If you hang around this blog for a while, you’ll notice that my “Ten things” posts aren’t necessarily written in a list form, and don’t necessarily include ten things. Instead, the title of the post is meant to capture the basic idea that sparked its writing. Which in many cases was a list of items in my mind that numbered roughly ten.
I just finished reading one of those life-changing books that is so dirt-simple it makes you a little embarassed to honestly say afterwards what its impact was. It’s a book that I think has been getting some buzz lately – about the magic of tidying up your home.
I’m a person who can keep “reasonably” tidy in certain areas. But I’ve definitely got some areas that get neglected as I get busy with work and personal projects. And I’ve definitely got some areas that cause me a little stress each time I look in their direction.
For example, the shelf over my kitchen counter…
At one point it was neat and tidy and included mostly decorative items such as an old-school hand-driven coffee grinder. But nowadays it’s just a dumping ground for the stuff that wouldn’t fit elsewhere in our limited storage cabinets.
That shelf breaks a few of the principles of the “tidy book” – there are things on it that don’t give me joy (so they should be discarded), and there are things on it that should be put away (leaving the shelf to serve its originally intended decorative purpose).
Another example – half the scissors in the house, and at least 80% of the pens.
I’ve always taken the stance that it’s best to have items that you need be close to where you’ll need them. So, every room in the house has its own set of scissors.
Except not quite.
Actually, half the scissors have already gone off missing somewhere – when I need scissors I still have to search every room in the house, and even though it takes me longer than it should to find scissors when I need them, we still have more scissors than we need in the house. But by placing them in odd places all over, it breaks the habit of putting them back to an established place once they are used, and it makes it harder to remember where to look when I need them. So my strategy of having things readily available actually makes the problem worse.
Yeah, scissors are a stupid example, but when you multiply this by all the various things that are commonly scattered around a house, it all adds up. And having all the redundant tools, supplies, and housewares in various places where you thought they were most needed just makes it more difficult to find tidy storage for other things which are currently cluttering shelves and bookcases.
It all adds up.
Those are physical examples – but there’s also mental tidying that I realize I need to do. And the tidying of work and personal projects.
For example, I’ve got a list several miles long in my head of all the blog posts I “need” to write. Like this one that you’re reading now.
But that long list just makes a mess in my head – it’s not stored neatly in there, and many of the blog post ideas don’t truly give me “joy” – they are just posts I believe I should write. But they clutter and hang around and make it more difficult to deal with the more important stuff that is supposed to be in my head. And there are some really great blog post ideas in there that will never happen because their importance is buried under the list of all the other ones I think are equally important.
That’s just another example. The list goes on and on.
The common thread among all these things – these tidy problems – is that none of them are completely obvious on first glance.
Many of the examples of mess in my physical and mental world seem perfectly normal on the surface, the sort of thing that folks are expected to have.
But they do create clutter, even if it seems to be well-organized and carefully selected clutter. There’s simply a limit to how much stuff can fit into one person’s life.
And while one strategy would be to get better at navigating around and managing physical and mental clutter, getting more and more efficient at making it all seem like it’s part of a productive whole, another strategy is to eliminate the clutter altogether, and to spend the time that would have been spent navigating around clutter instead doing productive and enjoyable things in both work and life.
Sorry I never got to those ten things or the list…