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The stress of the junk drawer/room: how it gets that way, how you can fix it

by respaced on January 2, 2012

So often, we feel stressed out by our mess, but cannot muster the energy to clean it up.

Do you have a junk drawer in your house (really, who among us doesn’t?) Maybe instead of a junk drawer, you have an entire junk room — you know, the guest bedroom/craft room/home office/gift wrapping storage combo room that is always the first door shut when company comes over.

For most of us, that space has been like that for years. Moreover, we feel our stress levels increase whenever we have to go anywhere near that space. But we can never seem to do anything about it.

Why do so many of us have these junk drawers/rooms? And why can’t we organize them once and for all?

There are three reasons these junk spaces are so prevalent:

1. We don’t have time to find a home for everything.

2. We don’t make time to find a home for everything.

3. We don’t know how to make a home for everything.

So why don’t we just MAKE the time to find a home for everything? If we don’t know how, why don’t we just follow the instructions in an organizing book? Usually, it’s because we fall prey to all-or-nothing thinking. Most of us feel obligated to attack the whole room at once on an organizing binge or don’t bother trying. Attacking the whole room at once feels overwhelming, so instead we opt to just ignore it.

That’s how we end up stuck. The key to getting unstuck? Don’t try to organize the whole room at once. Break it up into chunks so small that you are 100 percent confident in your ability to complete them. Maybe you focus on removing just one piece of clutter from the junk room each day. Do that everyday for as long as it takes, and you will succeed in clearing out that room. Just like the proverbial climb up the mountain, many small steps lead to significant change.

Make 2012 the year when you stop being ashamed of your house and start embracing change in small, manageable steps. You have only your junk room to lose.

Image courtesy of Olles Vennson at Flickr.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jasmine January 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

This sounds like the advice I’ve been given for schoolwork: If I have to write a ten-page paper, I could approach it as either a marathon, or a series of sprints. The marathon approach means I’ll try to finish the whole paper in one or two sittings, but that idea is overwhelming, so I put it off until the last possible moment. Then I’m forced to rush through the whole paper, pushing through the stress to create a mediocre piece. Instead, if I worked in sprints, then I would get parts of the paper done at a time: make an outline, gather a few sources, write a paragraph or two. By breaking the paper into manageable chunks, I end up with a far better paper, written with minimal stress.

I never thought to approach housecleaning in the same way. Thank you for demonstrating that this wisdom can be used when facing the junk in my house.

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respaced January 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I’m glad you found the post applicable to your own situation. I often find that those who try to do cleaning or organizing in marathon-long sessions end up burning out and hating the task at hand. That, in turn, makes them avoid doing organizing in the future, because they think it will take just as long and be just as painful as the last time they organized. Breaking up the project into chunks avoids that burnout and teaches us that we CAN manage our house with much less effort! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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