Our home is our sanctuary, but it’s easy to let it slip to the bottom of the priorities list as life gets in the way. Before you know it, you’re looking around the place wondering how it got so bad. You start blaming yourself, feel disappointed in yourself and feel a strong resistance to getting things back on track. After all, the task of bringing it back to a state you’re proud of feels like such an overwhelming task that it’s easier to ostrich. Hello Netflix, Youtube or whatever your procrastination tool of choice is.
Believe me, I’ve there. In fact, I think I’m actually kind of there at this very moment. With one trip away after another, home becomes the dumping ground. In, out, shake it all about. Pile after pile of clean laundry, dirty laundry, stuff to go into storage, stuff to be repaired, stuff to be donated, stuff to go back to a friend. You name it, I’ve got it all.
The good news, however, is that it’s just stuff. Bricks and mortar and flooring and stuff. No one is dying. Nothing is so serious that we’ve got a health hazard (except perhaps for gym socks long overdue a wash. Yuck.) So here’s a list that I live by, for how to deal when the walls are swallowing you alive. Some things are instant, some are short term and others are long term. The ultimate goal is to prevent said situations from happening quite as often. But let’s be real, none of us are perfect and from time to time life is simply too busy to spend all day cleaning. Other things are more important. But for when it is time to get dirty to get clean, this is how we do.
- Do jobs that can be done in less than a minute. Chances are that you have things that can be done in 60 seconds or less. Hang your keys on the hook. Put your glasses away before you stand on them. Turn on the dishwasher. Change your dish towel. Do all of those things first. These will make you feel accomplished and get the motivation flowing from your head to your toes.
- Write a to-do list for everything else and prioritise. When it comes to organising your home, there are some things that you want to do and others that you need to do. As with every aspect in life, prioritise the needs first. Putting laundry on, taking the trash out, doing the dishes. Those kinds of things.
- Schedule half an hour into your day for the next few days to get on top of your shit. Tidy, clean, organise and reward yourself with a tasty snack or an episode of your favourite TV show. Pavolv’s dog, man, I’m telling you.
- Ask for help. If you feel utterly overwhelmed and can’t do everything that needs doing in the time you have allocated without having a breakdown, phone a friend or rope in your significant other. Most of the time it can actually turn into a lot of fun. What starts out as sorting through piles of crap leads to finding old photographs and laughing at that terrible haircut over a bottle of wine you’ve found buried somewhere in the rubble.
- Assess the way that you consume and how you feel about the things that you own. You may not want to Marie Kondo your life, but it’s worth learning about your relationship with material items. Most of us own far more than we need and most of those things don’t bring us any happiness. Less stuff owned means less stuff to get in the way, less stuff to pile up and less stuff to clean up. Go take a look at The Minimalists if you’ve never done so before and start questioning if you really need all this stuff in your life. WARNING: it might get deep. You might find your spending habits are your way of trying to soothe your discontent about the way you’re currently living your life. Be prepared to have some serious realisations. Fear not; they’ll serve you well in the long run.
- Along with minimalism being a lifestyle approach of owning less, it also means downsizing. If you have the space, it can be tempting to shuffle your shit from one room to another. After all, out of sight is out of mind. If you have to look at your mess, you’re more likely to sort it out. I feel like that about our waste too, but that’s a whole seperate rant. If you want to up your organisation game, consider moving to a smaller place if you can get away with it. It will make it easier to keep on top of things if you frequently let them slip.
If you can prevent the piling up in the first place, you decrease your backburner stress levels. This makes way for the important things. The fun things. So sort your sh*t out and feel a million times better because of it.
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Whether it’s your full-time job, your side-hustle or a hobby you’re looking to expand into something more, only good things can come from getting yourself organised and becoming more efficient. The biggest frustration is feeling as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can feel like we’re paddling upstream; forever struggling and never ending up where we want to be. But in my experience, there are two concepts that will absolutely make you more productive. The first is conditioning yourself and the second is prioritising your actions so they are in alignment with your values.
Conditioning or training yourself means that you put your tendency to be lazy or procrastinate to one side and simply do more. This is the result of learned habits which of course take time but are completely worth it. It’s actually kind of incredible what humans are capable of. We can endure extraordinary things. And this isn’t to sound like you’re to work yourself into the ground (believe me, I am not the type of person to encourage that), but I bring this up as inspiration. You can achieve all those things that you want to do. You can be more productive. You just need to learnt to be a little more efficient.
Prioritising is an easier solution to get your head around than conditioning. So perhaps start with this one. Write down a list of all the things you do each day and approximately how much time is spend doing each of them. Then write a list of what your values are. Or, if you find that too vague, a list of what your dream life would look like if you broke it down into daily actions or acitivities. Compare. You might feel crummy after this exercise. It might become apparent that your two lists are totally in conflict. But that’s OK. You did the important thing by becoming aware of that. Now, you can begin to make changes.
So, if your lists are in conflict and you want to be doing more of what you love, or you’re sick of bumming around and what to train yourself to be more efficient, here are some things you can do.
- Wake up early and get straight out of bed. Did you know that early-risers have been found to be overall more productive and proactive than night owls? They tend to anticipate problems and tackle them sooner, thus reducing stress levels. A large survey revealed that ‘morning people’ also admitted to feeling happier overall. Now, a 5am alarm may not be for everyone. You might not be able to get to bed until 11pm and need at least 7 hours sleep. But, look at your schedule and set a realistic wake-up time that you can stick to each day. This extra time in the morning can be used to make a routine that includes wellness activites like exercise or meditation. Or, it can be used to work on a side business you’d like to grow. And when the alarm goes off, don’t allow yourself a second to think about it. Get straight up and don’t look back.
- Make time for what’s important each day. Thinking back to prioritising things that matter, make time for them every day. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: you only live once. Life is far too short and precious to waste our time on things that don’t inspire us or make us happy. Even if you have to work a job that does nothing else for your satisfaction than pay the bills, spend the rest of the time that you’re not in that workplace wisely. You might want to use your early morning to do these activities, or perhaps you’ve got small children and the evening is the only possible free time. Whenever it is, plan accordingly.
- Reduce Sugar & Caffeine intake. I recently wrote this article about what a revelation it was doing life without caffeine. I tried it out of curiosity but found it immensely beneficial; so much so that I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Living without minimal caffeine has completely rid my days of low energy slumps. I didn’t find the caffeine buzz to make me any more efficient than usual, because I’m generally a very focussed person. But, what I did suffer from were the lows as the effects would wear off. Nowadays, no caffeine = consistent energy levels. I’m also mindful about sugar because it’s terrible for us. I have found that when I’m consuming too much sugar, my mood slips and I don’t feel as enthusiastic or productive. Keeping it in check will work wonders in helping you feel more balanced.
- Schedule in the fun stuff. This might sound like a bore, but if you schedule in dedicated time for those things simply done for enjoyment, you’ll actually get so much more out of them. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a good time, but feeling like you should probably be working or doing x, y or z to be more productive instead. I said at the start than it’s remarkable how much we can endure, but I’m not an advocate for being a tyrant. You need to allow yourself time to laugh and play. Scheduling this in will allow your body to fully relax and your mind to remain present in the moment.
These are just a small handful and I’d love to hear what’s made a difference for you! Have you changed something in your routine to make you work smarter?
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Minimalism is the trend of the moment and it’s easy to see why. Clear surroundings equal a clear mind. A de-cluttered mind is free to create its best work. You’ll likely know the obvious ones like cleaning out your closet and donating old books, but what about the more discrete sources of clutter? I find these accumulate quietly until the hum becomes so loud that I need to stop and have a serious sort-out for my own sanity.
Lately I’ve been on a mission to rid my aura of stagnant materials. I’ve been clearing out the old that applied to a previous version of myself and making way for the new to come in. This takes peaceful practice, but is aided by a great deal of spring cleaning. See below the five ways that I’ve worked to rid the clutter from the depths.
- It’s really easy to accumulate a whole host of subscriber emails that you totally ignore. These ping through as your day progresses, offering nothing of any worth to you and your journey. Unsubscribe. Don’t just delete, but actually take the action step to prevent another infiltrating your inbox the next time the sender is trying to sell you something. I recently had a mass eviction of all the crap and boy did it feel good.
- Assess your pantry. If you like cooking and are anything like me (inheriting my mother’s siege mentality and having permanently rammed store cupboards), you’ll keep buying new items, totally forgetting about all the near-expired produce at the back. It’s a bad habit to keep layering the new stuff at the front as you are a) wasting your cash by letting the good stuff go bad and b) not incorporating good kitchen feng shui. Its horrible opening your cupboards and having a momentary panic that everything is going to fall out. Who needs that much stuff?! And if you really are the keen cook, get it organised.
- Go through your documents. Those of us doing adulthood with at least some clarity or care will likely have a document wallet or file – that place where all the important stuff is kept. This is where I store bank statements, insurance details, bills, contracts and all that other important but unattractive stuff. Chances are, if you have one of these you’ll keep ramming in document after document until the thing is bulging at the seams. Do yourself a favour and go through it, shredding and disposing of all the old stuff. It applies to a time in the past and not where you’re at now. Why are you still holding on to a paper statement from 3 years ago when everything can be found electronically now anyway? And on that note, if you’re really committed to the minimalism thing, see where you can go paperless and do so.
- Cosmetic clutter. I realise that this won’t apply to everyone because some of us are more product-junkies than others. I used to work in the skincare industry and it was at a time in my life when I was beauty-obsessed. Over the past couple years I’ve let products run their course and empty. I’ve made a point to use what I have, rather than do what I used to – and what I’ve seen so many others do – which is to purchase a product and once the novelty has worn off repeat the process with another. I’m at a point in my life now where I really only want the bare minimum, high-quality products in my bathroom and make-up bag. It’s so much more streamlined only owning what I truly adore and need.
- Apps & Programs. This one I find really satisfying, I must admit. It’s essentially the process of going through the apps on my phone or programs on my computer and deleting what I don’t use. This will free up storage space and stop you having to keep sifting through unwanted items to get to that which is useful for you. Digital clutter is just as bad as material clutter.
We can think of material possessions as being valuable and contributing in a certain way up until a point. After that they’re simply a burden.