By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
I’ll Do It Mañana
I wish I had a list of all those things I keep meaning to get done but somehow never quite get to. Maybe with a list to look at each morning I’d consider my options and select something to accomplish that day. Then again, if I had to face that long list each morning maybe I’d be overwhelmed by so many things needing to be done, I’d do nothing at all.
I remember the last time I moved. I planned to sort my overflowing files and send everything no longer needed into the trash. But of course, just like I’ve done too many times before, I packed everything, promising myself I’d sort it at the other end. Yeah, right. The rods in my file cabinet are bowed under the weight of excess paperwork.
Letting go of old belongings has never been my strong suit. Fortunately, I’m good at organizing and putting away all this stuff so it looks neat and tidy, and I can generally find whatever I need. But the flip side is that that also makes it easy to accumulate and accommodate more. Last week I wore a pair of earrings someone gave me when I was in seventh grade, and I still have two casserole dishes in my kitchen that I got free for opening a bank account in 1971! Am I cluttered, or just sentimental?
What happens if you’re a great accumulator but a poor organizer? Life can get pretty stressful. Important items get lost, time is wasted trying to find things, and home can become a chaotic mess. You might start your day frustrated and anxious before you even get out the door because you’re running late after hunting for your cell phone and you couldn’t find the keys to the car.
Clutter is often the result of procrastination. When you put off throwing things away or putting things where they belong, you end up with clutter. And procrastination, strange as this may sound, is often linked to perfectionism. If you’re a perfectionist, you want to do everything perfectly, and that takes time. Often that ‘time’ never comes, and tasks stay undone rather than be done imperfectly.
Of course, there are other reasons clutter accumulates. Some tasks are just too unpleasant or boring to ever reach to the top of the to-do list. Some folks have trouble organizing and others don’t have appropriate places to put things away.
If any of this sounds familiar, here’s a few strategies to help you clear the clutter out of your life. Tell yourself that getting one or two small tasks done in a day is a lot better than just thinking about accomplishing twenty someday. Pack items you haven’t used in ages in a box and set it aside for a year. If you haven’t missed it by then, get rid of it. Purchase lots of bins and boxes and cubbies to put things in. Find pretty, colorful, or stylish ones so it’s fun to put things away. Make lists and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off one task at a time.
These simple strategies can help your productivity while reducing your stress level. Life will never be as you expect it and mañana will be as busy as today. Creating order out of chaos can be quite satisfying if it’s done in small chunks.