Contain and Conquer

 Posted by on April 28, 2011  Tagged with: ,
Apr 282011

After lunch, I wandered aimlessly around for about an hour, fretting and wringing my hands, because my kitchen looked like this:

(I don’t actually keep storage jars or cooking oil on the floor. DJ has been exceptionally busy this morning).

In my post, Basic Home Maintenance, I explained how you can prevent this type of disaster…unless you spent the entire previous day rocking a cranky baby, and wiping his nose every 60 seconds. Also, in Major Mess Recovery, I outlined a detailed, systematic approach to restoring order in a very messy kitchen. This method can be applied to any room, and it works very well, except here’s the thing…

My personality is such that sometimes, especially if I’m tired or feeling unwell (or stressed and stir-crazy, because I spent the entire previous day rocking a cranky baby, and wiping his nose), clutter makes me freak out a little bit. I find it almost debilitating, because while I know what I need to do to remedy the problem, my brain feels so distracted and overloaded that I can’t focus, or decide how to begin. This is when I employ the Contain and Conquer method of decluttering.

(You may have noticed that I like to create catchy nicknames for unpleasant chores, because they motivate me far more than, for example, stomping around and muttering to myself about how we have too much junk, and our house is a crapheap. You see what I mean).

The Contain and Conquer method is kind of like Excedrin for clutter. It’s fast-acting, and makes it much less painful to deal with. When I feel overwhelmed, I prefer it over the standard 3-container –  Put Away, Give Away/Sell, Throw Away – sorting method of clutter management, because I can see immediate results, which makes me feel less gobsmacked and crazy.

Also, it’s very simple. You just get a laundry basket and sweep all the crap into it. I own lots and lots of laundry baskets, because they serve a dual purpose, and can be reused over and over again (unlike cardboard boxes).

If there’s junk all over the floor, I literally sweep it up….doesn’t matter what it is (though I found that the gallon of cooking oil was resistant to being swept). After only 15 minutes, my kitchen now looks like this:

It’s not perfect. I still have to load the breakfast and lunch dishes into the dishwasher, but at least they’re all stacked in one place, instead of scattered all about. Surfaces are clear, and wiped down. The floor needs to be mopped, but at least it’s swept. And now that all the junk is contained in a laundry basket, it doesn’t really seem that daunting anymore.

Best of all, I don’t feel on the verge of a meltdown anymore. I feel calm and ready to tackle the rest of my work.

The Contain and Conquer method illustrates why Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover works for people (though I don’t completely agree with all aspects of it). When you’re facing an enormous task, whether it be getting out of debt, or losing a lot of weight, or cleaning a really messy room, immediate results are a great motivator. If you can see that you’re making progress, you’re much more likely to keep going.

Every week, I get at least one email from a harried mother who is drowning in clutter, and doesn’t know how to start digging out. I always say that doing something feels better than doing nothing – you just have to take that first small step.

Owning a whole bunch of laundry baskets helps, too.