Don’t look! I don’t know where to start.

In every room of the house there is mess.  The hinges, screws, paint stripper, wire brush et al still sit at the end of the bath where I left them some weeks ago.  The laundry door has been off for about a month now.  I started with good intentions but found after all that detailed prep, the last thing I wanted to think about was *painting*.

The seat cover off the lounge is yet to be put back after being washed.

Luggage from my recent trip still strewn about the office

Shredding mess, scrapbooking stuff and an in-progress photographic project sits awaiting my attention.

The kitchen, luckily, isn’t too bad although mostly because we ate early last night.

But, I confess, I *am* still wearing yesterday’s make up (bad, I know).


There are piles of clothes – washed, mending and defluffing (thank you to sweetest cat ever, Roxy), plus the bags of winter clothes just taken out of storage and yet to be decided upon and stashed.

At at time like this, I wonder where to start.  Make a list?  (No, it would be too long).  Pick a room?  (Yes, which is the easiest one?) Have another cuppa tea and write a blog post instead?  Right on!

What’s your process when there’s a lot to do?  Or do you have a good tip on getting started?


27 responses to “Don’t look! I don’t know where to start.

  1. 20 minutes – I tell myself I’m going to do 20 minutes, then I can stop. What tends to happen is that once I start I get into the swing of things and I keep going. The time limit makes it seem much less daunting!

    • Great strategy, Anne! I decided I would just so one thing: remove the tea stain (four days old) that I made when fumbling with the tea pot the day *after* I shampooed the carpets. One task down, eight thousand to go!

  2. Start with what you can mentally deal with. At least you can say you did something useful, no matter how easy it was, or how short a time it took. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction to just get started.

    Or tidy the corner you first see when you walk in the room, if it needs attention.

    My garden beckons me at the moment – its overgrown and untidy, and the grass never seems to stop growing, Gardening was meant to be fun. So I start with one bed, get it tidy, and leave the rest for another day when I can tackle the next bed, or edge, or tree..

    Putting some music on can help and keeps you in one room.

  3. Honestly? If I’m feeling overwhelmed I do always resort to a list. Because my head would explode if I didn’t. Multiple lists, really, because as I work I know more things will come into my head and distract me if I can’t write them down. I get out about 6 pieces of paper, tape them to my French door window panes, and get out a Sharpie. I say to myself, “I will tidy up (or whatever) for an hour (or however long), and everytime I think of something else I need to do I will write it down and keep tidying (or whatever).” Sometimes the lists are by category such as HOME (change lightbulb), WORK (finish newsletter), SELF (make Dr. appt.), OTHERS (call brother). Sometimes the lists are called “Sooner” and “Later,” where some of the tasks need to be done sooner, and others can wait until later (I, too, feel a blog post coming on!), but at least I’ve identified them and can break them down into smaller chunks (if necessary) and schedule time to accomplish them without stressing out about them right now. Another version of “Sooner or Later” is “Before Trip” and “After I Return” (because life goes on whether or not we’ve finished all our projects).

  4. A tip from FlyLady in the US: She suggests picking a room, starting at the door and working around the room in 1 direction, dealing whatever lies in your path.

  5. Start by cleaning the biggest flat surface in the room closest to you. This will give you something tidy to look at, and a staging area. Go room by room and don’t get distracted by other piles – this is my big problem.

  6. Great post! I would definitely put the sofa cover back on first – I always start with the big piece of furniture (bed, table, sofa).

    Then I collect up dirty laundry. Sometimes I use another basket to scoop up all the stuff that is out of place.

  7. I quite like the “5 items” rule, so I just tell myself I’ve going to put away 5 items, and every time I enter my room I’ll try and do that if it’s super-messy! 🙂

    • Great idea – I’m going to try this with the box on my kitchen bench that was meant to contain papers arriving into the house & is now overflowing with every kind of paper that ever existed – magazines, letters, kids jewellery, artwork, toys – the box is full of stuff that seemed all to hard to deal with at the time & surprisingly, hasn’t become any easier to deal with! Thanks for the idea Jessie.

  8. I sit at the computer and gather courage silently while I enjoy some other peoples’ worlds. When I finally find something so pleasing that I want to join in I remind myself that it just takes small steps to get the finished product then I dash off and do as much as I can before I start the process again with a good rest at the computer. I’m doing this right now. I suffer from depression but don’t want to lose total control. I also have a couple of must do’s: dishes and clothes washing. Unfortunately the take precedence which often does not leave much time/energy for other things. Cherrie

  9. I agree with Anne. The time limit works for me. I say I’m going to do 30 minutes as I feel that doable but not too long. It’s amazing how you get into the swing and just keep going. I am actually going to blog about my achievement of culling paperwork.

  10. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

  11. I try to make it feel like a game, I call it ‘just ten things’. When I’m overwhelmed with the chaos at home, I play it – it really is just picking 10 things and putting them away. Sometimes I have round 1 and round 2. It works for me – it takes the pressure off dealing with it all, and it does make a difference, even if it does sound a bit daft.

  12. When it comes to cleaning my study (large desk = large horizontal surface to gather junk) I often remove everything off the desk and transplant to the kitchen table. Then I start at one end of the table and deal with every item I pick up – it either gets put in its rightful place or put in either the throw away or give away box. It forces me to make decisions about what things I need to keep, and what can go. This way my study is tidy almost instantly (and since I have a lot of study to do, it is nice to have a clutter-free environment to do it in), although I acknowledge it temporarily leaves the kitchen table in disrepair – but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make!

  13. I say to myself “what is the ONE thing that would make the biggest difference here?” and do that. I usually find it easier to do a few more bits after that – but if not, I tell myself it’s better than it was, anyway!

    I your case, I’d put the door hinges, paintstripper etc in a box and move them to wherever the DIY stuff lives – the door, too, if possible. But schedule a time to do the next step on that task.

  14. It always does my heart good to know that ‘it’s not just me’!!!!! A lot of others have the same motivational, organizational, procrastinating problem I have – I love the ‘5 items’ hint and will be putting this into practice NOW…….. as soon as I’ve had my cuppa! thanks girls you are all so helpful and thanks Lissanne for always motivating me.

  15. Don’t we all love the computer? Could we play Little House on the Prairie for 2 days – pretend we didn’t have the computer? Go out and sow the back 40 and build that fence? Also Ma and Pa didn’t go to the mall to get pressies for Christmas or birthdays. Those children were so excited by an orange, something Pa had whittled or a corn-husk doll. When the family moved out West, they brought with them only what they needed. Stuff they used every day – and they could hang all their clothes on a couple of hooks. Bless ’em.

    • Laurie, oh, Laurie. I love love love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Big fan. The simplicity of their lives. The preparation for winter, stockpiling supplies. Mama making everyone’s clothes. Curing the ham and salting the fish (or whatever)!

      Let’s have two little house on the prairie days each year! bless ’em indeed!

  16. I too have problems as listed by Carolyn. Recently I subscribed to an newsletter zenhabits. Google it to find out more. Recently he wrote an article on just this subject. The newsletters are not regular, but at least 1 a week. Some weeks there have been 3 or 4. Topics range through an amazing away of topics, but he discusses decluttering and today was about control in our lives and how much we really have.
    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I have tried many of the ideas suggested, but with bipolar and ranging more to the depressive end I tend to be a bit tidy for a while then it all falls apart and I don’t do the dishes, tidy as I go or shower/bath/do teeth for several days. That is when I know things are bad. I take myself out, have a coffee at a local cafe then come home and attack the dished, say starting with the mugs, then the glasses, then the crockery, then cutlery, then microwave cooking items. As I have achieved a major thing I ‘treat’ myself with a shower or bath, using my pretty smellies. After have tea and I am watching the idiot box I tidy the coffee table. Usually by then I am bushed so just watch the idiot box. But the next day I work in the lounge and usually my bedroom needs tidying so I do that. Also the next day when I do the dishes in the evening I wash the griller. So my kitchen is now reasonably tidy.
    I have had a bad couple of weeks and the kitchen and lounge are in a dreadful mess. As it is lunchtime I will get lunch – my main meal as I live on my own – and while that is cooking I will start the dishes. So will enjoy a shower or bath tonight with my pretty smellies.
    Thanks for ‘listening’ to my ravings I hope someone can get something out of what I have written.

  17. Break the huge task down into little ones. I usually start in the kitchen/ family room. I don’t run around the house putting things away as I encounter them. Instead, I put things in piles according to which room they go in. i then put each pile in the correct room. If I still have time I then tackle each room at a time, and choose the rooms according to the mess in each and the amount of time I have. Also, if I don’t have any time then and there, at least the family room, where we spend most of our time, is neat.

  18. I use one large wooden die and write down the six rooms in my home on a piece of paper. I then put four columns at the top: SO for surface organise; SC for surface clean; IDO for in depth organise; and IDC for in depth clean. I then allocate a time limit for each room and roll the die! Number six, The Dining Room, is rolled first, so I begin by organising every surface in the room. This usually takes 5 minutes as it’s the easiest. The dice is rolled again… The Bedroom. About 20 minutes to make the bed, make sure clothes are away etcetera. If, for example, I were to roll number six twice in a row, then I would move to the second column SC and spend 20 minutes dusting and vacuuming. Roll Number six a third time and I might clean and organise a drawer or roll again and only do the first two columns. Works for me and makes a game of it!

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