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Making Space For What You Love

by Beth Bracale

I pushed the stuff on the kitchen table aside so I could set down my bowl of cereal.

My friend, Marni, looked at the table, then up at me. She frowned. “How can you eat with all that junk piled up around you?”

First of all, there were no piles. Just a few things strewn around that had nothing to do with me eating my breakfast. Secondly, but more importantly, I had already poured the milk into my bowl. Tidying up would mean soggy cereal. Housekeeping could wait.

Marni’s glaring didn’t let up, so after breakfast, I cleared off the table. When I set my bowl of soup on the table at lunchtime, there was even a little vase of flowers in front of me to enjoy. I had to admit, lunch was much more pleasant than breakfast. Partly because Marni wasn’t glaring at me, but mostly because of the restful ambiance I created by clearing off the table.

I’ve also found that I work better if I clear away any clutter on and around my desk. I feel lighter, more focused, and less anxious. There are critics who would say cleaning is procrastinating, that writing is the important task, not decluttering. However, I know that I’m going to write better material, and more of it, if I feel organized and have room to spread out. The trick is keeping up with the continually accumulating post-it notes, letters, bills – and yes, the cat hair and curled up plant leaves – so all it takes is a quick tidy, not a Massive Undertaking.

“What if,” you ask, “my work area has already reached the MU (Massive Undertaking) stage?” There’s nothing for it but to dig in and clear it out. (Unless you have a magic wand, but would you be reading this if you did?) Think of how powerful and accomplished you’ll feel when it’s done. Envision knowing where all your tools are, and not because they’re crunching under your feet. Imagine how freely your creative endeavors will flow when you have room to work on them because everything is in its place.

Rule #1: Don’t think about it too much. You’ll wear yourself out before you even get started.

Rule #2: Divide the work into chunks. If you look at the Big Picture – the entire mess all at once – you risk inertia and depression setting in which lead to being glued to the couch. Right now, while your whatsit is up off the sofa, just do one thing. When that’s done, do one more thing. Before you know it – Voila! – it’s all done!

Rule #3: Stay focused. Don’t fall for the devilish suggestion that you should clean the basement first. Now that would be procrastination! Clean your work area only. Save the basement for the weekend, or when you need an excuse to avoid your nit-picking Aunt Griselda.
 
Rule #4: Sort things into piles. It’s easier to pay all the bills at once, then do all the filing while you’re standing in front of the cabinet, and carry all the things that belong in the kitchen in one trip. If you pay a bill, then get up to file a couple of invoices before running to the kitchen to throw a plate in the sink, then remember the bill needs a postage stamp, which may or may not be in the junk drawer in the laundry room…. You’ll end up exhausted, your work area will still be a mess, and you’ll have reinforced the idea that the whole project is beyond your control. Next, you’ll convince yourself you don’t really need to do that work that seemed so important and exciting earlier in the day.

Rule #5: Write It Down. Those of you under forty will hate this one, but hear me out. Your digital calendar is a great way to keep track of what needs to get done when, and your phone is fantastic tool to make note of things on the run. HOWEVER, phones get lost, or fall into toilets. You need a backup. Sadly, that means taking up pen, paper calendar, and notepad and writing down the important dates and notes. Being able to see all your to-do’s at a glance helps you sort tasks in order of priority.

Pet Peeve Alert: How many times has someone told you they would do something for you, and then they don’t? It’s usually not because they hate you, but because they forgot 5 minutes, or perhaps 5 seconds, after they told you. They didn’t WRITE IT DOWN. Maybe they made a note in their phone, which was then absorbed into the digitized universe, never to be seen again. A nice little paper note can sit annoyingly on your desk, nagging at you every time you see it, until you finally do the task you promised.

Rule #6: Organize Your Notes. Okay, over forty readers, this one’s for you. Take all the little scraps of paper with scribbled reminders on them, along with sticky notes tacked up on every available surface. and condense them into one list. If there are too many, you can sort them by category, and create separate lists. Not only will you have everything in one place to refer to, but reading through them will remind you of what you need to do, along with many things you’ve already accomplished.
 
That’s it! You’re done. Ah, look at that clear expanse of tabletop, that sparkling, dust-free keyboard, just waiting to help capture your dazzling ideas. The bills are paid, the plants are watered, and it’s time for you to create. Your tools are ready and you know exactly what you need to work on next. Time to brighten the world with your brilliance. Have fun!
 
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Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
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