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You’re Decluttering Wrong, and Other Lies

I’ve been on a decluttering kick recently, inspired by the neat-o ladies in my favourite Facebook groups and Marie Kondo’s admonition to keep only the things that spark joy in my tender little heart.

I was sorting out my pantry (not too bad, generally) and I came across some sad jars of jam that I’d made last year. They were sad for two reasons; one was I thought the peel in them would soften more than it did, and the other was that my husband told me after I’d put up that batch that he didn’t actually like that kind of jam. So basically every time I looked at it, rather than Sparking Joy it was Sparking FAIL.badjam

Since I don’t live in the Depression, I gave myself permission to not try and redeem the Bad Jam by serving it as unpopular steamed puddings forthwith. I put the jam down the insinkerator and washed out the jars…washingjars

and I put the empty jars and their lids in the recycling bin, Tidy Kiwi that I am.

wheelybin

Satisfied with myself, I went over to one of my FB groups where I’m quite enjoying sharing minor triumphs, and I was all “I did a thing! I washed out the gross jam and put the jars in the recycling!”

Encouraging “Likes” happened and I was feeling pleased until…. one guy shows up to correct my behaviour.

internetstrangersezactually2

And of course, that is technically true.  I could have given the jars away.

*Clears throat* *Puts on Documentary Narrator Voice*

In our relatively prosperous, consumer society, with its constant flow of inexpensive goods, we are faced with a problem our grandparents never had when they were our age – getting rid of too much stuff.  

Furthermore, we’re over-informed, extra anxious, and infinitely aware of the environmental trade-offs of any given decision.

The landfills that were considered an excellent solution a few decades ago are no longer considered to be solving the problem.

What happens, then, when we easily-overwhelmed people try to declutter?  We get Stucked, because we can’t do the Technically Best Thing with the stuff we’re trying to get rid of, so we’ll postpone the decision until circumstances allow us to do that Theoretical Best Thing, which may never happen.

Of course, this Stuckedness and Overthinking was happening with the Bad Jam for me already, and could keep going indefinitely as long as I was willing to feel crushing sorrow every time I looked behind the sauce bottles in the pantry.

I am intensely aware of the continuum of ways to conscientiously dispose of something good that I don’t need any more.

Pulling an example of the air, let’s say…  four empty jam jars.

At one end is the obviously terrible, say, tossing them out the window of a moving car.

movingcar2

Alternatively, I could have just put the jars directly into the trash.

landfill

I could have emptied the jars out and then hung on to them until I wanted to try and make another batch of jam…

dustyjars

Or, oh! oh! There is a local volunteer organisation that always needs jars; I should put them in the car and deliver them across town…emptyjars

In fact, they want volunteers to make jam, I should go and get fruit from them and then make jam and then  put it in the jars and then take the jars back, full of glorious jam!
makesomejam

Apart from the “moving car” one, these are all actual plans I had for those jars, which resulted in the Pantry of Sadness loop I mentioned earlier.

Until I decided to just do what I’d normally do when I emptied a jar of pickles, say, and what most of the population does when they’ve emptied a jar without overthinking the heck out of the thing.

I rinsed it out and put it in the recycling.wheelybin

Afterword:

It’s pretty much a known fact that when you share an action or an opinion on the internets,  there’s a risk that someone’s going to Sealion their way in to tell you that you’re wrong. Frankly, we’re pretty good at thinking up all those objections ourselves, let alone dredging up every fact and opinion that we’ve ever heard or read.

Decluttering is hard, but getting extra stuff out of your house is good.

It’s absolutely fine to get rid of things in a perfectly reasonable way.  

(Don’t throw them out the window of your car, though)

 

IMG_6451

Half-Tidying avoidance

Half-tidying” is when you only sorta-kinda put things away.  You know, you open the bathroom cupboard, scroonch up your eyes and just shove that new shower-puff into the nearest space. I’m prone to this because if I look properly I get stressed about where the “correct” place is to put that thing, and in order to locate that “correct” place I think I need to empty everything out of the cupboard and have an extended Tetris-type arranging party and it will take hours I tell you, hours. Bah.

Of course that sort of behaviour just builds on itself, because each hastily-placed thing wobbles on top of the previous pile of things, making it more likely to avalanche forth when you open the door. You think that only happens in the movies? It’s more fun at 2am, I tell you what.

But I was typing this I saw, in my mind’s eye, the FlyLady waving her finger at me.  “You can do anything for 15 minutes!” she says. “Get off your arse, Rosie!” she adds, somewhat unexpectedly for a woman from North Carolina, “Get a plastic bag and set your timer and sort out that cupboard!”

OKAY FINE.

Setting the timer

Later….
I finished the job in twenty-something minutes. (I paused my timer early because of an Urgent Child Related Interruption and forgot to restart it)

  • 2 pairs tiny nail clippers  and an unopened packet of emery boards in donate box
  • 1 and a half supermarket bags of rubbish taken out
  • all the loose rags back in the rag bag
  • loo paper and tissues on proper shelf
  • all the bottles, packets etc back in correct baskets
  • even fit the vacuum cleaner back in the bottom!

Bathroom cupboard beforeLIKE A BOSS

Plain labels work tooAnd I added some quick labels, to help me put things back properly next time around:

because you don’t have to go Full Pinterest  on your entire house to get things organised; ballpoint and $2 shop stickers will do the job. If I want to go back and make fancypants labels with stamps or something I can do that another day.

Great Success.

Half-Tidying (AKA I’ll just leave this here)

fruitbowl

Here are some things I have “just” put in the wrong place “for now” in the past day or so.

  • mucky yoghurt lids (the bin is full and it’s too mucky it’ll stick to the bin lid)
  • toy walkie talkie in fruitbowl (half of a pair)(I don’t know what to do with it)
  • CD taken out of car CD player into the case of the CD I’m putting in (always, always; have a queue of incorrectly boxed discs going back to 1990*)
  • Knotted nest of necklaces resembling a junk-jewellery rat king (put on dressing table because ehhhhh I can’t untangle it but don’t want to put it back in the box to incorporate every other set of beads)
  • Fitbit that’s been through the wash twice put on the same dressing table (because maybe it’ll do a Sherlock and be only pretending to be dead)

You know.

Then Dan Howell (Danisnotonfire) from the You Tubes talked about it better than me. (note: video includes cussing)

One week ago I did a hard-core complete tidy of this room and yet here I am standing in a post-apocolyptic laundry pile. … So, how did this happen? I’ve thought about it and I think it’s because people tend to only ever do half-tidies. Instead of putting stuff where it’s actually supposed to go, you just cop-out half way…. That one thing won’t matter, but if you do it with every bowl, sock, disc, and piece of paper, everything slowly builds up, and before you know it, you’ve ruined your life”

What is the solution? Not making a promise to yourself that you’re never again to cram a thing into the wrong cupboard, or swearing black and blue that the coffee table is not a home for the dog’s leash or your second best scissors, because then the next time you “forget” you’re likely to feel super faily.

There are just two three parts to the answer:

  1. when you next pick up a thing, put it where it belongs, ESPECIALLY if the place it belongs is the laundry-basket, the sink/dishwasher, or the rubbish bin.
  2. make a habit of visiting all the places where you tend to “just put” things and putting them away properly before they grow to epic proportions. Flylady calls these places Hotspots. You can call them what you like.
  3. and Repeat.

Think about adding your hotspot patrol to your afternoon routine, or keep it in the back of your mind for when you’re on the phone and want to do something absent-minded while you talk. Or both.

 

 

*Oh man, that’s the year before that Dan guy was born. What is my life.

 

Bonus SCIENTS:

The Elephant Shrew (or Sengi) makes trails then rushes every day picking up anything that’s fallen in its path.

Doing a small thing is better than doing nothing when you’re feeling stuck

Here’s the thing.  There’s a lot of productivity advice that says, well, if you don’t know what to do, do the thing that’s in front of you.  If a job is going to take less than two minutes, do it NOW. Put on your big girl undies, lace up your Doc Martens and get the heck on with it.

This advice is just jolly splendid when  I’m well rested and having a good mental health day and I’m right up for the kicking of butts and the taking of names.  But there are some days that I just don’t feel like that.

Some days it’s all too much and there are just too many choices.

Even considering the choices makes me feel too anxious, so I just want to curl up in a squishy chair with my laptop and Tumblr.

Portrait of the Artist With Poor Posture and Squishy Chair

The bugger of the thing isn’t that I’m not doing any of the things I should be doing. It’s that I end up getting stuck in my chair, hypnotically clicking and scrolling, but not actually enjoying what I’m doing while I’m avoiding doing the proper thing.

Useless.

That is no good to man nor beast.  (Nor does it do anything to improve the state of my kitchen floor)

So I have devised an opt out, in-case-of-emergency plan for myself:

Do a Thing! (it's better than not doing a thing)

It’s way better to get up and do something that will get you out of the squishy chair or the escapist nap. Either something enjoyable that doesn’t take much thinking about, or just a very very small bite of a Useful Job, even if that job is probably way down the bottom of your imaginary stack-ranking of Job Importance that you can’t think about because there are way too many things on the list.

Repeat after me: doing a thing – SOME thing –  is way better than NOT doing a thing.

Here is my own list of Small Things I Can Do when I find myself to be not doing a thing.

Your list will be different, but it’s a good idea to make one and keep it in your back pocket (or at the back of your mind) for when you find yourself curled in a Sad, Anxious Ball of Stuck-edness.

Small Things To Do

  1. Water a plant
  2. Pick up the duplo blocks
  3. Go have a drink of water. Make it fancy with a lemon slice or ice in it or something.
  4. Grab a handful of the kids’ art to keep or recycle
  5. Sweep the kitchen (Apparently I was feeling very optimistic when I made this picture)
  6. Put on your shoes and go for a short walk
  7. Write a letter
  8. Write the shopping list from the whiteboard onto an actual bit of paper
  9. Bake something!
  10. Hang out some washing, or get in some washing, or just move some washing along one click on the process
  11. Pick up an Actual Book to read
  12. Phone a Friend or Relation
  13. Glue some bits in your scrappy scrapbook
  14. Ignore any other laundry backlog and just fold some towels
  15. Go outside and sit under a tree

 

After you do a Small Thing, you might want to keep on working on it. You might wander off to do something else, or feel ready to tackle a larger job.  Or just feel a little bit better and fend off the siren call of the catnap for a few minutes longer.  It’s all good.

PS: Take care of yourself.

 Song of the Day

must be…. The Pirates who Don’t Do Anything.

Task box bug after iOS 7 update.

Bug in cell expanding in iOS7

 

We’re aware that there is a least one bug that affects HomeRoutines after  you upgrade to iOS 7.

We had used some magic in the text cells for tasks, which allowed them to grow taller and fit more lines of text.

Unfortunately, some aspects of the way iOS 7 handles text fields have stopped this from working. As a result, you can’t read tasks longer than two lines long. Poop.

We are working on an update to fix this, of course.

If you find any other bugs that seem to have appeared after the update, do please let us know.

Thank you!

HomeRoutines 2.5 Update

There’s a new update in the app store for HomeRoutines.

Nifty new features include:

  • New bi-weekly*, monthly and manual reset schedules for your routines
  • Choose which months of the year routines will appear – for seasonal routines
  • Support for iPhone 5 screen resolution
  • Improved iPad artwork for retina screens
  • Bug fixes for star resets, background music, timer sounds, routine reminders, bluetooth hotspots and more
  • HomeRoutines is now a universal app. Whether you originally purchased the iPhone or iPad version, it will now work on either device.

UPDATE, 8 February

We have identified a couple of bugs in HomeRoutines 2.5 (Special thanks to those of you who’ve taken time to let us know!)

The first affects the new bi-weekly routines. Only “Week A” routines are appearing , regardless of which week you have selected.   Bi-weekly reminders are also not appearing correctly.

The second bug is affecting the sync service.  Sometimes changes are sent up to the server but then decide to stay there, rather than coming back down to the app.  This means that syncing between two devices is not working consistently.

We are very sorry that these bugs are marring our new update, which we are otherwise very proud of. We have stayed up late and submitted an update to Apple, but it takes about a week for the App Store to review it and release it to the store.

We will keep you posted as we have any news, and apologies again if you’re affected by the bugs.

Mmm, frog

Eat that frog

I’m kind of fond of frogs. My maiden name was a little bit froggish (well it had a “croak” in it!) and I used to love the Mercer Mayer books about that mischievous wee froggy and his shenanigans with his boy.

Anyway, there is a lot of advice shared about eating frogs in the productivity-sphere of the internet. It all comes back to a quote from Mark Twain, who said:

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

A hundred-something years later, Bryan Tracey wrote a book called “Eat that frog” which says you should identify the most difficult (strangely crunchy, raw and wriggling) task on your to-do list and do it first thing in the morning instead of having it wreck your day by twitching around the place while you studiously try.to.ignore.it.

When I started writing this I realised it fits in exactly with the post I wrote about getting cracking with your suckiest tasks in 15 minute chunks – only with the added exhortation to do them first thing in the morning. Then you can settle down to browse tumblr other productive uses of your time with an easy conscience.

As usual with Sensible Productivity Advice, other sensible people have written excellent articles about it, so here we go:

Extra for Experts:

Rock that timer – 15 minutes of sucky tasks

I wrote yesterday about rocking your timer, but this morning I read Steady Mom’s post about Suffering for 15 minutes and it was groundbreaking to me.

A lot of advice seems to assume that once you decide to set your timer to do something that you’re going to spring up full of vigor and wipe the small-boy-pee from your toilet floor while singing Happy Happy Joy Joy and doing a vigorous, improvised toilet-cleaning boogie.

But Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project) was honest enough to say that sometimes if you’re dreading a task you just have to bite the bullet and suffer to get ‘er done.

As Gretchen said in the comments of her post:

Somehow telling myself I was going to “suffer” helped put me in the right
frame of mind. It never ended up being as unpleasant as I expected.

What are you dreading working on? I’m inspired by her video talking about digital photos – it’s the time of year that I realise I haven’t edited last years photos, let alone this years.  I guess that will be my 15 minutes tonight!

Rock that timer: Using your timer to get started and keep going

Take five minutes. Just five. Set a timer. If you’re on the couch or in bed, look to see the closest surface to you. It’s probably the coffee table or your nightstand. For those five minutes, just focus on that one surface. Clear it off, throw stuff away, maybe even dust it. So when your five minutes is done and you’re back in bed, you have one clear surface to look at. You have an accomplishment to focus on. You did something. You don’t have to do everything. – Unf*** Your Habitat: The Depression/Messy House Cycle

Setting a timer to get started is a very motivating way to work.  If the world is falling down around you (or feels like it) and you have what seems like three week’s worth of work to do in one afternoon, it can seem much easier to just hide in a comfy chair or the safe place inside the computer.  That’s how it is to me anyway.  Or sometimes you just honestly can’t be bothered.

Either way, try setting a timer for a small chunk of time, and promising yourself to concentrate on one area or one task for that amount of time.  Merlin Mann calls this “Running a dash

You might choose 2 minutes, or 5 minutes, or 11, or 15.

Once you get started (the laptop is put away, you’re on your feet, you’re doing things) it’s easier to keep going, just until the timer goes off. Then you can stop, and you’re ahead of where you were.

If you have a series of tasks to do, once you’re on a roll, you might want to alternate timed “working” blocks with timed “relaxing” blocks. You can do this anyway you like, of course.

Pick a time that feels good to you and suits the time you have available. Work for that time. Stop for a cup of tea when the timer goes off. It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.

Some Useful Links (Men’s Edition)

Jesper asked us a question yesterday on the HomeRoutines facebook page.

Why are all the articles linked to in pink, and with “romantic” typefonts, and the most frequently used word on this page “mom”? Can’t guys be home cleaning/organizing freaks as well? 🙂

Oh, how it pains me to be asked that, because I purposely didn’t make the app itself all pink and flowery because, seriously, everybody needs to do dishes and laundry. It’s not just for the ladies (even if the “likers” on the HomeRoutines page are 96.2% female as of today)  But there does seem to be a preponderance of “Mommy Bloggers” talking on the subject of the domestic arts and their own personal struggles with maintaining some sense of order and dignity in their household.

However, there are some male voices on the subject, so here are some writers that don’t have the words “Mom” “Lady” or “Housewife” in their blog names.

Kurt Vonnegut’s housework contract with his pregnant wife, January 26, 1947

I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed:

I. With the agreement that my wife will not nag, heckle, or otherwise disturb me on the subject, I promise to scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors once a week, on a day and hour of my own choosing.

Furthermore, while I am undertaking these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as “Shit,” “Goddamn sonofabitch,” and similar vulgarities, as such language is nerve-wracking to have around the house when nothing more drastic is taking place than the facing of Necessity.

Leo Babauta, The Habit of Starting at Zen Habits

The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it.

That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it.

When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.

Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day.

Zen Habits is one of my favourite websites. You might also like to read his older articles:

Plus, pretty much his entire archive.

UnFilth Your Habitat

UnFYH is great. (The site doesn’t use the word “filth” by the way, rather another word beginning with F. It’s just their euphemism to allow their app to be in the app store) It is a categorically non pink, romatic, mom-ish blog, but it does happen to have a female author. Nevertheless, anybody, bloke or otherwise, who gets cringy at too many shabby chic, distressed-chalkboard, homemade muffins, kale chips and vintage apron posts when they just want to work out how to even start to clean their [filthy] bedroom – Unfilth Your Habitat is a great place. With copious swearing. And celebratory animated gifs. On Tumblr.  The community built around it on Tumblr is inspirational as well, with lots of tagged pictures and posts with befores and afters.

OK, now I have a problem

I thought I remembered two other guys.  One of them turned out to be just a screen name (he called himself “Hearth Master” on a bulletin board, and I thought that was pretty sweet) and the other was a guy who I swear wrote about keeping his house clean and referred to “Crap avoidance strategies” for avoiding the creation of piles of mess, but I can’t find him on the internet and the keywords I remember are a little problematic.

(I remembered: it was at a site called “Dad is In The House” and he talked about “Doom Avoidance”

There will be plenty of time for wax-resist and lace dyed eggs when you are done staring down doom.  It doesn’t matter if you can make a pretty egg if you toddlers’ poo balls are still ground into the carpet–stay strong and keep focused, with laser-like precision. Take care of your dirty secrets, and then worry about Martha and the lifestyle gurus. I’m all over making cool and useful and even pretty things. But you must avoid doom first!

– it’s not online any more but it’s in the magical internet archive.

 

Who else is good and not too pink-rickrack/vintage-apron/feather-duster? I will update the post 🙂