Monday, March 11, 2013

From Clutterbug to Neatfreak

I am a recovering clutterer. Yes, there is such a thing. I have hoarding tendencies that I fight against daily. I also have a bit of an OCD problem. Growing up, I was a messy kid, shoving toys under my bed, leaving piles of stuff on my floor. But there was always a path and I generally knew where everything was. As I got older, I accumulated more stuff until I have more belongings in storage boxes than I had out being used. I didn’t understand where this was a problem until the last time I moved and we needed a small U-Haul to carry 3 pieces of small furniture and all of my boxes of stuff. Finally, it sank in that I had a problem and that I needed to do something about it.
My transformation began two years ago when I moved in with my parents. I realized that I needed to lower my “stuff footprint.” All fine and good but where do I start? I had so much stuff I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume. After mostly settling in, I found a box, a box of stuff that hadn’t found a home yet, and I decided to go through this box. And so I found my goal to go through one box, bag, drawer, bin and shelf at a time to minimize its contents. I would do my cleaning chores on Saturday morning weekly. I would start going through my closet monthly and pulling out clothes and shoes to pass on. Once I had these goals in mind, I was ready to take it to the next step.
One of the more difficult aspects of organizing is figuring out how to organize to your advantage. I know I’m a visual person so I needed to organize with clear or open containers and color order. Before I ran out to buy boxes and bins, I evaluated my belongings and how they should be stored. Shoes went into clear plastic shoeboxes that now stack neatly in the closet. Winter gear is in a plastic bin that can easily be tossed in the attic or hall closet during the summer. While my file cabinet is in the closet, out of sight, I have a ladder shelf with my pre-filing open top bins, one for receipts, to-be-filed, and important papers. My closet clothes are arranged in type order then color order, ex. sleeveless then short-sleeved then long-sleeved, each in color order. My dresser clothes are arranged by most used in the top drawers, like sock and t-shirts, to least used in the bottom, like my very nice collection of exercise clothes. In the bathroom, hair supplies and toiletries go under the main sink while facial care and cleaning supplies go under the extra sink because I use those objects at the different sinks. So that’s how I organize.
Now the hardest part of all of this is maintaining the clean. Fortunately for me, though I may be a clutterer, I also have OCD tendencies. Which means once my room is clean, it’s much easier to keep it that way because of the compulsion to keep it clean. This is easily done with starting the day by making the bed as soon as I get out of it. Acts as a burst of energy and discourages me from sneaking back into bed! After that, everything goes back in its place, wherever it came from. Shoes back in the shoeboxes in the closet, coat on the hanger, keys on hook, phone on desk. After washing sheets and clothes, the sheets immediately go back on the bed and the clothes get folded and put away. If I can’t fold them right away, I at least lay out the hanging items so that they don’t get wrinkled. My main rule is that all clothes must be put away appropriately before bed. This rule is a lifesaver for me; otherwise I’d have clothes hanging and hiding all over the place!
While it sounds like I have this clean room thing down pat, truth is I can mess it up in a heartbeat. It seems like one day of not picking up suddenly becomes a week’s worth of stuff sitting on my floor. After I blitz-clean, I remind myself that a few minutes picking up before bed could have saved me a few hours worth of cleaning. I also remind myself of this every time I’m tempted to leave my clothes on the chair. I don’t want to be a clutterer. In fact, I hate having the compulsion to cover every square inch of flat space available in my room. I noticeably avoid my room when it’s messy and seek sanctuary when it’s clean. So I fight against the clutter; sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. What matters to me is that I win more than I lose. What can I say? I’m human!