I was awakened by anxiety. My mother and father-in-law had asked that I help them organize their photos, 60 years of photos. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to tackle that enormous task. Was I worried? A little. I was worried that I didn’t have a clear plan for accomplishing the task. But, another part of me knew that not knowing was not an insurmountable obstacle. There have been many times when I’ve been clueless up front about what to do to move forward with a client project. What I have learned is that the answers often come to me once I’ve begun a project. I don’t have to have the perfect plan. I just need to get started and use what I know to lead me forward.
My first step was to pull all the containers of photos and memorabilia into one location. I’ve learned over the years that it’s really hard to get started on a project if pieces of the project are scattered around. When I pull all the pieces together my brain kicks into gear.
Now, at that point many people would be blown away because they could finally see the reality of their organizing challenge. There was an enormous of material to go through. Rather than step back and focus on the size of the project, I consciously chose to step into the project to explore the lay of the land with curiosity. I did that by removing items from the boxes so I could see what they contained. Were they photo albums or packages of photos? Were they travel photos or family photos? That movement helped release some of the anxiety I’d been feeling. Once I was moving I very quickly was able to group photos and albums into distinct categories: travel photos, family photos, family of origin photos on both sides. I was off and running.
Another important piece of this process was my mindset. Even though I was anxious about how to do the project, at no point did I allow myself to think that I was not up to the challenge. Yes, there were moments when I could have gone to that negative and self-defeating place. Instead, I held on tight to the belief that I could get this big project done. I might not be able to get it done in the five days I had, but I could make significant progress.
There is much more to the story of this photo project I could share, however, the point I’m making here is that you don’t have to know how you’re going to get something done ahead of time. In fact, it’s often impossible to do that with really big clutter clearing projects. The energy of the clutter is negative and distracting. What’s most important is that you show up, approach the challenge with curiosity, push back fearful, limiting beliefs, hold onto the belief that you will be successful, and start moving things intentionally.
With help from my mother and father-in-law, who made some of the choices about what to keep and what to get rid of, I cleared out about at least 12 big black bags of trash, separated photos into individual boxes for at least six online photos books, boxed all the photos we weren’t keeping for their daughter who wanted them, and I scanned almost 200 photos for the first photo album that I will create for them. I’m all set up to create one book and continue the work the next time I visit.
Don’t let a big clutter clearing project stop you dead in your tracks. Set your intention. Manage your feelings of overwhelm by expecting success. Engage your curiosity about the contents of your clutter. And, get moving. If after all that you find yourself stuck, you always have the option of seeking support with a family member, friend or professional organizer. Staying stuck is a choice. Getting unstuck by working with your beliefs, actions, and/or support are also choices. What will you choose?