I discuss the concept of mindfulness quite often. Mindfulness is about being in the moment, each moment, noticing our actions, reactions, and feelings toward others and the environment. Mindfulness puts seemingly ordinary, routine, everyday life events under a magnifying glass for close inspection – the things few people notice. Under this mind-frame, we can’t help but see how “when” matters. The timeliness of things matters.
You have probably heard that clutter is, at its core, a bunch of postponed decisions. So let’s put the concept of timeliness under that magnifying glass to illustrate its importance and consequences.
Clutter, Mess, and Chaos Creep In
If a drop of tomato sauce falls on the floor while you cook, one of two things will likely happen: you take four seconds to wipe the area clean at that moment, or you keep cooking undisturbed because you can always clean it later (Oh, later).
You continue with your culinary endeavor. Then either you or someone else inadvertently steps on the spot one or several times. As a result, the inoffensive tomato drop that could have taken four seconds to clean is now significantly spread on the kitchen floor.
Also, mixed with shoe dirt, it has transformed that four-second job into a floor moping task that adds five minutes to your schedule. But that is just the time. Consider the effort of prepping the mop, mopping the floor, and then cleaning that mop afterward.
The Toxic Build-Up
It is your choice to postpone taking any action – of course! But understand that the timeliness of actions does matter, and when we delay decisions, consequences usually follow.
Often, those consequences come in the form of additional time and effort required to achieve the same goal. That extra effort needed to accomplish the goal grows with each passing minute, while the likelihood of taking any action decreases. However, the situation (now compounded) will still be there for you to resolve later. Ignoring the situation won’t make it go away.
The tomato drop example might seem insignificant. But unnecessarily postponed tasks and decisions bring more impactful consequences.
Life constantly provides us with opportunities to neglect or delay actions and decisions of all kinds. And the consequences related to ignoring them might not bother us, especially if we don’t immediately notice. But sooner or later, we’ll find out that the consequences accumulated due to neglected or postponed decisions and actions are such that we no longer feel capable of bringing back balance or control to the situation, home, life (whatever it is).
Neglected Actions Create Chain Reactions
Let’s suppose that because dad is an early riser, he gets assigned the chore of emptying the dishwasher and feeding the dog in the morning. There is an understanding that these activities should happen before the rest of the family gets up.
But dad starts wasting precious morning time doing anything but those two chores under his responsibility. As the rest of the family members get up and want breakfast, the equipment they need is still inside the dishwasher. Therefore, everyone tries to get what they need directly from the machine. Dad tries to complete his unfinished tasks at that (very inopportune) time.
Everyone trips over the dishwasher’s open door and steps over a wet kitchen floor. It turns out the stuff coming out of the washer is still wet because the dishwasher is a piece of junk, and no one has bothered to replace it or call for repair service. So, the floor is now a mess that will require mopping with cleaner instead of a piece of towel paper to dry some water.
Do not forget the dog that has not eaten. The poor thing is in the middle of it all and pretty hungry. Dad knows he should have fed the dog and starts mixing the stuff into her bowl. He takes up considerable counter space to complete the task while others deal with their breakfast in the reduced counter space left.
But everyone has responsibilities and places to go – delaying breakfast is not an option.
Each person usually rinses their things and puts them inside the dishwasher. It takes about one minute to do so.
On this day, however, since the dishwasher is still partially loaded with clean items, dirty stuff cannot yet go in the machine. So, the first person to finish breakfast puts dirty utensils in the sink without rinsing (because rinsing is an action associated with placing things inside the dishwasher, and this is not the case this time).
The action taken by the first person is the cue for all others to do the same, even when the dishwasher becomes available in the next three minutes. (You know, “so and so did not do it, why do I have to do it?” syndrome).
Dishes are piling up in the sink and on the counter, with food remains, making them crusty (yeah!).
The day goes by, with the pile of dirty stuff over the kitchen counter and in the sink. It will take more time and effort to rinse those dishes and to place them inside the dishwasher now.
Also, the process will require someone (as in mom) to have the extra time and willingness to do so. Unfortunately, that one-minute job has turned into a ten-minute ordeal (with resentment!).
And who will happily volunteer to take on the task at the end of the day when everyone is tired? Let’s not forget that the kitchen needs some cleaning up before dinner cooking starts. Hello, kitchen clutter!
Often, we do not take action or make decisions because we forget- not necessarily because we purposely run away from it. But that is yet another consequence of delaying or postponing.
Take that alarm on your iPhone that reminds you of your noon pills, for example. Can you count the times it has gone off, and you have ignored it, thinking you will take care of it in five minutes? Then, hours later, you realize you did not take your pills.
A Nourishing Home
When you live in a household, you are part of a system. Everyone’s actions and inactions directly impact the unit function. If you are relied upon to complete specific tasks, please understand that such chores are tethered to a time frame and not subject to when you “feel like it.” “Feeling like it” might never come, and it is not a reliable time frame.
When all household members understand and accept the home systems and perform their duties on time, no chore becomes too big to accomplish. As a result, such a home efficiently keeps the chaos at bay, improves family relationships, and enhances the positive energy flow. It is a nourishing, supportive, and efficient place.
Does this ring a bell? Observe these patterns in your life for about a week – on the big things and the seemingly insignificant ones. You will probably see the cause/effect of delayed decisions and observe their ripple effect in your life. You will make amazing discoveries!
Few things bring domestic chaos to the surface, like the holiday season: the gatherings, the cooking, the decorations – Holiday Décor (Oh Joy!).
The cold weather makes us stay closer, inside.
Our environment’s stability is tested like at no other time of the year during the holidays.
It Affects Everyone
Some people live in a mess, yet they get preoccupied with seasonal décor, gift-giving, entertaining, and baking.
I can’t help but wonder if that is just a defense mechanism to avoid seeing the elephant in the room. What sense does it make to decorate a house in total disarray?
Some might seem oblivious to the underlying disorganization of their environment. However, whether we notice it or not, a chaotic environment affects us all.
Clutter affects us, both consciously and subconsciously. Clutter drains our energy.
What Would It Feel Like?
But if only we could experience a different way, what would happen? How many possibilities would open up? How much more efficient could we become? How much more relaxed and joyful?
Our environment is our foundation. If the foundation is not in order, we are on shaky ground.
Rather than being a roadblock in life, your home environment should be your support and bring you joy. That joy starts with having an organized and optimized space.
Then, the whole family can have a wonderful time decorating, sharing, cooking, and eating together instead of fighting about the dusty boxes, the decorations they can’t find, or just being in a bad mood because the house is a mess.
Have A Proper Closure
Having an “exit strategy” is equally important. How you close your holiday season will directly impact next year’s celebrations. If holiday decorations were not in order before, this is a good starting point. Decide to mindfully and purposefully store your seasonal décor to properly preserve them and keep them accessible for the following year. Commit to putting your home environment in order. You will feel the difference!
Make Your Environment Work For You
Stop fighting your environment. Make it work for you instead. Want a joyful holiday season? Get your environment in order first.
If you feel overwhelmed by the task, contact My Space Reclaimed! Let’s set a time to chat and see how we can walk that road together. You don’t have to do this alone
Mise En Place is a culinary term that describes the act of gathering, preparing, and organizing all your ingredients and materials before you start cooking.
Mise En Place refers to the physical setup of the process. It also refers to the mental readiness to get the job done. Of course, we need a kitchen with the right ingredients to prepare exquisite, nutritious meals. But a confident physical and psychological readiness is also necessary.
Discard all ingredients contrary to the plant-based philosophy
Acquire those ingredients needed to prepare the meals
Organize both the pantry and the refrigerator
The Organized Kitchen and Mise En Place
This assignment made me think of the tight relationship between having an organized kitchen and the Mise En Place concept.
We can easily monitor product freshness and inventory levels when we have an organized pantry and refrigerator. That’s a big step in favor of nutritional quality and budget control. Also, having an organized kitchen allows one to achieve the mental and emotional readiness required to be efficient at and enjoy the process of cooking.
Organized and clean kitchens are more inviting, so we use them more often than messy, cluttered ones. Owners of such kitchens enjoy cooking and tend to cook healthier meals.
Efficient Kitchen Systems
To become a true kitchen ninja, you better know more than what a Mise En Place is.
Daily processes, maintenance routines, and kitchen systems are the true heroes behind an efficient, enjoyable kitchen and a happy cooking time.
The value of meal services such as Green Chef or Blue Apron, for example, is the Mise En Place delivered to your door. They provide all the ingredients needed to prepare dinners in the amount needed. Their ingredients have been sourced, washed, cut, and individually packed for your specific meal, including the recipe to follow, of course.
However, if you wish to enjoy that same efficiency in meal prepping but without the price tag of a meal delivery service, you must pay attention to the processes behind that Mise En Place and the systems that support an efficient kitchen.
Here are four processes that support an efficient kitchen and a streamlined meal prep process.
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Organizing Fridge & Freezer
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Managing your recipes takes care of all those clippings, books, and notes floating in our cabinets. But most importantly, it promotes the use of favorite recipes in healthier, varied menu creation. The key is how you organize your recipes to start using them daily. See the video where we discuss recipe management here.
As a bonus, managing the recipes makes it easier to develop the weekly grocery shopping list without overbuying (recipes include all ingredient amounts). Not overbuying means less waste of food and money.
What happens to all those items bought at the grocery store when they come home? These need to become part of our systems if we seek to improve kitchen efficiency.
Incorporating groceries into our systems means that pantry products and refrigerated items need to be unbagged, unboxed, stripped of outer packaging as much as possible, washed, cut, divided, re-containerized, or decanted.
The goal is to have every item needed to cook or to put together a snack or breakfast as ready to be used as possible.
Organizing Fridge & Freezer
An organized fridge and freezer means adequately designating the containers to maintain those items processed from grocery shopping.
Containers should seal properly, preferably be transparent or translucent, be labeled (choose a labeling system that allows for constant changes), be BPA-free, and be dishwasher and microwave safe.
The freezer and fridge organization also needs to consider the zoning. By grouping items according to purpose or type of meal in the freezer and fridge, everyone has an easier time finding what they need.
The pantry configuration can make or break your time in the kitchen. The organization of the pantry should maximize the use of its space, add convenience with the placement of items and maintain product freshness. Read all about the details that comprise a stellar pantry here.
You might wonder what could possibly be the mess the Organizer made. Allow me to explain.
We overbuy for a myriad of reasons. We hoard stuff sometimes. Other times, it’s a matter of not letting go. Whatever the reason, we have a severe problem with space (although the real problem lies in how much stuff we accumulate).
We seem to need every inch of space available to store all the things we own. We have drawers open in a spare room, and there we go, filling them with the most unimaginable items just because there is available storage space.
What We Find
Too often, clients call us to organize a room in their home and insist there is insufficient storage space in the area they want to manage. However, upon assessing the project, almost invariably, we realize three things:
(1) inefficient use of the space
(2) the space contains many unwanted things that had failed to leave the home
(3) much of what the project space includes does not belong there
Well, no wonder there is no space for what needs to go in that area!
Once unwanted items are removed from the space, and we correctly allocate and organize what the client wants to keep, they usually marvel at all the space they have.
That is until they turn around and see the mess in their living room. Then clients might not be so happy (for just a little while, though).
How It Happens
During the organizing process, what we remove from an area of the home accumulates somewhere else while working on our project’s primary goal. But no one expects to end with a mess in other house areas when they engage an organizer to work on their home space.
Once we finish organizing the project area, whatever we removed needs sorting as well. The client needs to decide what stays or goes and the best place to allocate what they keep.
Often, we must repeat the organizing process in areas of the home that our client did not contemplate in the project. Such is when stuff removed from the space we are organizing needs to go to different home areas with no apparent space available. Then we need to create that space so that what logically belongs in those places can be stored in them.
Here are two pictures from a recent project. Our goal was to organize seven home areas, starting with three bedrooms upstairs. Although the plan included the living room, this area was initially uncluttered. Ironically, that was not the case once we finished the first three rooms!
The first picture is the living area “before” picture. The second picture is the living room after organizing the first three bedrooms. The before picture looks somewhat like the “after” and vice versa! That’s the mess we made! But it all worked out in the end. The client was delighted.
And as much as we would like to estimate the time a project might take, this shifting of things inherent to the organizing process makes it unpredictable. All we can assure the client is that “It will get worse before it gets better.”
As Organizers, we want to delight the client, take care of everything and leave their home looking perfect. So, take a deep breath and play along. The mess the Organizer made will go away.
Identify the purpose of a room and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve that purpose. If this sounds a bit stoic, hang in here with me for a second. Think about it. Your bathroom doesn’t need a Peloton. Your kitchen doesn’t need a video game station. Find purpose and balance for every space, or everything will remain confused and out of balance.
Distinguish between decluttering and tidying up. Simply put, these things are not the same. It’s like the difference between rearranging the furniture and renovating a space. Decluttering makes tidying up a thousand times easier.
Simplify walls. It’s easy to point at the messy surfaces, cluttered closets, and dramatically stuffed junk drawers, but one of the quickest ways to create more “breathing room” in a space is to declutter the walls. What’s hanging in your way?
Start with the easier spaces and move on to harder ones. Overwhelm is a true mind-killer. Some people say “eat the frog” and tackle the most excruciating task first. While this may work for some, I find it’s better to get some quick wins, create momentum, and work your way up to the bigger tasks.
Choose one of three options for every object: remove it, relocate it, leave it. Success and speed go hand-in-hand. When it comes to evaluating possessions, it’s time to be decisive and categorize each object and then move on. Rinse and repeat.
Count the “clutter cost.” Think about your money, your energy, and the days and hours of your life spent addressing clutter. And the time clutter takes away from what matters most. From this standpoint, who among us can truly “afford” to live a cluttered existence?
Focus on the gains, not the subtractions. Minimizing isn’t just about getting rid of clutter. It’s about adding freedom and control back into your life. Celebrate your wins in the form of new freedom, not in the number of items you eliminate (although it can be pretty cool to keep count!)
Find clarity and enjoy your life. The more energy you put in removing the excess, the easier it will be to find and develop habits to better manage the things you keep.
If you need help organizing your home, don’t hesitate to contact My Space Reclaimed, LLC. We can provide that much-needed help.
See the ladder in the picture? During the early morning hours, the CO2 alarm started chirping. My husband went to get a ladder to fix the issue. Then it was almost noon, and the ladder was still there. It was out of the way but still, that ladder was in my face.
I was trying to work near that space, but that ladder made itself known, telling me it was out of place and in my face. I could not focus nor ignore that fact. It truly made me uncomfortable. This incident made me think a little about how clutter happens and why it creeps quickly in many homes.
It Seems Trivial, But Is It?
That ladder is precisely the kind of thing that no one would pay attention to because it seems trivial or inconsequential. But ignoring the ladder for a couple of days would result in everyone getting used to it being there. After a few days, we no longer see the ladder. And weeks pass, months pass, and next year, the ladder is still there!
This phenomenon happens with the ladder, with every tool we own, packaging from store-bought items brought into the home, cleaning products, and even kitchen gadgets.
If we do not remain vigilant to these instances and miss the signs, clutter will likely follow. We stop seeing things when we ignore them.
What Is Your “Un-comfort” Zone?
The question is, how likely are you to take notice, and how tolerant would you be of items out of place? At what point do you start feeling uncomfortable?
Some people might not even have proper space in their kitchens to cook and not be bothered. Feeling uncomfortable with the situation is a very personal threshold. But if we end up confused by the clutter or need help dealing with the mess around us, that probably means that stuff has overpowered us. We missed the early signals.
The mere idea of putting the ladder against the wall for even a minute after using it bothers me. But that is how I am sure clutter does not happen in our home – because my tolerance level is zero! My zero-tolerance ensures that I do not miss the early signs of chaos.
“For The Moment” = Creeping Clutter
It is unnecessary to be so drastic to be and remain organized, though. What is needed is to recalibrate the point where we start feeling uneasy, so we get the cue that it is time to act instead of ignoring the clutter. That is how we avoid mess from taking over our lives.
While it might seem normal to use a tool and leave it anywhere “for the moment” to “put it away later,” this puts us at greater risk of creeping clutter. How likely are we to place the item in its place at a later time? Not very.