How to stay focused when surrounded by clutter

Feeling overwhelmed by kids’ stuff, clutter, toys and laundry? Sometimes, writing things down may help to get, and stay, organized. This post is about how how I try (!) to keep it together…

Have a planner, calendar, white- or blackboard handy and write down each task you feel the need to accomplish today.

This will do two things for you. First, once you have a list going, you can mentally, or in writing, prioritize your list. This gives you perspective in terms of what is more, or less, important. Does the dirty coffee cup really need to be washed right now or should you remove the gigantic fire truck from the middle of the kitchen floor and put it away? Which of the two tasks will give you more satisfaction upon completion? Certainly, one action will require more physical energy than the other, but ultimately, it comes down to your energy level, the time of day, and priority. Since your energy level is finite, pick one task and leave the other for later, tomorrow (or for someone else to do).

Secondly, planning in writing gives you an overview of what your day entailed. It may surprise you that the long list of mundane tasks you have written down seems to put so much focus on your life. Is that pile of library books still sitting in the corner really such a bother that you had to take a pen and write about it on your list? Reading over your list will help you to see the bigger picture. You didn’t return the books because you played lego with the three year old today, or because your baby threw up on her bed and you had to spend the day doing laundry. Your list will help you focus on the whole day rather than the individual segments, and tasks, of the day. 

You can carry forward the list of incomplete tasks.

You will learn quickly that writing down each annoying little chore takes away from time better spent on bigger things. Yes, the shoe closet needs organizing, but how much of a priority is it today? Can this be something that you can move to another day? Flip to a blank page or an empty square on your calendar and remind yourself that at some point in the not too distant future the shoes will have to be organized. Or perhaps the next time you open the shoe closet is enough of a reminder that writing it on your list becomes moot. Why write it down when you see the need to do it several times a day? (It’s like writing down milk on my grocery list. I always need milk, I never forget to pick up milk, so why write it down? I don’t need remining of something in writing if it’s already a well-established habit.)

The reality is that many common household tasks do not require official planning to get completed. Take the shoe closet. At some point, you will find yourself on your knees trying to find your left sandal which some rascal threw behind the shoe rack. As you reach for the shoe, you will automatically start to organize the kids shoes in front of you. After all, multi-tasking comes as naturally to you as breathing. You’re already down on the floor, may as well clean up a little, remove the too small baby shoes, and line up the sneakers. Task accomplished, moving right along.

Face the fact that you have done your best even if the job is not done.

Life is full of interruptions. Clutter and disorganization prevail against all attempts most days. That is a normal, everyday fact for the majority of us. Some days, you just have to live with the clutter and know that tomorrow is a new day. But all your planning will pay off in the end, I promise. When you write your list, you manage to sit down for a well-deserved five minutes and ignore everyone else’s needs. And that is worth a lot in your life!

NB: Just to prove my last point…while typing this post over a two-day period, I have had several interruptions. Kids, husband leaving, dog barking, you name it. But I prevailed and finished my post. And now, I’m going to locate my planner and plan my day. Since the kids are quiet…


One thought on “How to stay focused when surrounded by clutter

  1. I just discovered Simple-ology… ever heard of that? Sounds interesting and for the modern online household this might be a way to go and get on top of distraction and clutter… I think I am gonna try it out!

    Thanks for your article…

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