Guru Question: Dear Nancy – Clutter and excess causing family friction!

Dear Nancy

My husband and I are on the verge of divorce due to my inability to become organized. I have so much clutter and excess around me that it\’s become a great source of depression for me and is interfering with the normal functions of my family. I want to get my house to the state of doing\”daily maintenance\” type chores everyday but cannot seem to reach that goal. Any advice?

Dear MJB:
I am sorry to hear that your disorganization is beginning to have such an adverse affect on your family life and your mental health. I have some tips to get you started. Did you know the key to being successful at doing “daily maintenance” chores is routine?

You have to create a daily game plan and stick to that plan. That means putting yourself on a schedule. If you work out of the home you know that you have a routine to get ready to go to that job and to complete it; so you should also have a routine for the jobs at home.

If you do not work outside the home this means getting up as if you did work outside the home! Get up, eat, bathe, dress (including shoes!) and get to work by 9AM.

I would suggest the following to help you get the initial clutter resolved:

1. Create a list of what needs to be done – by room.

Number the items with what should be done first, second, etc. Then be honest and estimate the time you think it will take to get each number done. Now you can honestly see how long it will take you to clear out the clutter. If it takes two days, that’s fine. You know it and can schedule it!

2. Create a two week calendar.

Then to totally clear out the clutter, schedule each room to be cleaned so you should have each room cleared out in two weeks. This gives you time if it will take more than a day to clear out a room. Try not to take more than two weeks and usually it will take less time.

3. Create a daily schedule.

Schedule in each task you wrote down in step one and schedule in only a total of 4 hours per day based on the time you think it will take. Why? Because there are always interruptions and if you totally schedule your day, these interruptions, which are normal, will feel like failure at the end of the day.

4. Give yourself a break when you need it and stop for lunch.

Give yourself a quitting time and use that time to reflect what got done in that room and cross it off the list – it will feel great!

5. Don’t go it alone!

Let your family know you are doing this and ASK FOR HELP. There is no reason they cannot help you with rooms they use. Give them specific assignments (dust, vacuum, dishes, mopping, clean windows, take out the trash, etc.); assignments you feel okay with delegating. Ask your husband for help since you are truly trying to clear the clutter.

6. Be Ruthless!

Your family and your health depend on it. If you have surrounded yourself with things that are truly in excess of what you need, then give them away, sell them or toss them. But get them out of your home!

7. It’s less overwhelming to start a room if you know what needs to be done first.

Look at your list and follow it. Start in a corner and work your way out if that will help you overcome your organizational inertia.

8. Save your energy.

Rather than running from that room to put things away in another room, set up a laundry basket for items that belong elsewhere within the house, a basket for items that you want to give away/sell, and a large garbage bag for trash.

9. Storage.

Decide if additional storage is needed for the room; purchased the storage but measure to make sure items that need to be stored will fit what you buy.

10. Do it NOW!

Once you are finished with the room, bag up the donations RIGHT THEN and put them in the car or ask a family member to run them up to a donation center. Take out the trash immediately – don’t take to the next room. Put items that belong in another room, in the room they belong in.

11. Do only one room at a time.

After the first room is complete, reevaluate the system. What worked for you, what didn’t, what can be improved with the next room? And implement those changes.

12. Reward yourself.

At the end of room one, with the trash out, the donations out, the thing that belong in another room in the proper room, give yourself a treat!

13. One step at a time!

This process takes time, so don’t get overwhelmed at all you need to do. Once all the rooms are cleared of the clutter, use this system to set up a daily, weekly, monthly maintenance chore list to keep up with the clutter. Remember routine can be the key.

If this process is not successful for you, don’t beat yourself up – get help! There is nothing wrong with asking for help – it is one of Buttoned Up’s main philosophies – you don’t have to do it alone. Get help by asking a friend to help you and you can then help them! Get help from the family to help you keep on your routine/schedule.

If after following my suggestions you are still struggling, then by all means please contact the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to locate an organizer in your area. And get a physical. You may also have a physical ailment (ADD, ADHD, Clinical Depression) that you need professional help to resolve.

Good Luck! – Nancy