I have been fighting clutter for a long time now! My big issue remember isn’t getting rid of things, for decades it was living in a cleared space, which gave me panic attacks. That meant I was “wedded” to having clutter. So — I kept trying and before my PTSD diagnosis and work, there was no way I could fix it.
Since, I’ve tried, lots of different ideas (I’ve talked about some, here, for the past 6 years) and attempted to find ways around/through/vanquish my stupid panic attacks.
In the process, I came to a few realizations about clutter:
- Clutter gets in your way when trying clean an area.
- Removing Clutter is almost always the first step in a cleaning plan. (For anyone who isn’t me.)
- Clutter is normally made up of things you can pick up: dishes, laundry, papers, game pieces, bills, etc.
But because I’m me what this all means is that it’s interesting, certainly, but it doesn’t help me declutter.
What works? Well, the same thing that works when I’m knitting: being just slightly distracted. I tried trying to “dance” while I was cleaning and although that was fun, and Gawd knows I need the exercise, the cleaning was subpar. So no.
I tried “writing” in my head, that is storytelling. Except that what would happen is that I’d inevitably go back to the bad stuff, punch that button AND BRING ON a panic attack. No again.
I don’t know about others with PTSD, but math is my friend. Math is concrete, it is almost always the same. It has no emotional good or bad or family or traditions that I know of to punch any buttons at all.
So, I invented a game for myself. It’s 5:1. For every item I use, I have accrued 5 items I need to clean, clean up, put away, etc. I also learned from the 6-5 lists that I can’t carry it forward, or I’ll get too discouraged, so the counter is reset to 0 every morning.
When I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee with milk and stir it with a spoon, and that puts me at 10. After a couple of weeks of this, I am doing things like putting dishes away while the coffee gets hot, so I start with 0 or in the + column. Daily flatware (forks, knives, spoons) 3 pieces = 1, most everything else is 1 for 1, so a pot is 1 and putting a serving spoon away is also 1.
I wrote down one day last week:
|Mug & spoon used||-10||-10||7:30 a.m.|
|Dishes washed||+14||+4||10:00 a.m.|
|Wood stove glass cleaned||+1||+5|
|Wood stove accessories cleaned||+3||+9|
|Wood box tidied & maintained||+2||+11|
|Kindling boxes tidied & maintained||+2||+13|
|Trashcan emptied & put away||+2||+15||10:10 a.m.|
|1 item to trash||+12||+17|
|Mug in sink||-5||+12|
|Swept 5 areas & kitchen||+6||+18|
|Cleaned 5 stairs||+5||+23|
|Rag & spray bottle put away||+2||+25|
|Broom & dustpan cleaned/put away||+4||+29|
|2 chunks newspaper trashed||+2||+31||11:25 a.m.|
|8 papers trashed||+8||+39|
|6 things put away||+6||+45||11:38 a.m.|
|1 plate used||-5||+40|
|5 items used while making lunch||-25||+15||12:10p.m.|
|Cooking, serving lunch used 9 items||-45||-20||12:39 p.m|
|22 items washed||+22||+2||1:06 p.m.|
|Package arrives||-15||-13||1:15 p.m.|
|Dishes put away||+11||-2|
|Dinner was provided by a friend. One pan needed to heat it.||-5||-7||5:20 p.m.|
|2 dinner dishes & 2 forks||-10||-17||5:30 p.m.|
|Washed dishes & culled items||+19||+2||9:05 p.m.|
If you don’t have to make up games to do this sort of thing — good for you! I wish that was true for me, but it isn’t. Also, I only do this Monday – Friday. Weekends are for being with my husband and focusing on US, not cleaning!
If you’re not dehoarding, you might want to try this at 3:1 or 2:1 or even 1:1. I’m trying to get rid of a lot of excess stuff, finally, and this seems to work. Your mileage may vary!
(The image isn’t mine but I got it via images.google.com)