cosmic chaos

cultivating calm & creativity in my corner of the world

Archive for the category “Decluttering”

Redefining Chaos


For years, I defined chaos as trying to deal with the hectic demands of work, family life, commitments and creative endeavors.

This week, I have encountered a whole different type of chaos — home repair.

There have been items in our house that have needed attention for a long time.  We finally got to the point where we could no longer ignore the problems with our floor.  Walking to the back porch became an exercise in balance as we avoided the dips and the increasing give in response to our weight.  Our utility room suffered water damage due to past overflows from the washing machine and a pinprick drip from the water heater.

In preparation for the repairs, we emptied the utility room and two-thirds of the study.  The result?  Stuff piled up in every other room in the house.  Items out of place that keep me from being able to do anything in those rooms because it would be totally futile.  Everything will have to be moved again when the repairs are done.  Everything will have to be cleaned again because the repairs are stirring up dust and debris.  So I am leaving all the rooms alone for now as I scoot past the piles and feel closed in by our possessions.

There are work trucks parked in my driveway.  Workers are in and out of my house.  I thought perhaps this would be a time I could write since I can’t do much else.  But there is constant noise — hammering, sawing, ripping out old wood, nailing.  Then there is the unexpected. After all, in an old house you can never really be sure of the extent of the repairs until you open things up.  I need to be available for input but I don’t want to be in the way.  So I am shutting myself off in the den — hiding out, really — binge watching episodes of Father Brown  on Netflix and cringing with each loud barrage of sawing, hammering and loud booms.

It is nerve wracking.

It is also temporary.

I have an end date.  Perhaps today.  Perhaps tomorrow.  But it will end.

I will have a renovated  utility room with new linoleum, freshly painted walls, and plumbing that does not leak.  I will have a floor that is strong and bears the weight of the family without a problem.  The final results will be well worth these few days of stress.

How many times do we get lost in the current chaos in our lives, feeling overwhelmed by the demands that swirl around us? With a special project like home repair, it is easy to see to the end.  But in everyday life, the chaotic nature of everyday demands seem infinite.  The truth is, these too are temporary.  Children grow up and become self sufficient.  Job duties (or maybe even employment itself) change.  Family responsibility shifts.  We learn how to say “no”.  We find ourselves in a new normal.  The things that so stressed us may even become inspirations to drive our creativity to new directions.

My challenge for you:  look at the thing that is currently creating chaos in your life.  Is this something that will come to an end?  Can you use this to ultimately come to a positive outcome?





10 for the Win

I have always struggled with clutter.  As a girl, I remember going to friends’ houses and their rooms were neat and orderly.  I never seemed to be able to accomplish that.  I just didn’t know what to do with my stuff.  I also hung on to every little item that reminded me of someone or someplace.

As an adult, I’ve had “junk rooms” in the places I’ve lived.  As my children got older, the “junk room” became “junk areas”in main rooms of the house.  At some point, things got out of control.  When there was going to be company coming over, items got swept into boxes that were hidden in closets.  At some point, there just wasn’t a place to put stuff and it got left wherever.

Last year, I got to the point where I decided that enough was enough.  The things I was holding onto were stressing me out, not making me happy.  I decided it really was time for a change.

I’ve subscribed to different blogs and Facebook pages for tips on becoming organized and decluttering.  Then I realized that my life didn’t always fit into someone else’s schedule or plan of how to get organized.  Often I would become overwhelmed and avoid doing anything at all.

The thing is, nothing changes without effort.  And with some effort, I found a method that is working for me.

Everyday I commit at least 30 minutes to an hour for cleaning my house.  First, I maintain the areas that are already straightened.  I very quickly go through the house picking up stray items and putting them away.  I sweep or vacuum the rooms that need it.  I make sure dirty clothes go into the utility room. Then I go through 10 items in each room and decide if the item is trash, recycle or keep.  If it is keep, I put it away in it’s permanent home.  Ten items don’t take long to deal with.  Because I know it is a limited amount, I can tackle it and move onto the next room.  I am not doing anything in my sons’ bedrooms at this point.  Eventually, I will but my attention is on areas that other people may see.

I’ve been using this system for a couple of months.  There are days I get off track, especially if there are school, sports or Boy Scout events going on.   But I have seen great progress.  I have thrown away a lot of items that where clearly trash, but just kept getting moved from one place to another.  I have recycled a huge amount of paper, especially junk mail that never got sorted.  I have gone through clothing and donated bags of things that I realized I didn’t want or need anymore.  Some days, I have extra time and I am so happy with my progress that I do multiple rounds of sorting 10 items the rooms.

I don’t think I will ever be a minimalist.  There are things with sentimental value like cards signed from loved ones now deceased that I choose to keep.  But I’m being more selective in what I keep and with what I choose to bring into my home.  I’m constantly asking myself “Do I really need this ?”  Quite often, the answer is no.


Small Steps

Years ago my in-laws introduced me to a round tuit. In case you’ve never seen one, here it is:

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I need to get my own round tuit.

I’ve been working on decluttering my study.  What I’ve found is that I have been holding onto a lot of stuff until the right time comes to go through it. I found a stash of writing magazines from 2009 that I planned read.  I have folders of five year old print outs on submission requirements from literary agents’ websites which may or may not even exist at this point. I have a pile of other magazines that I’ve been meaning to look through to see if I want to query for potential articles.

Then there is all the non-writing items in the study.  Collections of my children’s school work that I planned to put into scrapbooks or memory boxes.  Photographs waiting to be placed in albums.  Yarn and arts supplies for projects yet to be started.  The boxes of stuff that was on the kitchen table before company came that was just hidden out of sight to be gone through later.

I have plans — big plans — of what I want to do but I tend to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have.  Even though I know I should be writing daily, I have let days go by without writing anything.  So I am trying to carve out small increments of time to tackle a few things.  Hopefully by using small steps each day, I can make a big impact on those things I need to get “a round tuit.”

Kitchen Confidential

My kitchen table has been an embarrassing  mountain of unclaimed stuff and miscellaneous paper for months.  It has been on my top list for decluttering.  However whenever I cleaned, I left the table for my last task because I dreaded dealing with it.  I would sort through several days of mail, put bills to be paid in our monthly bill organizer, drop grocery ads into the recycling, and shred junk mail offers.   But there was always more.  Eventually, I would make stacks and shift items from one side of the table to the other, finding obvious items to discard in the process.  Then I would get stuck and stop.   More stuff would get added to the table as new mail was delivered and our automobiles were cleaned.  The table just looked worse than before.

This weekend, my husband stepped up and went through the junk covering our table.  As I worked on the dirty dishes and kitchen counters, he sorted, threw away, organized and — a couple of hours after he began– managed to clean the whole table off.  It looks great.  And I’m very appreciative of all his hard work.

Now our challenge is to be disciplined enough to put things away daily to keep the table clean.

Like everything else in my life, (1) it is a work in progress and (2) I can’t do it alone.  To stay clutter free is going to take a team effort from the whole family.  Let’s see if we are up to the challenge.

Last week I shared a link for the website of a writer and artist who inspired me.  This week, I’d like to introduce you to another of my inspirations — author and creativity coach Cassie Premo Steele.


Last week was rough, full of more that needed to be done than I could possible complete.  It was also one run by Murphy—Murphy’s Law, that is – where practically everything that could go wrong did.   I didn’t expect much more from Saturday.  I was up against a deadline for company to come over.  I get really stressed over guests.

But something happened.  We cleaned what I wanted to clean and then there was a change in plans.  My son decided that it was such a pretty day that he and his guest were going to the park for a while.  I took advantage of the extra time.  I felt the bug to declutter and attacked my study.

The first thing I tackled was a bucket full of stuff.  As I started to sort through it, I found it was filled with trash – empty cardboard boxes, broken tools, and plastic wrappers.  It was just the easy job I needed to start the process.

Next I picked a box.  I created three piles:  trash, items to shred and items to sort through later.  Most of the box was old bills that could be disposed of.  Soon I grabbed another box with the same results.

I ended up with two large bags of trash and a lot more space in my study.  Enough space for my husband to notice when he came home from work.   And the big bonus – I found my notebook of tax information I had been searching the house for (see last week’s blog).

This weekend provided all the elements I need to feel peace:  the ability to sleep in, getting goals completed, successful decluttering, spending time with family and friends, and relaxing.

Now to take my sense of accomplishment into the rest of the week.


If at first …..


I’ve always struggled with being disorganized.  As a kid, my room stayed messy.   In college, I had piles of papers on my desk and clothes thrown in the bottom of the closet.  Things got better during the first few years of marriage.  Maybe it was just easier because my husband and I were still in that honeymoon phase so we were making the extra effort.  When the kids came along, it just seemed impossible to keep up with everything.  But I keep trying.

I had a great idea last May.   I had just gotten past one tax season with all the hunting for receipts, cancelled checks, and other documentation.  So I started a notebook with all the monthly expenses I’d need for our taxes.  I even put the documentation in pocket inserts.

I had a plan.  I implemented the new system.  I made a great start.

I have no idea where the notebook is.

Yep, my great organization plan was sabotaged by me.

The notebook is a good idea.  Just because my first attempt at organizing my tax information failed doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try again.  It’s a lesson to remember.  Changing habits doesn’t happen overnight.  Intentional efforts and learning from mistakes are essential.  So I’m about to try again.  Here’s to success in 2013.

Hanging On …..

My house is full. Cluttered. Overflowing to the point that it’s affecting me.  I’ve lost several items in plain sight.  So I’m trying to purge.

It’s a slow process.  I get overwhelmed and freeze.  I’m taking it step by step.

The problem is that some stuff is more than just stuff.  They’re attached to memories or emotions.  Even though I know rationally that I don’t need them, I hold on anyway.

I have two pairs of shoes that are worn out. I’ve looked at them numerous times, gone so far as to put them into bags, but haven’t been able to throw them away yet.

The first pair of shoes belonged to my grandmother.  She and I shared the distinction of being the shortest in our family—both coming in at 5’4” (although I think she shrank in her later years).  We also shared the same shoe size.  When she died, I inherited several pair of bedroom slippers and one pair of slip on white Keds.  I’d never had Keds before though I had wanted a pair.  I’ve worn the Keds until they are permanently discolored and have holes in them.  The plastic backing of the heels are chipping off.  But every time I see the Keds, I think of my grandmother.

The second pair are ankle length, high heel Aigner boots.  I bought the boots several years ago when my mother and I went on a day trip.  I found them on clearance for $10 – I’m a bargain shopper and these boots were definitely a bargain.  I love these boots.  When I wear them, I feel good about myself.  If the outfit I’m wearing is ok, adding these boots makes it better.  I’ve worn the boots so much that the outer material is split and peeling, especially the toes which only have a thin layer left. Any day now it will give way leaving holes.  Soon there will not be much of the boots left but part of me fears that I’ll throw away those good feelings when I throw away the shoes.

Silly, but I’ve imputed parts of myself onto these simple items.  A link to my deceased grandmother.  My own self confidence.  These are misplaced.   My grandmother stays connected through family gathers where her presence is felt.  I can feel good in clothes I like, but my confidence comes from within.  Holding on to items that are worn out and past their usefulness does not help.  It just creates more clutter in my life.   Knowing this is the first step to letting go.

** Post Note — I’ve managed to throw away the Keds.  The boots will go in a few more weeks as spring makes its presence known. I’m applying this lesson to other things in my house.  I’m looking at boxes of stuff with clearer eyes.  Baby steps moving toward a calmer, less cluttered household, for sure, but steps in the right direction!

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