The Ongoing Quest

I’ve had this to post for the longest time, but the Holidays happened, and my home turned into a rush of decorating, baking, giving, fellowshipping, entertaining, and celebrating. It was lovely, and I hope yours was as well, dear reader.

The laundry room is clean, organized, functional, and I am so thrilled at the accomplishment. I’ve tried so many systems and plans and programs, which haven’t worked, that I do believe the most paralyzing thing I’ve been facing all along is the fear of failure. But it’s absolutely working, and the feeling is really wonderful. All the games live there, instead of in three different closets, as well as puzzles, and winter wear; and the house-cleaning supplies are all together and the laundry supplies are all together, etc., etc.

It’s made such a difference to approach it spiritually. Praying about my purpose in my home, journaling about it, and dealing with all the leftover issues from being sick has granted me success in this area for the FIRST TIME!

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The second thing I’ve implemented is keeping my 3-point zone clean every day. I realized how hard this was because of visual clutter. Even when I’ve tidied, there are things that just live in a cluttered state, like the top of my refrigerator. Since my kitchen is part of the 3-point zone, I set about trying to make more empty space. This cart lives in the closet under the stairs, and you can well see that it’s been a gigantic mess. I cleaned off the cart, and made it a home for all small electronic appliances, which had all been stored on the fridge and in various cupboards, and even on counters throughout the kitchen. The result was pleasing, and is working well.

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I’m amazed at how much better I feel, in general, when the front room and kitchen are picked up and put away.

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Front room at Xmas. Not perfect, but not bad.

My prayer for my home: Father, I ask You to energize me with the desire and wisdom to re-organize and clean my home. Thank You for answering with workable solutions and stamina to stick with the goal.

Not Idle

Well, dear reader, I’ve taken a major hiatus from writing, but I haven’t been idle. If you remember from a recent post (and why should you, because by recent I mean several months ago), I downloaded a book onto my kindle about the spiritual roots of disorganization. I then proceeded to lose my kindle. I searched everywhere I could think of, but no…. it was surely and truly lost in the shuffle. I believe this can be classified as ironic.

It was lost for about four months. (Yes – four months! Egad!) Then one day, my husband says to me, “What have you done with my electric razor charger?” (Asking me what I’ve done with something is a running joke in our house. I, of course, have not touched his charger. He loses things too…) He told me he was charging his razor overnight, and he didn’t want the light that flashes while charging to keep me awake, so he didn’t do it in our bathroom, but instead (he was certain) he charged it in the schoolroom. So, I proceeded to turn the schoolroom upside-down, in an attempt to locate it. And lo and behold, peeking out from between the modem and the edge of the computer desk, covered by a small cloth, was…

I don’t even have to finish that sentence, do I? No, of course not, because in this most perfect of hiding places, as if I had hidden it on purpose, is my KINDLE!!! For the love of Pete, why, oh why, oh why would I put it there? That, my friends is the question.

The charger, since you’re all dying to know, was ultimately located in the medicine cabinet of the downstairs bathroom, the most logical place for it to be. Alas.

On with the story…

The book on my kindle is Organizing from the Heart: Change Your Mindset, Conquer Your Challenges. It’s a workbook of sorts, and I’ve committed to working through it. The first question I had to ask is,”What is disorganization costing me?” I prayerfully considered it, and I finally wrote in my journal, “I feel shame.” Admitting that was an incredibly powerful moment for me. I also wrote in my journal that the last time I felt organized in my home was when I felt consistently good physically (which was really pre-cancer) and when money was not a stressor (also pre-cancer). Cancer, for me, was like tripping during a foot race, landing hard on my hands and knees, and never managing to get back up on sure footing. We call 2007 our Cancer Year, because I was sick for nine months of it. I was hospitalized multiple times, and on two of those occasions there was a real risk that I wouldn’t leave the hospital. Having the management, the control of my life wrested from me so completely, knocked me flat in a profoundly internal way. What happened in 2007 is that my ability to believe that God wants good things for me, in fact the best things, was violently shaken. There’s a major lesson in Trust within this, one I’m still grappling to get hold of.

And so, after SEVEN years of dealing with things on the surface, but never digging deep (for instance, cleaning my house on a schedule but never cleaning out a closet, either physically or emotionally), I’m FINALLY ready and willing to deal with the root spiritual issues. I have this vision of my home being peaceful, open and soothing, a place where we can love God and love one another, and with this in sight, I’m taking a stand. I’m committing to cleaning out the ashes and rubble so that new things can grow.

In pursuit of this, a few days ago I stood in my laundry room (the place I have chosen to start) and I engaged in this spiritual work. I thanked God for this room — it really is quite awesome — and for all the things stored there: games, puzzles, winter wear, and cleaning supplies. I thanked Him for the new high-efficiency furnace and water heater we’ve recently installed. I then tapped through every negative feeling that I’ve had regarding organizing. (You can look at  Conquering my Emotional Kitchen for an explanation of tapping). I also, while tapping through the circuit, thanked God that I am created in His image and, as He brought order from chaos, I, too, can bring order out of chaos as an act of worship. (I’d like to say here, there’s nothing magical about tapping. Tapping while praying just helps me, on a deep emotional level, to internalize the promises of God).

Then I simply started. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and I’ve already had this beautiful, symbolic moment. I came across a bag, filled with thin books and papers, and I sat down with it to sort through it. I thought it was music, but it wasn’t. It was a bunch of cancer support materials. With a sense of lightness I walked out to the trash, and dropped it in. It was freeing.

Bit by bit, moment by moment, I clear out the old and dead and make room for a new thing.

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Day 116 ~ All Things (well – Something anyway) Made New

I’ve made some measurable progress this week. For one, I finally – with my husband’s help – got several bags ready for charity. We’re keeping the cat.

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I’ve also been practicing Redeeming the Time – you know, grabbing ten free minutes here and there to do little tasks. By using this approach I’ve reclaimed a small counter in my kitchen. Now, I must explain, there is a deep-seated problem that resides within my very soul that leads to a counter that looks like this. It’s hard to see, but under the clean food containers and the bread items, in the back, is the epicenter of this mess. It’s a wire basket full of junk. Well, not junk really, but stuff. I toss things in there, like coupons, business cards, things I want to look at later. (You can see how accessible it is. And please understand, my whole kitchen does not look like this). But the problem (the one in my soul) is this – pretty soon the basket is overflowing, I never pull anything out to look at it again because it’s disorganized, and soon it becomes a permanent fixture in my decorating scheme. I walk by it 18 times a day, and never, ever look at it. The result? I’ve lost the counter.

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So I finally did something about it. I got a three-ring-binder, I put tabs in it, and I now have a place for – – > current coupons, reference information, take-out menus, and contact information. And it fits next to my cookbooks on the bookcase. Now the basket has oranges in it and is sitting on my dining room table. I don’t know why it took me – you know – YEARS to take care of this. But now it’s done. My counter is new. And I am happy.

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Day 70 ~ What Once Was Lost

This morning I fell back to sleep after turning my alarm off. This is something I almost never do and I’m blaming Daylight Savings Time – I can still play that card, right? I got up at 7 A.M., 1/2 hour late, and this turned into excuse #1 not to do my morning exercise. Then, as I got up, I felt a pain in my right hip. This is something that has bothered me off and on my whole adult life. I can go months with no pain whatsoever, but I can also have pain so extreme it becomes debilitating. Because of this, I’m very careful if I feel even the slightest twinge. This became excuse #2 to skip the morning routine.

However, as I thought about it, I had to admit that I can come up with about a dozen excuses a day to avoid doing what needs to be done. Life is all about choice. I can pretend I have no choice (by making excuses) or I can choose to do the hard thing. So this morning, I chose.

I did my morning exercise. Then I attacked my action item list, because I’ve been getting precious little done lately from my list, writing the same things over and over (and over). Today, I decided to create a new storage place for my sweaters. I chose this under the bed box with wheels. I was so pleased – but it couldn’t go under the bed because of the bizarre collection of things that have been pushed or kicked under there over time.

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This meant I had to start by cleaning out everything under the bed. I pulled out such a variety of things: books, miscellaneous papers, a pillow (?!?), empty pill bottles, and … my pom-pom maker! (Read here if you’re wondering how this is in any way relevant). I knew I’d find it a some point, and it is now living happily with my other knitting supplies.

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The elusive pom-pom maker.

I felt so satisfied. I cleaned up a bunch of junk. I found something that was lost. So, with a happy heart I pushed my rolling box under the bed and … it didn’t fit. It’s too tall. I couldn’t believe it. I was so pleased. It was going to be a perfect solution. And now I have no where to put it.

Never, ever, ever – not once did it occur to me to measure. It’s at times like these I think I could use professional help. Or something. *deep sigh*

Day 41 ~ Ickiness and More Ickiness

Well, today I dealt with some ickiness, and by ickiness I of course mean organizing. There is something about the actual act of deciding (store, throw, give, keep) that I truly abhor. I don’t know if this is psychological, but probably it is.  It’s probably based in some poverty mentality, and deep in my sub-conscience I think that if I let go of something, I’ll be left with nothing. So I tell myself, “I have plenty. My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The problem is (of course) believing it.

So today I continued to work on my backlogs. This includes laundry, which is down to hand-wash delicates that must line-dry, and today I washed three. The other is paper, and I did one small pile (shred, file, throw). Then I decided to start in the bathroom. The truth is, I’m basically a chicken. I’m slightly intimidated by what needs to be accomplished in my house, and the bathrooms are the easiest rooms to start with.

Today, I did the medicine cabinet upstairs. This is how it looked.

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And this is how it looks now. All the things in here that weren’t here before were on my counter. It was so cluttered. Now, the only things on it are hand lotion, hand soap and two small jars with Q-Tips and cotton balls. Many, many things got thrown away (like expired medicines and almost empty cosmetics).

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This is a magnetic strip for nail clippers, scissors, and tweezers. Never again will I be digging around for these things. I was thrilled to discover that bobby pins stick to the strips, because I used to have so many that are now all lost. I’ll put up a strip just for bobby pins if I need to. By the way, this idea is not original with me. I’m just not sure where I ran across it. However, not long ago, I was shopping at IKEA and I saw a system where metal tins of herbs were stored on the wall on magnetic strips, and I thought – I’m doing that! (I may actually do that in my kitchen, when I get there).

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Overall, I’m pleased with this. Very little effort has resulted in a major change. When both bathrooms are completely organized, I’m going to add a hard-surface clean to my daily routine. This will include wiping the vanity, the outside of the toilet, the mirror and a quick swish in the toilet bowl with a brush. I estimate this will take about 90 seconds for each bathroom, so in three minutes a day, I can keep my bathrooms looking fresh and tidy.

Each step encourages me to take the next. And each day the lesson is reinforced – little steps consistently taken in a positive direction have a cumulative effect. I’m starting to see changes. I’m implementing systems that work. And each day, as I do the work, the life I am living becomes new.

Day 40 ~ 10-Minute Tidy

The 10-minute tidy is like a miracle. Seriously, it’s going so smoothly, and the main-floor living area (den, living room, kitchen, dining room, one bathroom, laundry room) is staying, well… how do I say this? Clean. It’s stunning.organization

I know exactly why this failed before, and why it’s working now, and it all comes down to choice. Before, when I tried to implement this, it was just a general idea in my head. I’d think that at some point during the day, I’d have to do a 10-minute tidy, but everything else was more important, or at least demanded my attention more effectively. So, the end of the day would come, and I’d be too tired, and it wouldn’t happen. A few days would be skipped, and then it would be more like a 25-minute tidy, which would feel like too much, and so we never, ever developed a rhythm.

Now, it’s part of the daily schedule. I clean my sink and stovetop, I feng-shui my table, I do one load of laundry and I 10-minute tidy. When we start homeschool, we set the timer and my daughter and I race around and do as much as we can. When the timer goes off, we stop, even if it’s not all “done.” And this has had interesting results.

The house is less cluttered, and therefore more peaceful. I’m less likely to leave things out, because those things are more obvious, simply because they are fewer in number. And my husband is less likely to leave things out because he doesn’t want to mess up my success. He’s also been helping with the mail, which is easy for him because I changed the system. I moved the shredder from the office to the kitchen (where mail is dealt with), so it’s extremely easy to dispatch everything. And I stand amazed.

I’m amazed that the organizational efforts are working. I’ve tried before and failed. (Please be patient with me, dear reader. I know for some of you this comes so naturally, but for me, it’s like re-learning to walk after an accident). Why the difference? I think it’s several things. For one thing, I’m making very small changes, then keeping with them day after day until they become part of my routine. Secondly, I’m writing everything here, which keeps me focused and accountable. And I’ve been at it long enough that I’m actually feeling the difference. It feels good. I don’t want to go back. And so I keep putting one foot in front of the other, so to speak, and I guess that’s what makes the journey. That’s what it’s all about for me these days – not getting there, but going there.

Day 27 ~ About the Baking Powder…

simplicityYesterday was a snow day and my older daughter was home from school. Since it was an unexpected day off, she asked if we could have pancakes, which sounded good to me. When I started making the batter, I went to my pantry for baking powder, and there was an empty space where it should have been.

I thought back. Two weeks ago, my husband made waffles for breakfast, and I thought that was the last time the baking powder had been used. So I called him. He said he had put it back in the pantry.

Really!?!? I proceeded to tear my pantry apart. Seriously – I pulled half the stuff out of it, I looked on the floor, I looked on every shelf. No go. I then looked in every cupboard in my kitchen. I looked in my dining room hutch. I even looked in the refrigerator and freezer. (My sister once found her checkbook under some Chinese take-out in the fridge, so I figured I should at least look). I about made myself crazy. I was wasting time, spinning my wheels, and looking for something that should just BE WHERE IT BELONGS!! I finally decided it had accidentally fallen in the trash. I had no explanation for how this could have happened, but it was the only scenario that seemed to match the facts. So I substituted ½ teaspoon baking soda for 2 teaspoons baking powder, and went ahead and made the pancakes. (As a side note, there was no discernible difference in look or taste, and only a slight difference in texture).

Needless to say, the whole thing gave me a headache. I’m sure I raised my blood pressure and let loose all sorts of nasty stress chemicals into my system. So a bit later, I trudged upstairs to my bedroom for a couple Excedrin. And what should be sitting next to the Excedrin on my nightstand? Yes, of course, you guessed it. The Baking Powder. I mean WHERE ELSE WOULD IT BE?? This is my life, after all. It’s to be expected that it would be in the most illogical place ever! I picked up the can, sat on the bed, and actually said out loud, “Dear God, I need help. Professional help. Or something.”

Clearly, I have some form of organizational dyslexia. I didn’t even know how it had ended up in my bedroom. Until I remembered… I remembered the pom-pom maker that was lost. I remembered making my own. And I remembered needing a circle about 2 ¼ ” in diameter to be my guide so the pom-poms would be the right size. So I brought the baking powder can upstairs to trace a circle on some cardboard.

Apparently I have some form of environmental blindness as well, because I set that can down on my nightstand and never “saw” it again. I’m sure I touched it, moved it, possibly even dusted under it. But I never, ever put it away! And therein lies my whole problem. There, in a nutshell, is exactly what’s wrong with the way I’ve been living my life.

Now I’ve shared the mortifying truth. I’m not doing a 12-step program – mine is more like 100-steps, but doesn’t every “program” begin the same way? Doesn’t every journey start with that first step – admitting one has a problem? Well, I certainly have a problem.

Hello. My name is LaRae, and I’m organizationally dysfunctional.