Oprah has declared it! This is the year! And if Oprah says it, well…
On Wednesday, Oprah’s guest was Peter Walsh of Clean Sweep. I saw him speak at the NAPO Regional Conference a few years ago and really enjoyed his down to earth, funny style. With clients he’s direct without being mean and compassionate without being indulgent.
One of the clients he worked with on the show actually works at The Container Store!!! That blew everyone away. But one of the recurring themes of their situation was that they hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten.
I once had a client who looked at photos I’d just taken of her cluttered living room and did not recognize it. She had to look back and forth between the photos and the very same room we were standing in before she believed that it was her living room.
With all the input each of has to handle every day, it’s a defense mechanism to stop noticing some of it. You’d go crazy otherwise. But how do you keep seeing it, so you don’t wake up one day under a pile of dirty clothes and dishes?
Here’s an idea. You know sometimes when you walk in your front door you smell something? The fish you cooked last night, or the cat’s litter box? But once you’re inside for a few minutes, you can’t smell it anymore.
So, get a pad and a pen, go outside, close your eyes and pretend you’re someone else: your picky aunt, a new friend you want to impress, or Peter Walsh. Then open your eyes and go inside. What do you see? Use the pad to take notes.
Now is not the time to beat yourself up about how it looks. You’re doing reconnaissance here. Just the facts, ma’am.
When you’re done, try to find some patterns. In the show, Peter found that much of the client’s mess was caused by kids’ toys and clothes. The client agreed that the kids had the run of the house. Now they had a specific issue to work with.
In later posts I’ll talk about how to develop a vision of how you want your home to look and how to use that list to hone in on what to do. For now, choose a small area like the kitchen counter and experiment with noticing what’s on it for a week. I have some other hints on my website here.
It doesn’t matter if you clear it off or not during that week; as Peter notes, you can tidy up all you want but until you get to the reason that the clutter is there, it will come right back. So just notice, look for patterns, habits, types of things that accumulate. Noticing what is, now, will help you move toward what you want it to be.