Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pushing Stuff Around

I play a game called "Alchemy" on my smart phone.  You start out with four elements--earth, air, water, and fire, and you push things around on the screen combining two elements to make a new element.  For example: Earth + Air = Dust.  Dust + Fire = Gunpowder.  And so on.  The combinations are supposed to be logical (Time + Worm = Butterfly), but sometimes they are crazy.  My daughter laughs at the way I play this game.  And she can't believe how far I've progressed--far beyond anyone else she knows who plays the game.  She introduced it to me and she and her friends play it by trying to reason out combinations of things.  But for me, I just dump all the elements I have so far on the screen and double them and just push them around randomly until I suddenly create a new element.  I'm up to 369 elements out of 390.  A pretty remarkable total for using randomness as my method.  I play while waiting in line, or watching the news or drinking coffee.  Just to entertain myself during idle time.  Of course, the more elements you have, the less often you stumble across a new one.  And at some point maybe you have to start using logic.  I don't know, but I doubt I'll change my method this close to the finish.

The "pushing stuff around" struck me as an analogy for a lot of the decluttering and remodeling I've been working on for the past six years.  My method has been to focus on one space or task until I finished it and then move to another.  This meant that some things would come out of that space, and instead of finding a permanent home, got stuck in a closet or drawer for later.

I got this idea from a woman whom I heard speak many years ago.  She was the head housekeeper for the famous Brigham Young homes in Salt Lake City, the Beehive House and the Lion House.  She gave us lots of tips and even recipes for making our own household cleaners.  I've forgotten much of it now, but one thing stuck with me.  She told us to clean one room at a time and finish it.  Don't get distracted by other rooms needing your attention.  For example, if you pick up toys from the living room and take them to the children's room, ignore the children's room floor cluttered with other toys.  You may be tempted to stop and pick them up right now.  Don't do it, she told us.  Toss in the toys from the living room, close the door and don't think about that room until you finish the one you're working on.

I've employed something like this in my remodeling and decluttering projects.  I gave away and threw away a ton of stuff.  But things I thought I wanted to keep got stuck in drawers and closets until I could address them later.  Consequently, I have videos in three rooms, light bulbs in three places, Christmas decorations in three locations, and so on.  I have a dresser drawer in my bedroom that holds candles.  And another full of fabrics I may one day sew.  They don't belong there.  I need to start organizing.

And then I suddenly realized, I'm really finished.  FINISHED!  Finished with the grand decluttering.  The rooms full of boxes, old furniture, broken stuff--it's all gone.  I'm down to the closets and drawers containing things that I think I still want.

And now it's time to start the final GRAND ORGANIZING.  Time to stop just pushing stuff around.  Time to stop tossing things in the drawer.  Time to go through all the drawers and closets and get everything put in its rightful place.  Randomness will no longer work for this.  I'll need to think it through.  I want all the light bulbs in just one place.

With the holidays upon us, it seems unlikely I'll get started on this until after the new year, after retirement.  But I've already made the list of closets and drawers and will start as soon as I can, checking them off as I go.  (No doubt, I'll find more things I don't really need or want.)

The randomness of pushing things around temporarily has helped me get to where I am.  Finishing one space before moving on to the next.  And not worrying about the things not yet done.  Allowing myself to trust that eventually I would get to it all.  And now I have.  And it's a startling discovery to see how far I've come and how near the end.  There was SO much to do at the start.  SO MUCH!  It was daunting, to say the least.

They upgrade the Alchemy game now and then and add more elements, so you are never really "done".  It's sort of like Farm Town that I played on Facebook for awhile.  You think you are finished, and they add more levels.  You could go on and on and on, trying to reach the actual "END".  But there is no real END, and after a point you do have to stop and say that's as far as I want to go with this.  It's no longer fun; it's no longer interesting, it's no longer worthwhile to me.  I'm am not going to make a career out of organizing my house, either.  One pass through will do it and then just maintain.

I will do what I'm calling the "Drawers and Closets" project in the next few months.  Primarily the bedrooms and hall upstairs.  The kitchen is already just how I want it, having remodeled it just three years ago.  And there's absolutely nothing to do downstairs.  After that, I'll do the long-planned "Doors and Floors" upstairs to replace all the 30-something-year-old doors and to finally decide whether the teal carpet gets replaced by more carpet or wood floors.  That's what I have planned for 2013.

Then what?  I don't know.  I think I'll stop this game and move on to another one.

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