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Messies, Decluttering & Mess Deconstruction

There are a hundred home organization professionals out there that can help you declutter your spaces. The "how" isn't that difficult. But most professional organizers act like you are going to clean up once, set up an organizational system, and you'll keep that system in place forever. In other words, they think you'll become a tidy person, just because you got organized once.

Hope springs eternal, as they say.

I love organizing things. At various times, my spice cabinet has been in alphabetical order, arranged by type (peppers, mixes, barbecue rubs, warm spices, etc.), by cuisine it's used in, or by container shape/size.

I don't keep things organized. I am unlikely to put the cinnamon back with the other warm spices after I finish making cinnamon-sugar toast. I'm way too excited by that enticing cinnamon-toasty smell to do that. So the cinnamon sits on the counter until I decide to put it away.

Yes, I could be more mindful. Think about what I'm doing at the moment and not rush off to do the next thing. Yadda yadda yadda. I could, but will I? Sometimes, but not always. I know this about me.

There are two main ways people deal with cleaning. “Tidies” clean as they go. They wipe down the counters and wash pans as they cook. They put trash in the wastebasket immediately. They put the cinnamon back with the other warm spices.

“Messies” wait to pick up after themselves at a later time. They wash dishes when the sink or dishwasher is full. They vacuum the carpet only when the dog hair becomes too visible. They shove piles of stuff in a drawer or a closet to get it out of the way. If you have hung around for long, you know that I completely embody the “wait until later” philosophy, and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

Unfortunately, "later" doesn't mean "never." The dishes don't wash themselves. The junk in the guest room doesn't magically disappear before your next guest arrives. The level of clutter in your life depends on how often you address the items waiting for "later."

If you are a Messy, you have probably had a time when you felt overwhelmed because you waited too long to do the cleanup. When there is just too much to do, you freeze, stunned by the mountain of work.

So decluttering and putting things in order is necessary. Chaos will reign if you don't make time to do the organizing every now and then. The only difference between a Messy and a Tidy is the level of chaos each can live with.

A few years back, I had an "aha" moment when I realized that my mess had an underlying logic. When I declutter, I pay attention to where the items landed at different stages of clutter growth. I call it deconstructing the clutter. It's a kind of archaeological dig that helps me figure out why things land where they do. So the cinnamon ends up next to the toaster because that's where I used it last.

My individual logic is that everything I need has to be where I can see it. "Out of sight is out of mind" (OOSOOM) describes me to a T. There are Messies who have tidy-looking spaces but hide their chaos in closets or cabinets. That kind of Messy might put the cinnamon in the cabinet right above the toaster instead of walking across the room to put it in the spice cabinet. In that case, the cinnamon might be in the cabinet with plates, which will make it hard to find the next time she makes an apple pie.

The magic of deconstructing your mess comes when you put things back together after decluttering. The deconstruction tells you what you do when you're not trying to be organized. Then you reconstruct with that knowledge in mind.

In one office declutter a long time ago, I paid attention to the fact that I never put stuff on top of my mousepad. I also noticed that I like to jot down my weekly plan on scrap paper (not in my Messy Planner) to put it somewhere highly visible. Putting 2+2 together, I thought, "hmm, I wonder if using a notepad as a mousepad would work? Then I'd have my list available all the time and reduce the scraps of paper on my desk." That simple solution--and a lot of trial and error--led me to create The Messy Mousepad.

Sometimes your reconstruction wouldn't seem tidy to someone else, but it will be easier for you to maintain than a system made for someone else's brain. My sister keeps makeup and toiletries in the pockets of a shoe organizer hung on the back of her bathroom door.

If you share stuff with other people, you'll need to find compromises for your reconstruction to fit everyone's needs. At work, we have a fairly even mix of folks who prefer things visible or prefer things hidden. We share a public service desk, and since hidden looks better to the public, we settled on keeping things in drawers and organizers. The compromise for those of us who forget things we can't see is that every cubby is labeled. That way, everyone knows where things go and we OOSOOM folks have visual organizational cues without the clutter.

Want to learn how to deconstruct your own clutter? The Declutter Your Office mini-course is the first class I'm offering in the Deconstruction Series. We start with the office because paper and electronic clutter have their own archaeological layers but the office is (usually) a fairly small space. This course will give you all the details to deconstruct and reconstruct your space and make it your own.

If the office isn't where you want to start your deconstruction, make an appointment with Marie for a free consultation and we'll make a plan for your unique brain.

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