Uncluttering Time

Last month, my theme was Spaciousness and I decided to work with this theme in four different ways. The first was to create spaciousness in my time by getting rid of clutter time.

This concept came to me courtesy of Rebecca Ross of the Composed Domain. I took her clutter class at North Seattle Community College. It was a great class and helped me shift the mountain of stuff under which I am buried (you can get a glimpse of what I’m facing in this photo of my living room).

Many of the techniques Rebecca taught were ones I had learned before, like the sequence of sort, purge, contain and maintain, a maxim which I first picked up from Julie Morgenstern. It matches the way I normally clean which felt validating.

Rebecca also encouraged us to honor our own way of organizing. Two years ago, I rearranged all my file folders and I’ve been confused ever since. I am going to restore them back to their original order in my next wave of cleaning.

But this is not a blog about clutter in space but about clutter in time. Rebecca gave us a list of possible kinds of clutter, many of which I recognized.

Masquerade clutter is something that is valuable but you don’t use it, like exercise equipment.

Bestowed clutter is something someone gave you that you will never use, like a book you will never read, or an item of clothing you will never wear.

Memorabilia is anything you are keeping because it reminds you of a person or event that was precious. Rebecca suggested we deal with this by preserving the memory, for instance in a photo or piece of writing, but letting go of the item.

Bus stop clutter is simply clutter that is on its way somewhere else, for instance, items you are going to return or take to the Goodwill.

Dust me décor” clutter is the name Rebecca gives to tchotckes, all those decorative items that line your shelves and cover your windowsills. For me, this category mostly consists of rocks which I pick up every time I go some place.

Someday clutter consists of items that you will do someday, like magazines you will read someday or, in my case, the shattered remnants of favorite dishes I will make into a mosaic someday, or the scraps from old clothes that I will turn into a quilt someday.

I amused myself after the class by trying to come up with comparable kinds of clutter in time. I couldn’t come up with exact correlations but I did notice a few kinds of clutter in time.

No Longer Meaningful Time Clutter: This is an activity that was once meaningful but now I’m only doing it because it’s a habit. I was able to get rid of several instances of this kind of clutter.

No Longer Prime Time Clutter: Some activities that I used to do regularly at certain times of the day, like writing my blog entries in the evening, had not been done at that time for over two years, yet I kept writing them into my schedule for that time. Clearing this kind of clutter simply means noticing what I was really doing and accepting it. If I really want to write the blog entries, I might have to find a different time.

Brain Wasting Time Clutter: TV is the prime example of this. I watch it because it’s on and it catches my attention and then it’s hard to turn off. So I put myself on a TV diet: one hour a night is all I’m allowed (some exemptions are given for Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance).  Then I turn the TV off. Although at first, the house feels weirdly quiet, I soon get totally absorbed in my writing or my computer research.

Doing Someone Else’s Work Time Clutter: This would be time you spend doing something that really belongs to someone else. In my house, this would be an uneven distribution of chores, which it really is time to sit down and list and then parcel out in a more fair way.

Unrealistic Expectations Time Clutter: This is sort of like Someday Clutter in that I think I can really do 12 hours of work in 4 hours. I’ve had some luck correcting this kind of time clutter by actually estimating how long I think it will take to do all the things on my to-do list (for instance, last Monday I had on my list 1) make breakfast 2) sort out the trust 3) take all the files to the storage place 4) edit the Pepe novel 5) sort out the books 6) finish the Waverly Fitzgerald web site. I figured out how much time I thought it would take me to do each one, then worked through them in order of priority and actually got 5 out of the 6 done.

Too Many Choices Time Clutter: I’m always working on a number of different projects and this can become its own kind of clutter, as at any given moment, I could choose to do one of 20 things on my to-do list. To deal with this issue, I limited myself to six ongoing projects (writing a mystery novel, working on my non-fiction book on nature in the city, taking a photography class, teaching a writing class, updating Living in Season and uncluttering the house). I assign only one thing to do each week on each project and give each one its own day. It’s been weird but gratifying to experience the sensation of having completed a task and having nothing else to do that day. Wow!

Someday is Right Now: I’ve also decided to move some things off my Someday list to my Right Now list so I signed up for the photography class I’ve been wanting to take for three years. It will mean my Fall is a bit crowded but I don’t wait any longer for some day.

I’d love to hear about your Time Clutter and how you deal with it.

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