Today I am thinking about Valentine's Day, and doing some things to prepare for it. Valentine's day reminds us that love is a sensual experience--one that heightens all of our senses. Pleasant sensations regulate our brains, lifts our mood, and reminds us of the simple joy of being incarnate. I invite you to put aside some time this week to pamper yourself. And it's a great way to set the mood for romance.
Let's start with just the table. Ignore the rest of the dining room. Look through a tube if you have to. If it is piled high, start with a small section of the table. What is on there? Typically it can include:
- purse, keys, hat, scarf, gloves (with your coat draped over a chair)
- electronics--phone, computers, games
- backpacks, briefcases, baby bags, depending on who you're living with
- tote bags full of whatever you needed that day
- bags of stuff you purchased but haven't put away
- the dreaded mail
- the paper, circulars, maybe even a phone book
- half eaten lunches or snacks
- possibly moldy travel mugs or water jugs
- homework, permission slips, artwork from the kids
- library books--coming or going
- notes you have written to yourself
- phone messages
- mail, packages, or other items that need to go out
- stuff you brought up from the car or garage that needs to go back
- toys or other random objects that got put down
- oh, and perhaps dishes, place mats, napkins
- a vase of flowers that have seen better days
But let's take it one step at a time. And we may need to delegate some decisions or research or shopping. Nobody else to help? Well, delegate it to yourself in the future then. So the first thing you need to do is get a notebook or small pad of paper and a nice writing utensil. While you're at it put on some music, and light a scented candle (we're pleasing our senses, remember?)
Since your pile of stuff is somewhat spread out, I invite you to start by picking up everything you can see that already has a home, and putting it away. Go ahead and do that, I'll wait...
Great. Now to phase two, which is to create a home (either temporary or permanent) for everything else. There are two ways to approach this. The first is to group things together, and then deal with each group. The second is to go the Getting Things Done way, and deal with one thing at a time, starting with whatever is on top of the pile. I prefer the GTD method, but for clarity, I'll write about one group at a time.
Before getting into detail, it is probably becoming obvious to you that stuff comes in to your house, and goes out of your house every day. What they need are "landing" and "launch" pads that are super easy to use. When that stuff winds up on your dining room table, it's because that is the easiest surface to land on. You need to create a space that is even more functional than the table, and next to your door.
Keys--where is the last place you use them coming in to the house? Hang a hook, designate a bowl, put them back in your purse. I actually leave my keys in the car. If you need to hang that hook later, write it down on your action item list. Start with a verb, and remember you are delegating this item, so spell it out. Write "buy cup hook for keys" or "hang hook by kitchen door" rather than "keys" or "nail."
Purse, backpacks, briefcases--surrender to the idea that they will be visible. But you can still make it pretty. Hooks? Cubbies? Mine are on a chair. And if you'll need to open them when you come home, have a place to set them on to do that. Not sure what to do? Write down the very first step of the project, whether it be browsing for ideas or discussing with your SO. Start with a verb & include enough detail that you'll remember.
Electronics--they need to go in their recharging station, and if you are like me, that needs to be by the door.
Totes--both the contents of your tote bag and the bags themselves need a launch pad by the door. I have a cabinet where I store all of my notebooks (in a magazine holder) and books that I take with me frequently. I also have a canvas bin under my "launch chair" where I put all the miscellaneous small things that go in and out of my tote and purse. The tote bags live in a bigger, horizontal tote bag next to my launch chair.
Mail, circulars, phone books--these have their own large flat in-basket that lives on the dining room table, or when I want to use the table, on the top of a small hutch. It is a pretty dark brown that goes with my furniture. I put ALL the mail in there, to be sorted. Resist the temptation to walk around while you are flipping through it or putting it in piles around the house. You'll need to get into the habit of sorting the mail every day, but for most people it's easier to do that when you are in "administration" mode rather than "home from a long day and just wanting to crash" mode. No basket? Find a box for now, and write down "buy an in-box for the mail" on your list.
School papers, receipts, notes, messages--each of these needs it's own in box, which is the first step of processing them. Some of these in boxes need to be processed daily (school stuff and messages), some can wait a week. Some will be process by you, some need to go in somebody else's in box.
Lunch bags, beverage mugs--they need a landing pad in the kitchen. Ideally, you will develop the habit of emptying them out, rinsing them, and putting them directly in the dishwasher. But at least get them to where the dish person can deal with them on a daily basis. Roommates will have to be trained.
Dead flowers--the down side of fresh flowers. It's good feng shui to toss them. Plus, you're gonna buy yourself roses for Valentine's day, right? Keep everything you need to put flowers in a vase together near the sink. (Did you put "buy flowers" on your list?)
Wow, that was a lot of work. Be sure to spend a minute admiring your accomplishment. (Ignore the voice that complains about all the new things on your to do list.) Stay in the moment, and pat yourself on the back. Put a beautiful object on the table to commemorate the space you just created. And smile about the lovely meals that you will be able to enjoy.