Recovering from Chaos

It's all very well to want to look at the big picture of goals and projects, but what do you do when you're down in the trenches and the trenches are full of junk that's piled up while you were too busy?

First, don't beat yourself up. Everyone has things spin out of control sometimes, especially at holiday time. Major life changes, happy and sad, can pull you out of your routines of maintenance despite your best intentions. Other changes can come along which necessitate a new baseline of how much organization your home and life need for you to feel calm and on top of it all.

So, where do you start when you realize that you've got to turn this mess around and transform it into something that doesn't make you wince?

Looking at a room full of things which are out of place can be overwhelming. Don't try to tackle it all at once.

Decisions are tiring, so the trick is to make the most of every one you make. Look for the easiest possible decision and start there.

For example, that cough drop wrapper on the floor there by the sofa. That can go in the trash. There is no acceptable second use for cough drop wrappers. Mmmm, away into a trash bag with it.

But don't stop there: You've got a useful decision you can leverage, painlessly. ALL cough drop wrappers can go. In fact, since they're pretty much the same thing, all candy and food wrappers can go. Walk around for a couple minutes with that trash bag ignoring everything but dead wrappers of edible things.

Nothing else in the pile matters right now except those things that match the current game of Concentration you're playing. You don't have to play long, just start playing more often.

Decide one kind of thing on which you can take the same action and then see how many matches you can get in a few minutes strolling through the house. Here are some example rounds of the game:

– full trash and recycling containers get dumped in the big bins;

– used dishes not in the kitchen move to the kitchen;

– catalogs move to recycling;

– mail to be processed goes all together in one stack in your inbox;

– clothes that need dry cleaning or repairs go into a basket by the door;

– bills in your inbox go in one stack with your checkbook on your desk (everything that's not a bill can stay in the inbox).

Don't worry about the next round; just play this one, briefly, right now.


Tell me some rounds you've played today!


Author: Dinah from Kabalor

Author. Discardian. GM. Current project: creating an inclusive indie fantasy ttrpg

12 thoughts on “Recovering from Chaos”

  1. Having dealt with the deaths of 3 parents in the last 10 years, my wife and I have a new question for ourselves when we make the “save or pitch” decision for stuff. We used to ask, “Do I want to have to pack and move this when we leave this house?”
    Now we ask, “Do we want our son to have to deal with this when he’s going through our estate?”
    Very few things pass that test.


  2. Hi, your blog looks great, just what I need! How do I subscribe to your RSS feed? Normally there is a button to press that adds it to the RSS reader.


  3. Hi Nicola,
    Hmm, I had tested using a browser-based feed reader that detects the RSS subscription URL automatically, as well as with feed readers that have the ability to add by URL (Google Reader).
    What reader are you using so I can look up the instructions for how to support it?


  4. This is exactly what I need, and I keep coming back to reread it so it will sink in. Thank you! I have so much “stuff” that I can’t get rid of, that I don’t need, but think someday, I might need it. I want to clear it out, but it’s so hard for me to do it. What do you think is wrong with me? Jo


  5. Nothing, Jo! Except that you’re putting energy into worrying and beating yourself up instead of living the life NOW that you want to be living.
    Keep weighing the cost you’re paying now for having all this stuff in the way vs. the cost of perhaps having to replace that one-in-a-hundred (or less!) thing you turned out to need down the road if you got rid of what isn’t serving your goals this year. Openness now creates more options than replacement costs will constrain later.
    I’d recommend Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee’s book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things for digging into some of the emotional anchors that can make it so hard to set sail away from living with too much stuff. (I see it’s on sale at Amazon in both print and Kindle formats if you can’t get it locally or at the library.)


  6. hi there i am from venezuela and for one year i wanted to get rid of many things and i couldn’t. so i found your blog being do tired of my mess and started on my sewing room. i took me some hours and when my husband came back he was so amazed that couldn’t believed what i did to the room. then he helped me to take about 6 big bags of unnecessary things to the trash. and he was so happy like me. i said to him ” i just need to be in peace not in a chaos” thanks Dinah for the good advices!


  7. That is excellent! What a wonderful change in your home! I am so pleased to hear this news from you.
    Best wishes for ever-growing peace,


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