Overwhelm is very easy. Look at counter. Counter is piled high. Do I clear counter? Look at counter again. Walk away.
So I came up with a new strategy: I don’t have to do all of it! I learned something the other day: I only have to do something for five minutes. To some people, that’s probably a “duh!” moment rather than an “aha!” moment, but to those of us with pile disorder, that’s not an intuitive solution. Five minutes means just clear out a couple of things: random toys, things right on top, things falling off edge. Generally I have a lot of trouble doing this. It’s all so much! And there are so many categories of things! And that’s why I walk away.
But the five-minute idea changed everything. And that’s my current “one small change”. The kitchen counters have been piled high for sometime now. They’re just a catchall: toys, mail, notes, laptop, things that need batteries, homework, random screws, etc. The counter is a convenient spot for things that don’t have homes, or at least things that got lost on the way home. On a cleared counter, one thing isn’t a big deal. But to that one thing, a second thing is added, a third thing, and in short order there is a pile and… instant clutter. I’ve noticed that three is the magic number: once an area is littered with a third thing, it’s a tipping point. If it’s not addressed right then, all bets are off. Nothing is going anywhere and the pile is going to keep on growing. It becomes too much to do.
I have and have also created a lot of too much to do. So I’m focused on not only one small area at a time, but recognizing that each area will take more than one visit. The part of my kitchen counters that get the most paper and clutter are two very small spaces of barely two square feet each. They can accumulate a closet worth of material the way grow grow beds in the wonderful gardening catalogs I get yield vegetables…30 lbs. of potatoes, four bushels of tomatoes, 50 zucchini, seven bushels of peppers, all in one 2×2 foot square bed! If I could sell a grow bed that yields clutter, I’d be rich.
Right now the counter sections I worked on are basically clear, but I’m not done yet. I have been chipping away for about one week and usually for more than 5 minutes at a time. Knowing that I will stop when I have had enough, but that I will go back to it makes a difference. I typically abandon projects, but it’s easier not to abandon a project if you’re only doing this one small part of the larger thing. And it doesn’t feel bad that it’s taking so long because I gave myself more than one night to do it. Imagine that? A realistic goal! I can take a week! As I go, I am working on (yet another) new system to prevent the pile-ups. That work began tonight and repurposes the drawers and files I already have. It will continue tomorrow. But I feel good. I’ve gotten to white space! I tackled the counters one corner at a time, and they didn’t even see it coming.