This month I've been focusing on planning, productivity, and organizing your time. Part of that is because it's January and I always feel energized at the beginning of the year to evaluate what worked and what didn't the previous year.
But as I was doing these posts, I realized something--I've changed. You see, all my life I've been the cluttered, messy girl. My room was the bane of my mother's existence. When I first got married, I remember the coffee table being covered with empty Diet Mt. Dew cans and random college papers. It became a running joke with my husband about the number of cans. And I knew that about myself and had kind of accepted it as part of my identity. I'm not a neat freak. It is what it is.
And though I tried to come up with ways to be better and did make some improvement as I got older and eventually became a mom, I still struggled. I would never have the type of house that could handle a surprise visitor without an hour warning to hurriedly clean up the clutter and clear the counters. (There are still days like that for the record.)
But when I posted my before and after pics of my office earlier this week both here and on my personal Facebook, I said something like, "I'm sure the desk will get messy again like the before picture." And a number of people commented back, "You think THAT'S messy? That looks so neat."
It gave me pause. Wait, what? But then I looked again and saw--yeah, okay, that was organized. Everything on the desk was in use. There were no stray papers or random piles of junk. But it wasn't a clear desk. I should move that binder or that pen or whatever. And it hit me--somehow along the way, I've become the girl who craves neatness. Like, craves. Needs neatness to concentrate and write. When the hell did that happen? Being messy was like part of my identity.
So I thought back to try to figure out when things changed. I can pinpoint it. Three years ago I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and her Happier At Home. The second was more focused on the home, but both made me think more consciously about day to day stuff. And one of her points is "outer order creates inner calm." That stuck with me along with a lot of her other points. I started to be more aware of my environment and how it affected my mood. I got better but still struggled with clutter and such.
Then about a year later, I picked up a book on minimalism called The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. The book is pretty short and straightforward and there are LOTS of books on minimalism. Some of these books can be extreme. I'm not extreme. But the concept of getting rid of unneeded stuff instead of figuring out ingenious ways to organize them clicked with me. Why did I have ten knickknacks on my mantle and entertainment center when all it meant was more dusting? Why did I have THREE full sets of dishes? I went through every room in my house and did a major donate-to-Goodwill purge. I physically felt lighter letting go of all that stuff. (One exemption: my book hoarding was excluded from the purge, lol. But I do limit myself to three full bookcases.)
And after the purge, I wanted to do more. My house still felt like it had too much furniture and stuff. We saved up money and remodeled at the end of 2014 because of this minimalism thing and replaced most of our furniture. Instead of the bulky entertainment center with all the decorative cubbies, we replaced it with a simple media cabinet that hides all the equipment and has nothing on top. We got rid of the dresser in our room and bought cheap IKEA drawers to put in our closet instead, which opened up the bedroom. I started craving clear surfaces and minimal stuff, the lack of visual clutter (even organized stuff can become visual clutter.)
But I was still having trouble with the day to day clutter--the baskets of clean laundry to put away, the school papers on the counter, the little things of every day life. And forget about storage bins. If it was out of sight, it might as well not exist in my mind. It's forgotten.(Hence my need for a paper planner.) Enter the next book: Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD. I don't have ADHD, but the methods of organizing for the visual person were revolutionary for me. AND it gave me permission to not be Pinterest perfect with my organizing. It asked questions like--why are you folding underwear when they're just going to sit in a drawer and it doesn't matter if they're wrinkled? It's a simple thing but I was like--wait, I don't have to fold the underwear?? And no, I don't! Or pajamas or towels.
So now that basket of clean laundry gets put away in seconds because I just drop stuff into the designated drawers. And the clean towels get dumped into a clean towel hamper in my closet that we pull from. (If you're super Type A about this stuff, I know you're probably breathing into a paper bag at the thought. When my mom comes stay, she goes in and folds all of kidlet's pajamas in the drawer, lol.) That's okay. But for me, this means I don't have laundry baskets sitting out. The task is quicker and less intimidating. And no one but us knows things aren't neatly folded inside the drawers (well, until now when I'm blabbing to the world about it, lol.) But there are a ton of tips in this book like that, and it's helped SO much. (It also dovetails nicely with minimalism. She's all for getting rid of unnecessary stuff.)
So are things perfect? God, no. Of course not. Real people live here. I have an eight-year old, and hubs and I have busy jobs. Dishes are left in the sink overnight. School papers still accumulate on the counter. Socks are still the bane of my existence (I'm going to switch hubs and kidlet to one type of dark sock and one type of white so then they don't have to be matched up.) And let's not talk about the hell in a handbasket things go when I'm up against a tight writing deadline. But a lot has changed, and I accept that it's an ongoing journey. It's changed me from the person I was five years ago. I'm not messy girl anymore. I'm the messy girl who's tricked herself into being pretty neat and organized. ;) And all from reading a few books and getting inspired. Gotta love the power of books, right?
Have you ever made a big change in how you do things or approach them? Have you surprised yourself? And what organizing things do you wish you could get your arms around? What clever tips or book have resonated with you? Have you ever suffered from Pinterest Perfect syndrome (I definitely have)?