How Do You Get On Top Of It & STAY On Top Of It?? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 04:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Mamas,
I am perpetually embarrassed by the state of my house. I am a crummy nester. We moved in Dec. '03 when I was newly pregnant and we've never really fully settled into this house. (I guess I didn't get that 3rd trimester heavy nesting thing). We still have boxes in the "den" and theres so much crap in there that it never gets used as a den. The truth is, we have piles everywhere. We always "intend" to keep things clean and pulled together but it just doesn't happen. I feel bad having people over. It is a scramble every time we know someone is coming here because its never in an ok state.

I feel like I am a crappy house manager. I am told by others that they see me as very organized and yet in my own home I am a miserable failure. I keep making these resolutions to "do better" but then I get overwhelmed, become paralyzed by all that needs doing, and end up watching TV and surging MDC. : I am terrified I'm becoming my mother - she was the chaos and clutter queen and here I am with a house full of, that's right, choas & clutter.

Tonight my husband suggested that we "just have slovenly tendencies." If only the floor could have swallowed me whole. : We don't have a traditional division of duties - DH is more likely to do laundry & cooking but I pay all the bills and do all the logistics - banking, insurance, retirement accounts - so he was suggesting that the state of things is more his fault but I believe its both of us and neither of us is doing what has to be done. Add the 1 yr old into the mix and voila you have a craptastic household.

I feel like such a loser! I come home and cringe at the sight of things. It is NOT a sanctuary of peace and comfort. HELP!

I know, I know - start small and just do one thing at a time, right? The thing is - it seems like I am always trying to "dig out" and its never done. We never get to the point where it feels decorated and organized and "nice".

I am so miserable about this. Please lend me your strategies for being a successful house manager, mother, wife, and every other hat we wear - friend, sister, daughter, employee, boss, etc.

Thanks!
Jenn
(your overwhelmed and underorganized student)

First and foremost, Mama to Owen blahblah.gif (7/21/04), Annalieseenergy.gif  (7/29/09), and somebody new bigeyes.gif  (due Feb 2012), and wife to Andrew (9/12/98). Also passionate about and loving the work I do in Organizational Development.

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#2 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 04:39 AM
 
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Have you checked out the book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker? That book has been really helpful in teaching kme how to manage my home. One thing to keep in mind that it is really hard to be a mom of a one year old and keep the house clean, so don't be too hard on yourself. I would try to start with small steps and decide what absolutely is the minimum of what needs to be done for your sanity, and go from there. I too come from a very cluttered mom, so I had to start from scratch as well. Maybe go through a serious weekend or week with your husband where you ruthlessly sort and purge, so you can start from a clean slate (should be interesting to do it with a one year old, lol). From there, the things that have helped me is to have a daily, weekly, seasonal schedule so I only spend a smaller chunk of time on a housecleaning project a day, usually during nap time. I am a big fan of keeping on top of stuff so things don't pile up, so I wash dishes and wipe counters after every meal, pick up the house before we go out, and pick up and sweep before bed each night (dh is a big help with the nightly clean up), and after the kids are asleep I fold laundry. I do the whole "place for everything..." so it is clear where things belong. My weekly schedule goes like this: one day I wash the bathroom, one day I shop, one day I do a kitchen clean up, one day I shop, etc. This only works well for me because I like schedules for myself, and it helps me only have to devote small chunks of time to the house as opposed to a whole day or weekend here and there. It will get easier as your child gets older. I also try to get into the mindset that housework can be meditation, and that caring for my space can be a spiritual task rather than drudgery. Hope that helps and isn't too overwhelming. While at this point my house is relatively clean and organized, it is certainly a 'lived-in" home.
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#3 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 10:33 AM
 
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the flylady thing (www.flylady.net, I think) suggests starting with one small place you always keep clean. I think she suggests the kitchen sink. Empty it out, clean it thoroughly and then keep it clean. Whenever you think about just putting the dishes in there stop and realize how much satisfaction you get from knowing you can keep the sink clean. So wash up the dishes. Once you know you can do that one small space (could be a bathroom, could be a hallway, whereever the small space is)....move on to add something else. Don't let the first spot get you.

I'd take a look at how much stuff you have. It is really hard to keep everything neat and orderly if you have extra stuff floating around. My husband likes to keep about 10 extra shirts for "yard work." Seriously the guy does yard work about 1 time a month and usually it is with his shirt off. BUT...point of the story -- he was just complaining about lack of space in the drawer. Hello...get rid of the excessive t shirts there and there will be tons of space for the ones you actually wear.

I can't do a total purge. So what I do is keep a paper grocery bag in the basement that's designated to go to goodwill or the womens shelter or whatever. I fill the bag sporadically as I find things. Last week I decided it was time to clean out the toy box. I found 2 toys erin never plays with and I can't stand. Into the bag. I also have 2 shirts my sister gave me last week and I didn't like. Into the bag for them too. The bag's almost full. When it is full I put it in my trunk so I can drop it off as I'm passing the organization I'm donating to. I don't do garage sales unless I have furniture I want to get rid of. I do keep a notepad in the car on which i write down how many bags I drop off and an estimated value (for tax purposes).

Kristin -- mom of Erin (11/5/02) and Leah (9/29/05)
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#4 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 12:18 PM
 
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I agree with PPs that the first place to start would be to get rid of as much stuff as you can. Then you can try to implement some household routines. One idea- if you have had boxes full of stuff for over a year, could you just get rid of them? Sounds like it is mostly stuff you don't use anyway (although maybe it is stuff you plan to save for other reasons). That might clear some space. I guess I would worry about "getting on top of it" first, then come up with a way that works for you to "stay on top of it"
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#5 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 12:24 PM
 
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ALMOST!


1. Do not allow it to be emotional. Have you ever gone to a friend's aid if she's got a big mess and then magically just .... clean it up? Become dispassionate. To quote an ad (sorry I hate ads but I like this one) , Life is Messy Clean; Clean It Up. That's the biggest thing I can say helped me-- if you can look at your pit of a house and not feel despair, then you'll be all that much closer to keeping the energy necessary to get it done.

2. Accept that life with kids is MESSY. No matter how much we simplify, the child's drive to [destroy / create / play / enthuse / wreak havoc] will allow them to just trash a home. It's ok. They're kids, they do this, and it's why you can have a home look like it does when you spend five times more energy now cleaning than you ever did when you were single. Acceptance will allow you to shoot for clean, instead of magazine.

While you're cooking breakfast and clearing the dishes, your little Messers are in the other room making new mess for you to clean up. I know this. You know this. Your dh may or may not "get it" but you have to remember that it is the truth. Doesn't make you a slob. (You may be, I don't know-- but life with kids makes us all look like slobs, unless we spend all our time on the house and none on the kids.)

Ok that's nice, Lory but it still doesnt tell me how to keep it in order.

3. Build systems and build your manic-Mommy life into them, so that you can multitask. Build ways that you can just go on autopilot and clean to a state you find acceptable. Make sure you have enough shelving, cubbies and nooks for everything you own. Maybe you need more shelving, or less stuff... that's up to you to determine. But you have to have a place for everything to put everything in it's place. SYSTEMS BABY. SYSTEMS! In my home for instance, I can share two things I always do tandem.

With the laundry:

Laundry hampers in each person's bedroom. Laundry SORTER in the laundry area. My sons have sensitive skin, so their stuff is always in the far left sack of the sorter. The diaper pail is in the laundry area.

If I get the spare second to grab a laundry hamper out of a child's room, I transport that to the laundry room and sort it. Hamper goes back upstairs and no dirty laundry piles up in there.

Big rule: don't empty dryer / take in wash unless you have the 15 mins to fold it and put it away. It's not a huge task if you take it load by load. It's when you put it off or fail to finish a cycle that Laundry mountain grows. I am great friends with laundry mountain, I know!

With the dishes:

This works if you have a dishwasher. Whether you're brewing coffee or boiling water for pasta, you have the five minutes it takes to unload the dishwasher. Seriously. I timed myself for a week straight and it only takes me 3 minutes to unload the dishwasher. If you can keep that empty, then the dirty dishes go IN when they're cleared and you have a much less messy kitchen.

With the unpacking:

I too, moved when I was very very pregnant so I completely feel ya. having unpacked moving boxes in your home is actually GREAT NEWS for someone on a simplify forum. Seriously. If you still have boxes from years ago you have proven to yourself that you don't need most of their contents. Open one or two a day, and give yourself permission to toss / freecycle / goodwill everything you don't NEED or have for family history. The boxes will be there. One or two a day. They will go away.


4. Fluidity. Sort of building on top of number 3 -- if I am going from room A to room B, I will quickly look around and grab something that is out of place and carry it with me to room B. I don't allow myself to get distracted. Just move object X from room A to where it belongs in room B. That kind of casual behaviour all day works wonders. Because it is, in effect, what the little munchkins are doing when they trash the place. You're the anti-trasher.



I hope this doesn't come off as condescending. But this is the biggest challenge of my LIFE, so I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I come from a family of hoarders, and learning to simplify and tend house has been a focus of my life since I had my first child. I obsess about it and this is what works for me. I still look around every few days in amazement at what kids can do to a place. It's shocking! Forces of nature, they are! I want my house to be where I live, not what I do.
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#6 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 02:32 PM
 
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Junipermama...

DH and I are both slobs/packrats/poor organizers. Before we met, we each had our own coping mechanisms. I moved every year or two, and did a major clear-out each time. He did the opposite: bought a big house, and kept stashing junk in closets, drawers, and spare rooms. (After we got married, I found bags of unopened mail going back to the mid-90's. I didn't know whether to :LOL or .) Neither approach got to the root of the problem: just plain old BAD HABITS. :

We recently moved into a much smaller house, knowing that we'll have to some serious downsizing and simplifying. In the meantime, though, there's junk everywhere...and I'm heavily pregnant, and have a toddler to take care of. (At least we've almost got to the point where I'd be comfortable giving birth here. Which is just as well, since the baby is due in a week! )

Anyway, I wanted to suggest that you need to start looking at this from a spiritual and emotional perspective. There's a major disconnect between the life you want for yourself and your family, and the life you're giving yourself... and this is making you unhappy. You need to get to the roots of this, and start retraining yourself. This is a "two steps forward, one step back" type of process. (With a one-year-old, it often feels more like "three steps back" ... but don't give up, and things will get better!)

Here are some resources that are inspiring me:

- "It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys," by Marilyn Paul (recommended by someone on this forum)
- "Messies Manual" by Sandra Felton
- http://www.squalorsurvivors.com/ - Yes, some of these people have much more extreme situations than we do... but I still read their stories every time I need a major kick in the pants!

Most of all, you need to have a vision of how you want your home to be... and a strong motivation to want to achieve that vision. For us, these have mainly come from two sources:

1) Our faith, which teaches that the home is the "domestic Church." We want to create and maintain a sacred space, which will help our spiritual growth, and give glory to God.

2) The Montessori philosophy of education. Young children absorb so much from their surroundings, and from their parents' examples. We want to give our DC the gift of a peaceful, beautiful, orderly environment. We don't want them to learn that clutter and procrastination are normal.

Of course, your motivations may be very different. In any case, it's good to write them down. :

HTH, even if only a little bit.
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#7 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 02:41 PM
 
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OMG, Lory, that was the least condescending, most brilliantly insightful post on this topic I've ever read. Especially the emotional parts -- dead on. I love you!!! And now I'm going to clean my bathroom while my dd takes a bath.

Oye Yemaya oloto
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#8 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 02:57 PM
 
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This is a great thread. Thanks for the great ideas and support

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#9 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 06:21 PM
 
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I too am struggling with keeping the clutter under control in my home. I've never been an organized or tidy person. When I worked outside of the home it didn't bother me so much that my house was messy since I didn't have to spend all day looking at the mess. Since I've become a SAHM it is much more important to me that my house be at least somewhat clean. It literally makes me nuts to live in a disaster area day after day (which is what we did prior to my getting my act together).

Flylady really has helped me. I don't follow everything she suggests exactly, but the routines help me keep things pretty clean without a ton of effort. She also talks a lot about decluttering, which IMO makes the most difference. You have to get all the stuff that you don't use and/or love out of you home before you can take what is left and make it look nice. I used to keep EVERYTHING 'just in case' I would need it some day. This was keeping my house a total wreck! Just get rid of things and you'll see a huge difference.

As far as staying on top of it, well, I still have trouble with this. I'll go a couple of days without doing any cleaning and then I'll have to spend several hours getting everything back in order. This really goes back to the routines. If I would just spend 15 min in the morning and again in the evening straightening (sp?) the kitchen and living area it would be MUCH more manageable and not get so out of control.

I really don't feel like I've been much help, just wanted to share that I am/have been in the same boat and I know how frustrating it is. I love all the ideas that pp's have given and hope that we all can inspire each other to continue to strive toward out goal of tidy homes!

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#10 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 06:56 PM
 
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Mary Celeste.....I'd never seen squalor survivors before. My goodness!!!!! Thank you for that link!
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#11 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all the ideas and responses. I have a feeling I am going to make very good friends with this particular board.

I have several of the books mentioned on hold at the library and I'm going to show my DH the websites tonight. Hopefully we can unite and conquer!

Keep the ideas coming. I am feeling empowered now but give me 5 minutes and I'll be all overwhelmed again. :

Truthfully, one of my BIGGEST demons is the dang TV. It seems like its always on and we're always getting sucked into something and saying we'll get started as soon as its over but then something else is on and we're sucked into that and voila - an entire evening wasted. Then there's also the internet - if the TV's on I'm usually sitting there with my laptop reading MDC. How do I break the cycle? These patterns are SO OLD. :

First and foremost, Mama to Owen blahblah.gif (7/21/04), Annalieseenergy.gif  (7/29/09), and somebody new bigeyes.gif  (due Feb 2012), and wife to Andrew (9/12/98). Also passionate about and loving the work I do in Organizational Development.

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#12 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 08:26 PM
 
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I highly recommend the FlyLady. She helps you develop routines so that you clean on a regular basis and keep only the things you need so you don't have a house full of clutter. I've gone from being a slob to having a house that is always 5 minutes away from being ready for company.

Tana, wife to Steve (5/02), mom to Ben (7/03), Joey (10/06) and Caroline (9/09)
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#13 of 22 Old 07-18-2005, 11:44 PM
 
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First I have to say, maybe it's the name Jennifer?! lol, just kidding of course, but I can so totally relate. There has been some amazing, wonderful, insightful advice here so far, I'm inspired too! I wanted to say that the thing that is helping me most right now is the daily system. I sat down and wrote out what I thought HAD to happen everyday to keep the house running fairly smoothly. Then I made lists of what to do everyday of the week. Now I get up in the morning and check the list for what I have to accomplish today. It's really helping so far. I still have not tackled a lot of the decluttering/getting rid of tons of junk yet, but for me, I want the house to be fairly tidy and for all of us to be set in our routines before I add something new. I will say too, I keep my sink clean and empty. I learned that from flylady. It really does make me feel better to walk in the kitchen and have one bright, shiny clean spot!

GOod luck on this path, I really hope you find the peace you seek!!!
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#14 of 22 Old 07-19-2005, 12:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JuniperMama
Truthfully, one of my BIGGEST demons is the dang TV. It seems like its always on and we're always getting sucked into something and saying we'll get started as soon as its over but then something else is on and we're sucked into that and voila - an entire evening wasted. Then there's also the internet - if the TV's on I'm usually sitting there with my laptop reading MDC. How do I break the cycle? These patterns are SO OLD. :
Juniper, I can relate to the TV thing. When my youngest was a baby I watched waaay too much TV because I was nursing him non-stop (or so it seemed). Then of course I couldn't just turn the show OFF and miss the end... heaven forbid. :LOL

Anyway, I finally came to the realization that daytime TV is mostly a bunch of crap anyway... reruns, old shows, soaps, talk shows, random home improvement programs... a bunch of stuff I would never regret missing in the long run. If you can talk yourself into that opinion it will help a lot. Plus the quiet helped me feel more sane.

Now that my kids are older I pretty much only watch TV at night. If I'm having trouble motivating myself to clean, I'll actually wait until a suspenseful show I like is on and run around during the commercials cleaning like a mad woman. It relieves the suspense and gives me like 20 minutes of cleaning time per hour of show. Plus I feel like I am "rewarding" myself by cleaning and taking a break every few minutes.

Okay, so maybe I'm a spastic multi-tasking headcase, but it works for me so I thought I'd throw it out there...
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#15 of 22 Old 07-19-2005, 12:28 AM
 
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The TV is the devil. The biggest time waster in our lives (aside form my net connection, but that I can justify!)

ALTHOUGH I fold laundry whenever I get a chance to watch Dr. Phil.
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#16 of 22 Old 07-19-2005, 12:38 AM
 
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The TV is the devil. The biggest time waster in our lives (aside form my net connection, but that I can justify!)

ALTHOUGH I fold laundry whenever I get a chance to watch Dr. Phil.
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#17 of 22 Old 07-19-2005, 01:14 AM
 
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I've found routines help with staying on top of things. Fly Lady has been too much for me, but some of her methods DO work for me - 15 minutes, hot spots, etc. I like the 5/5 from mymessyhouse.com. I am the type who will take different things and put together something that works for me. I really want to do a household notebook, but none of the plans I've seen really is complete imo for our family, so i'm planning my own. An idea I got from a book called A Mothers Rule For Life is doing a daily schedule with slots for EACH family member. Sometimes they are all doing the same things, at other times everyones doing something different. I am going to start a schedule next month when my oldest is back in school, but I know we will be thrown off course when my baby is born!!!

I have tons of home sites bookmarked that I visit from time to time for ideas.

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#18 of 22 Old 07-19-2005, 02:12 AM
 
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Re: TV, I had the same problem until we got rid of it. I'm glad we did, overall, but it did occupy a certain niche in our lives as SAHM/WAHD. I miss...
- Commercial Cleanings. I am SO with you there, Ickrause!
- Jimmy Kimmel. He used to be our Pavlovian cue that it was bed time. Then we stayed up late moving and ditched the TV, and our circadian rhythm got completely messed up. I'm STILL (after 8 months) working on getting that fully normal again.

Oye Yemaya oloto
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#19 of 22 Old 07-20-2005, 01:36 AM
 
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i am struggling with decluttering, too, but have sort of reached a tipping point where i've realized how much it's all bringing me down and i'm finding i really want to stay on top of it although i'm not there yet except in small bits and pieces. anyway, i think dh and i are really on the road to recovery. i read a thread here that inspired me ( i think the "what are your reasons" thread -- http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=290813) and also this article in ODE magazine -- http://www.odemagazine.com/article.php?aID=4129 .

good luck and hth

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#20 of 22 Old 07-20-2005, 11:23 AM
 
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That Ode magazine article talks about "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" by Karen Kingston. I want to second that book. I have the book and the audiobook. I love them both. I will actually listen to the audiobook while I am decluttering. It really inspires me.
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#21 of 22 Old 07-20-2005, 12:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma
i'm finding i really want to stay on top of it although i'm not there yet except in small bits and pieces. anyway, i think dh and i are really on the road to recovery.
Once you start to have little victories... like me realizing I could CLEAN the kitchen in a certain small amount of time... you realize that it feels good. You can walk through your house and breathe easy again. You're less afraid to tackle the bigger jobs because you know you can do it.

Channel your inner Monica (ok NERDY ME) and clean cause it's fun to watch the sparkle come out.
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#22 of 22 Old 07-20-2005, 01:10 PM
 
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I used to be you. I had piles everywhere. I read all the books, signed up for flylady, clean home, etc. and none of it worked.

I was able to turn it all around through.

What I did was a HUGE declutter, one room at a time. For example: my living room had stacks of stuff on the end tables, our pretty display shelves were overloaded, our TV armoire was overflowing with videos, etc. I RUTHLESSLY went through and got rid of about 75% of what was in the the room. I filled bags and bags of trash. This was before freecycle, so I had a big pile for goodwill and a lot of trash. What I left in the room: 2 couches, 2 end tables (only lamps on them), a coffee table with nothing on it but the clickers, a TV armoire with nothing but the TV, Tivo, DVD player, most-watched DVDs neatly stacked, and on the shelves, *one item* on each shelf lovingly and prominently displayed.

It's now 3 years later and I've cycled out the things on the shelves (but still have only one on each shelf), and added some artwork to the walls, but it's been incredibly EASY (yes, EASY!!!!!) to keep it neat when the underlying clutter was gone.

I did this for every room in the house over an exhausting 2-week period. When I was done I felt like a new, taller, happier, less-weighted person and my mind fog really cleared too. It felt amazing, and it STILL feels amazing to come home to my house and find it this way. And keeping it this way is really not difficult. I totally still have my slovenly tendencies, but since it's so obvious in our clutter-free space when things start to encroach, I can fix the problem before it gets out of hand.
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