Wrestling Clutter

Wrestling Clutter

“Has anyone seen the scissors?” “Have you seen my phone?” “Who moved my stuff?” “What happened to my backpack?” “I can’t find my billfold.” “I’m gonna be late, where are the keys?” Sound familiar? Has the clutter bug taken up residence in your house? Clutter quietly and quickly creates chaos in many apartments, homes, offices and cars.

Clutter, because it spreads so quickly resembles a contagious disease, affecting all of us to some extent whether it’s our clutter or others’. When I shared the title of this blog on the phone with a friend in another state, she gushed “I can’t wait to read that; my house is like a horror house.” Another friend said, “It’s so time consuming to look for what I should have put away. I get so mad at myself.” How much time do you spend looking for keys, a letter, bill, cell phone, glasses or check book?  And don’t forget the scotch-tape-search. I write what I need to read.

As I entered my house recently from a brief trip, I was appalled by how much stuff was on every table top, mail, magazines, receipts etc. which, by the way, was the inspiration for this blog.  I used to blame clutter on four busy kids and Jim and myself contributing so that the build-up by Friday, caused me to want to scream. I’d routinely organize a group project of gathering up books, shoes, instruments, shoes, water bottles, snack wrappers, tools etc.  As the kids left home, I assumed the clutter would fly away with them.  But not so.  Jim and I offended by not clearing mail and all the papers which show up. And now, with Jim gone, I have to lay claim to all that table-top clutter.  Cleaning clutter is a dependable and simplifying remedy for calming one’s life whether a person is 7 or 87.

I say often that I need a couple more hours in a day but after a quick analysis, I factored in how much precious time is sabotaged looking for what should have been put away or filed. I still benefit from an article that I read many years ago about touching everything just once, especially in going through stacks of mail.  “Have file 13 handy” the writer advised.  Jim was very cooperative about tossing what he didn’t intend to read.  I tend to work on several projects at the same time so my office, much of the time is in disarray until I can’t stand it anymore, then I have to dedicate an hour or so to file and toss.

It dawned on me that figuring out how the clutter-bug gets ahead of us is a good first step toward engaging in a healthy productive wrestle. I’m easily distracted by a call, or email shifting from what I was doing to searching for a recipe or sit down for a phone call. When I’m finished, I may not return to what I was doing when I was summoned.  Finding where I left the portable phone or my cell phone also consumes a big chunk of time. My family installed google station to make it easy for me to call someone in an emergency, but my main emergency so far has been “Hey Google, call my phone”.  I stick my ear in every room until I hear the melodious Mozart ringer. It’s usually under some papers. That is a wonderful invention.  I can also ask Google how to spell a word rather than take time to look it up.  Or when I’m looking for a certain verse, it saves time to ask “hey google”.

Understanding how we’ve been individually designed to deal with various hands-on organized-needy areas illumines which personalities are more likely to engage in the struggle—especially Intuitives and the Spontaneous. Not an excuse, mind you, just a reason why.

The hands-on Structured (Judging) Sensing crowd—13 percent of the nation--appear to be more disciplined about putting things away and keeping on top of clutter. Structured (Judging) Intuitives have organized piles and declare “I know it’s in this area, in one of those piles.”  Generally speaking, J ‘s  tend to make beds, return scissors, nail clippers, pens and a lot of family-used articles to their assigned spot and are more likely to hang up coats and clothing. Roger recalled how I’d put a note on his jacket that said, “Please hang me up”, signed Millie the Maid”.  On rare occasions when I’d do him a favor (I thought) and tidied up his room, he’d say, “Mom, don’t straighten my room, when you do, I can’t find anything.”  Some parents keep their teens’ bedrooms motel-straight. Jim’s and my Coaching Kids book describes the wisdom of teaching kids from little up the joys of discipline with making their beds and putting away toys, books and clothes and emptying trash cans.

Long before I knew anything about personality differences, I remember observing a friend’s house which was so cluttered there was no chair to sit on.  It was obvious she detested housework. But I learned that she spent much of her time helping others clean their houses when they were unable to. Combining cleaning with helping someone paralleled her personality--ENFP. Again, not an excuse but a reason.

The Spontaneous segment—kids and adults as well--become more inspired to put things away when they’ve entered a crisis mode looking for something. That’s when they clean out drawers or hang up clothing. It’s fun to watch them swing into action.  They accomplish in 20 minutes what would take a structured person an hour. Bedroom and kitchen clutter enter the fray as well. The family routine of each person carrying their plates, glasses and silverware to the kitchen and putting it in the dishwasher saves an adult some time.

Years ago, as I counseled a very private surgeon and his wife, he surprised his wife and me by unloading his disappointment with her spontaneous lifestyle by saying “When I come home from a long day of surgeries, I expect to smell dinner cooking. Same thing tonight, I saw no hint about dinner but learned that she’d spent her time helping a neighbor look for her watch lost in a pile of leaves”.  She had told me that he badgered her about the messy and cluttered house. “Spontaneous Intuitives are not really fond of housework” I defended the wife.  “They prefer to help someone in a crisis”.  Then, she turned and squarely facing her husband she boldly bargained, “When you get rid of the stacks of medical magazines in the bathroom, bedroom and living room, I’ll clean up the rest of the clutter.  The doctor was so embarrassed by what she had revealed to an outsider, that he was speechless.  Mind-on Intuitives, like the doctor, see others’ clutter but not their own. Since managing clutter is a common denominator, making a deal with ourselves and our housemates to clean up trails as we navigate is a harmonious move.

For more comprehensive suggestions for ways to overcome and manage clutter, check organizer consultant Maria Kondo on line.

Limiting purchases, regularly trimming an over-crowded physical activities plate and shifting priorities creates discretionary time for relaxing, reading, reflecting and praying which nurtures emotional and spiritual peace—a worthy goal.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand holds me.  Psalm 63:1-8 (NIV)