05 February 2011

Help! I'm Overwhelmed.

Ever have one of those days when there is so much to do you don’t know where to begin? Well, I’ve had a lot of those lately. While trying to dig out from under my mess of boxes, possessions, desires, and responsibilities, I’ve learned a few things. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you, and if you have suggestions, feel free to leave those in the comments section.

 The first thing I did was to list the things I was feeling overwhelmed about. My theory was that you have to know what you’re up against. I soon realized that I needed to clean house, finish unpacking from our move (two months ago), organize my writing space and figure out how to be more productive with my writing. Also, there were the errands, paperwork, phone calls, etc. Of course, I actually did this step in more detail, but I don’t want to bore you.

Now that I had an overview of what I needed to do, then I looked for help doing it. I found Julie Morgenstern’s books very helpful. Her Time Management from the Inside Out helped me a lot. One of the biggest problems I—and apparently many people—have is not having a good grasp on how long it is to do things. As silly as it seemed to me, keeping track of the time things took was an eye opener. For example, I thought washing dishes (by hand) was taking hours and just not wanting to devote the time and effort, I tended to let the dishes go until I had a huge mess, and then I REALLY didn’t want to do them. Once I realized it only took five to ten minutes to wash a load, I could look at the kitchen sink without feeling my heart drop in guilt. I could simply jump in there and do it. Just this step helped a lot, and I’m currently following through with her “time maps” and other hints. Having time to do what I need to do would be a real help, and I think she might be able to show me how to do that.

Housework and unpacking kind of go together. At this point, we’ve unpacked enough to live in the apartment. What’s left are boxes of stuff, things we don’t know what to do with. Maybe we need to be put up shelves, maybe ask our daughter to help put things on high shelves or knick-knacks on top of the kitchen cabinets. Then there’s the disaster of the second bedroom AKA my office. While my desk is in the corner where I want it, and my books and papers are sort of arranged, but the rest of the room looks like a storage room. Okay, a storage room after a tornado. I can stand in the living room and see every room in this place. And feel totally, completely, absolutely overwhelmed.

I have a friend who said his daughter used to get overwhelmed with her homework. He said they had to cover most of the page so that she could focus on a little bit at a time. I think the same applies to housework and unpacking. It has to be done a bit at a time. To help, I’ve found the Fly Lady to be very helpful. With her plan, you go through each section of the house once a month, plus giving you a plan to do the day to day cleaning without having a nervous breakdown. Using her plan, I’ve begun to section off the areas of the apartment and work according to her plan. That way, I don’t have to decide where to start. Also, Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing From the Inside Out is a great resource. She counsels making your stuff fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. I love that concept.

As far as my office and my writing, both Morgenstern’s books are helpful. I am putting aside the Fly Lady’s plan a bit though. Even though it isn’t the area she suggests for this week, I’m going to do some serious work in my office. My writing is important to me, and I need to be more productive than I have been. If cleaning my office will help me get to where I need to be, then I’d be wise to do that.

I really hope that your life and house are not the disaster mine has been lately, but if it is, remember you aren’t alone!

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