Bin there, done that

If you’re struggling with a problem, any problem, it pays to talk about it.  Talking enables you describe a problem far better than merely thinking about it.

So talk.  Even if you can only talk to yourself, or your cat or your goldfish, have the conversation that describes your problem.

Here’s an example.  I found an old music cassette I never liked, and felt bad about throwing it away.  I had bought it with my own money, it was mine, it has a non-recyclable plastic case.  Not many charity shops will take them, and I couldn’t think of anyone who would want it.  Someone had worked hard to produce it.  All this rubbish (and more) was going on in my mind, preventing me from getting rid of something I simply didn’t want!

So I talked the problem through, talked out loud all those bothers listed above, and ended up (rather angrily) chucking it in the bin.  There was a reason for this: Stuff you simply ‘don’t want’ is never going to become stuff you want.  But most of the potential solutions I talked to myself about to get rid of it required extra effort, and time I didn’t have. 

This silly tape was blocking me.  I needed a solution now.  The simplest ‘right now’ solution was the bin.

Think about this: if my problem is physically ‘in the bin’, I have flagged it ‘for removal’, without chucking it out completely which, for some reason, I can’t face right now.  But I have dealt with the initial problem, and conveyed it to the next stage. 

This ‘conveyor belt’ approach is important.  It keeps us moving and prevents our problems from blocking us.  If we agonise over ‘what if’ scenarios, we get stuck, and we don’t have time for that.  Put the problem on the ‘conveyor belt’ and wave goodbye as it goes away.

The bin won’t be emptied for a week or two, maybe longer.  This gives my brain time to process any worries I have in slow time, while my body can get on with making breakfast, cleaning the house, or whatever.  I can always rescue the cassette if I feel I really need to.

Scientific research has shown that people who talk to themselves have better mental health. Have a look at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-minute-therapist/201712/do-you-talk-yourself

So why not give it a go, and see how you solve your own problems.

Oh, and that cassette?  It’s still there, sitting in my bin – but it isn’t blocking me anymore – it helped me write this post!  So I can thank it for that.  It will soon be buried under other ‘binnable’ stuff, and I can probably throw it out (it’s halfway there already).  I can’t do much about the plastic or the tape, but I’ll probably recycle the paper insert.

The longer things sit in bins, the easier it is for us to let go of them.  Perhaps that’s the real purpose of bins – to act as a temporary repository, giving us time to process, and let things go.

On the Shelf

Floors are wonderful spaces.  You can put things on floors.  You can stand, sit, lie, exercise, eat, read, sleep and work on floors.

Here’s a mildly amusing anecdote I heard many years ago – so many years in fact, that one might have whimsically referred to a radio as a ‘wireless’, and not caused too much confusion among younger people around you.

A man was stuck in a traffic jam and noticed a small shop that always appeared to be open, yet didn’t appear to sell anything.  The lights were on, the door was open, customers occasionally went in and out, but their window display showed only empty shelves – it didn’t appear to sell anything.

The tailback was very long and it enabled the man to take a good look at the shop, finally to realise that it sold shelving systems.

Which brings me conveniently to the subject of this week’s epic blogular post.  It may provide a solution, if you feel your situation would benefit from it.

If you can’t see your floor, or can’t see much of it, this is because you have put too many things on it.  You will be unable to achieve many of the wonderful activities listed above, and that would be a shame. 

Fig 1: A floor, seen from above (actual shape and colour may vary).

Try doing those things on a wall.  Tricky, isn’t it.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t do anything on walls without having to ‘hang on’ in some way, and that prevents us from doing anything else.  So what’s the point of walls, and how can they help you sort out your stuff?  I will tell you.

Walls are great places to put shelves.  Shelves are great places to put stuff.  In fact, that’s the only purpose of shelves!  It is their one real purpose in life, and, unlike many of us, they achieve it well.  Brilliantly, in fact.

Take a look at your floors.  How much of them can you see?

OK, now take a look at your walls.  I expect you can see a lot more of them, yes?  If you’re the sort of person who likes pictures, perhaps you won’t see much wall, but for many of us, if we were to work out the area of wall we could see, and compare that figure with our floor space, we’d find a lot more wall.

Fig2: A Wall, Two or three Shelves could be built-in to each alcove, or free-standing shelves could be placed here, to take items off the floor. I’ve removed some pictures to demonstrate just how much space is available.

So here’s a notion: how great would it be if we could turn all that useless wall space into useful floor space?  It would be very great, I think.  But how do we turn vertical spaces into horizontal spaces?  The answer lies in Shelves.

There are two principal types of shelving system: wall-mounted, and floor mounted.  Shelves mounted anywhere else will not work properly.  I would not recommend mounting shelves to a ceiling; that’s just asking for trouble.

The wonderful thing about shelves is they come in many forms so you should be able to find a form that suits you.  If you feel unsure about fitting them yourself, there are many people out there who may be able to help, even me.  Yes, I will fit shelves if you think they will help you sort out your stuff (and you would be right about that).  My only stipulation is – you buy the shelves.  It’s simpler this way.

Shelves are wonderful things.  They turn lots of ‘dead’ vertical space into functional, useful horizontal space.  They get stuff off your floors.  They place useful stuff at eye-level (a wonderful place), or very nearly so.  So all your important stuff is easy to find.

At a pinch, with judicious use of hooks, you can even hang stuff underneath shelves!  This is useful in places like kitchens, where utensils and cups can be stored for easy access, or where storage may be limited.  Just don’t put too much load on them.

Best of all, shelves enable you to appreciate your floor again for the fabulous space it is.  A great floor is one you can stretch out on and not be able to touch anything, preferably in all directions.  This enables you to reclaim a fabulous space to yourself, one that is all yours to enjoy.

Re-connect with your floors in your life – install shelves.

Bossin’ it

First, find a safe space to work.

Offices where you have to go to work are only good if you’re the boss.  If you have an office at home, you’re very lucky.  An office is a great place to get organised, and it’s even an ok place to be a bit disorganised and still look pretty cool at the same time.

If you had an office at home but can’t remember where you left it/where it is, hmm, not so good, but on the plus side, you know it’s there somewhere.  All you need to do is find it.

I’m being flippant – one needs to treat these situations with humour, or they become overwhelming.  To return to the subject, an office is a wonderful place to start getting yourself organised.

So pull on your organising trousers and let’s fix this.  Maybe you have a spare bedroom, or a spare bed, or a spare table (a trestle/decorator’s table will do), maybe even a garage floor (but beware of dust).  Any big space like this will help you to sort stuff out into piles of

  1. stuff you need
  2. stuff you don’t need
  3. stuff you aren’t sure about

You may even be able to sort it further, like specific bill types – but if you want to work fast and efficiently, stick with these three piles first.

This all assumes you have such rooms or organising spaces available.  If you read this and think ‘Hm, I can’t find a useable office space like Neil suggests’, then your problem is a bit more sticky, and you might want to give someone like me a call.  It’s a bit like unravelling a badly packed bundle of Christmas lights, and at those times it helps to have a second person to help out.

Give me a call on 07985 490 810 and find out how I can help.

Don’t let the clutter boss you about.  Boss your clutter!

Your Stuff and You

A balanced diet is made up from the five essential food groups.  (I always thought they were proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and fibre, but a quick check on the web suggests all manner of alternatives, oh well).

There are four seasons and four tops.  If any of them are missing, consider yourself short-changed.

When you’re trying to get organised, there are three basic piles of stuff

  • 1) stuff you need
  • 2) stuff you don’t need
  • 3) stuff you aren’t sure about

In fact, at any time, these are the three basic types of stuff anyone will have.  You’ll have a few of the first thing, rather more of the second, and lots of the third.  The trick is to know how to keep (2) to a minimum, and how to turn (3) into (2).

We’ll look at how to do this in the future.  For now, just keep this in mind if you’re ever looking at your stuff and wondering what to do about it.

Note: Turning (3) into (1) rarely happens, in my experience.

‘Leave by’ dates

Hello, Neil here
Many years ago when I was young I had a house with a little brick-built shed on the side of it. This was in the dark ages before people realised how cool sheds were, so I just called it the outhouse, on account of it being ‘outside’ of my ‘house’.

It was a useful little space too. I used it to keep my stuff in. My stuff included:

• A lawnmower
• A bicycle
• An unusually long wooden pole
• a whole lot of assorted junk

The weird thing is, looking back I cannot remember a single item that would have been included in that last bullet. So it must have been – well, junk, right? As in rubbish. Yet at the time, I could not bring myself to part with any of it. “I might need it for something,” I would say to myself, without ever managing to define what that ‘something’ was.

So my outhouse continued to be a largely useless space largely full of useless items, rather than a really cool shed, where I could be all creative and interesting. My own junk was stifling my creative juices, and that’s very bad. Ask any artist.

How did I break out of this mindset? Dates.

That’s right. Boring old target dates. I decided to look at all the things I had accumulated in the shed, and put dates on them, like ‘use by’ dates on food. If I hadn’t used it or found a use for it after, say, one year, it would have to go.

I recall a few items that I felt needed more time to ‘decide’, so these were given longer stays of execution, but there were also a couple of things that I felt could go in six months. Thus, you see, an approach like this often inspires fresh thinking, and that’s usually good.

Just setting this plan in place was helpful. Within a year, much of the ‘dated’ stuff had already departed, by fair means (or foul, but more of that later). It was as if I had prepared it all for the big heave-ho without the mental stress of physically ‘removing’ it from my life. I gave myself time to adjust to the new situation.

If there’s something in your life that has no defined purpose, why keep it?

It has no purpose;
It has no use;
It’s useless to me.

We all know what to do with useless stuff.

But Neil, I hear you ask. It’s all very well to talk about these things, but – did it really work? You got rid of stuff, but surely you had formed an ‘attachment’ to some of these items? There still has to be a date when, ultimately, you have to get rid of that stuff – and that’s hard.

Possibly, but when the day came I felt I was more prepared for it. I could look at those remaining items and say to myself “I haven’t used these things since … so why am I keeping them?” It made that final action so much easier to achieve because I had given myself enough time to justify it reasonably.

Well, almost all of it. You see, one night the outhouse was broken into. Nothing was damaged (I’d just forgotten to lock it) and some little opportunist sneaked in – and stole my unusually long wooden pole.

Evidently, even thieves couldn’t find a use for anything else I kept in the outhouse.

Which speaks volumes really, doesn’t it?