Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Clearing Spaces: Tips, Tricks and... The Tour

When it comes to cleaning there are people who are very good at staying organized, and then there are the rest of us.  I wouldn't say that I'm terribly messy, but I don't think I would be able to disguise myself from other Messies.  Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of cleanliness, we're all in the same boat.  I'm still learning skills and ways to think about organization so that it's not an entirely overwhelming or embarrassing subject any longer.  I hope I can impart some ideas that are helpful to you so you can feel good about the space you live in.  That in itself is of course the reward, living in an inviting home.  It nurtures your soul and well cared for spaces return that wonderful energy to you on a daily basis. 

What really got me started

A couple books have really helped throughout my life as I've moved from apartment to apartment and only now can I say I'm starting to feel like I live in a space that is healthy.  That's because it's hard to know exactly if you live in a healthy space or not if you've never really known what it should feel like or look like.  Growing up my family lived in a home that I would say was actually quite clean and organized but it didn't exactly reflect us.  My room on the other hand was always incredibly messy.  Clothes on the floor, books everywhere.  It was terrible.  And not to blame parents, but children don't know how to be organized unless they are taught these skills and also given tools, such as specified locations for all items.  Then again, maybe many of us just don't have that gene.  My mother is, not surprisingly, like me.  Her house is "clean" but it really teeters on falling into an absolute slush pile of disorganization.  She has boxes and boxes of things which may or may not be needed, but that's where they've remained.  She doesn't have enough space for all the things she's keeping around, and like many of us, she'd like to get things organized but she goes catatonic at the actual prospect and doesn't know where to start.  She feels defeated before she even begins.  Basically, her "stuff" is winning. 

I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I am very aware how difficult it is to let go of things.  That sentence right there says it all doesn't it?  It's probably the hardest thing in the world.  For that reason, as we start on our space clearing, it's important to be gentle with yourself.  Yes, it might just be a "thing" but for whatever reason, it may be difficult for you to let go and it's important to honor that.  Honor it, and find out why it is you're having a hard time letting something go.  And, while it's important to let things go, to free yourself from all of your "stuff" it's equally important to allow yourself more time if, for whatever reason, you can't bring yourself to let something go.  You don't have to.  Maybe you need to revisit the feelings that something brings up.  Maybe it's an item that should have a better place in your home.  Or, maybe it serves as a reminder of feelings you haven't quite dealt with and need to do something about before you can finally let it go.
In any case, cleaning and space clearing is like a spiritual quest.  Your energy is tied to all of the things you own.  That's something important to think about.  All the many things that you own have a little thread of energy coming from you.  For that reason, I know there are many items that don't, or no longer need, that thread coming from me. 

The two books that have helped me are:
Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston
Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure by Maxwel Gillingham-Ryan

Karen Kingston's book is excellent at helping you look at your "stuff" and decide if you really need it. 

And, like a person at the beginning of a diet and exercise routine, I took photos of my place, messiness and all.  It's not terrible, but it has its excesses and like many of us I have a hard time figuring out where to start.  I get overwhelmed.  Where do I start?!  The kitchen's a mess, but I want to do some sewing, but to do that I need to clear a space and the bathroom should really be cleaned and I have laundry - etc, etc and before you know it nothing's been cleaned and I'm still wondering where to start and anxious to start anywhere.
The most effective solution I've come up with is this, and I call it the Power of 10 which I find helpful and hopefully other Aspie's will find it helpful, or people with ADD or ADHD.  Everyone's needs are different and everyone's style is different.  This is what I've found to be most helpful.

The Power of 10
I go to any area of my house and I reach my hands out and pick up the first 10 items that I can see don't belong there.  For whatever reason, whenever I start cleaning, I always start with the counter to the right of my stove.  Perhaps because it's so narrow.  Also, items in the kitchen tend to have a fairly straightforward purpose: trash/recycling, fridge/freezer, or sink/dishwasher.  They either need to be tossed, stored, and cleaned.

Then repeat as necessary.

Fun Variations and Tricks:
Power of 100
: You repeat the Power of 10, ten times.  Don't attempt to pick up 100 items.  Pick up 10.  Put them in their place, and then repeat.  If you pick up too many things, you'll get overwhelmed.

Time Yourself: If this appeals to you, time yourself for 5 minutes and see how many items you can pick up and put in their place.  Again, only do the Power of 10 - don't pick up too much stuff.  It's the little accomplishments, just 10 items already being put in their place and so quickly that keeps you going.

Off-and-On: If I'm having trouble attacking an area, I set my timer for 5 minutes, and I do the Power of 10 as many times as possible during that time, then I do something else for 5 minutes - maybe have a movie on, I watch for 5 minutes, clean for 5.  If I want to watch for longer intervals, then I make sure to clean for longer intervals too.  In any case, you're getting something done, so good on you!!!

And as promised, a tour of my resolutionary project :)
Bathroom at the moment - eek

Shower - hey that's not too bad

What's behind the door.... The shelves are actually "organized" - the laundry, well...

Kitchen counter


My "recycling bin"

The sink (left)

The sink (right)

Moving into the living room


What happened after I took all my books off the shelf, organized them into categories and cleared out the "crap" to make way for a nice little mailbox section (aka the space between the Buddha tummies)

My "desk"

My sewing/project area

My other organized bookshelf with leftover "projects" from Christmas

Project area

The dreaded wasteland known as "Stuff I Don't Know What To Do With So I'm Putting It Here For Safekeeping" (with a fairly organized dresser in the background)


DVD shelf that vomited them all up one day

Bedroom - and I'm quite proud of this!  Another example of what can happen - it looked nothing like this until one day I figured out a better way to organize and situate my furniture.  I love it now!

But I still have to do laundry - and I have too many clothes.

Shoe shelf (and drying derby gear rack)

Eek - the hallway closet that I can't photograph well because frankly, I can't move the doors either way

Hallway closet - don't EVER open the door!

And I didn't even photograph the garage yet!


  1. ha ha not too bad. Some areas look okay. It's just disorganized at this point I think. Looking forward to the after pics. Some of these pics make me want to get busy with a few areas, like my "Treasure Room" AKA....Disaster Room, lol

  2. I'm inspired to get cleaning too!