Dear Hubby (DH) and I have decided to do some much needed home maintenance: painting the interior, putting in new rugs, and cleaning, painting, and staining the deck. In the process, we have also decided to do another "round" of decluttering. Since learning about decluttering almost ten years ago on OrganizedHome.com, I have done many rounds and become an avid fan of it, and I have found that it is an ongoing process. One because I keep bringing new things into the house, and two because every layer of decluttering I finish reveals new levels of distinctions in the remaining items between stuff I love, want and need, and stuff I don't.
As DH witnessed the many bags of stuff leaving the house and the functionality, beauty, and "consciousness" increasing, he has jumped on the bandwagon. He recently spent a couple of weeks decluttering and deep cleaning his office. He didn't want my help with phase one, but now there are many boxes of files and office supplies stacked neatly in the living room awaiting my attention. Ack. He has gotten totally "ahead" of me in this project.
This has been a source of conflict for us, as he is the "git 'er done" type, while I like to procra... er, plan my decluttering. It's not something that comes easily to me, and spontaneous questions like "do you want to keep these?" (especially before coffee) make me blow fuses. I need to be emotionally prepared for decisions like this.
In fact, I kind of suck at decision making in general. It was actually good news when I took some self-assessments about learning styles and discovered that this was my problem. In David Kolb's typology, I am not a converger--somebody good at getting to the point, distilling things down, drawing conclusions, making decisions, etc--I am much more of a diverger--an idea person, excellent at brainstorming, casting a wide net, seeing problems on the horizon, making connections in ever-widening circles, etc. In other words, somebody more likely to hang on to stuff than throw it out because I might need it someday. Those imagined uses are very real for me.
I have a suspicion that this might be a common problem among those of us who struggle with stuff. Or even "move on in life" in general. Because of the way we think, it is really hard to close the open loops. For us, there is no natural end point when the research stops and the decision making begins. What we need is people around us who can balance out our tendencies. We need to be part of a team that can appreciate our contributions, but provide the rest of the story.
Ironically, it is still easy for me to make decisions about other people's stuff, a phenomenon I'm sure you've experienced for yourself. I think it's because I don't have that "web of ideas" about an object that the owner of that object has. I could easily create one, but when I am helping somebody else, I haven't done that yet. But having that same tendency, I can be compassionate about their struggle.
Theoretically, DH and I could help each other out in this respect. It is yet to be seen (and blogged about) whether this is actually possible. When he took the same assessment, he tested out as a diverger as well. This was a big "aha" for us, as we suddenly understood why we hadn't figured out where we were going to move to yet--an allegedly "top priority" for us that we had little progress on for ten years.
However, in some areas he is definitely more of a converger than I am. As a business owner for the last 25 years, he has developed a lot of converger skills. My theory is that since he hasn't been able to rely on a team of co-workers to fill this in for him, he's learned to do it himself.
As he was completing phase one of decluttering his office, he was anxious to start painting. We had done some planning about how we would phase the painting project, and it made sense to start with the closets, so that we could then use them to store stuff from the room in once finished with it. (We are blessed with a multitude of large closets, one of my favorite things about this house. Not good for my clothes-hoarding tendencies, however.) This meant, of course, that we had to decide on paint color. He had found a quantity of neutral beige overstock at a great price, and suggested going with that--which immediately freaked me out. Color is very, very important to me, and I wanted permission to paint the walls with something I really wanted. I feared that I wouldn't be able to.
He, on the other hand, felt held back, and feared that we would never move forward. Fortunately we resolved this rather quickly, and he moved on to prepping the deck, while I have started to research a color choice. A tangent which I will not discuss now; I'll save it for another entry. Okay, where was I? Was there a point to all of this?
Oh yeah: Wo/Man Does Not Necessarily Declutter Alone. Significant Others are often involved. Especially if they live in the same house. So I believe that it's important that the parties involved understand each others stuff-style, and even more importantly, his or her own. Thus, one of my professional objectives is to develop a semi-scientific assessment to this end. I'd very much welcome your ideas and input on this topic. How would you describe your stuff-style? Is it the same, or different, from the significant others in your life? Does this cause you any grief? Do tell.
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about Liz Logan
I'm a professional organizer in Atlanta, fighting the good fight on my own home front and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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