Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20: Proactive and Reactive Strategies

Remember when we talked about your comfort zone and the organizing comfort continuum way back at the beginning of the series?

The continuum:

very cluttered -- slightly cluttered -- real life -- company ready -- magazine ready.

Your comfort zone is where any particular room falls on the continuum when it is the way you like it. Different rooms may land at different spots. For example, I am OK with my living room being slightly cluttered--but I prefer the area next to my kitchen sink to be as close to company ready as often as possible. (Which seems to be for about ten minutes a day right now, but I'll take it!) 

Reactive Strategies

Then, there are those areas where it's OK to let things go for a while. For me, that's the shelves in a particular closet, the basement, and the laundry room.

These areas can hang out in the land of "very cluttered" until I have the time and inclination to tackle them. That's being reactive: but it's OK. As long as I don't let things get so out of hand (though I think the laundry room is just about there) that it becomes impossible to do laundry or find clean clothes, waiting until this room needs my attention means I can focus my limited time on the areas of the house that affect my happiness much more.

Proactive Strategies

These areas, the ones I don't want to let get too far from my happy place, are areas where I need to be proactive. That is, I need to take action while they still look pretty good. For years, I ignored my dishes until we had run out and there was no counter space left to cook. I used to joke that I could cook supper in a space no bigger than two inches by two inches. When I couldn't stand it any longer I would do the dishes in an angry, resentful huff: it was unpleasant for everyone. Being reactive in this area of the house doesn't do anyone any favours. It is best to tackle this area, well, as often as possible.

I always dither when there are so few. However, I had a thought: if we had a dishwasher, would I put these into it? The answer was yes.

So, a mere five minutes later, I had this.

Being proactive in keeping an area organized (or clutter free) requires two things:
  • establishing a time to routinely move the areas back into their comfort zone, and
  • making "staying organized" part of a daily and weekly routine.

In other words, it's going to take some time--deliberate, focused, intentional time to re-set those areas of my home that I want to keep looking tidy and picked up. I don't know how I missed this piece of the puzzle: but I did. I would clean the house for days and get the house looking great only to watch it disintegrate out of the corner of my eye while I read, or stayed on the computer, or took on a time consuming project. But, no more. (I hope.) No, to stay organized I need to devote some consistent time and energy.

So, let's put this idea into action.

Identify the places in your home where you want to be proactive.
For me, that's my kitchen counter and my desk where the computer lives.

Make a list of the essential tasks you want to tackle in these areas.
So, for example, I want to do the dishes and put things away after I take them out. (There's more, but that's enough to get started. Remember, it's not about performance, but about consistency, right now.)

How often?
I want to do those dishes after every meal, at least. I may use my "dishwasher" question in the future to help me decide whether to do them.
As for the desk and computer area, I want to re-set it once a day.

As I've mentioned before, I want to "finish the day" every evening--basically, do a pick up and tidy every night before bed.

Developing these routines into a habit will require identifying a cue and a reward.  I'm still working on it.

The way my desk greeted me this morning.

ETA: You can catch all the posts in the series here

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