If You Fix It…

man fixing a faucet

Whether your goal is to get organized, lose weight, get a new job, go back to school, buy a house, bake a cake or something else, there comes a time when you have to take the first step. In productivity circles, we call this “initiating,” and it can be surprisingly difficult to do. There are a plethora of reasons why we avoid starting a project, including:

  • We lack the necessary knowledge
  • Our schedules are already full with daily activities
  • We anticipate that the process will be boring or unpleasant
  • We don’t have room in our budget for needed supplies
  • We are coping with more pressing emergencies
  • We disagree with others about how to proceed

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that nothing gets done until we begin. Of course, plentiful advice is available on how to overcome procrastination, but sometimes reading these leaves us feeling more guilty than motivated.

Often, the best way to get started is to break the looming project down into tiny chunks, and then schedule the first step into your calendar like an appointment. If you go through this process and find that the first task still feels intimidating (and/or you are still avoiding it), my advice is to break it down even more. Keep going until you have a task that feels approachable enough to actually try.

While this is my “go to” advice, today I thought I would share a couple of stories about a less traditional path to beginning, particularly in regards to organizing. In these instances, getting organized wasn’t the initial goal, but evolved out of action taken on an unrelated venture. These vignettes remind me of a book I used to read to my children entitled, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, which chronicles how one small gesture rolled into a series of amusing repercussions. This little book reminds us how doing one small thing can lead to a variety of unintended consequences. In the book, these results are funny and messy, but as you will see in these examples, the results can lead to a less cluttered and orderly space.

Story #1: The Bathroom Faucet

In this situation, the homeowner decided to replace her bathroom faucet…

–> So she went shopping and bought a new faucet,

–> which led to the need to install the faucet,

–> which led to the need to empty the cabinet beneath the sink,

–> which led to her being surprised by all that had accumulated under her sink,

–> which motivated her to declutter unwanted bathroom items that had ended up in this spot,

–> which made her curious about what might have been building up in her medicine cabinet,

–> which motivated her to empty the medicine cabinet and declutter its contents,

–> which made her wonder what was inside her bathroom drawers,

–> which led to dumping out the drawers and decluttering them as well.

She never set out to clear out and organize the bathroom, but was delighted with both her new faucet, AND her organized bathroom.

Story #2: The Landing Light Fixture

In this situation, the homeowner had a broken lamp in the area over the landing at the top of her basement stairway…

–> So she bought a new lighting fixture,

–> which she brought home and installed over the landing,

–> which allowed her to clearly see the space,

–> which made her want to use it more efficiently,

–> which led her to sort and declutter the items that were piled up,

–> which made it easy to see what storage options would be needed,

–> which led her to acquire, install and use new organizing systems.

She didn’t initially intend to organize the basement landing, but was thrilled to have not only an attractive, functioning light, but also a vastly improved storage area.

Story #3: The Wall-to-Wall Carpet

In this situation, the homeowner had been longing to replace her living room carpet. She had been wanting hardwood floors, but wasn’t sure what was under the carpet, and had been putting off taking action. Finally, one night…

–> So she decided to just start ripping up the carpet,

–> which allowed her to see that there were, indeed, wood floors underneath,

–> which motivated her to rip up and remove the whole carpet,

–> which necessitated that she move all the furniture out of the room,

–> which was difficult because many pieces were filled with belongings,

–> which led her to empty them out so she could move them,

–> which led her to see all the things she had been stashing inside,

–> which made her laugh, and led her to get rid of a lot of old things, including two pieces of furniture she no longer needed.

She didn’t plan on decluttering her living room, but when the project was finished, she was so happy to have not only her longed-for hardwood floors, but also a more open and airy space.

Admittedly, not every project will result in improved organization. However, it is common for a small home improvement to require that we empty, clear off, clean out, relocate, and otherwise interact with accumulated possessions. Thus, we end up having a perfect opportunity to review, sort, and otherwise arrange a set of belongings. If you have been wanting to get organized, but can’t seem to get started, ask yourself, “Is there anything in my home that needs fixing?” Start here, and perhaps you’ll end up getting organized as well!

*     *     *     *     *

Has a home repair or upgrade ever rolled into a decluttering project?

24 thoughts on “If You Fix It…”

  1. You describe me to a T! Lucky for me, I have a husband who investigates all the steps of the home improvement project before doing it. And, if there is a decluttering task that needs to be done, it is incorporated into the plan. I’m the action person he’s the planner on home improvement projects. But, to be honest, I don’t mind the derailment to decluttering when doing a home improvement project. it makes me feel like it’s the icing on the home improvement cake. 🙂
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…15 Unique Things to Toss Right Now for a Stress Free BathroomMy Profile

    1. That’s how I feel as well. Whatever gets the ball rolling is worth it! I have a bunch of boxes of paper in the attic that I’ve been trying to get my husband to go through with me. It occurred to me that perhaps we need to tackle a repair up there:)

    1. Yes, exactly the domino effect. You are the Queen of children’s book in my mind, Diane. I always loved that series, as I love yours:)

  2. I love your stories! They beautifully illustrate the power of tiny steps. One change becomes the catalyst and motivation for others. I like to think of this process, which I’ve used in other scenarios as “following the crumbs.” This is used when we aren’t sure what to do next in life…in a bigger sense. It’s a way of noticing what we notice, what excites or interests us, and then moving towards those paths.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How Do You Know When It’s Time to Just Be?My Profile

    1. I love this phrase, “following the crumbs.” Your thoughts on mindfulness are sinking ever deeper into me, Linda:) I think it is exciting to realize that catalysts are all around us, and our job is simply to notice and proceed.

  3. Clutter always gets in the way of any project. I think that is way people procrastinate on projects around the house. Because they have to clean up the clutter before they can start the project. Making everything more difficult. Loved the examples.

    1. Such a good point, Janet. The long reaching impact of clutter definitely impacts how we maintain our space. Imagine how daunting it would feel to paint a room filled with stuff! The benefits of clearing out and living with order are many indeed.

    1. It is fun for me too, but I know many people don’t consider it fun. The amusing thing about these stories to me was how the decluttering came as a side-effect of an unrelated initiative. I mean, if you have to empty the cabinet anyway, might as well take advantage of the opportunity and to review it all, right?

  4. Ahh.. I love the analogy! I know the books.. and the moose/muffin one too. Yes, that totally happens. That happened with our “minor” renovation project, which turned into other renovation projects – but also the inspiration to declutter an deep clean.

    1. Decluttering is one of the BEST upsides of renovating. I loved all of the books. In fact, I just loved children’s books. Today I still read a lot of young adult fiction. There is something magical about it.

  5. So true. It often takes a problem to push us into action and one thing definitely leads to another in most cases. Good
    examples of that process. Funny how we procrastinate or even don’t notice the need until we are forced to see it because of a problem,

    Human Nature I guess.

    1. So agree! It’s normal to not notice the clutter under a sink or the accumulated possessions in a remote space until the moment when we most unload it to work on a home repair. One thing often leads to another:)

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