Is This The Real Life?

I never said I was perfect. In this week's tip, I share what my kitchen looked like after a crazy-busy, super-distracted weekend and show exactly how long it took to set it right again.

Whoop, there it is.

You may be asking, how could such a thing happen in the home of a professional organizer? When I told y'all I'm not naturally tidy, I meant it. Does my kitchen get like this often? Not at all. But it does happen on the rare occasion when I'm pulled in too many directions for a few days in a row. I'll break it down for you. Last weekend, our family celebrated not one but two birthdays. One of those was for my daughter and involved a gaggle of 10-year-olds at the skating rink. On top of that, I had an out-of-town client and then another one close to home back-to-back, which ate up a lot of my Saturday and left me exhausted by the time I got home and took off my shoes. That night, insomnia granted me only about four hours of sleep. On Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to have a visit from my sister, and we social-distanced on my porch for two unplanned hours. Right before leaving for the aforementioned birthday party, I had a flat tire and had to slow-roll to the gas station that is, luckily, only several hundred yards from my house. You know what I didn't do this weekend? Clean my kitchen.

The aftermath.

The above photo is what my kitchen looked like when insomnia shoved me out of bed at an impolite hour. I was tired. I felt even more tired looking at the state of the kitchen. I was in the middle of making coffee when I decided to snap a picture, then declutter, tidy, and clean my kitchen while it brewed. I wasn't excited about it, but I knew if it didn't get done, it would only get worse. I also knew from experience that it wouldn't take me as long as I thought it would, so I got to work.

Then what?

Here's what I was able to accomplish in my kitchen in 22 minutes -- the coffee only took 13, but I was on a roll.

  • Dispose of all the trash, including but not limited to empty Easter candy wrappers, a fast food bag, empty soda cans, lasagna that didn't make it back into the fridge, a few random kibbles of dog food, packaging from some antacids, and a large cardboard box

  • Take the trash out and put a new bag in the can

  • Put misplaced items where they live in my home: scissors, prescription medications, salt and pepper shakers, my husband's hat along with his wallet and keys sitting inside the hat, my new label maker, a Thermos, the food cover for the microwave, two reusable grocery bags, receipts for business supplies, a form I need to fill out, a card I need to mail, Bluetooth headphones, a pen, a bottle of lotion, some papers for a workshop I'm taking, two bottles of diet ginger ale, a stack of paper plates, a garage door opener, a bottle of Dayquil

  • Gather what my daughter needed to put away: a notebook, a unicorn keychain, the Star Wars cake topper from her birthday cake, a hair clip, a small gift box with a terracotta pot and some strawberry seeds, a painting of a racoon wearing glasses

  • Empty the dishwasher

  • Load the dishwasher

  • Wipe down all the counters, the toaster, the coffeemaker, and the stove top

  • Clean the sink and faucet

  • Spray mop the floor

  • Put away the cleaning supplies

Here's the after picture. Perfect? Not by a long shot. There's a big ol' smear of fingerprints and a clip that doesn't belong there on the fridge door, and the floor needed a little more attention than I gave it. But I count this as a win.

So here's the tip.

What I was able to accomplish required a few things: knowing that starting is the hardest part and doing it anyway, understanding the motivation of routinely taking before and after photos of overwhelming messes, setting a timer to maintain perspective, being sure it wouldn't take as much time as I thought it would, knowing where each thing in my home belongs, and doing the easy stuff -- trash, putting things away -- first to build momentum. The tip is this: you have to lay the groundwork. You have to understand that decluttering, tidying, and cleaning -- especially for those of us who are naturally messy -- is never a one-and-done thing. It takes doing what needs to be done and knowing how to do it. It's not always easy, but it can be simple once you learn. I hope the resources I share help teach you and help you believe it's possible.

Tell me how it goes.

If this tip worked for you -- or if it didn't -- share your thoughts below, or you can drop me a line here. I'd love to hear from you. Truly.


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