yes - no - maybe - maybe yes - maybe no - maybe maybe - wait - can't decide - what to do first? - was that wrong? - was that right?
August 24, 2005 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Ever been so overwhelmed that it paralyzed you? How did figure out what to do first? How did you get it all done?

Cirrcumstances rendered me unable to decide, focus, prioritize and accomplish for a number of years. The cause was found and I am clearer and eager to get on and rejoin life. But ye gods! The physical mess in my home is horrific and the number of things I've left undone over these years is humongous.

Imagine that you've been away from your life while a tornado was ripping through it -- through your job and house and relationships -- and that, while you'd periodically returned and started cleanups, you'd then disappeared each time just as you were making headway and by the time you returned again, the tornadoes had gotten worse and nobody trusted your commitment. So now you are back to stay but don't know where to begin to clear it all up, maintain it and make a living at the same time.

That sounds farfetched, but believe me, it's real and no, I don't really want to go into details just now except to say always trust your gut when you tell doctors you need to be tested for something physical that they tell you is all in your head -- and keep searching till you find the doctor who'll do the test.

Anyhow, I just want to get on with life but being able to suddenly see how messed up everything is is almost worse than not being able to see it before.

Here's the deal: my home is cluttered beyond belief; our house is falling apart; my family has lost faith in my ability to run things smoothly; I've put on 50 pounds although I'd never been overweight before; my business is gone although those who knew me remember my abilities and people who know me only recently are impressed by my credentials; I prefer to go back to that business, but some of my materials are still buried under the clutter and remarketing myself will take time, as will doing a refresher of the things I know; but our finances are by now strained to breaking my husband apart. A part time job would help while I reestablish my business but, as I've found out during the last three weeks, applying for jobs is a horrible and time consuming endeavor, and the teenage kids are all running wild and needing money for school.

If I left anything out you can add it yourself: every area of my life is now in shambles and I would love to get it right again in a step-by-step way, but every area is screaming for attention immediately and I feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

My thought is that organizing and getting rid of the clutter in my house will help me find stuff we need and will return a sense of peace and haven to our home, but when I concentrate on that, I'm asked why I'm not making an income. When I spend the day jobhunting -- and believe me, almost anything will do but I've not jobhunted in years and I'm floored by the slow pace of snagging an interview and by hearing that they're scheduling second interviews in a week or two. Hello? Second interviews? We're talking simple waitress job here.

Meanwhile, everyone needs rides and money and things and did I mention that my spouse is away during the week so there's nobody here to do it all but me?

And you have no idea how much time and strength are just eaten up by the simple act of throwing stuff into garbage bags and lugging it to the garbage when you're 50 lbs. overweight. I actually bought $1300 of personal trainer time at a 24-hour gym 2 years ago but my doctors won't say yes yet to me going back to reclaim it ( your expired gym contract can be overturned for medical reasons with a doctor's signature, FYI). I am focused enough to be able to tell helper's to pitch this, cart that and to work like a fiend WITH that help, but I can't afford it yet and my family is just not there for me to provide real assistance. I think they will be as they see me maintaining focus for now, but it's just been too long that they've seen and believed it.

Anyhow, Sorry for the rant. Therapy's out of the question -- first because the cause of all this was found to be a medical deficiency and not a mental health problem and second because the best therapy for me right now will be getting a semblance of order back. Besides, I LOL! don't have time -- I just want to get my life and my credibility back together without losing my husband and neglecting my kids.

Stuff like household help and a personal assistant ARE a viable option for me once I start back to work, and there are a number of items in this clutter that are new and valuable and I can barter them for help with the house, once I find them and clean up enough to let someone over. But those would all be steps 3 and 4 or something; I need decision and priority making help now.

Anyone tackled a life tornado before and want to give me suggestions? While we're at it, if you did, did you also find that a thousand emergencies cropped up while you were doing so, or is that just me. I don't think so, I think I'm just finding it difficult to set in flexibility for handling extraneous while trying to handle untenable.

I know this anonymous thing isn't set up to let me post again, so I want to say now that I hope I didn't include too much and that I sure would appreciate anything anyone wrote, and I won't forget you later when my dust has cleared and I get the opportunity to help you out. That's a promise I now can keep.

Many thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Start in one room (one place) and just pick up as much as you can for 15 minutes. Do this instead of thinking about it. After 15 minutes look at the progress you have made. Now, just get moving. Don't worry about getting it all done. Cleaning is a continual process, so is everything else. Stay in the moment and stop thinking.
posted by letterneversent at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2005

Make a list of all the things you want to do.

Sort the list by urgency. Apply time labels, as in Week, Month, Year, 3 Years, 7 Years, 10+

The stuff to do this week. If you can do it, do it.

If you can't break it down into steps. Continue breaking it down into steps until you find a step you can do. Do that step.

All you can do any day, every day, is what you can do.

If you should call someone, and you can't. Today you pick up the phone, and practice "hello". Physically do it. Don't think about it, do it. Tomorrow, you dial 1 number, and hang up.

The mind is a tricky place. It will fool you into thinking that you can't handle life, and that some tasks are impossible.

You can win this war by forcing the brain to accept that crossing the room and picking up the phone isn't "too hard".

YOU have to remember, apart from your brain, that little steps get you somewhere, sooner or later.

posted by ewkpates at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2005

First of all, let me just say congratulations on what you've already accomplished -- persevering to get your medical problem assessed and confirmed, regaining your desire to get control of your life, and reaching out for help. That's a big part of the battle already won, though I realize it can be hard to see that when you're feeling so overwhelmed.

I'd strongly advise you take a few minutes to look at the FlyLady site. It's hokey as all hell, but honest to God, there's some amazing advice in there that covers it all: the practical, the emotional, even a bit of the spiritual. The site creator's approach is all about baby steps, and being able to love yourself along the way. I've found that site helpful for years because I too have gotten completely overwhelmed by life (and felt the consequences in my health, my energy level, my home environment, etc). It gives you a literal starting point and then step-by-step advice to conquer your problems and get back on your feet.

I'd also suggest trying to find another source of support. Sometimes someone "on the outside," so to speak, can see things a little more objectively and can help you devise a plan of attack. At the very least, they can give you hugs (literal or figurative) or a kick in the pants (ditto) when you need it.

I'd be happy to discuss further -- feel free to email me, address in profile.
posted by justonegirl at 11:35 AM on August 24, 2005

You may think you don't have time for books, but there are a couple of good resources to recommend: Getting Things Done (much discussed here on AskMe) and Organizing from the Inside Out. They will help you put things back together.

When it comes to clutter in the house, however, can't you draft your family to pitch in and help? Enroll those teenagers to carry the trash bags out to the garbage. Clearing clutter goes a lot faster when you have help.
posted by ambrosia at 11:37 AM on August 24, 2005

There were some good suggestions in this thread. I also second the FlyLady site.
posted by junkbox at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2005

What your describing is acute, pervasive anxiety. Just doing things one step at a time is impossible. As I have been paralysed for the past few months myself, which has recurred many times in my life, and I hate to sound so absolute, but the only permanent solution is finding a fantastic, rigorous psychiatrist. Not a generic therapist, not a psychologist, but a doctor, someone very good who can guide you through this.

This can be solved, many people have this problem. Email me if you would like a recommendation for one in NYC.
posted by scazza at 11:55 AM on August 24, 2005

No, actually, that just happened to me. I was paralyzed by some debt I was under. It took an extended olive branch from my parents and a loan from them to make me wake up again. Now my apartment's clean and I'm getting my life back on track.

I think we all go through these phases. Part of the great thing about having other people you're really close to is having people who will point out to you when you've slipped off track.
posted by SpecialK at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2005

Oh and by the way, before I'm dismissed, I did read your entire question, where you say that therapy is out of the question, but I do stand by my answer. You talk of getting things "right," being "overwhelmed," that you "don't have time" even though nothing is getting done but getting worse, and I'm not talking about "mental illness," or finding out the cause, but fixing your situation permanently. I know this obsessive thinking. You asked what people did in your situation, and this is my experience.
posted by scazza at 12:04 PM on August 24, 2005

Perhaps you need to be more assertive with your husband and kids about your need for some time and space to get your stuff back together. You need to separate what they want you to do from what you actually need to do, and do the things you need to do first.
posted by callmejay at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2005

Good for you for making this effort. I haven't been quite there, but I have experienced a short period of (mental) paralysis.

Once you get the ball rolling, things will start happening. From what I can tell, your first two priorities are: 1. Finding part-time work, and 2. Getting your house in order. You can do both of these things at once. Essentially, what you need to do is split your working hours so that you spend half on the job hunt, half on the house. Make sure that you don't work much more than a 8 hours a day, as exhausting yourself is the surest way to sabotage your progress.

I'd highly recommend signing up with a few temp agencies. You'll have to put some time into constructing your resume and interviewing with the agencies, but once they accept you, they do the legwork. This will leave you time for conducting your own hunt at a more leisurely pace, and for getting your home in order.

For the house, I would definitely with Flylady, as recommended above. I love Getting Things Done, but when I needed a kick in the rear to get my household together, Flylady enabled me to jump right in. Just be prepared to ignore the corniness. Once you feel that you have some measure of control, you can research other systems that might fit you better.

I am all about establishing your own business (or finding a job you love), but I would put that, and the weight gain issue, aside for now. Make a promise to yourself that you will revisit those 1 month, or 3, or 6 months from now. The house and work issues are the basics, and from there you can build. As you start to move and declutter and clean and even cook some healthy meals, you'll start feeling healthier and maybe even take off some of the weight. As you get your resume together, do a few low-pressure interviews, and start to interact with coworkers again, your confidence and ability to rebuild your business will be refreshed.

And I agree, too, with callmejay. One way to do it: I know that finances are tight, but since the kids need money anyway, offer to pay them $15 or $20 an hour to help with chores.
posted by CiaoMela at 12:31 PM on August 24, 2005

Oh, and one more thing. When I was going through my crisis, I broke down my barriers and started telling my mom about my problems. (I'm close with her, but I tend to keep things inside in tough situations.) She's a psychoanalyst, and it was such a relief to talk to her in that capacity (not just as my mother). It really helped. So, you may want to consider therapy at some juncture, although not until you're ready, of course.

Good luck, and feel free to e-mail me if you'd like.
posted by CiaoMela at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2005

Flylady, flylady, flylady!
posted by konolia at 12:53 PM on August 24, 2005

A wise friend of mine maintains the mantra, "Don't try to eat the whole elephant." Maybe just start with a tail, or an ear. Or, if that's too overwhelming still, just start with a couple elephant cells.
Since you can distinguish your tasks from each other, you're already in a good position to get started.
If you want to clean your house, don't just dive right in. Go out to Staples or Office Max or something and get yourself a bunch of different filing/organizing products. Do this before hand so you've got a system handy when you start to clean up. If you're not ready, you'll start cleaning and stall out once you realize you can't do anything with the piles you've made. Get some garbage bags, too. And don't be afraid to use them.
If you've got clutter, take it one surface at a time. Just one table, one counter, one shelf. Have folders ready for home office paperwork, business bills, family bills, whatever categories you might have, and a trashbag for any garbage (that's envelopes, cards that people have sent, business cards you'll never use, scraps of paper with irrelevant notes, you know...)
Your first surface is where you get to test your system. Maybe you need more folders. Maybe you can consolidate some of them. But at any rate, you'll find that you've reclaimed a working surface in your house and that you've developed a system of cleaning/purging/organizing that you can apply to the rest of your home.
Once you've found that your home is the way you want it, you'll likely feel as though you can take on part time or full time work without the feeling that you're abandoning another important task in the meanwhile. I'd recommend taking care of your home first, just for the blissful sanity that will result from walking into your house after a long day at work to find it clean and organized, just the way you left it. It'll remind you (if you get overwhelmed at work) that you're capable and organized.
Don't eat the whole elephant. At this point, doing too many things at once might start to conflict and result in more overwhelmment and less productivity.

I've found that when it comes to making big decisions and taking on large life tasks, the first step is the hardest. You've got to desperately want to change and, if you want it badly enough, you can change absolutely anything about yourself. You can motivate, educate, and inspire yourself. You can even change aspects of your personality that you might have though were hardwired.
People do intense personal things every day, like quitting drugs and alcohol (I'm one of them). You too can take that difficult first step and put your life back in order.
posted by Jon-o at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Measure success by the overall direction you're moving, don't measure it by your current state. It took a long time to mess it up, it'll take a long time to clean it up. But as long as you're cleaning faster than messing, it *will* be clean. Eventually.

I think it's probably possible to do cleaning and jobhunting and losing weight, as long as you're willing to define progress as progress, not immediate results.

Besides, the processes of losing weight and organizing are just that--processes--and the key to success in these areas is permanent lifestyle change. Looks like you're doing that.

Losing weight doesn't have to take long at all--take in a healthy amount and type of calories that's less than you're burning. Get a bit more exercise. But it hardly takes hours out of every day.

Organizing you can spend as much time on as you can handle, but it can certainly be done on your off hours. It'll take as much or as little time as you want, as long as you're not adding to the problem (sounds like that's not a problem. Good for you, one less problem!)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:11 PM on August 24, 2005

Oh, and since I seem to always link there, Steve Pavlina has a good article called Getting Organized that may help.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2005

I want to congratulate you as well for working so hard to get a diagnosis. That struck a personal chord with me, as someone close to me didn't do this, and it turned out to be a fatal mistake. It's hard to stand up for yourself when no one believes you, but you should be proud of yourself just for that accomplishment.

Your question reminded me of a something one of my staff used to say to me; We were always so busy, and in running down what we needed to get done on a particular day I had a habit of saying "Now, where should I start?" and his answer was always the same: "Start at the beginning." Now it's sort of my mantra when trying to tackle big tasks.

My first thought was that you should sit down with your husband and let him know that you can see now what a mess things are, and let him know that you will need his help. Let him know that you are not superwoman, you can't clean the house and find a job and shuttle the kids and cook and etc etc all at once. Ask him to help you establish priorities. This involves him in your recovery, and removes the impulse to blame.

I should add that I would make sure he is very educated on your medical condition, on how it progressed and why it affected you to the point that the rest of your life was ignored.

Then you and your husband can sit down with the kids and involve them in the recovery process too. Sorry, but I cringed at the above comment that you should offer the kids an hourly wage to help out with the house. You've been ill - and recovery is a family effort. If one of your kids was seriously ill you wouldn't expect them to pay you to come over and help out, and you deserve the same respect and consideration.

I second the comments that temp agencies would be a good place to start for work. You can take a job that doesn't require too much of you, it's a good way to transition back into the work force, and it takes away the pressure of trying to find a meaningful job while trying to get everything else accomplished. In my experience you can do one or the other, but to try to do both at the same time is just exhausting.

You can start by just setting one goal a day; "I will sign up with one temp agency"; "I will clean out one closet"; "I will stop and take a walk for 10 minutes if I start feeling too overwhelmed", etc. Getting one thing done a day will give you an addictive feeling of accomplishment, and as you recover you'll work for that feeling more and more.

I really wish you good luck!
posted by vignettist at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2005

I relate to your description of how hard it is to lug those big bags to the trash. I'm not overweight but I can be a clumsy weakling, and I can have a hard time doing big jobs like that all on my own. But they still need doing, so here's my approach:

Clean one room at a time, using the hallway outside the room's door as a temporary holding area. Put trash and heavy stuff just outside the door, but to whichever side where you won't be stepping over it all the time. Stuff that belongs in other rooms, put to the other side of the door. This way, you get the room clean without getting tired schlepping back and forth to the garage. And, when your kids or your husband comes home, they can pitch in with simple, quick assistance like, "Just help me carry this desk/these boxes down to the garage/curb." I find helpers are much more willing to help when you're asking for some easily defined specific tasks like carrying X from A to B, than if you ask them to help you clean a room (sounds nebulous, could take all day).
posted by xo at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2005

I've been asked to emphasize to everyone that anonymous has addressed the anxiety issue, and also, is aware of Flylady and doesn't have time for books.
posted by scazza at 1:14 PM on August 24, 2005

Like someone else said, make lists.

Make one list with the big, longer-term stuff, like "get the house in order." Then break those down into smaller items--small enough that you can accomplish them in the course of a day.

When you get started in the morning, make a list of things you are going to tackle that day. And enjoy the feeling you get from crossing them off your list.

You've got kids? Put them to work. What do they expect, a free ride? If they are physically capable of washing dishes or pushing a vacuum cleaner, they should be doing it.
posted by adamrice at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2005

(Sigh). That's the problem with paraphrasing. It's hard to tell if the tone is the original poster's, or that of the paraphraser ... No threadjack, just my observation that the demeanor conveyed is so different from the post and that no one offered advice after the paraphrase, also that scazza's earlier post seemed a lot like layman medical diagnosis to me, so I've no idea what anonymous might have replied privately, or how.

So, I'm going to err on the side of positivity and give my cheery two cents.

Been there, got the t-shirt. I second the thought that there is time for reading and planning later; this sounds like a crisis situation to me and that needs crisis actions.

Flylady - yes, but pick and choose. Do the fling boogie thing and make sure you get dressed and pretty. (Not objectifying here, we just all do better when we feel better cause we feel we look better. Plus, it makes it easier to say yes to a decision when you feel you can march out the door without taking more time. Finally, people are more inclined to help you out if you look nice. Looking nice means you, too, care about your outcome.

Books - nah, not for now. Work with what you've got, first.

House - yes on haven thing. Quick, what would be the first thing each family member would notice if they walked in the door right now? Go fix each of those things up immediately. Don't go perfectionist, just a) make a clean surface of it; b) toss it if it's garbage; c) stow it if it's out of place; and then d) dust, mop, vac or wipe it with something that smells good.

Next - What are their biggest complaints? Dinner? Throw something simple in right now. Laundry? Start a load or toss bagged into car. Piles? Just stow it for now. You get the idea ... make their first impressions pleasant.

Now those people's short term demands are out of the way and you can do more during the next cycle, time to focus on job hunt and then on the demands you'd pick if no one was there but you -- in that order.

Depending on ease for you at this point, pick a cycle unit ... maybe a 24 hour day, maybe a 12 hour or 4 hour unit. One cycle should include giving at least a bit of attention to EACH area that is screaming for attention. Listen to and then divide those areas ... family, short term job, long term work, house, friends, whatever.

As long as all areas are feeling non-neglected, the screaming should stop and you should be able to maintain without feeling overwhelmed if you keep the cycles and include yourself (bubble bath?) in them.

And that to me, is what is really happening here. A man with assassins around him is not paranoid, though he shares the same reactive traits.

So you, with all that's gone on, sound sane to me and just experiencing the anxiety that would come with waking up and finding your world "tornadoed".

Add and subtract what time, priorities you need to your cycles, starting with 15 minutes each and extending as the smaller ones get maintained.

Btw, speaking of smaller ones, i don't really have advice yet about your kids. I think you're right when you say it will get better as they see you doing more and keeping commitments, house and job. I imagine it was rough on them if this has gone on for years as you say. Rough on hubby, too; but looks like they all hung in there, so you must be worth it, hmm?

Feel free to email or post again. I'm pulling for you.

I second the temp work idea for short term job.
posted by thewhynotgirl at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2005

Too busy for books? Then let me summarise a couple of important parts of Organizing from the Inside Out.
The author provides a basic algorithm for all tidying, applicable everwhere. The acronym is SPACE.

Sort. It does not matter how you sort, as long as it's meaningful and memorable to you.

Purge. Now things are sorted, you should be able to identify duplicates, spares, and rubbish. Throw them away, sell them, move them to long-term storage, but get rid of them.

Assign. With your reduced set of sorted things, decide where they will live, and put them there.

Containerise. Where you can, put things in boxes, files, cupboards, drawers, whatever, according to the sorting system you chose in the first step. By following your sorting system you'll be able to find them later.

Equalise. The few minutes you spend every day afterwards repeating the above steps in miniature.
The "kindergarten" approach to laying out space.

Notice that a kindergarten classroom is divided into functional areas - the painting zone, the toy zone, the reading zone, etc - according to activity. Each zone has what's needed for that activity in it, and nothing else. That means that whatever you're doing, the right stuff is already there, and most importantly, when you're finished, it's easy to put away.

So in our case, when we tackle a room, or even a smaller space, we should think about the activities that take place in that space. Then we should identify zones for those activities that make sense. If necessary, we can rearrange furniture, bring in appropriate storage units, whatever. Once we have made that plan, THEN we start the SPACE process.

This implies that before we even start organising, we sit down with pencil and paper and draw a plan. (Personally I also like this because then you have a more concrete vision of how you want things to be. Good goal setting technique).
Some other random points from the book.
- don't get trapped into maintaining a standard of neatness for other people. The sole criterion for a successful organisational scheme is that it is efficient for you and your way of thinking.
- it is possible, even probable, that you cannot organise because you have too much stuff. In other words, it is impossible to get organised, cause you're trying to store too much in too little space. In that case, you can either move or get rid of some stuff. That is all.
And this not from the book, but from me: baby steps. Pick something small and manageable, that you can spend a couple of hours on. Once you have your little oasis of order, it will take only a few minutes a day to keep clean. Then just work on extending the borders of the orderly zone. Whenever things look overwhelming, look at the orderly zone, admire your effort, take a few more slices of elephant.

Also, you may find that merely the increased activity level of organisation has a surprising effect on your weight.

Good luck.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:35 PM on August 24, 2005

PS: my personal strategy for the impossibly large task. If there is no obvious starting point or logical order to the problem, if what you are doing is dealing with a huge random pile of shit, then it doesn't matter where you start. So pick somewhere that will give you most pleasure to have sorted, and start there. BUT: keep at that area, so you can see results. If you have house covered in shit, and you spend 10 minutes here, and 5 minutes there, neither you nor anyone else will see any difference. If you devote your effort to the one place, it will be visible. I think this principle is the basis of Fly Lady's insistence that you keep your sink clean. Myself, I couldn't give a shit about dishes in the sink, but it is true that you need your own personal clean sink, whatever that is.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:04 PM on August 24, 2005

Flylady is on the Internet, and you don't have to buy the book at all. Don't need it.

Her first step is to shine the sink. Not necessarily wash the dishes in it, simply get everything out and shine the sink. Do this every night before bed. Once the dishes are caught up, a small dishpan under the sink catches the occasional dirty plate and keeps the sink clear (this one hint was worth its weight in gold to me.) She recommends doing jobs in 15 minute increments, using a timer. She also has fun ways to declutter, one step at a time.

Please please at least go check out her website. As many of you know I am bipolar and get overwhelmed easily, and this site I was able to apply to my whole life, not just housekeeping. Whether or not you want to do her routines, there are helpful hints in there that work.
posted by konolia at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2005

I hate it when people leave stuff in the sink. I don't care how much crap is on the side, just keep the bloody sink clear!

Now, my personal approach to cleaning starts, as i_a_j_s suggested: with sorting. I get rid of all the old crap, all the junk mail, advert stuff, envelopes, etc. If I'm cleaning a desk, rubbish gets chucked on the floor, while I'm going through sorting, I start to make piles (that make sense to me), for example, stuff that lives on the desk, stuff that goes in the drawers behind me, stuff that needs to be filed (bank statements, phone bills, etc, go in the office filing cabinet) once that's done, all the rubbish on the floor gets gathered up and put in the office bin, then while I take the office bin out I look for other rubbish I can put in there on the way to the outside bin. I always look for other rubbish when I'm heading out to the bin, if I'm emptying the bag we keep in the bedroom, or the kitchen bin, or whatever, on the way out I fill it up with any other crap that's lying around, if I go past the fridge, I open the fridge and bin anything old or gross, if I go past the living room, I get rid of any crap on the floors, etc.

This means that while I'm tidying one specific thing to a high shine, other stuff gets a bit of a declutter at the same time - so, later, when it comes time to actually clean that thing the job is already half done.

Also, whenever I clean the dishes, I clean the kitchen, while wiping up the side, I spray some cleaner on the top of the stove, on the kicthen table, etc, and wipe them down as well - it takes like 3 seconds, and it's all done. So now, while the actual job I did was just as simple as washing whatever dishes couldn't fit into the dishwasher, the end result is a kitchen that is polished to a high shine.

Something my partner tried to teach me, and which is a great idea, but which just didn't catch on, is to look around the room whenever you're leaving it - is there something in here that should be taken to wherever you're going? If you're going from the bedroom to the kitchen, are there any coffee cups or water glasses beside the bed? Take them out now, you can even pretend you're not really tidying, you're just going to the fridge. (I actually do this one, but I don't do the 'notice there's a magazine on the floor that needs to go to the rack in the lounge' thing or whatever, just the glasses & cups.)
posted by The Monkey at 7:56 PM on August 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Another vote here for Flylady's motivation. Anything can be done 15 minutes at a time. Set your kitchen timer and clean out the junk drawer, or whatever. Try not to view the ENTIRE PICTURE of the disatrous tornado; view a little corner of it. :)

Get your kids to help out (if they are old enough). The responsibility for keeping the house clean is not just yours, especially if you have kids. Assign them chores, if you haven't done so already.

Don't worry about finding a job right away. Concentrate on the household chaos first. Once you feel that is mostly under control (and you find those materials you need), then start looking for a job.

You mention you can't pay a helper and that your family is unsupportive. Try to ask a family member to help you anyway, or one of your children to help you pitch and toss stuff. Play a game with the kids. My daughter, who's 5, loves to play "Clean Sweep." That's when she and I pick up all of her scattered toys and put them away.

There are tons of people who suffer from clutter and chaos. You are not alone. Good luck!
posted by cass at 9:35 AM on August 25, 2005

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