As a working mother with two sons, a husband, two dogs and a very demanding job I barely have time to cover all of my basics. You know the basics, like feeding the dogs, doing laundry, returning client phone calls and not forgetting to pick your youngest son up from robotics club (twice). Being proactive is a fantasy for me. If it isn’t on fire or bleeding from the head it can wait. So things like cleaning out the junk drawer, or the garage, or the numerous hidey-holes where only I know that I’ve stashed items that were “very important” at one point and now simply need to be thrown into the trash. But after ten years of being very Scarlett O’Hara (I’ll think about it tomorrow) about my carefully disguised hoarding I woke up one day and felt like it would be a good day to start tackling the hidden messes that were starting to bust out of their hiding spots.
That was about three months ago and I’m probably about half way to having real order and control over my possessions. Now don’t let this discourage you. Of course I never thought that I was embarking on a six-month house cleanse–and truth be told if I knew that I might never have started. So maybe just try to forget this part. But even though it’s sucked up precious weekend moments I would still do it all over again because of how fantastic it has made me feel. Weird, right? Okay at least I think it’s really weird to feel so great about a project that is running way over the anticipated completion date and often times involves back breaking work.
But after spending time analyzing why in the world something so seemingly awful feel so good I’ve found the answer. And why if you are overdue for a purge you might just want to get cracking!
1. Concrete results. There are so few actions in the lives of us working moms that have concrete results. Let’s face it this whole mothering thing is bananas. It’s like a lifelong science experiment. We read up on all the latest child-raising techniques, consult websites for moms, and sometimes call our own moms in desperation over our latest perceived failure. We spend years doing our best with our best information, taking our best educated guesses but in the end we won’t know if we did all the right things until our babies have launched themselves into adulthood, which is like forever from now. And as for careers, I know I knock myself out at work but it can be months before I can see project launch successfully or years before I can see how my hard work has helped my overall professional trajectory. But cleaning out a room. Now that can be done in a weekend. Cleaning out a long neglected area has a definite start and stop time. At the beginning there is chaos and at the end there is blessed order. Not too many things in my life give me an immediate sense of accomplishment (unless you count Candy Crush). But purging will give you the hit you’ve been looking for.
2. Speaking of order, I don’t know about you but that is not something I have an awful lot of. And it’s something I actually like very much. I cannot tell you how satisfied I feel when I take space that was chock full or paperwork from 2002, small squares of old Christmas wrapping that I was sure I’d use some day and decorative tchotchkes that I couldn’t bear to part with eight years ago and transform it into actual usable space. It’s like being able to breathe again.
3. Letting go of the stuff meant letting go of the guilt. Finally admitting to myself that all the crap I’ve collected over the years would be better used by the folks at Goodwill was so liberating it made me giddy. Now I never have to open my guest room closet again and think to myself that I really should be making use of things that at this point in my life are useless. It wasn’t as if the guilt was crushing me. But it was always there like lower back pain or a leaky faucet. Eradicating the constant reminder of my procrastination freed me up from the guilty little voice in the back of my head and replaced it with a sense of accomplishment.
Just remember how you eat an elephant. One bite at a time. So ladies, get out your forks and dig in!