April 21, 2012

Where Do I Start? (part 1)

As I write this, where I am right now, it is spring cleaning time. For many people, spring cleaning is an annual tradition that they find themselves doing every year around this time whether they think about it or not. There are others, of course, who this year are attempting it for the very first time. And while the essential idea of spring cleaning is not hard to grasp — open the windows for fresh air, and clean everything — it’s understandable that people might ask, “Where do I start?”

There is a bit of strategy in the sequence of spring cleaning, though it is not as much as beginners may imagine. The most important point for the cleaning process itself is contained in the cliché “top to bottom.” That is a phrase I am sure you have heard, though you might not have realized it is meant literally. Going from top to bottom, you clean the ceilings before you clean the floors. As you clean the ceilings, dust may fall to the floors, so it is necessary to clean the floors afterward anyway.

The more important and perhaps less obvious point is to take out the trash and get rid of any clutter, to the extent that you can manage it, before you go into the cleaning. It is hard to work around clutter, and there is nothing gained by cleaning the clutter that you end up throwing away.

If you could somehow get rid of all the clutter, the cleaning would go ten times as fast, so decluttering is not a minor point, nor is it realistically something you can rush through or skip over. Indeed, clutter has such a prominent place in the process that to some people, “spring cleaning” has come to be a euphemism for decluttering.

Fortunately, decluttering is just a matter of taking things away — specifically, clutter, or the material things that don’t have a part in your future action — so sequence does not matter at all in the end. The result is the same regardless of what order you take the clutter away in.

So, when it comes to clutter, start anywhere. As the book Fear of Nothing suggests, start where you are right now, or start at the front door. Start with the most obvious things or with the things that bother you the most. Start by taking out the trash. Start anywhere at all. Just get started.

For a few people, that is enough of an answer to the “Where do I start?” question. If so, great. If not, if you are still sitting there perplexed, there is a reason for it, and I can assure you, you are not alone. There is more to “Where do I start?” than appears on the surface, and I will dig deeper into this in my next post.

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