Well-used phrases like “the lesser of two evils” are well used for a reason.
They put into words a common human struggle.
Choosing between two evil (or even just unpleasant or irritating) things isn’t fun. But sometimes it happens. Neither choice in a situation makes me jump for joy.
But I have to choose.
Because that’s life.
Cleaning/decluttering/anything-to-do-with-home-management tends to fall under this phrase for me. I’m an idealist. In my head, I always have a clear picture of what should work in a given situation. Of how things should go.
And just like a kid who becomes irrational and decides they’d rather have no ice cream at all than have ice cream in the wrong kind of cone, I have to step back and realize that I do have to make a choice. Even a less-than-ideal one.
Because not making a decision at all is making a decision.
I’ve learned to make my decisions based on which decision moves me closer to my goal. My in-real-life goal.
I don’t love wasting time. So when I declutter, it feels most ideal to stick things in piles according to where they’ll go and then make one big trip through the house, putting everything away at once.
That would be a great choice if it ever actually played out that way in real life.
It’s an evil choice because it doesn’t play out that way. Pretty much ever.
I get distracted, step away for a few minutes (or hours or days) and the neat little piles morph into a bigger pile that’s no longer sorted and is outside the space I was initially decluttering.
And that’s the other evil I have to consider.
I don’t love/cannot stand redoing work I’ve already done.
And that’s what I’m doing when I have to re-sort what I’ve already sorted. I have to go back through my logical thinking and decision making (or even my two easy decluttering questions) for all of these items I’d already thought about and decided on.
I shouldn’t have to remake these decisions.
But I can’t have it both ways.
Either I walk individual things to their homes immediately (which is irritating) or I run a 99.9% risk of re-sorting previously sorted piles (which is maddening).
My choice is between irritating and maddening.
Irritating is the lesser of the two evils. Really. Because even though the first evil isn’t fun, it accomplishes something. I see real progress every time I walk to put something away (along with anything else that obviously needs to go to the same place). There’s less in the space I’m decluttering every time I take one of those walks.
Irritating things that produce progress end up being less irritating the more often I do them and the more often I experience success.
Maddening is the greater of the two evils. Really.
Formerly well-thought-out piles teetering and toppling and un-piling themselves is maddening because I have to redo my work. Which is the opposite of progress. And honestly, redoing it the same way means there’s a 99.9% chance that the same thing (me getting distracted and having to re-re-sort) will happen again.
That might just send me over the edge.
My point is that decluttering may never be fun or easy for people like me, but there are ways to make progress. And progress feels good.
If “taking things where they go immediately” makes no sense to you, read How to Declutter Without Making a Bigger Mess.