Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Integrity: Honouring Your Comfort Zone

Integrity: Being true to yourself. To honour your own needs.


Do you know your tipping point? You know, that point where the mess goes from "OK, I can deal with that later," to "omigodwhathappenedherewhatamesswheredoIbegin?"

Aby Garvey calls this knowing your comfort zone. It is a continuum and it can be different for different areas of the house. It can be different for different seasons of our lives. (Bionicles and Polly Pockets used to throw parties with Lego in my living room. Used to. No more! (I was sitting here thinking how great that was when I glanced over into the living room and saw jackets, shoes, backpacks, and various bits of electronics.....)

The continuum ranges from "very cluttered" to "magazine ready." Let me illustrate, using my own kitchen table.

Very cluttered:

This is so bad, there's no possibility of eating together as a family tonight. It would take far too much time to clear off. This was my table on Sunday. It made me sad.

Slightly Cluttered:

This was taken sometime this summer. This would probably take about 15 minutes or so to clear off. We ate outside a lot this summer, though, so I got into a bad habit of letting things pile up here.

Real Life:


This is how the table looks this morning. (Those are chips in the laminate--not blobs of chocolate!) These things are here because we're sanding and painting our back entry way which is just to the left of this photo. Hubs and I ate together here last night. The kids ate in their rooms. (sad face.)

Company Ready:

This is a photo from the Home Tour in June.
There's one more spot on the continuum: Magazine Ready.

There's no photo of the table "magazine ready" because unless a magazine actually comes to my home to shoot it, it won't ever be "magazine ready." And that's totally fine with me. I don't need that kind of pressure on me. (No one does.)

My personal comfort zone? As far as the kitchen table goes, somewhere between "real life" and "company ready" is where I like it to be.

There is another area of my kitchen, though, where my standards are higher. Unfortunately, it is also more difficult to keep clean and tidy.

My counter. Specifically, the area beside my kitchen sink. (We don't have a dishwasher.) When this area is out of sorts, it can cause me to feel paralysed. Quite quickly, I can fall into the pit of thinking "there's no use cleaning up."  (When my kids were littles and my whole house looked something like this, everywhere, all at once, it was difficult to believe it would ever change. The paralysis and hopelessness were intense at times. I have, fortunately, learned to cope with those feelings and I'll talk about that later in this series.) But when this area looks like this: I can still get anxious.


When it is "company ready" all is right with the world and I feel intense satisfaction. I smile. I'm cheerful. (But don't ask me to make you a sandwich.)



Mary Starns Clark, in her book, The House that Cleans Itself, calls an area like this: one that causes an intense emotional reaction, your Home Based Zone. It could be anything. The area under your bed, perhaps. A bathroom. Papers.

It helps to know what it is: that way you can prioritize your time and effort. Looking after it honours yourself and your standards. Looking after it is a way of looking after yourself. And that's important. More important than a "magazine ready" house.

What's your "home based zone?"
Do you know your clutter comfort zone for each area of your house?

PS: This series is roughly based on what I learned in a course called "The Secrets of Staying Organized" by Aby Garvey at Simplify 101. It is being offered again in November and it is currently on sale. I am not being compensated by Simplify 101 for this series--in fact, I doubt they even know I'm doing it. But I just wanted you to know in case you're interested.

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

6 comments :

Rita@thissortaoldlife said...

Getting caught up, and I love this series you're writing. I have lots of thoughts (and FEELINGS) about this topic. I'm most comfortable with company-ready. However, I can't keep that up. So it feels like a constant balancing act.

We passed the 2-year mark in our house Aug. 1. I am only now feeling that we are finally, finally almost done getting organized. We spent most of last weekend finishing a big garage organization. It has been in the works off and on all summer. The thing I've realized is, you can really have one part of the house be a disaster zone. It affects all the other parts. Our family room project forced the garage project, which in turn affected some areas in our kitchen and living room/library. It's hard to go at this in a linear way. Feels like a continuous spiraling.

Anyway, didn't mean to write a whole book. This topic touches deep nerves for me!

Alana in Canada said...

It is a spiral, though. I totally get that. As long as we keep spiralling up, (and not down--though there are seasons of that, too)I'm working on becoming OK with it.

I've been in this house 16 years, Rita, and I finally feel like I have a handle on it (but not me, not yet).

Linda said...

Just started reading through your series. Boy, can I relate! I'm learning some very interesting things. I'll be looking at my messes in a new way this week, with the idea of determining my 'clutter comfort zone'. I think for most areas, I'm like you - a desire for things to be somewhere between 'real life' and 'company ready'. The trouble is there is so often a huge gap between those two that my motivation to go from real life to company ready disappears. Kind of like that paralysis you mentioned. I totally know what that's like.
Anyway - thank you for sharing what you've learned with us! I'm off to learn some more.

Alana in Canada said...

I'm sorry to hear about the paralysis. I had an idea. What if you were to sub-divide the area from "real life" to "company ready" into three (or five) and then say, OK, we're at "real life, level 3." I'll bring it up this room to "real life level 2" That way you will be able to make some progress and get out of the paralysis without the pressure of thinking you have to go all the way to "company ready." Would that help?

Linda said...

that's a good idea, Alana. There are still 7 of us living in this house, and rarely do I have to have my house 'company ready' so setting a cleaning maintenance schedule that pushes me a step above 'real life' might help. I'll keep at it! your series is a real help, thank you.

Alana in Canada said...

Seven people? MY goodness, I think I'd go mad living with that many people! My hat is off to you. Glad that idea helped.

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