How to clear clutter in small bursts

Sheila Chandra - Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time….

I was once a ‘hare’ when clearing my clutter

I’ve just discovered the joy of doing long or boring jobs I don’t want to do, a little bit at a time. When I was younger, I used to be a perfectionist and this was reinforced by the fact that I had boundless energy. I used to like finishing even a colossal task all in one go, taking a whole weekend if necessary. I used to think nothing of spending 20 hours, consolidating and reorganising my office archives, for instance. My then husband (who was 14 years older than me) used to watch me tearing into the task, go off and have a nap and come back three hours later, to find me still sorting at the same pace!


I realised you can’t be a ‘hare’ all your life…

But then I got older, and my energy levels dropped, and became a resource I had to channel and manage much more sensibly. In my twenties and thirties I used to be able to rush everywhere, and then suddenly I couldn’t any more. For a while, this really bothered the perfectionist in me. I’d find myself slouching my way through tasks, and not being able to find the energy to gleefully dot all the ‘i’s’ and cross all the ‘t’s.


How I changed from a ‘hare’ to a ‘tortoise’

But just recently I’ve found it a real revelation to work at things in a ‘little and often’ fashion. To clear out just one kitchen drawer rather than do the whole room, scrub, paint and wish I could build an extension at the same time… The key is to have only one or two extended projects going on, with a good picture in your mind of what you want to achieve for each of them, and to keep revisiting them every day. And then to do one complete stage of whatever you’re clearing each time, so that can congratulate yourself and so that you have something neat waiting for you when you go back to it rather than a state of half finished chaos. One drawer, one shelf, or one cupboard as part of the whole space… whatever you can manage that day.


The joy of being a ‘tortoise’ when you clear clutter

I find if I can spend even half an hour a day, everyday, moving that particular project one stage on, I get far more done, and it doesn’t feel half so much of an imposition. I used to really admire people who could work steadily and patiently at something for years, as it was something I always found it hard to do. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I was one of those kids who never revised, and stayed up all night cramming before the exam). Committing to finishing only one small, but well defined, stage of a project (and no more), and allowing myself to feel pleased with my efforts at the end of it has been the thing that’s converted me. The ‘feeling pleased with myself’ emotion is the thing that draws me back to work on it the next day. I’ve become confident that I’ll go back to it too – rather than believing that I never will, which is what used to ‘drive’ me as a ‘hare’. And I’ve finally been able to develop some confidence in my staying power where work is concerned, so I can finally be a ‘tortoise’ when I need to, rather than an exhausted or panicky ‘hare’.

If you’d like to develop more confidence in your ability to work ‘little and often’ on clutter clearing download an excerpt of ‘Banish Clutter Forever’.

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