Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hopeful Thoughts: Gifts vs Goals

Something insanely exciting happened since we last hung out. Something that I have been working towards for years. Years, people! Blood, sweat, and tears o'plenty. So would you like to know what happened? What made me feel like a rock star and a domestic goddess and a reasonable adult all at the same time?

Here, I'll just show you.

My entire house is clean. 
All at the same time. 

Well at least all the public areas. It's a miracle, I tell you. Cue the angel voices.

Come on and  check it out: 

Here's the basement.

Yes, I admit it is a little insane to take pictures of my entire house, just to prove it was all clean at the same time. But you have no idea how much I have put into this endeavor. I have been trying to make this possible for the last 15 years, and I have spent the last 2 years putting ALL my free time towards this goal. 

I know I sound like I'm at Messy House Annonmous, "Hi, I'm CM Shaw and I can't get my house clean..." and I'm OK with that. But I wanted to show everyone I know all you guys that attaining your goals is possible. Even hard ones. I love things but I can't be bothered to clean regularly so this was a huge one for me. 

Unfortunately, if was fleeting. About 20 min after the above photos were taken it looked like this:

We fed the entire Varsity Girl's Soccer Team. 

It's cool. My goal wasn't actually to maintain a clean house. I despise my children when my house is clean, becuase I know they are going to mess it up the second they walk in. For  the sake of family health and harmony, my goal was for it to be possible to clean my entire house in less than a week. 

It took me 4 days.  I was stunned. Completely speechless. I don't know that I ever thought through how I would feel if I actually made it happen. I'll be honest. There were tears. And a triumphant call to my mother. And a post on Instagram. I know. Ridiculous. But let me remind you where I started, when I was living in Before

I bring all this up, firstly for total self aggrandizement, but mostly because I have been thinking a lot about goals. I set the goal to get my house "magazine shoot" beautiful at least 4 years ago. And while I still have a bit more left to hit that lofty goal, I am getting pretty close. So of course, I have launched off on another huge goal: to design and decorate my sister's house in Portland, Oregon by the middle of August.

She bought her house 2 or 3 years ago, but never really moved into it. She was working a lot and had roommates with furniture and tons of debris, so she just kind of slept there and ignored it all. She recently went through a huge round of soul searching and decided it was time to get rid of the roommates and their stuff and make her cute little ranch house her own. Now I will probably be telling you more about this project in the future, so forgive me for not going into much more detail today. 

Today we are going to talk about her office.

It's the smallest room in the house, but it is perfect for her to work from home and actually get something done. And she has a great love for all things Alice in Wonderland, so that is our theme.

And in my feverish Pinteresting our calm and measured design conversations, we decided to go with a color scheme like the above movie poster. While looking for wall colors, I found this awesome pin from Living With Lupus . (I tried to pull it up here, but alas, I am not super tech savvy.) Anyway, the point is light blue-grey-green walls, waterfall of fantastic plates, clocks, and over-scale flowers. Very "Wonderland meets Productivity", right? 

So, still flush with my recent cleaning success, I dove right in. I have been to every thrift shop within 20 miles of my house in the last three days. Yes, there has been dinner. No the laundry's not folded and most things are no longer clean. But look what I have found!

So many beauties!

I scored at almost every location I went to. And they were mostly $3 or less. 

By this point, I had decided I was the best "wall plate finder for a plate waterfall over a desk" ever. 

Then I started looking for red plates and purple plates. And clocks. 

Nothing. Nada. No juice anywhere.

And it stopped being fun. Finding these things RIGHT NOW was all I could think about. I scoured the internet seeing what I could find. I thought about building clocks or if Ikea sold them cheap. I looked on Ebay for red plates and found that I hated all of them as they were either plain red, or Christmas themed. Boo. I was thinking about plates as I went to sleep at night and as I woke up I was frantic to start looking again. 

Yesterday, as I was driving to my third thrift shop of the day, I thought to myself, 
 "Am I working this a little too hard?" 

Um...Yes. Yes you are. 
Obsession anyone? 

And that's when I realized there are Goals...and there are Gifts.

Goals are the things we want to accomplish. They take effort and planning and time and energy. And sometimes money. And you are pretty much in control of whether they happen or not. 

Then there are the Gifts.

Gifts are the things that fall out of the sky and help you achieve your goals. Things like cheap, pretty plates at thrift shops in just the colors you were looking for. Or the exact piece of furniture you were hoping to find on the side of the road. Just waiting for you to save it.

The thing about Gifts, is that you have NO CONTROL of them. 
They just happen to you. 
You find them. 

And I had gotten cocky...and ...dare I say it...Greedy.

Yes, I assumed the Universe would grant me what ever I asked of it, at least in the plate department, RIGHT NOW. Because it always works that way...right?

NO! No, it  never works that way. You have to wait for it. 

And that, my friend, is the difference between Gifts and Goals. This disparity becomes relevant mostly because we are a productive, focused lot. We like to finish Today. We don't like it when things are In. The. Way. We want things to wrap up nicely and neatly. And as soon as possible. No loose ends here.

When they don't, we get frustrated. We think, "Why isn't this stupid thing done yet? Freaking Sistine Chapel!" And we apply ourselves even harder. We try to steal the Gifts, by forcing it. By going anywhere we think they might be. By spending all night on Craigslist. By putting in too much effort. And we lose the fun and the wonder of it all in our search for completion and working through our List. 

Well, the good news is, I came to my senses and I am not doing any more plate hunting until the day after tomorrow, when there are about a billion garage sales in my area. But another funny thing has happened since I stopped looking. I realized there were other things going on in my life, that I had forgotten about. Like watering my recently transplanted trees. I love to water them and see how my garden changes from day to day. I had been so busy seeking, that I forgot to look at my garden, which is a daily Gift. And I forgot to read Harry Potter to my 8 year old. Another Gift. And I almost forgot to watch "Fixer Upper." Gasp! I know, right? I told you I was obsessed.

As I drop the obsession, I can see that abundance which fills my life. 

So if you are pushing really hard on something, and find yourself getting frustrated, take a second and ask yourself, "Am I trying to steal a Gift? Or am I working through a Goal?" If you are stealing a Gift, take a step back and just relax a little. Look around and see what else you could do to keep yourself busy until the Gift chooses to reveal itself. Or you could always work on another Goal. I always have plenty to spare. Keep the effort going to the things you can control. And have patience and faith to wait for the things that you can't.

Do you guys ever find Gifts? 

Or get wrapped in in seeking things? 

I'd love to hear your stories.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hopeful Thoughts: Today's Work

March was a blur for me. 

My mother and my sister came to visit and we went many places and had much fun. 

Can you believe my mom just turned 70? She's such a babe! 
Here she and my sister are at the Philadelphia Flower Show. 

They brought me spring. 

My mind has been freed of something, like the clearness of the air after a huge storm. 

And then there was Spring Break, with all that my children wanted to do 
and visiting some dear friends in another state, and Easter. 

And then my projects started again. Big projects. The kind that have been on the back burner for ages, because you know once you start, it's full stream ahead. I started two of those in the last two weeks. 

It has been glorious.

And I haven't even told you about the pending birthday party or the drama over prom dates and soccer games or the child that needs extra help in school or the carpool that isn't really working out. Then there's the poor husband who is working 24/7 to complete a major project that he found out last week was due at the end of the month, when it normally isn't due until July.

There's a lot moving in my life right now. 


And it was worse when I was running barn sales. 

I know you understand. You have all the things and events and life that comes with being involved in things and other people. You have your own dreams and goals and want to support the dreams and goals of those around you. And there is always so much. In every direction.

But during the barn sale years, I discovered a little trick that saved me. 
And like all brilliant ideas that save you in a pinch, when the crisis was over, 

I promptly forgot it.

But with all the hoohah I have been living in, I recently remembered that the only way to make it sanely through all the overload is by focusing on Today's Work.

Today's Work is simply deciding what are the absolutely "must accomplish" things for that day. You figure that out, allowing for what you want to do most, and what your family and personal schedule will actually allow for, and then you stop worrying about the rest of it. And when that work is done, you stop for the day and rest and breathe. 

You don't add to the list. You don't plan more than you have time for. You think it through really carefully, with an eye to being kind to yourself, and an eye on what is actually humanly possible in the course of one day. And then you stop adding things. And you only think about what's on your list. You do only that, in what ever order most pleases you. 

That is Today's Work.

It saved me so much stress. I worried so much less, because I knew I would actually get stuff done. And that I couldn't do any more than what was on my list. It's hard to feel bad about yourself when you know you've done all you can with your day. And that you met all your goals. It's a very happy way to live.

If you need to think about things coming in the future, you write in time to plan. If you want to read your book and it's going to expire soon, you add reading for "x" amount of time into that day's plan every day until you're done. If you need to do the laundry, but you also want to do lunch with a friend, they both become Today's Work, if that seems to fit your schedule. 

The point here is to take a few minutes in the morning, or on a Sunday afternoon and plan what its you have to do that week or day along with what you want to do most. If you go day by day, most of the time, they both fit. Admittedly, this is harder if you have a job or small children. But I think it could apply if you modify your expectations to what is possible in your life.

Keep in mind, for this to work out, you have to be painfully honest about what is actually possible for you to do in a day. If you have a lower energy level, reorganizing your entire kitchen in a day is not going to happen. You cannot clean every single bedroom and bathroom in a 4 bdrm 3 bath house and still wash your car, your dog, your children, and run the PTA meeting that night. Well maybe you could do it once...But not every single day. Be reasonable in your planning. Include meal prep times, driving children places, favorite TV shows, showering time, exercise time, and things you really want to do along with all the dishes and cleaning and mom-ing. Because that is all work. When you finish, you have accomplished something. You should feel the happiness that comes from crossing something OFF THE LIST. 

And you should consider the things you want to do just as valid as the things you have to do. Just because an activity is pleasant and chosen, doesn't mean it isn't work, or that it shouldn't be considered an accomplishment. On the contrary, allowing yourself to live your own life in the face of all the Many Things may be the biggest accomplishment of them all.

So think about it. What do you need to do? What do you want to do most? What do you have to do? Write them down. Look at your calendar and see which day they best fit on. Then make your decisions. What is each day's work? What will you allow and what will you place on another day? If you have trouble deciding, say a little prayer. God will help you know. 

And once you have decided, let every thing else go. Don't think about the laundry in your bedroom if it's not Today's Work. Add it to another day's list. Focus on the work you have chosen. Make reminders for the next day's plan, but do not carry that extra work. Trust that to the energy from another day. I promise that "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof". Unless, of course, you decide to add a bunch more stuff to your day.

And if you plan too much or to little, don't despair. Don't beat yourself up.  You are doing this for the first time. Forgive yourself. Try again, but think about how much time things really take you, and plan a little less or a little more. Keep trying and keep focusing and keep letting go. 

Hopefully you will find yourself more able to breathe. More satisfied. Less lost in what "should be done". Less worried about forgetting something. More at home in your own life.

Which are all good things. Maybe the best kinds of things. 

What have you guys found helps when life is overwhelming? 
I know I am not the only one who lives their life like this.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Bunch of Stuff You Don't Know About Me

I was talking to my friend Dana on the phone the other day, (my darling friend who has abandoned me moved since starring in this post and this post and co-starring in this post) about what to do in this blog. She starts laughing and wisely asks, 

"Do you even have an About Me page?" 


"Have you ever written a post telling people what you are like or where you come from 
or what style you like or why you have a cow skull above your mantle or anything like that?"


"Well maybe these people would be delighted to hear a little bit more about you."

Well I have no idea what you "people would be delighted to hear" about me, so you'll have to tell me after reading this post, whether you now want to be my best friend, were moderately entertained, or desperately wish you could get those minutes of your life back. Just in case it's the latter, Sorry kids. No time refunds.

So I took my dear friend's advice and thought up a bunch of things I have never told you guys. And never one to be accused of being brief, there are 30 of them. I just couldn't decide which ones to cut. And I haven't been able to get a hold of Dana to help me edit the the list, so you just get all of it. 

30 Things You Don't Know About Me

1. I am the oldest of 5 children. Two brothers and two sisters. 

2. I can dance for hours, especially if the music's good. I can still dance for quite a while if there's no music, but I do better if there's a snappy song stuck in my head.

3. I grew up in Oregon and Arizona, but currently live in the Washington DC area. I have been here for almost 20 years and I still feel like an ex-pat from the West.

No retouching here. This is what it actually looks like at sunset in Arizona in December.

4. I am an artist. Well, you probably knew that one. But I bet you didn't know that I taught high school Japanese for 4 years after graduating from college with a degree in Secondary Education.

5. I am married to DK, (or Dark Knight, it's a long story I tell you in this post) who works in the US Senate doing Important Things and who happens to think I am fabulous, but also completely crazy.

6. I recently got into archery, something I liked as a child. I am not good at all, but that can always change with some better weather to practice in. I am cautiously optimistic, about the weather, silly.

7. I LOVE to talk. I learn by talking. I figure stuff out by talking. I release tons of energy and anxiety by talking.

8. This, #7, drives people crazy. (You should deeply pity my college roommates. Especially those poor souls who had the bad luck to share my room) So I started writing 3 journal pages every morning. It helps immensely.

9. I am ridiculously in love with my dog. It's revolting, actually.

10. I went to Japan on a Mormon mission for 18 mos when I was 21.

11. That's where I met DK. We didn't get along well back then. (Also a long story.)

12. I am happiest when exploring a new city.

13. Mexico is my favorite place. At least it's the place I dream about the most, except for Thailand. I must ride elephants in Thailand before I die.

14. I really like Southern Utah a lot as well. DK once told me while we were in Southern Utah, "If we sit here long enough, we might see aliens." Boom! Added to list of Epic Places.

15. I have learned that whimsy and comfort are more important to me in my home design than showing good taste. This may not shock some of you, who have been wondering what was wrong with me for a while now.

16. I have three daughters. They are all better looking than I ever could have been which I consider to be a genetic triumph.

Taylor Nation, Baby!

17. I love getting lost digging through my stuff. I attach memories to things and it's like reliving my life.

18. I am worried that I am selfish. But I'm not. I spend most of my time serving others and the rest trying to renew so I can serve some more.

19. I am ashamed that my current favorite song is by Justin Bieber. But I just can't listen to "What Do You Mean" enough times. I usually like obscure, Indie Rock or jazz. Go figure.

20. I am in a fashion slump right now, brought on by years of not having the $ to color my hair, spending most days DIY-ing or building or gardening, and by my gradual stress based weight gain. My favorite shoes are my rubber gardening clogs. I think it might be time for an intervention.

21. I am truly not capable of following a daily or weekly routine. It's been true my whole life, but it still annoys me.

22. I think just about everything is funny. I can almost, almost laugh about the time my kid's violin teacher says, "What's this?" and pulls a large, adult louse off my forehead. Almost.

23. It is not hard for me to be honest. I have always been a horrible liar. I eventually quit trying to get away with most things when I was in high school because I always got caught.

24. I think about deep stuff all the time. Then funny stuff. Then  more deep stuff. Then more funny stuff. Then I call my sister and talk about all of it while she's trying to work. I have no idea why. Maybe it gives me balance.

25. I have 2 known super powers. First, I can talk indefinitely. This has been tested up to 3 days. Second, Whoever goes shopping with me can find what they want, for what they want to pay for it. This made me a very popular companion for prom dress shopping.

26. It is really hard for me to be obedient. I despise being told what to do. Rules make me feel constrained.

27. I am deeply spiritual.  I am also a passionate follower of the Latter-day Saint faith (the Mormons). But I think I make a lot of them nervous. 

28. I truly believe everything can have a positive outcome, eventually. 

29. I have a Diet Coke problem.

30. I find people inherently interesting. I always want to hear other people's stories, if I can remember to shut up and stop telling mine. 

So that's me. The long version. I'll have to think about a short version. It might take me a while. So while I'm thinking, tell me about you.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Friday, February 26, 2016

Today's Hopeful Thought: Dishes and Gifts.

Hi friends. I am so glad you all decided to come back. And for those of you who keep come back to see what nonsense I have posted every. single. week, I just have to say...

I like you so much. 


You make me feel sane, which is much more of an accomplishment than it should be.

I have spent the week rattling against my "stay at home mom"-ness. Do you guys do that? I just cannot find meaning in the relentless onslaught of dishes and cooking and carpooling. To the point that I am crying by 10 am, a sure sign of trauma, just thinking about all those dishes and meals and carpools. I spent 2 hours doing dishes the other day. Seriously. 2 hours. I almost died. Except I didn't. 

I did cry though, before I started the washing. And there might have been a bit of journal writing and a prayer said for good measure. And then I thought about what I would have liked to do if I wasn't doing dishes (or dreading doing dishes.) What did I feel like I was missing out on, to prompt all these tears and disillusionment?

My answer was super lame and super wise.

I want to do something fun. 

Hmm. Fun. For me, fun usually involves other people, and laughing and talking and ....loud music. 

Hmm...loud music is fun. 

And where there is loud music, there is dancing. 

And where there is loud music and dancing, there is a... 


I decided to have a dance party doing the dishes. 

I totally did. I cranked up the "Discover Weekly" list on Spotify and shook my booty while I scrubbed and soaked. For 2 hours. 

Now, was it the best party I've ever had? Absolutely not. Was it the best time I ever had doing dishes on a Tuesday morning? Totally. Except for that time I was washing dishes at my parents house in high school with that cute boy and we ended up getting in a soap suds fight and ....Oh, sorry. The correct answer is "Best. Dance Party Dish Washing. Ever."

At any rate, the time passed quickly and before I knew it I had a whole bunch of new songs starred for my play list the dishes done and the kitchen floor swept. A jolly time was had by all, well by me at least, and the work got done, finally.

So, since then, I have been thinking. 

What if everything that happens to us is a gift

Even dirty dishes, and car accidents, and breakups we didn't see coming? Along with unexpected birthday flowers and loosing 80 lbs after being overweight our whole life? What if sometimes it just takes an enormous amount of creativity to "unwrap" the gift? (not unlike that stiff plastic they use to keep small children away from their toys at Christmas requiring intricate razor blade and blowtorch skills to open, all while said small child is reaching and wailing wildly for said toy. Not that anything like that has ever happened to me)

I was raised with the idea that everything we experience is for our good. But what if it is more than just an experience? What if it all really is a Gift? The capital letter kind that shapes and molds our lives in ways we could never imagine. The kind of Gift that pushes us towards become who we most want to be? To the things that define us. To the outcomes we would most value at the end of this little life. 

I have been chewing on this idea for a number of years, and it has changed how I look at the things that make me cry. If I try really hard, and think and pray about it, there is always a golden egg there in the mud. The harder the experience and the harder the egg is to find, the bigger the impact for good on my life. I promise. I have tried this over and over and over again. I have always found a Gift.

Give it a shot. Look at the crappiest thing in your life and try to find the gift. It will be hard to see. It will take time and a change in perspective and perhaps a prayer or two or twenty. It will take a strong heart and a stout belief in your own worth. But it's there. Just waiting for you to find it and be filled with wonder at how things in our strange little lives work together to weave such a beautiful tapestry.

Well that's all I've got for today. But stay tuned, because next week I'm gonna tell you guys about a bunch of stuff you don't know about me. 

I know, right? 

I can't wait either!

And please, please tell me if you have found any Golden eggs in the mud? Any Gifts. I would love, love, love to hear those stories.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Beginning of "Hopeful Thoughts"

Has God ever asked you to do something? Or have you ever just had the same persistent thought to do something a bit out of your comfort zone eat at you?  I am not talking about parting the Red Sea or calling any Roman emperors to repent or anything. But something small, like asking you to write to a friend and apologize for the fight you had 5 years ago that made it hard to be friends, even if it wasn't your fault? Or to go talk to the person living alone in your neighborhood that you have never met and only see pulling in and out of their garage?

Well God has asked me to do something small, that scares the crap out of me. I am supposed to share a weekly Hopeful Thought with you guys. 

I know. Huge, right? 

Now it's not that I have any problem telling anyone about what I am thinking. Usually it takes a gigantic effort on my part NOT to say what's on my mind. My issue here is simply that I am afraid that talking about my view of the Universe will make you guys think I am crazy  people's eyes glaze over with boredom. Or worse, bring out people's argumentative natures. I really, really want to be a source of hope for my readers. But I have no idea what you guys need to hope for. Or that I can accomplish this lofty goal. I am not an academic or prophet or expert. I am simply a basement philosopher who talks to everybody. But not quite like the homeless guy on the corner. He doesn't have a blog.

Still, my experience has been that when I do these hard, small things that God asks, crazy amazing things start to happen. And I am too curious to see where this goes to let my fears win.

So here goes, my first Hopeful Thought:

I recently found out that a friend was in the process of getting divorced. I was shocked. They had always been a "best friends' type of couple. They shared everything, liked the same things. They were even in business together. As the shock has ebbed and I have thought more about what this means in their daily life, I have wondered what to say to my friend. I have no details about what happened, or who instigated the divorce, and frankly, it really isn't any of my business. 

So I started thinking about what would be helpful, as these days of duking it out over business rights and home ownership and child custody roll on. What blessing would I want when my whole life was shredding right before my eyes?

And I had the oddest thought pop into my mind. I saw waves of fire consuming a forest, and then a little girl planting trees and wildflowers in the soil enriched by the fresh ash. 

This image reminded me of a time when a dear, dear friend and I had to part ways. It was an explosive separation that rocked my life like a nuclear bomb going off. But one very unexpected thing happened. I was blessed to see how hard my friend, a vivacious, private, passionate woman, was holding back her wrath, keeping her words, as our relationship dissolved, as kind as she could bare. It was one last beautiful gift, in honor of the friendship we had shared for so many years. And it is something I have tried to cultivate in myself, especially with my husband and children. There is tremendous power in being kind when you are trying so crazy hard to just be civil. That kind of respect builds bridges that we don't see until we are standing on them.

That ability is what I would wish for my divorcing friend. That she and her former spouse can remember to be kind, even as the fires rage all around them. For they are much more likely to be able to build a loving, if separate, world for their children, where kindness was used even in the hours of greatest darkness. And if they cannot be together, than a peaceful co-existence would be the next best thing, I think. It would pave the way for light to return to all of them and mitigate so much pain. 

I thought Cinderella's lovely motto "Have Courage and Be Kind" was nicely relevant. 
Plus, they are such a dreamy couple... 

As for being a hopeful thought, I think that if we can have enough sense to be kind in our words and deeds when all hell is breaking loose, then we have a lot more going for us than we thought. It is amazing to me how far our efforts can reach. The good we all are capable of. And how powerful our actions Now can be to change the future for the better.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to Stay Sane While "Kondo"-ing Your Life

It's snowing a bit today. And by "a bit" I mean there are huge drifts of snow blocking my doors and the wind has things blowing sideways out in the now white world. 

I like snow a lot. I think it's gorgeous. And I love that it makes it possible to breathe for a few days here in the Nation's Capital of over-programmed people. Everything, and I mean everything, stops. No school, no cars, no work, no obligations. It's kinda heaven. 

So what do you do, when you have a Type A personality and suddenly you find yourself with days of nothing going on and nowhere to go?

You pull out this little book and get to work, of course.

Ah.. Marie Kondo and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. One of the most talked about books of 2015. Have you guys read it yet? If not, go pick it up at Costco for less than $10. Or get it used on Amazon... but if you go the Amazon route, read the reviews. There was some poor guy who was completely traumatized because he to move all his beloved "shtuff" into his truck to keep his wife from throwing it away after she read the book. (Obviously his wife didn't read the chapter about how you really should only do this with your own belongings.) Totally cracked me up. But it's way down there in the reviews, so good luck finding it.

Anyway, I read this book last summer. Kondo is totally insane. I mean completely out of her mind, in the way that only OCD single Japanese women can be. 

But she is also right. 

If you follow her method, there is very little chance of you going back to your comfortable wicked ways of overabundance and slavery to stuff. (Well, I think having to fold your underwear in a certain way and put it in a little carton is a form of slavery, but for the sake of this post, let's stick with the "spirit of the law," shall we?) Following this method actually changes the way you think about your stuff. It makes you aware in ways that I don't really understand. Plus it's hard. And takes a lot of effort, so you might find yourself giving your lame ways a stern talking to if you start to slide once it's all said and done. But most of all, it's amazing once it's all done. Really amazing, like Disney sparkles on the corners of things amazing. You feel like you are capable of Great Things.

So after Christmas, I was ready to tackle my stuff and repent of my Capitalistic ways. I started looking around for stuff to get rid of. 

I forgot to take a "before" shot of my dresser. But my side table looks pretty much like my dresser did, 
give or take a layer or two of stuff.

And then my head blew up. 

One of the tenants of this book is to sort things in categories, all at the same time. So if you choose to do "pans" you pull out all the pans you have in the entire house and make decisions on what stays and what goes. Now this makes an amazing amount of sense until you start looking around and realizing just how many freaking categories of stuff you have. I guarantee that you have an enormous amount of stuff to sort through. Unless you are a military wife. Then you can stop reading this post because your stuff is already pared down within an inch of it's life so you can make weight when you move. You are also my hero, because your house is always immaculate, in it's lack of stuff-ness. But aside from the military wife super heroes out there, the rest of us all have infinite groups of things to sort through.

This is where tip number one comes in. 

Tip 1. Pick some place small to start. A drawer, for example. Or the front hall closet. It's not as small as a drawer, but it is a manageable space that if you run out of time, you can just cram everything back into. I chose my jewelry stash. Which didn't end up being very small. I have way more than I thought. Which is the point of gathering all of it up at the same time.

Which brings us to tip number two:

Tip 2. You will need to clean up a place to sort things, before you ever start sorting. You could use the space on the playroom floor, the top of your bed, or your dining room table. Someplace where there is flat space you can spread stuff out out on. But it has to be cleared off before you start dumping more stuff on it. 

I decided to use my floor to stage and sort the stuff on top of my dresser because I knew I could leave it there for a while if I had to. I also knew it would annoy me enough that I would actually finish dealing with it.

In my case, the jewelry was on top of my dresser and taking up half of my top drawer. So I needed a place to work in my master bedroom. I could barely walk around my side of the room, let alone find a place to put all my jewelry out to look at. So I cleaned up all the random things that were hanging out in my side of the room. It took two days. Seriously. Two. Days. Now there was a lot of stuff that didn't belong, like the alphabet flashcards that I bought to spell out a different message on the wall every day at Girl's Camp from two years ago and the dinner plate holding the tools I had used to install track lighting in my hallway three weeks ago, but the two days is a significant thing to note. It totally shocked me. So much so that it's part of tip 3:

Tip 3. This process WILL take you more than one day, per category for most categories. Plan this way and you will be happier and feel less lame inclined to give up when it takes more than one day.  You will need at least one day to sort and at least one day to process what you've sorted. You might get it all done in the same day, if most of what you are paring down is stuff you actually plan on throwing away. 

Now that you have a clean space to stage in and a realistic time frame, you are ready to start tearing things apart sorting. This will generate a whole bunch of clumps of things. Which quickly makes you aware of the need for tip 4.

OK, let's stop for a minute. I can feel you all getting over whelmed and checking out. I know this is a long post. And so, far all I am telling you is what a pain this all is. Keep in mind, my purpose here really is to tell you how to succeed. It is completely worth your time, I swear. Even if you only get through one drawer of makeup or socks. But it does take a certain mind set to get all the way through. The great thing is, once you are thinking about it right, you will just keep succeeding.  

Alright. Pep talk over. Back to tip 4. 

Tip 4. Find a reasonable way to manage your sorting. Do what ever makes the most sense for you; piles, bags, empty boxes, small plastic cups, zip-lock bags, whatever suits your needs. You will need to keep track of a variety of things in a variety of sizes, headed for a variety of destinations. And these are strictly temporary homes, only to be used until you finish processing this category. 

When I sorted my jewelry, I put it all out on the dining room table. Then I sorted it into piles and finger bowls, based on what designation I had given it. For example, the bracelets were too much trouble initially, so they went in a big pile towards the middle. The earrings I knew I didn't want went in a pile on the far right. The necklaces were hung on a chair next to the one I was sitting on. The broken stuff that was worth repairing got put on the plant stand behind me. The bits I planned on using in collages went into a zip-lock bag with "collage" written on it in Sharpie. The empty boxes and bags went in an Ironstone chamber pot that happened  to be sitting on the table. The broken, worn out or de-silvered earrings and random paper debris went in a bag labeled "trash."

Tip 5. A few unexpected things to keep handy during the sorting period are a Sharpie, a regular pen or pencil, post-it notes, and a pad of paper. You need the Sharpie to write on plastic bags designating things "donation" or "trash" or whatever, so you don't forget and throw the wrong things away. The pencil is to write out what needs to happen to any given item. For example, you could write "earring wire broken off" to remind yourself that this pair of earrings needs to go to the jeweler and what needs to be done, so you don't have to sit there and figure it all out again when you are standing in line with your plastic baggie of broken baubles at the jewelers. The pad of paper is to write out things that are going to take several steps. When I cleared off my dresser, I had several works of art that my children had made. Some needed to be repaired or modified, and I want to frame all of them, but I don't have the time or money to do so right now. So I wrote out all my plans, both for now and in the future for the art. For now, I will store them in my original art drawer. When I can, I will frame them and do the other stuff. It's all about dealing with things to the fullest level right now  and making is super easy on yourself when you have to deal with stuff later.

Once you are all done sorting, then you tackle the "processing". Do not let yourself start any more sorting, or any other type of project until you have processed stuff.

Tip 6. Processing can be boring, frustrating, complicated, and time consuming, but you should finish it completely before you start anything else. Processing is the term I am using to describe anything that involves dealing with the stuff you have just unearthed in your sorting that is not going back into the place you have just torn apart sorted. Things that need to go to the cleaners. Or be put in another room. Or to be repaired. Or to be sent to a cousin. Or returned to a neighbor. Or to be donated to Goodwill. All of these kinds of actions are what I think of as "processing." They can be cumbersome. Driving to the cleaners is one more thing to remember. Sending outgrown clothing to your sister's kids requires many steps, before you even head over to wait in line at the post office. Taking that unused light fixture to the ReStore requires you know where the ReStore is and what their donation hours/policies are.

My bags of items to be donated, mended, and given to a friend 
after cleaning my bedroom floor while creating a place to sort.

Simply put, processing requires that you actually do all the annoying, inconvenient things that caused the stuff to be left on the floor or crammed in the drawer in the first place. 

This is where you will want to cave. You will be tempted to do something else. Anything else, rather than finish working through your processing pile. But don't let yourself abandon ship. 

Don't you LOVE this painting? It's my new prize from Salvation Army. I just get lost in it every time I look at it.

Keep chipping away a little at a time, even if it means taking a break to do laundry or walking the dog or going to lunch with your friends. But keep at it for as long as you can stand it every day. Bribe yourself if you have to. Because it will not go away until you deal with it.

So take a breath. 
Make a plan. 
And do it. 
All of it. 

You will be so happy once it is all done. 

You will be free. 

The finished dresser top. In this process, I ended up cleaning up my floor, sorting all my underwear, sorting and restaging all my jewelry where I can see all of it so I remember to use it, clearing off my dresser, clearing out my chaise /writing area, and making my room look more decadent than it already did. WIN!

So, you all ready to "Kondo" something? 
I'd love to hear about your plan or how it all went. 

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw