Starting Somewhere

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Starting is hard. It means going from a standstill into some
useful activity that you may not feel confident about doing. Once you have
started, though, it’s much easier to
continue. That’s why I have a bunch of tricks for just getting started, any
which way.

One typical problem people have is that everything they need
to do seems equally important. Here are a few ways to handle it.

  • Assign each task a number from 1 through X (whatever the
    total is) randomly. Then do the tasks in that order.
  • Another, more fun, way is to write each one on a separate
    index cards and then shuffle the deck. Turn over a card and do that task. Keep going
    till you’re done.

If you realize when you do this that all the tasks are
actually not equally important, feel free to reorder them. Sometimes you don’t know
which is most important, or which is least important, until you put them in
some kind of order.

It’s easier to make decisions like this when you get it all
down on paper. When it’s just in your head, it’s too vague, too unreal. Writing
down a list of tasks gets you to think more concretely about them.

What if you’re still not sure about the order you’ve chosen?
Just get going. Even if you get to a point where you have to stop and do
something else that, it turns out, has to be completed first, you’ll probably
be farther along than if you tried to figure it all out in your head first.

6 thoughts on “Starting Somewhere

  1. Is there a comprehensive list of prompts or questions that will help with eliminating clutter that we’re emotionally tied to?

    I already know:

    eliminate duplicate items
    do I love it?
    does it make me happy?

    I have a BIG problem with cards and wrapping paper etc, because I’m a multimedia artist and everything that looks like trash is “art fodder” to me.

    Also, I have storage space, so I want to keep everything that “I might need someday.” Especially in what I believe is a coming age of scarcity even in America.

    Any tips?

    • Hi, Elizabeth,
      Good question! First, though, if you have storage space, why do you want to get rid of things? Having a lot of stuff isn’t a problem unless 1) you run out of places to put it, 2) it’s packed so tightly that you can’t get to what you need easily or 3) your storage is disorganized, so you can’t find things you know you have.

      Here are some questions to ask: How much would it cost to get another one? How easy it is to get another one? Could I borrow or rent one? Could I make do with something else I have? Is it worth the space it’s taking up, considering I may never use it? Do I trust that I’m creative enough to make great work with the materials I have now? Could I set up an “art fodder” exchange with other artists? How would I feel if I got rid of this? Can I handle that? Have I felt good in the past getting rid of things? What characterized that and how can I do it again?

      This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. My advice is to look for all the positive reasons to declutter so that you focus less on loss.

      As for the age of scarcity; I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know that I feel more energized and happier when I live in the present. When I focus my attention on worrying about the future or trying to preserve the past, I have less attention to pay to what’s happening right now, which is the place where I can make things happen. Just a thought.

      Let me know if this helps!

  2. Is there a comprehensive list of prompts or questions that will help with eliminating clutter that we’re emotionally tied to?

    I already know:

    eliminate duplicate items
    do I love it?
    does it make me happy?

    I have a BIG problem with cards and wrapping paper etc, because I’m a multimedia artist and everything that looks like trash is “art fodder” to me.

    Also, I have storage space, so I want to keep everything that “I might need someday.” Especially in what I believe is a coming age of scarcity even in America.

    Any tips?

    • Hi, Elizabeth,
      Good question! First, though, if you have storage space, why do you want to get rid of things? Having a lot of stuff isn’t a problem unless 1) you run out of places to put it, 2) it’s packed so tightly that you can’t get to what you need easily or 3) your storage is disorganized, so you can’t find things you know you have.

      Here are some questions to ask: How much would it cost to get another one? How easy it is to get another one? Could I borrow or rent one? Could I make do with something else I have? Is it worth the space it’s taking up, considering I may never use it? Do I trust that I’m creative enough to make great work with the materials I have now? Could I set up an “art fodder” exchange with other artists? How would I feel if I got rid of this? Can I handle that? Have I felt good in the past getting rid of things? What characterized that and how can I do it again?

      This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. My advice is to look for all the positive reasons to declutter so that you focus less on loss.

      As for the age of scarcity; I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know that I feel more energized and happier when I live in the present. When I focus my attention on worrying about the future or trying to preserve the past, I have less attention to pay to what’s happening right now, which is the place where I can make things happen. Just a thought.

      Let me know if this helps!

  3. My aunt died recently leaving my uncle a widower. They were married for 55 years and in their 80s. They were well off financially, able to travel, buy anything they wanted to – cars, clothes, antiques, etc. As they aged and became less social and mobile, they started to buy from QVC and that whole ilk. They’ve saved everything…everything. Magazines, travel brochures, programs from the symphony, matchbooks, etc. ; name it and I’ve got it. 5, 12, 35 duplicates of cameras, purses, calculators, staplers, computer printers, laptops…most still in the original boxes.

    I never knew the extent of it because I respected their privacy and they kept more than a few of the rooms stylishly decorated and perfectly livable.

    I have a strategy for dealing with it. I have a network of people in place to deal with the antiques, vintage clothes, coins, etc. I jumped right in to address the mail, bills, financial obligations, etc. I’ve unsubscribed from emails and cancelled mailings of catalogues to stem the flow of junk mail. I know that nothing good will come from procrastinating and delaying the inevitable. Everything is dusty but not dirty. There aren’t any insects or vermin otherwise I would throw up my hands and walk away. I was alright until I had to venture to the basement. I thought I was making progress until I saw the amount of things down there. I’m trying to keep focused on one room at a time and one day at a time but once I saw the basement. I wanted to sit down and just scream and bawl but I couldn’t because my sinuses are already taxed from all the dust in the house.

    I just want to make the house pleasant, comfortable and safe for my uncle because he wants to live there as long he is physically able to. Many days I leave feeling sad because they were unable to really enjoy life or their home because of all of the things that took up the physical and spiritual space in the house. I feel angry with both of them but especially my aunt. Then I’ll find a book on organization and decluttering in a stack of stuff or clipping she cut out on how to simplify ones life or phone numbers for organizations taking donations. I know she had moments of sense.

    I know that there is an end in sight and I just keep going. As a professional, I assume you are able to distance yourself since you are dealing with clients. I feel depressed because these are people that I love. I don’t know why they did this. Why didn’t they address it when they were physically able to do something? What void was in their lives to try to fill it up with all this crap? Most of the time I am able to work with it without being judgmental and do my tasks with love but sometimes I feel angry and used. I would never do this to someone I love.

    I want to finish this ordeal and come away with my sanity. I want to return to my home and not feel guilty about the few possessions I enjoy because I had to go through this mess. I feel like I should seek professional counseling during this time as a preemptive strike against any depression that might come my way. I try to take days off between tackling the room(s) but I work full-time and feel that things must be addressed sooner rather than later.

    I guess I just need someone to tell me that I’ll make it through this uncomfortable time.

    Thank you for listening.

  4. Jae Ann,
    Wow, that’s quite a task you’ve set yourself! Yes, as a professional I am objective and nonjudgmental about what I see. That’s much harder for family members. Is there anyone you can ask to help you, even if all they do is keep you company (and keep you sane)? If not, I recommend working in shorter sessions so you don’t get burned out. Is there really a reason to do this quickly?

    People who collect stuff the way you describe do it for a variety of reasons. They often feel they can’t help themselves, and they feel too overwhelmed to do anything about what they’ve collected. It’s a disease of our affluent society. To get some more objectivity yourself, try imagining that you’ve come from the future and are investigating how people live in the 21st century. That can help you remain curious and unattached.

    Best of luck to you!

    Claire

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