Stuff Around the House Drags Us Down

Stuff that grabs our attention takes us out of our flow.

Visual distraction (stuff!) disturbs our peace of mind.

Stuff around the house becomes stuff in the mind.

The things that bother you the most are the place to start your organizing. Sometimes just a few small changes can make a huge difference. I mean it! Ten seconds to move something out of your path instead of leaving it there until you find the perfect place is a nice start to freeing your mind from clutter.

Yesterday I took note of everything around my house that bothered me, drew my attention, or slowed me down from what I was doing as I went about a normal day. There were many, and my place is pretty cleared out!

On a normal day in the summer, I get ready to ride my bicycle as soon as I wake up because the heat is coming. Usually, I don’t let anything stand in my path to get out doing what I love to do. I’ve paved the way by setting up systems for food and laundry and cycling gear so I know exactly where to find everything and there are no decisions to make and no delays except the ones in my mind.

But this day instead of ignoring all the stuff calling my attention, I took a moment to make a note of it and make a decision about how to address it. The decision categories are:

  1. Deal with it now

  2. Record it as a project or task

  3. Let it go for now

Here goes - this first section takes us from 6:30 am to me being out the door to ride my bike:

The bathroom mirror had a few water drip marks. (deal with it now)

The paper towels were not right next to the spray cleaner under the sink (let it go for now)

A pair of shoes was in front of the hanging bin where I went to grab my phone charger (deal with it now. The shoes, my Teva slides, make up part of my home management system for getting out on what I love to do as quickly as possible - bike riding! I changed the place I keep the Tevas, the filled cycling bottles, and any items on their way to the garage to another place where they don’t block access to other things.)

A poster board with little pieces of paper for a mind map project was on the living room table (let it go for now)

A pulled elastic loop hung from the bottom of my cycling shirt (record as a project for later, because my near vision is not great with my contacts in so I can’t see if it’s a good idea to clip it or not)

I remembered that I want to get some touch-up paint (record by adding to shopping list)

I remembered that I want to start keeping my grocery list electronically again (record as a project for later. Hooray! Now whenever I remember this I know it’s recorded so I’ll do it, and I don’t have to worry about it…)

I almost got out the door undisturbed at this point. In fact, I did get out the door, but I came back in because in front of the door I encountered some little millipede or centipede-like creatures that had come in the house during this season last year (deal with it - get the borax from under the bathroom sink and line entryway so they don’t come in)

There was another drip on the mirror over to the side that I hadn’t seen (let it go for now)

I was hungry but I wasn’t clear on whether to eat before my ride or have a bar during my ride (deal with it. This was a glitch in my cycling-ready system for food. I used to keep a note in the kitchen of what to eat pre-workout, then I decided it was simpler to just eat a bar on the ride, but things changed when it got hot since I was going in the morning before breakfast I needed to eat more. The system wasn’t in place to know WHAT to have, and it was an issue. I dealt with it by just grabbing whatever I grabbed first because I knew decisions were hard when hungry so there was no point trying to refine my system in the moment. Normally I have a practice to ignore everything when I’m on my way out the door to cycle, but yesterday I allowed delays to note everything disturbing my equilibrium in the house. It bit me in the form of me getting too hungry before the ride! This was a combo “deal with it” and “make a note for later”, I ate something and made a note to put back in place a system to know what to eat in the morning.)

There were two clean dishes ready to be dried (let it go for now - normally a big no-no for me, as I’m maintaining kitchen surfaces always clear because if I don’t it’s a slippery slope - zero to ninety so fast!. BUT I also let everything go as much as possible when I’m on my way out to do what I love to do - it’s worth it!)

I noticed some bathing suits that had been sitting on a shelf waiting for a home since I repurposed the hanging organizer they were in a few weeks ago (for - guess what? The cycling-ready system). In deciding whether to store the suits front and center or in an “infrequently used items” section, I had to estimate how frequently I use them. This involved knowing if I’m going to use the pool of the complex where I live. I decided I might use it when it’s cloudy or raining so that no one else is there. I recalled that it had been closed temporarily, and emailed management to find out if it was open again

I saw an email about an important project (deal with it. I set a timer for 10 minutes and went to find a related item in my suitcase. Once I had the suitcase down, I found the item immediately and responded to the email)

I recalled my decision to move the suitcase from the bedroom closet to the garage now COVID-19 has changed my travel frequency. (deal with it. Instead of hefty the nested suitcases back to the upper shelf, I went through the pre-packed contents to put out anything that shouldn’t be stored in the garage. I found some backup food and some dish detergent and put them away in the kitchen.

My calendar reminded me to go to the grocery store today (deal with it. I took those reminders out recently because I’ve incorporated it in my routine, but I had missed the Tuesday reminder, so I deleted the recurring reminder right then)

Now I’ve made it to the garage.

I debated whether to spare you the details of what happened in the garage before my ride and the notes I took the rest of the day.

Here’s a shortened version of the garage irritants, delays, and distractions, along with the back-at-the-house entries taking us just up to noon.

The console bin from my car was in the front of the garage next my bicycles, waiting to be washed and put back in the car.

I was bothered by seeing a purging project in process where I’m going through a group of about five boxes.

Kleenex boxes blocked my path from my bike to the charger for my cycle lights.

I wondered whether a stack of plastic bins had one of the right size that I wanted for something in the house the other day.

I noticed a plastic bin top by itself in a different pile

I got to ride my bike!

Back in the apartment, the big suitcase is in the middle of the bedroom floor, I forgot to bring it out on my way earlier!

There’s a sharpie out of place.

The living room floor needs to be vacuumed

As I’m putting away a rubber band that I tested during my ride (it failed the test!) to see if it would hold my 3rd water bottle intact, I see there are lots of hair bands in the hair band bin next to the rubber band bin in my closet and recall there’s only one in the laundry room where I get ready to go cycling and need one. Grab a bunch since my next stop is the laundry room to put my cycling gear in the washing machine (Yes, I have a post-cycling system to regroup for the next ride as I’m cleaning up from the current one ride).

Getting in the shower, I notice spots are starting on the shower curtain. I immediately wipe down the shower curtain and do a quick wall and grout and drain scrub with the supplies that I keep right next to the tub (this is the only way I’ll wash the tub regularly enough to prevent feeling gross about it!)

As I open my computer, I see a calendar reminder for a client-related task that was generated from an email I received last night. (deal with it. I set my timer for 20 minutes and started)

Dishwasher drawer sticks (put on the list)

Top shelf of bathroom cabinet - I don’t know entirely what’s up there and it bothers me (deal with it partially; set timer for 4 minutes pull things down one by one and categorize them by “I know I want to keep” (sub-category “and it goes somewhere else”), and “I don’t know whether to keep”. I pressed repeat on the timer once and spent a total of 7 minutes, including taking a photo of the categories in piles on the bathroom counter, putting away the three items that were keepers that go somewhere else, and putting the rest back on the shelf. Was the shelf organized? A little bit better. Not to my satisfaction, but I felt better because now I knew what was up there even though I hadn’t made decisions about everything yet.). Here's the photo of my categories. iPad in the bathroom closet - don't ask! Yes, that's the pile of three items that I put elsewhere.

Today I realized that later in the day yesterday I naturally, without stress or procrastination, took care of a few of the things that I noticed were bothering me. Once I put my attention on it and realized it was disturbing me, my motivation increased and I started taking care of some of the problems. For instance, I vacuumed the living room at 8:30 pm last night, I made a plan about the project for which I wanted the touch-up paint, and I implemented an idea that came to me about how to do the grocery list electronically. Okay, the project-planning did involve a bit of stress, mostly because it required decision-making and I was tired while I was doing it.

I feel the results of all the little actions I took yesterday. I didn’t spend the whole day organizing, yet I did improve my space, my home management systems, and my mood.

My point?

There are are few:

  1. There’s a tension between us and the stuff in our house.

  2. It matters that we are not at ease.

  3. Lots of different things can irritate, distract, or delay us as we are attempting to follow our priorities.

  4. All the work we do to organize and set up systems in advance to reduce the distractions is worth it to ease our minds and free our thoughts as we go about our day.

  5. Even a few minutes (or less!) can make a difference in how you experience your life.