Friday, May 13, 2022

3 Keys Thursday: Early Warning Signs

 We all have them. Those clutter clues that tell us that we -- or our organizational systems -- are overwhelmed. Sometimes, we know already, and the clutter clues are validation for -- or contributors to-- our stress. Other times, we think we've got it all together until we see that clutter catcher spot in our homes that tells us that no, we do not. At least not right now.

For me, it's my mail counter. Those who've read Know Thyself know the saga of the mail counter, as well as how long it took me to conquer it. But, when life overwhelms me, my mail counter begins to reveal my drop and run organizational style in a very accurate and annoying fashion.

This week is one of those weeks. End of semester tasks have left me with a singular focus, and I've slipped into dropping the mail and running back to the tasks that are time sensitive. I knew I was doing this but, when I came into the house after running an errand the other day and was greeted by a pile in a space that was once clear. that put the exclamation point on how much things have been falling by the wayside (including this blog post, which was supposed to be finished and posted yesterday).

Is this happening at your house? If so, here are three questions to ask yourself when clutter pulls you up short like a flashing neon sign.

Is this a temporary issue, or do I need to rethink the organization in this space? When we go through busy patches, life changes, or difficult times, clutter is often our companion. As frustrated as I am by the current state of my mail counter, I know there's a light at the end of this tunnel. When I get there, I can sort the accumulated pile and restore order. For now, my sorting method focuses on two priorities: making sure everyone gets his/her own mail and making sure the bills go where they need to so they get paid. If your answer is different, though, consider the next two questions.

Are these items homeless, or do they need new homes? Often, clutter accumulates when we don't know where to put things, so we put them down instead of away (drop and run), we cram them into an existing space that may already be overstuffed (cram and jam), or we put them where there's room instead of where they belong (I know I put it somewhere). In those last two scenarios, the clutter is often behind closed doors or hidden in a drawer, but those of us with drop and run organizational styles are more obvious. If I'm honest, my drop and run organizational style has led to a few things that aren't mail landing on the mail counter. Most have homes, and I need to put them there, but one large item needs to be downsized so it doesn't take up so much space. Still, all of this is validation for my conclusion that this is a temporary situation, not a sign I need to do an organizational overhaul. Different situation at your house? Sort the clutter into two piles: what belongs here and what doesn't. Put the things that belong back and concentrate on finding real homes for the rest.

Do I need a new container, or time to restore this one? Sometimes, the pretty container or the one we had on hand doesn't do the trick and it needs to be replaced by something more efficient. That might mean picking something larger, or something with drawers that allow us to corral the clutter in a way that makes sense to us. Try emptying the container onto a table and sorting from bottom (where the older items are) to top. If this sorting process leaves you with a pile that fits back into the container (without overflowing), your work is done (if you want it to be). If not, consider what you need (think styles) to keep this space under control.

We all have times where clutter wins the organization battle. But, by being honest with ourselves and using our styles to create long-term solutions, we can win the war.

It's a process. 

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