I hate sequencing.

First off, I haven’t started keeping an accomplishment log yet even though I found an easy solution.  I also haven’t written out a chore-chart even though I came up with a solution even before finding my nice magnets.  I’m in hibernation.

Winter sucks even when you live in a place that panics when it snows, and we’re in a place where we get snows worth panicking about.  Even perfectly fine days are cold.


Other than a case of the winter blahs, I’ve been stuck in sequences.  Basically it means that you can’t just do the task, you have to do a dozen other things leading up to the task.

 My mom was reading me a story from a book called The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw.  One of the of stories was about sequences, and it really told different ways of how having a task with many steps could become too difficult to manage.  Most of the complications were self-inflicted through procrastination.

Let’s take an example like planning dinner.  You have the ingredients for tacos, so that’s what you decide to make.  Oh wait, the cutting board area is filled with dirty plates and the frying pan you want to use.  No problem, you have time to run the dishwasher before you start, but oh wait it’s full of clean dishes.  So you put away the dishes, refill the dishwasher, wash the cutting board and food prep area, and then start cutting up the onions while you wait for the frying pan to finish getting clean so you can start cooking dinner.

In my case, putting away dishes makes the task monumental because I haven’t gotten to the point where I can mindlessly put dishes away.  It’s a daily struggle to find spaces to stick everything.  I get sequence-locked because one of the steps is really hard.

However, a normal person with a functional kitchen wouldn’t have sequences to begin with.  The dishes would have already been cleaned as part of a separate daily task.


I’m putting the chore chart and the accomplishment log on hold until I feel better.  For now, I just have to avoid causing sequences.

Survival Mode.

When I was talking about Chore-Charts, I said:

Life is still going on.  Clothes are being worn, dishes are being eaten off of, the garbage is getting filled, and the cats are using the litter box.

Basically, no matter what is happening, there are certain important things that need to be taken care of.

When people move, a bit of common advice is to set up the bed before anything else.  (You also want to have a roll of TP and a towel.)  It means that when everything else is waiting to be unpacked, you have a place to sleep when you get tired.  After that, you don’t want to be eating takeout off of paper plates for very long.

A traditional list of immediate “basic needs” is food (including water), shelter and clothing. Many modern lists emphasize the minimum level of consumption of ‘basic needs’ of not just food, water, clothing and shelter, but also sanitation, education, and healthcare.

So pretty much the priorities in a household are cooking, dishes, laundry, clear bed, and bathroom access.  Everything beyond that is for sanity purposes, which is a need that can be met in a variety of ways.  Depending on how cluttered you are, these are probably the things that you are already trying to keep up on.

When I was a child, I had a book called “How to Clean Your Room.”  It works fine for a room that was clean maybe a month previous, but my room had never been clean and I had too much stuff for everything to have a place.

The book says to go clockwise around the room and pick up everything from the floor and put it on the bed.  I would do that, and my twin size mattress was piled about 3 feet deep.  After a couple of hours, the pile wouldn’t seem any smaller despite trying to get everything put away, and I would be left either shoving everything back to the floor, or sleeping on my nice clear floor.  (I learned to keep the blanket out of the pile before learning that I couldn’t get my room clean that way.)

I guess my takeaway advice from this lesson is to not make a bigger mess than you can clean up, and be careful to not mess up your survival areas.


Positive Feedback and Journaling

I feel that part of the decluttering journey is to keep a record of it.

I took a photo of our new apartment and how full of boxes it was.  Then I looked at it a week later and was surprised at how almost nothing had moved.  When thinking about why, I could only vaguely answer that I must have done things in areas that the camera didn’t see.  I was working on everything but the living room, but I couldn’t explain why it was taking me so long.

I have a small collection of “before” photos from my old house.  I would go around with my tablet and then get to work.  There would be garbage on the floor, vegetable trimmings on the kitchen counter, and I would spend the whole day cleaning up trash and scrubbing the gross stuff.  I never got around to taking “after” pictures of all my hard work.  I wasn’t really done when I went to bed, and even if I kept cleaning the next day, I never got things done enough for an “after” shot.  My husband would come home and complement how different the kitchen looked after a cleaning, and I couldn’t see it because I kept getting used to it every hour.


When I was on Nerdfitness, I strayed from the point of the forum and focused more on the health of my environment and my mind than on my body.  I was still welcome there, and I have no good reason not to go back.  About the biggest benefit that came with posting my progress to the forum was that at the end of the day I could share what I had managed to accomplish.

Without actually sitting down and focusing what I had done, I kept feeling like I spent the whole day doing nothing. 


So what actually goes into a decluttering journal?  It’s actually a bit free-form, but the biggest thing is What did I accomplish today?

This should mostly be positive and focus on what you did do, and it’s not limited to just housework.  If you spent the day learning something or went for a walk to enrich your spirit, write that down too.

If you feel like you wasted time or didn’t manage to get through your whole list, you can mention it in a non-accusatory way.  Follow up with why you’re unsatisfied and what you can do to either avoid the problem or even what you could do solve it.

Since you’re already making a record of what you did do, it also makes sense to write about future goals or even a chore you would like to add to your list when things are more under-control.

A description of what you got rid of can also be helpful.  You might remember having something, but forget whether you donated it or decided to store it.


There’s probably a fancy software that would make it easy to keep a running journal, but for now I’m going to just open up a text file.

Chore Charts and Positive Feedback

I’ve been interested in gamification, and it’s a neat gimmick.  But I spent some time thinking about why it wasn’t motivating me enough to succeed.  The short answer is the points didn’t mean anything to me.  I could promise myself a reward at certain levels, but there were some things that got in the way of connecting the reward to the task.

When I played World of Warcraft, I did reputation dailies and got sick of them.  I distinctly remember the many days when I’d climb onto my hard-won vanity mount, whine about how I didn’t want to polish Hodir’s helmet, and suck it up because I was after a necessary thing to get into raids.  Some of those grinds were completed with a flash of light and a trumpet sound, followed by a couple comments from guildies, but the whole thing was fleeting and pointless.  My greatest happiness came from being done with that particular set of dailies and having no temptation to go back to them.  I didn’t mind other repetitive tasks like killing a certain type of monster for hours on end, but that was doing something when I felt like it until I got tired of it for the session.  I’d do something else for a while and come back if I still wanted those pixels.  Dailies were just do one thing until it was done, took maybe a few minutes, and then I had to wait until the next day to do it.

A little research showed me what other people got out of gamification.  It seems to boil down to hijacking the behavior/reward mechanism.  They get distracted from the task itself and focus on getting congratulated for it.  There is also a competition aspect that seems to work better in households where more than one person has chores to do.

I was trying to get in another chore competition with my mom, but it was hard to make it fair over different households.  For my laundry, I have to do it more often for two people but about 90% of it doesn’t need to be sorted and my laundry machines are in my living space.  My mom has enough clothing that each color gets a separate load and she has to drag it through a storage area and into the basement, plus hers should be worth more points simply because she doesn’t do it as often.  It was a friendly competition anyway, and our rewards are ultimately that we enjoy the benefits of getting the chores done.  I decided that we should both come up with our own chore-system and compare how well they work for each of us.


I determined why I was having some success with a chore-chart.  Probably the biggest thing was that I had a short list of specific tasks.  I have some sort of executive function disorder and the chart was telling me what to do.  At one point, my mom was using 10 popsicle sticks as reminders for her repetitive chores.  Her method reinforced that she didn’t have to do them in the same order every day.

There is something called The X Effect.  With that system, you would draw a 7×4 grid on an index card for each habit.  If you did the habit every day for four weeks, the index card would be covered in black X’s and seeing that without any gaps would be pretty satisfying.  I had a gradeschool teacher who did something similar, but it involved stickers.

When I was using a chore gamification app, I would have to sit down to log a chore on my computer.  This mostly resulted in me getting distracted with other computer things for half an hour instead of using that steam to go onto the next task.  I printed out those chores, stuck the paper to my chest freezer, and used magnets to keep track of whether or not I did the task that day before logging everything in the evening.  I did get a certain amount of pleasure from moving the magnet; that was my gold star.


I’m still refining what I want my chore chart to look like.

It’s not about worrying about design considerations.  The printer isn’t hooked up, so it will have to be hand-written.  I can’t find most of my magnets right now, but I did find one of those flimsy advertisement can-barely-hold-itself-up magnets and I have no qualms about cutting it apart.  I can worry about making a pretty one later.  (Complete with strong magnets that make a satisfying “thunk” when set back against the chart.)  Somewhere, I have a whiteboard that was designed and marketed to be a chore-chart, complete with cute magnets, but what I am able to grab right now is a blank whiteboard and a marker.

I have a vague idea about what needs to go onto the chore-chart, and having it on a whiteboard will help as I refine it and add things that I haven’t discovered yet.  I can only guess at how often a task needs to be done.  Cooking and dishes need to be done almost every day, sweeping could probably be done once a week, but how much laundry do you need to do to keep it from piling up?  (Relying on the X effect here would be hard.)

I was wondering how to gamify a chore-chart without getting too complicated.  Assigning more points to the important stuff makes sense, but there could be streaks of days where you could just do the important stuff and never get to the minor stuff because you spend more time on the big-point stuff.  A simple yes/no would work, but that means going after the easy stuff and possibly neglecting something hard.

I am wondering what constitutes getting a “gold star” on the chore chart.  Normal doing your dailies or weeklies is baseline, but does that mean completion or one load?

  • I figure that you shouldn’t be penalized if you confirm that the task doesn’t actually need to be done.  (Not enough laundry for a load.)

But what do you do when a task should be done, but it won’t get out of hand if you take a day off?  On leftover night, I may only have four plates, a handful of silverware, and some glasses to wash.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I blow it off until tomorrow.

What if I do one load, but there’s one thing that isn’t worth worrying about until the next day?

  • I figure that you shouldn’t get extra points if you blew off the task for long enough that it takes hours to do instead of days.  (Having to do dishes multiple times to catch up.)

If you get points for one load, where’s the incentive to do the task more than once if you have fallen behind or even happened to make extra mess?  If you get scored to completion, (little enough left that it can wait,) there’s the frustration of making a huge effort without being able to mark it off.  At some point, making a dent is better than just doing the minimum even if it doesn’t get completely done.

There will have to be some flexibility in whether or not you’ve done good enough.

I also say that you should confirm that a task doesn’t need to be done because doing the first step to acknowledge the task should help to keep it in your mind as a habit.


Why am I worried about chore-charts and habit-forming when everything is a chaotic mess?

Life is still going on.  Clothes are being worn, dishes are being eaten off of, the garbage is getting filled, and the cats are using the litter box.

The other part is that the chores and habits will be added slowly.  By the time I figure out a pattern to doing four tasks, I might realize that I want to add more.



Setting a Goal

I took an interest in gamification of my housework.  It’s a gimmick but it did improve things while I was doing it.  One flaw in using apps designed for that task was that if I would sit down to log my quests on the computer, I would get distracted and browse the internet for half an hour instead of going on to the next task.  I switched to using a physical chore-chart to mark off what I had done that day, and then log in the evening.  I was also in competition with my mother, who did not like the app at all and fell behind mostly because she wasn’t logging.

Most of what I know about gamification was from hanging out on the Nerdfitness forums and participating in what was then 6-week challenges.  The length of time went through some changes, and last time I was there they were doing 3-week challenges with some people having the same goals over the course of two or three challenges.

I’ll go more into the chore chart and habit forming later, but one thing I learned about was S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Specific: Don’t be vague about what you want to accomplish.
Measurable: How effective were you?  Did you blow it, come close, or achieve it?
Attainable: Is this even possible?
Realistic: Is it probable?
Timely: Can it be done in a reasonable timeframe?

Another thing I like to add is to think about how much control you have over your goal.  If you want to lose X amount of pounds or fit into a certain outfit on a certain date, your body might not cooperate.  The better part of the goal is to focus on how completely you followed a diet and exercise plan.  That way, you can succeed at doing the controllable things that should bring the results.  If you don’t get the end goal, you’re not completely discouraged while you try to figure out what went wrong and how to do it right next time.


I spent a lot of time thinking about my goals, so what I’m typing here isn’t quite as rambling and soul-searchy as if it were from someone who was doing it for the first time.  I also have an idea of where successes and failures come from.

I just moved, and I got excited when I found that my Swiffer had made the trip.  I haven’t been able to use it as anything but a reach extender for spill-wiping in years, and it has limited use until I get to a certain level of settled here.  It’s a bit of a symbol for the future I’m imagining.  What I want is to be the type of person where a quick dusting every few days is most of the effort necessary to keep things clean.

This is a bit vague, so not a specific goal.  It’s also a bit large, which is fine because I’ll find smaller steps while describing what this dusting person looks like.  It works as a loose framework.  (As a side note, this domestic goddess goal isn’t really measurable because I’m going to be looking for the point of “good enough” and I’ll know it when I see it instead of aiming for something.)

When it’s time to cook, I don’t want the kitchen to be an overwhelming mess.  Maybe I need to empty the dishwasher and fill it again, then wash the cutting board and the pan I want to use, but it’s something that can be done quickly and without having to think too hard about what I’m doing.  (I refuse to deal with a sink full of dirty dishes.  I will empty the sink and sort the dishes before filling the sink with water, even if it means putting slimy plates on the floor.)

For dusting, if I do it often enough, there shouldn’t be much clutter or out-of-place things in my way.  I should be able to put most things away unless it’s allowed to be on a flat surface.  If I don’t know where it goes, it should be because it belongs to my husband and I can put it into a small shallow box for him.  I want most of my housework to be done while I’m mostly thinking about other things.

For when I’m not cleaning, I want to be able to get out my hobby supplies with a minimal amount of digging and then set up at the table or in a chair without having to clear anything away first.


That seems to be enough for the moment.  I could go on, but there is a theme emerging and I can refine what more I want to do later.  I don’t want the housework to be overwhelming, I want to be able to do it while barely thinking about it.  Basically my goals should focus on keeping this place liveable without triggering my executive function disorder, and I already know a chore-chart can help.

However, the chore-chart isn’t the whole answer.  I need to be able to get organized to the point where I can easily put things away without having to make decisions.  (It’s hard to dust a flat surface when it’s been catching junk.)  For the organization to work the way I want it to, I need to have less stuff.

I’ll discuss the chore-chart more later.

And that is history

I come from a family of packrats.

My maternal Grandparents were messy and disorganized about it.  There was a room that was invisible to me even though I could brush against the outside of the door, and all I know about its contents is that it was so full that a person couldn’t walk into the room.  The living spaces were cramped, and one of my strong memories was being able to find discarded stockings buried in dust in certain corners.  Grandpa’s stuff problem got worse after Grandma died and he got cancer.

My paternal Grandparents and their daughters have tons of useful treasures all neatly boxed and stacked.  If I asked them to find a crafting kit that’s older than I am, they would likely be able to touch the box that it’s in.  What’s more, their living spaces are only visually cluttered.  There are china cabinets neatly arranged with all manner of pretty glassware and printing drawers on the walls with tiny figurines.  I wanted to be that type of packrat.

My parents’ house was large and they managed to fill it.  It was a combination of boxed things and piles on every available surface.  Even if you knew where something was, it could take some digging to get to it.  Their storage room wasn’t invisible to me, but I also didn’t know that there was a functional sink in it until much later.  The living areas were hard to dust.

When I was a child, maybe five years old, I remember that whenever I was bored with my ponies, I could go into my closet and pull out the toys that I had as a crawling infant.  My mother tells me the story of how I was tired of a stuffed animal and she forced me to keep it even though I didn’t want to.  At some point I wanted to keep Happy Meal boxes in their open state complete with the uneaten fries that had fallen out of the fry envelope… the boxes went away.  (I probably thought they were ruined if they were folded down.  My mom might have tried to file them before giving up.)  I think at some point we both agreed that the Happy Meal toys had to go.

When I was a teenager, I became interested in getting organized, but my relationship with stuff was a little skewed.  I liked shopping and acquiring new things, but I didn’t really have the room to appreciate them.  There was also the aspirational clutter of buying stuff to try new hobbies and either not having the room to use them or getting scared of using them up.

I would read organizational books and pride myself on not going out to buy a bunch of containers as the first step.  I would turn my nose up at complicated organization systems.  I even prided myself at how MY collection of organization books wasn’t taking up space in my home, but rather I stored them at the local library.

I missed the part about getting rid of unimportant junk because very little of it felt unimportant at the time.  I didn’t make much progress in getting things organized because my goal was to be able to grab what I wanted quickly and I couldn’t do it with that volume of stuff.


I spent some time not living at my parents’ house after going back to college.  (I had commuted the first time.)  Both times were still within driving distance so I only brought what I felt I absolutely needed.  I ended up moving back in both times.

After getting married, my husband and I were living close enough to my parents that I could go home on the weekends.  I decided to be selective about what I moved.  We used a truck for the furniture and then I decided what else to move one carload at a time for a year.  I had aspirational clutter, but it wasn’t bad.

We had to move halfway across the country.  Upon getting to our next house,  I couldn’t stand the emptiness as we waited for the movers.  I drove around exploring the area a little bit, but I also hit a thrift store and bought a dining set.  We moved to another house in the same area, and I was steadily filling up all the available space.  (Some of it was taking carloads from my mom’s house when I visited.  I was allowed to leave stuff there, but a lot of what I took was either stuff I wanted or stuff I wasn’t sure if it should be kept or not.  I also put some stuff that I wanted someday into her house because I had to store it in boxes anyway instead of enjoying it.)

So we moved into an apartment that’s about half of the size of our last house.  I made decluttering progress before moving out, but I still have a ways to go.

Where to start a blog.

WordPress suggested “If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.”

I wanted to write my own organizing book decades ago and I can’t figure out why.  Maybe it’s because I read so many organizing books.  I told someone about it, and the first thing they asked was “are you organized?”  I answered no and they dismissed my idea because I couldn’t possibly write an organizing book when I wasn’t organized.

I encountered Aslobcomesclean and the idea was planted again.  I might not be successful in being organized, but I do know a lot.  My false-start on this blog was trying to be instructional.

I was discussing with another person about what I could later leverage my blog for.  I couldn’t figure out what I could advertise that aligned with the message of my blog, but noted a lot of other bloggers had a book.  It came back to how I could write an organizing book when I’m not organized.  He suggested that I market it as failures to avoid.

So come with me on my journey as I try to get my nest in order and share both my successes and my failures.