If you’re serious about cleaning a room, make it messier before you clean it up. Pull things out of drawers. Empty closets and shelves. And clear off the tops of every horizontal surface.
Then sort out what you have by putting similar items together, looking at each item to decide if you want to keep it (because you really love it), pitch it, or give it away.
Then clean all the surfaces, reassemble putting everything in a thoughtful place, and throw out the trash.
Easy peasy – the room is decluttered and all is well.
Except if you still have an edgy feeling that you aren’t doing something, or that you’ve missed something big. Now the issue isn’t a room that needs to be decluttered – it’s your head and heart that need a cleanup.
Here are a few prompts to help get that process going.
1. Write down everything you need to get done
If you already have a to-do list, start fresh for this exercise. You may be surprised to find you have ideas knocking around in your head that have never made a list. They’re looking to come out. Add them to the list.
2. List ten things you love to do that you aren’t doing now
This might include a huge project – like “Build a house,” or “Learn a language.” Or it could be something simple like, “Get a new hat,” or “Be kind to a stranger.”
If you could change one thing in your kitchen, bedroom, or bath, what would it be?
What did you used to do when you were a kid that you haven’t done in years?
Or maybe you’ve noticed something that needs to be taken care of? Add it to this list.
3. Make a list of five things that are essential to who you are as a person
At your core, what makes you tick? Things like, “Being creative.” Or “Being healthy.” This list helps you think about broader categories of how you live your life – or how you want to live your life.
4. Write your obituary
There are a couple of great things that come from writing your obituary. One: You are reminded that you aren’t going to live forever, and if you want to get stuff done, now’s a good time to start. Two: An obit helps you prioritize what you want to get done. Getting groceries may be at the top of your to-do list, but will the fact that you had groceries in the house make your obit? Probably not. So what will make the obit? Being an awesome parent? Being a kind neighbor? Being involved in your community? Being loyal to your friends?
Does thinking about your obit give you new ideas of stuff you’d like to add to your to-do list?
Now you have lovely, big mess of ideas and it’s time to prioritize. Just as you do when you declutter a room, you want to sort through everything you wrote down.
What do you love to do that should be front and center in your mind? That’s a top priority.
What do you want to keep, but can be moved to a higher shelf? That’s a second priority that will get done – but maybe not this week.
And what can be pitched? Part of prioritizing is saying “no,” and sometimes that means saying “no” to yourself.
6. Make a plan
Now that you have a huge prioritized list, you need a plan. Look at your top priorities. What can you take action on this week? If you have top priorities that are quick, get them done tomorrow and off your list! If you have top priorities that will take more time, set up a schedule to get them done and figure out a baby step to get started this week.
7. Track your plan this week and see how you’re doing
Sticking to your priorities isn’t always easy, but it always pays off. How?
- You lose the edgy feeling that you’re missing something. You’ve thought things through, and have hopefully found the gems in your mind that were looking for expression.
- When you stick to a plan that brings you joy, you’re happier, your energy is better, and you get more done.
- When you’re doing work you want to do, your focus is better. And the better your focus, the harder it is for anyone to pull you off focus.
- You become more decisive about when to say “yes,” and when to say “no.”
Sending you love and decluttered energy from a birch grove in Maine.