Real Talk #1: When You're Overwhelmed (and You Just Don’t Wanna)

Let’s have a real talk about the very real fact that most of us probably work, or have families, or both. Maybe you have more than one job plus a family. Some days you just want to come home and kick back. Or go straight to bed. Sometimes all you have time for is basic survival. Which puts cleaning and decluttering rather low on the list of priorities.

And that’s just going to have to be okay.

Life Goes On

O blah dee O blah dah life goes on, whoa! And that’s the truth. No matter how tidied our closets or kitchen pantries, life carries on with all of its craziness. And clutter.

There’s just no getting around it. Decluttering helps, but even the most minimal of houses requires upkeep. That includes ourselves. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break. It’s not like this stuff is going anywhere after all.

No Matter What Gravity Says, Things Pile Up

Photo by  Brooke Lark

Photo by Brooke Lark

This past month I worked on a freelance writing job on top of my full time job. I came home from an eight-hour-day, then opened my computer to work for another two or three hours. This lasted for about six weeks. Guess how much time I wanted to devote to housework?

The result? Things have piled up.

On those days when you don’t have the time, or energy, to devote to anything other than basic survival, things are bound to pile up. The dishes. The clothes. The trash and recycling.

When It Looks Like A Baby Gorilla Came Through: A Case Study

I have two dishes, two bowls, two spoons, two knives, two forks, two pots, two pans.

Yet, I constantly struggle to keep the sink empty and the dishes clean. Add in those days where all I can do is deposit dishes in the sink before crawling into bed and...let’s just say I have a hard time wedging my water pitcher under the faucet now.

Not to mention the laundry that still needs folding, the trash that needs to go out, and all the other pieces of clutter that have lodged themselves in strange places around the house I don’t remember putting there!

While things are messy here, I am heartened by the fact that, even though my place has reverted to a less-than-orderly situation, I can definitely see progress in the lack of height on all these piles.

So something’s working.

Our Brains On Whelm

Photo by  Charles Deluvio

I recently moved to a new city at the beginning of this year. I also didn’t have much time to unpack before starting my new job. It was hard enough figuring out where I was, geographically, let alone where my things were in their boxes. I was incredibly overwhelmed with all the change, which i don’t handle very well. Do I unload boxes? Where do I want to put things? What should I cook tonight? Where are my pots and pans? Oh yeah, I don’t have pots and pans. Oh yeah, I also don’t have any forks or spoons. Now what should I eat? Should I go out? But where?

This is my brain whenever things are in disarray. I don’t know where to start. What I should do first. What will make the most difference? Are you familiar?

I often think about that “This is your brain on drugs” commercial from the 90s with the egg in the frying pan. I think that’s our brains when a case of the Overwhelms sets in too.

My Get-Back-To-Sanity Routine

It’s the nature of being alive, having these ebbs and flows of time and energy. Sometimes it’s more imperative to focus on housework than decluttering. Being able to put a glass under the water faucet for instance rather than decluttering your bed linens.

It starts with the kitchen.

I’m stealing from the FlyLady’s philosophy, a cleaning blog I’m obsessed with. She says that a sparkling kitchen sink is the first step toward a clean household. I’d have to agree.

When I finally come up for air, and have a chance to look around, I usually start with the kitchen sink. Get the dishes done (or at least out of the sink). And scrub the sink clean. It feels like an accomplishment right there.

HIIT Housecleaning

Photo by  Matheus Ferrero

That stands for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It’s a new exercise trend people are doing where they do high intensity exercise for say 50 seconds with a 10 second rest, then they repeat it for something like 15 minutes.

This is how I do my housework, and maybe it will work for you too!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Get a “tabata” timer app on your phone or computer. These are what HIIT exercisers use. They’re timers where you set the number of rounds, amount of time you want to “work,” and the amount of time you want to “rest.”

  2. Make a list of the things you want to tackle.

  3. Set your timer for 15 minutes work, 15 minutes rest (I’ve also done 5 each when I’m extremely overwhelmed). I usually do 6 rounds.

  4. Go!

Start on the first thing on your list for for the “work” time, then stop for the “rest.” I usually turn on my Netflix show or a movie, then pause it when the “work” comes back on. Keep plowing through your list until your timer’s all done (or you’ve decided you’ve had enough for one day!)

By the end I may not have completed everything on the list, but I’ve made a significant dent.

Housecleaning As Meditation

Maybe my style of getting things done sounds like utter chaos. I have some friends who prefer to do their list all at once. They put on a podcast or some music and just go to work. It’s calming, even meditative. Perhaps this is more your style. Housecleaning is an excellent mindfulness practice however, just FYI.

Do whatever works for you.

With that, I’m finally coming back up for air, so tonight I will be turning on my tabata timer, watching the final season of Longmire, and putting this place back in order.

Hope you all are having a wonderful week! Feel free to send me your questions or a leave a comment below!



Photo credit: Dominik QN on Unsplash