Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cleaning Up, Part 2

Sometimes I'm not very good at listening to my own advice.

Okay, maybe it's more like many times I'm not very good at listening to my own advice.

But then again, that's half the reason I write.  To remind myself of things I am likely to forget.  To teach myself things I am having a hard time learning.  To give myself something to look back on when I am overwhelmed by the very things I thought I understood.

I've been hard at work for the last 10 days trying to bring order to the infamous "storage room."  And every day I have labored until exhausted, trying to tell myself it's okay that I haven't finished yet, that it isn't about finishing but about progressing.  You know, all those things I blogged about last week.

But my all-or-nothing thinking has been getting the better of me.  Telling me that it isn't enough to just keep moving forward, that it doesn't count if I don't finish.  Ever feel that way?  Sometimes I think it's my perpetual condition.  Always pushing for more because whatever I've done isn't good enough.

After putting the final touches on my storage room project yesterday, I pulled up the before and after pictures to get them ready to post.  And I was amazed at what I had done in 10 days' time.  Because if you tell yourself "it's not enough" for long enough, you start to believe that everything you do is small, insignificant, and never going to amount to anything.  And I'll be honest here.  "It's not enough" almost always translates into "I'm not enough."  And even more honest still--"I'm not enough" eventually translates into the kind of deep-down soul discouragement that makes me want to curl up in a corner.

So when I said that I was going to "practice" the art of living well, I meant it.  I'm practicing.  Because, clearly, this is something I'm not very good at.  Something I'm going to have to practice for a long time before I get the hang of it.  With that in mind, I'm going to listen to my heart this week and take a break from my de-cluttering for a bit.  Because right now, I only have the strength to hold my ground on what's already been done.  And I've firmly decided that it's enough.

So enjoy the before and after pictures...and don't hold your breath for Part 3 of my project.  It may just be a while before I get there.

First off is my shelf of miscellanea, before and after:

Even after the shelf was organized, it still looked ugly.  So I found this fun curtain on clearance at Ross for 49 cents.  Yes, that's right.  49 cents.  Even with my non-existent sewing skills, I was able to cut it to length and hem it up quite easily.  And isn't it happy?

Next up, I worked on the shared section of the storage room.  Unsurprisingly, it was far easier to organize other people's stuff than my own.  I didn't have to decide what to keep or throw.  I just had to find creative ways to stack it up to the ceiling.  And that was kind of fun.  Before and after:

Then I moved on to my own disaster area and worked some serious magic.  Before and after:

That magic also involved buying my first paper shredder and spending several hours shredding the last five years of paperwork.  Now I have all this to compost:

At this point, I thought I was nearly done since "all" I had to do was go through my art bins.  Five days of hard work later, I had a slightly different opinion of the matter.  Here's the corner next to my bins that had become a collection point for oversized items, before and after:

(I emptied the corner, then eliminated it by moving the shelf)

And here are my bins, before and after:

I'm still searching for the perfect storage system for my bins, as this current one isn't working that well.  But for now, it's enough.

And yes, I'm going to keep saying that until I really believe it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cleaning Up, Part 1

After posting about my de-cluttering project a couple days ago, I started to wonder if I was going to have the strength to make it through this enormous undertaking.  The process of organizing, in itself, isn't the most relaxing thing in the world.  It's actually rather exhausting and overwhelming.  I know.  You're totally surprised by that fact, right?  Me neither.  I don't doubt for a second that the end result is worth it.  But I was doubting for several seconds (many hours, actually) that I had the ability to make it to the finish line.

And then I remembered.

I don't need the strength to make it to the end.  I just need the strength to keep going, one tiny little bit at a time.  And on those days when I can't even do that?  Well, that's when I just hold my ground with everything that's already been accomplished.

It's a lot like life, really.  It's so easy to get bogged down by all that needs to be done.  Not just the day-to-day workings of life (though that is overwhelming enough most days), but also the defending of the fatherless, the feeding of the poor, the fighting for the oppressed, the preaching of the gospel--in short, the work of the Kingdom.

Yes, it's a lot to do.  And none of it easy.  But our part is relatively simple--we just keep going, one tiny little bit at a time.  And on those days when there isn't any strength to press forward, we just rest in what God has already accomplished in us, through us, around us.  And we trust that soon enough, He will give us the strength to keep going.

So as I press on in my massive de-cluttering project, I am also practicing the art of living well.  And you thought this was just about clutter.

And now for the much-anticipated "after" photos of what I've done so far:

My file cabinet, before and after:

My bedside table, before and after:

My bookshelf, before and after (apparently, there were as many books off the shelf as there were on it):

Dresser #1, before and after:

Dresser #2, before and after:

The bags that were once piled on the floor in front of dresser #2 are now hanging on these newly installed hooks (thanks, Dad!):

My art table, before and after:

My "living room," before and after:

Next up....the "storage" area.  Wish me luck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Life Is Messy

Wondering where I've been for the last 16 days?  Well, I've been buried.  Literally.  Beneath many, many piles of clutter.

The combination of full-time job and full-time illness has long posed a challenge for things such as cleaning and organizing.  In the last 6 months, the level of disaster in my living quarters reached an all-time high.  It's been bad before, but usually there were one or two places still possessing some semblance of order.  This time, every single horizontal space was covered in piles of miscellaneous stuff.  And I finally couldn't take any more.

Thanks to a recent reduction in workload, I now have most of the afternoon free.  And for 8 of the last 11 days, I've spent those afternoons slowing digging myself out from this mess.  I'm not finished yet, but I've already discovered that a clean living space is like a breath of fresh air.

As I mentioned to a friend earlier this week, when things are piled and cluttered around me, it's as if my possessions are yelling at me.  It crowds my head with noise, even when I'm doing other things.  It weighs heavily on me even when I'm not specifically thinking about it.

As I've restored order in each little area, I've found that just looking at the newly ordered spaces brings quietness and calm to my spirit.  So yes, this undertaking has been daunting and tiring--but it has also been extremely rewarding.

And for those of you still clinging to the notion that I am a neat and orderly person who keeps my home in tip-top shape, these pictures ought to dispel those myths quite nicely.  I am a bit embarrassed to post these "before" photos, but the very wonderful "after" photos will be coming soon.  And maybe my mess will make you feel better about your own!

My desk...also known as "Three Levels of Disaster"
My file cabinet
My bedside table

The top of dresser #1--can we say "polypharmacy"?
The top of dresser #2
My "bookshelf"--relatively in order, but wait for the "after" pic
My art table...not too bad here since it was recently cleaned off!

Multipurpose shelf, mostly cat stuff right now

My "living room"

My art bins--looking deceptively organized  Yeah.  I think that's what this is supposed to be.

Well, now that I've thoroughly exposed the dark recesses of my clutter, I hope you will still be my friend.  Or at least that my "after" pictures will eventually convince you to take me back!

PS--If your clutter is worse than mine, don't worry.  I don't mind other people's messiness--just my own!