My sister recently asked me if I could come help her organize a storage space in her basement. I said sure, of course. After all, I owe her something for that time I put masking tape down the center of our childhood bedroom and told her she couldn’t cross it. (Note: I gave myself the side with the door.)
What really convinced me, though, was this picture she sent of herself in the room. Sure, my sis is goofing off here, but I think this pic speaks to more than her flair for the dramatic. I think we all feel this way, somewhere, in our homes or lives.
Maybe it’s our closet that is stuffed with outdated, ill-fitting clothes. Maybe it’s our child’s playroom, overflowing with toys and puzzles. Maybe it’s our home office, which has become a dumping ground for paper we don’t want to deal with. Or maybe it’s our calendar, so stuffed with activities and commitments that we feel like we run each day on a treadmill that never stops.
Whatever it is, you know, instinctually, that this is how you feel when you enter this space in your life. The good news is, you don’t have to feel this way.
When I drove to my sister’s, the first thing she did was predictable: try to talk me out it.
“I was thinking… we really don’t have to do this,” she said, immediately after giving me a hug. I expected this. Interestingly, whenever I do a project for family or friends, this is usually what happens. I think it is a small bit of embarrassment, but mostly it is due to the freak-out-face picture above. Nobody wants to deal with the chaos in their homes. Nobody. Not even me. It’s not fun to walk into a place in your life that feels overwhelming and attempt the hard work of sorting it out. It’s easier to avoid it, check your email, putter around the garden, bake a cake.
But just like when we were kids, I was not letting her off easy.
“No, I want to! I’m excited about this!” I said, which actually is true. I love taming the chaos in other people’s homes. (Confession: in my own home, I find it much more difficult and sometimes overwhelming, so I’ve been known to practice the avoidance techniques above. We all freak out about our chaos. All of us.)
She relented, so the next morning we assigned the men to watch the kids and we tackled the space.
The first thing we did was establish a VISION and PURPOSE for the room. This might feel a little touchy-feely, and perhaps unnecessary, but it is actually the most important part of the process. When you decide how you want your space to look (vision) and how it should be used (purpose), you have set clear parameters for what is and isn’t allowed in that space. To keep this reminder in check, I always make a sign and post it on the door while we work. (It’s also good to keep this sign up for a few months afterward, to remind family members of the room’s purpose.)
One note: If you are organizing a storage space, leave room in-between your items. It is tempting to stuff as much as possible onto a shelf or into a cubby, but this looks and feels pinched. Give that box of off-season clothes some breathing room, leave your serving dishes some personal space. It makes a difference. Notice how, in the “after” pic, each item on these shelves is set a bit apart from the other.
So, I have some homework for you:
1. Find the space in your home that gives you freak-out face
2. Resist the avoidance techniques that are preventing you from dealing with it.
3. Establish a clear VISION and PURPOSE.
4. Just do it! You totally can! And if you can’t, call me. 🙂