what was mine, what was his, and anything that was "shared" I could either claim responsibility for or relinquish control and leave it up to him (I usually choose control:-). I got two large plastic bins and went through the room bit by bit. Anything that didn't belong in the space went in one bin or the other, period. Your bin - your stuff - your responsibility, but it doesn't get to lay around where it doesn't belong. Thus, choosing and taking responsibility for what you control and then only FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.
DECIDE AND ACT
Now, everything in the bins that didn't belong in the living room either makes its way back into the area of the home where it is either useful or dearly cherished ... otherwise it goes to recycling, trash, or donation (use 3 new bins to make this easier). After it is sorted/decided, then DO IT, act now! Take out the trash, put donations in the car. DECIDE AND ACT on those decisions immediately.
Okay, so how do you get someone else to do these things as well? Honestly, if its a roommate, you may not have a lot of options, but you can work with them to at least agree what stays in their space and what lives in the common areas. When they step out of line, grab your bin and pick-up, then leave it to them to decide what to do with those items within the confines of their own personal space. If its a significant other, then you're going to have to work something out eventually. Try to get them to agree to go through their bin at the same time, or at least have them agree to a specific time when they will do it and hold them accountable - this also works well with kids and young adults.
PERSISTENCE, NOT PERFECTION
Accept the fact that nobody is perfect and that when living in mixed company, compromises may have to be made. Persistence, rather, is the path to serenity in these situations. Commit yourself to at least 15 minutes of clutter control maintenance everyday. Remember to 1) start where it matters most, 2) focus only on what you can control, 3) make a decision, and act immediately, 4) aim for persistence, not perfection. Do this everyday, whether it needs it or not! If you can convince your living partner to commit to the same, then you're set. Your PERSISTENT efforts will yield a PEACEFUL space, but never a PERFECT one. And honestly, would I really trade my boyfriend in for a perfectly arranged closet, magazine ready living room and divinely organized kitchen that would make MONK jealous?
Maybe I shouldn't answer that. :-)