The satisfaction of a still-clean kitchen table

This strategy is evolving as I’m experiencing and observing it simultaneously. It’s alway been a conscious effort to deliberately watch and document how I interact with my space. I’ve read about tactics where people carry around colored dot stickers and they place a sticker on everything they touch for a week. For me, it’s easier to just write about my space.

I’m pleased to report that things held together during a busy 2 weeks. We hopped on and off the wagon throughout two illnesses and a whole lotta hurricane stress. Is it perfect? No. But I’ve accepted that it’s on its way.

The landing pad concept is working for me. I’ve identified all of them, and then decided it if was my landing area, my husband’s or shared. I’m starting with mine, I should focus first on what I know I can control. After the clean kitchen table success, the landing area next to my meal spot is the perfect first landing pad in need of my attention. Mail, magazines, meeting notes, coupons and all sorts of just stuff collects there.  I’m hyper focused on keeping it clear, and making time bound rules about what comes through that area.

This doesn’t mean that another landing area in my home isn’t picking up the slack, some of the stuff is homeless, and is being added to a growing pile in the living room! But other stuff is not. Newspapers now have a time limit, if I haven’t read them, oh well. I don’t know what has changed in me that I’m now able to to do that. I do hope to figure it out though because accepting the obvious isn’t my forte’. I figure one landing area at a time, one room at a time, every day and eventually I’ll have enough information myself to figure it out, and if I don’t, a cute basket will suffice.

A clean kitchen table and a quick dinner

My landing area plan has been working in fits and starts. The truth is, I rebel, I’m rebellious and I rebel against my own plans. It’s absurdity at its finest. And, I had strep throat, so combine the two and no, I have not been regularly addressing each landing area in each room. However, I have been consciously paying attention. And I think that may be the difference this time.

The bullet journal people are onto something, habit tracking helps. Blogging helps, they both bring a kind of accountability even though it’s anonymous and rarely seen.

The schedule helps too, especially in the menu planning. There are 10 basic meal types that we rotate through, Monday is Pasta and Sauce and Monday 2 is a Buddah Bowl. Easy as that, the choices were limited to those two categories, making the choice much easier. Pasta a sauce it was, I had home canned sauce from our summer harvest, and italian (soy) sausage ready to just be tossed in with the sauce. Before my new approach, I would have spent way too much time on Pinterest looking up exotic possibilities.

So, the biggest landing area in the house – the kitchen table. It’s a catch all for everything and slowly, things build until the amount of space that we have to eat gets smaller and smaller. Small walls of magazines, mail, receipts, screws and pruners, butt up against the napkin holder until finally, one day, I lose it. Except, not today.

Today, was the culmination of many weeks, slowly editing, slowing visiting week by week until today, it was a quick, “hey – do you think we can get the rest of this stuff off the table by dinner?” was all that it took.

So tonight, I’m going to bed having made a homemade dinner from our own farm produce AND a spotless kitchen table.

Now, I am going to test the “broken window” theory, the idea that one unfixed broken window gives “permission” for the upkeep of the neighborhood to go downhill. According to Home Comforts, the same applies in the home so if I refrain from clutter, the other clutter bug will, too until one of us gives “permission” and the others accepts it. This is a shared landing pad and it feels good to have it cleared.


11 landing areas – in one small room

First, on the journey to habit building, I took the first step this week. I tracked my housekeeping habits, complete or not, every day this week. This is a win for me, I usually get all gung ho about a tracking tool, ahem, My Fitness Pal, I’m talking about you, and then as soon as I’m “bad” I don’t want to admit it, and just stop tracking. I didn’t do that. I also didn’t do everything on my list every day that I said I was going to do it. But I did keep track of what I did and have a pretty straightforward system for keeping track of what I did accomplish, which will help define next week’s task.

I wrote about this before, the philosophy of Konmari, to only keep items that “spark joy” is appealing and I’m dedicated to it. But the tactic of implementing all at once as quickly as possible was too overwhelming for me. So my approach is slightly different. I’ve visited every room of my home and identified the landing pads, intentional and not so much. I have 11 landing pads in my kitchen alone, and even though it’s probably quite boring, for anyone who has read this far, I’m guessing that you will not be bored by this list at all, so here goes:

  1. Corner of the kitchen table – my side
  2. corner of the kitchen table – DH’s side
  3. Floor in front of the china cabinet
  4. Top of the sideboard
  5. Island
  6. open shelves next to back door
  7. counter in front of the bread box
  8. top of the bread maker
  9. counter top under the windows
  10. Corner cabinet open shelf

These are places where clutter build up, where things collect, and one of the many, many, many places that I need to look when I am trying to find something that may (or may not) even be in this room.

Eleven. One room. There’s 9 in the living room, 1 in the bathroom, and another 9 in my office! The goal is, to visit them, study them, eliminate the ones that I can, and make the others as attractive as possible and put them on a regular schedule of being “dealt with”. And “dealt with” can be defined, and redefined, each week as I purposely and mindfully, spend time with my space.

So that’s my first full week, five out of seven days, I visited the room, I selected tasks, I completed them and I kept a record of it. I didn’t do everything, I don’t have to do everything, over time, order will present itself, solutions will pop into my mind and everything will have a place and a time.

Goal Success

The summer got away from me, and now I’m staring at the end quickly arriving with a few big goals still not achieved. But today was a good day. One of the things that I said I wanted to get done by the end of the summer was to develop (and stick to) a housekeeping plan. I’m jealous of the folks for whom housekeeping comes naturally, or is even sought out. I am not one of those people, neither is my husband. We’ve learned to maintain an unacceptable minimum for just long enough until we spend hours cleaning before people our guests arrive. It’s not only unsustainable but it more importantly makes me unhappy.

I had the book “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelson on my Amazon wish list for a whole, it took a long time to move it to my Christmas gift list, and I was genuinely excited about it when I unwrapped the package. But then, like many others, it sat. But then I took the summer off and integrated into my time bound achievable goal!

Mendelson has a lot to say, and I’m not going to go into all of it, but I used her template as a guide and developed my own strategy based on her “landing pad” concept. In short, accept that life is different than it was in past generations, and develop neat landing pads throughout that house that are dealt with on a regular schedule.

This is what I was looking for!

I sat down with my pink binder and came up with this.

  1. Set aside perfection and do something in one room six days a week.
  2. Assign each area of my home a specific day
  3. Identify the landing pads in each room
  4. Identify a list of washing tasks that apply to each room, i.e. dust the baseboards, vacuum the floor, etc.
  5. On washing day, “deal with” at least one of the landing pads in the room on scheduled for tomorrow
  6. Identify and keep track of “special projects” that are needed in each area of my home.

What I’m really doing and thinking about visiting each area of my home on a regular basis and really looking at it, really paying attention to how it functions and bit by bit identify way so make it function better. The immediacy and speed of the Konmari method has been a blocker for me, I know the faster that it is done, the sooner I will enjoy my home more, but for me, this is a process that I am still learning.

Of course, in true procrastinator fashion, I set aside my cute pink binder and forgot about my carefully mapped out plan. That’s not true, I didn’t forget about it, I actively rebelled against it. That’s a whole other story, but I got over my rebellion and today, I did it. I set aside perfection and decided that the swiffer duster and the roomba were acceptable for today. Felt so good about it that I tossed in another task and wiped down the sofa with a Weiman’s Leather wipe. AND, I didn’t have to remember that the couch needed to be wiped down, I had already created a list. I’ve also been reading about the bullet journal concept, I have already become accustomed to Franklin-Covey, and I love my planner, but the concept of a tracker tool has obvious benefits so I decided to track my daily plan to develop good housekeeping habits.

I seems weird to write about learning to keep house but it’s important for me to consider it carefully. We are not true hoarders like you see on television, there aren’t piles of garbage and lost cats. But I do worry what a tragedy would bring. So instead of lamenting, I’m celebrating. I said I was going to do it and I did. Tomorrow I have an opportunity to develop habits.

Quick wins and cute little spice tins

My 35 summer goals have increased to 38, which is fine because they are goals that should have been included anyway, milestone goals, like “prepare for week-long business trip”. I’m not just randomly getting distracted by shiny things and ideas, I have them, but then I re-focus on what I wrote down and committed to for this summer.

While I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate strategy (though it should have been), I made time somewhat spontaneously to accomplish a quick, easy and most importantly FUN goal. Organize my spice drawer.

I’ve been saving these round tins from Dean &Deluca for years now, I received them full of candies as a corporate gift, and had accumulated a set of 24, but they were just taking up space and not being used so I finally decided to do something about it.

I’m not super crafty, and these labels are definitely not a permanent solution, but I like that I actually up-cycled one of the many things types of cool containers I stumble across. I have actually gotten a lot better since reading ‘Tidying Up’ – metal coffee cans are still tough to part with – but I’m learning! 🙂

This didn’t take long, a run through the dishwasher, some spot treatment with goo-gone to get the labels off, and then an enjoyable session at the dining table with colored pencils, sharpies and standard Avery labels. I’m not looking to create something I’m going to sell on pinterest, and I know I will change these eventually to something more complicated, but for now I decided “why wait?” they are going be a heck of a lot more useful with simple labels than they are sitting around empty taking up space.

The quick win – the satisfaction of crossing something off the list. That felt good and it helps keep me going to achieve the bigger, more daunting organizing goals.


Summer Goals

I’ve heard it so many times before, time bound tasks and goals so they are easier to achieve. The only problem is when something doesn’t really have to be done by a certain date, and I know that, then it’s really easy to one of two things. Either make up really unrealistic due dates in a manic “I AM GETTING ORGANIZED RIGHT NOW” fit, or postpone all tasks indefinitely until the goal fades away.

When the due date is based on my own reality though, that is when things really do get accomplished. I have this summer off, not entirely, I still have to go to work every day, but other commitments in my life are on hold until the fall, meaning I have a real “time-bound” chunk of time to accomplish what I want during the summer before those commitments restart in late August.

Knowing this, it was much easier to actually set goals. The biggest being, what this blog is all about, finally, once and for all sorting through all of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. Trash it. Donate it. or. Sell it.

By the end of the summer, the entire attic in our home will be cleared of all but the essentials, everything else moved to the work space for the great purge to begin. Piece by piece, memory by memory, every unfinished project and lost hobby will be addressed and assigned a final resting spot in my life. Of course, I have to be realistic, so the goal is to have the attic done, and the process of sorting through all of this stuff normalized by the end of the summer.

We took the first big step today. I planned it a few days in advance, started to get the SO on board with using the long weekend to clean out the attic. He sees the benefit though, so today we filled the car twice with stuff. We can see the floor!


Celebrate Sucess

The idea that I am writing about organization is comical, its just not something that I am very good at, yet I’ve been trying and trying and one thing that I’ve discovered is  writing about it, either on a keyboard or with a pen, keeps me motivated to continue to do it. Not sure if it works that way for anyone else, but it does for me.

So this year I embarked on #Konmari, or maybe dabbled is a better way to put it. I started diligently and like so many times before, I slowed down and thing started to build back up again. I just skipped over a ton of categories and edited my Christmas decorations. I went from socks to sentimental – and it feels pretty darn good.

One of the motivations that I am discovering is that I want to entertain in our home more. We had an Independence day party this year, we invited people over and served them ice-cream and showed them fireworks and had a good time. And now, we’re even thinking about having some sort of December holiday party. Over time, I haven’t been acknowledging my successes. I haven’t taken notice that while I have not completely transformed my home – we’ve made considerable progress and that is something. I’ve also been inspired somewhat by the invitations I’ve received into others homes of others, some of my older friends, who have presumably learned the lesson that life is too short to not invite people over simply because you’re home is cluttered!

The in-law’s came to visit, friends came over a few times, and we’re considering the idea of inviting people over for a New Year’s event. I’d say that’s progress in the right direction.





Konmari, step 2

I finally finished step 2, pants and skirts.  I still have a few steps to go before I’ll be able to move my hamper.  Why is anyone blogging about where to store the hamper? I’m blending methods from a few key books, and publishing progress is a recommended tactic. So back to the pants and skirts.

It’s not easy. There are still pieces that do not bring me joy that I’m struggling to part with.  The reward of more space wasn’t enough to motivate me to take onthejob for another two weeks, but I finally got started.

It’s done,  and with each step comes a refresh of the previous  steps,  so some tops that should have been let go, are in the pile. The hardest part is admitting the mistakes,  the bad purchases that just didn’t work out as intended.  The pants that I know we’re just a bit too short or tight, those are tough.

But konmari works,  I’m starting to see it for myself.  Now onto sweaters and jackets.

Adding a carrot to the joy question

Do you know why your hamper is where it is? I don’t. It’s probably there because that’s where it fit. It’s definitely not there because that’s where I get undressed. And it’s only here because it’s the hamper that was handed down, no thought had ever been given to if it’s even the right hamper for the job!

Thinking about how I go about my day, how I interact with my space, is not something I am used to doing. But it makes perfect sense. My laundry basket is tucked away in a corner next to my bed, but my pajamas are in the walk in closet on the other side of the room. What happens? I get a pile of dirty laundry in the closet! There’s a book that says if you aren’t doing something that you say you want or need to do, make it 20 seconds easier and see what changes. Remove a barrier and happiness increases. Add an incentive (carrot) to do what is needed to address the barrier.

So if I don’t want dirty clothes piling up, how do I make it easier to put them in the laundry? Move the laundry basket to the closet so it is close by when dressing.

Now, I have a specific tactic that will help me answer the joy question. I don’t think the joy question is quite enough to get to where I want to be.  Keeping what I love isn’t enough, “love” gets loosely defined, “I love this because it fits and extends the time between laundry” isn’t what she meant.

Now, if I add the new incentive to the question, the process is easier. Combine, “do I love this”  with the idea that if I don’t, I am rewarded with space for the laundry basket.

Another way to answer “does it bring me joy?”

It’s a hard question, Konmari says to go through this process quickly. After the tops exercise, I believe a year could be considered quickly.

I definitely kept more than what brings me joy. I did all of my laundry, went through every top, made the decision, folded each piece with care, and stored in a visually pleasing way. And what did I learn, what I chose to wear first is what really bright me joy and when I decided to laundry because I missed what was dirty. When laundry was more attractive than wearing what was left in my drawers, I knew I had kept too much.

Now the question is, do I redo step one, apparel/tops or continue with bottoms/pants,shorts, and skirts? I think continuing on is the best approach for me. Continuously increasing the amount of space I have “empty” is attractive and motivating to me.