Getting Ahead of Things?

I don’t think it’s an overstatement for me to say that I’ve felt off balance to one extent or another ever since 2020. Between COVID and the kitchen renovation and Tomas heading out on his mission and disruptions over at the university, I’ve just not felt like I’ve been on firm footing. One of the ways I usually do that is to organize things. (There’s a reason I’m a librarian, after all.) I don’t pay as much attention to things being spotlessly clean, but clutter can really weigh me down over time, despite the fact that I’m content to live in a fair bit of it. (Just ask anyone who’s seen my office lately . . . ) But I seem to get to a point when life feels too much up in the air that the only way I can really ground myself is to straighten things up. Throw out stuff I’m not using. Find a place for everything.

However, since the kitchen renovation, we’ve perpetually had at least one room in our house that was a borderline disaster zone (or a full on disaster). It would move from time to time. Sometimes it was the loft, sometimes the sun room, sometimes the family room, sometimes the office. Usually a combination of those. My bedroom would also get out of control more often than not. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying to keep things ordered, but it just felt like I had too much to do to be able to give it all the attention it needed so just get things done.

(I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, if I leave any part of a room cluttered, then that part will inevitably begin to grow until it takes over the whole room. The only success I ever have in holding the clutter at bay is to keep it out with an iron fist. It’s like rot. You get rid of the rotten areas and don’t let it get another toehold.)

This Christmas vacation, I sat down and made a list of all the things I wanted to do in order to have a great holiday. The usual suspects were on there, from fudge to eggnog to board games to movie marathons to Christmas music and more. But I also added one overarching goal: before the end of my break, I wanted every single room in the house (other than the girls’ bedrooms which would be beyond my ability to just make clean) to be clutter free. My hope was that if I could just get ahead of all it at last, I could finally feel that grounded sensation again. The feeling that yes, I’m on top of things, and no, I don’t need to worry about anything.

And so I got to work. It was a long process and took a lot of time. Pretty much a constant push over about three weeks, that I only had time for because I’d taken so much time off. Decluttering at that scale is very draining (or it is for me, at least). It’s not something I can just do for hours and hours on end. But Monday, on my last day of time off, I finally finished. For the first time since we moved all the cabinet boxes into the office when the kitchen renovation was beginning, every single room in my house was, if not pristine, satisfactorily tidy.

It’s a great feeling, and I’m happy to say it’s done the trick (for now, at least). I do feel like I’m more on top of things than I’ve been in a long time.

So what am I going to do to keep it that way? We’ve recommitted to our most recent cleaning scheme, as a family. Each of us have assigned common areas that we’re in charge of keeping clean. (Divided out through a weighted point system based on how hard each area is to clean, to make sure each person had an assignment equal to their abilities.) Each of us is tasked with spending 15 minutes a day cleaning up those areas. Vacuuming. Decluttering. Dusting. Mopping. Whatever it takes. 15 minutes. Each day. Sundays are days off.

We had a bit of success with this a few months ago, but then I think I got sick for a few weeks, and the wheels fell off. Hopefully they stay on this time. If we can just stay ahead of it all, the job isn’t that hard. 15 minutes a day for four people a day is six hours of cleaning a week. It should be more than enough.

But even if we fall behind, it will take some other huge disruptions for me to ever get that far behind on the house again. Thank goodness. (And the best news is that today is another snow day, and I don’t have a list of places in the house I need to tackle. I just have to work for 15 minutes. Huzzah!)

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