My mother once told me (once that I remember) to stop saying always and never.
Evidently, I said those words often. And incorrectly.
I’m sure she made this suggestion after I told an overly dramatic story that didn’t actually meet the qualifications of always and never.
Since very few things meet those qualifications.
I’m 44 now, and was probably 14 at the time, but I still struggle to not overuse these two words.
But I’ve decided to view this struggle as a good thing.
When I catch myself being overly dramatic and incorrect about always and never situations, I gain a little understanding. A little perspective on the alwayslessness or neverlessness of the thing that’s driving me crazy.
I spoke at my church’s group for young moms recently. One of my best friends from the days when I was a young mom is now our church’s preschool minister, so she was there for the meeting, too.
I referred to her a lot while I talked about decluttering.
She is the friend I’m talking about when I say that I always knew it was possible to have an always clean house because hers was always clean.
(Notice three uses of the “a” word in that last sentence . . . )
She’s also the friend I picture when I share the hypothetical story about the person who used containers correctly (as limits) while I used them as places to overstuff things.
She’s the mom with the perfectly cute and always neat craft cabinet.
Except her kids were always making crafts consistently.
Which means there were times when crayons and scissors and glue weren’t in their designated buckets.
So even though every time I saw her craft cabinet, things were neatly in their proper places, using the word always doesn’t work.
The main reason my craft closet never looked like hers was that I didn’t understand limits. I didn’t know that each crayon bucket, each scissor basket, and each bead box was a container. A limit on how many of those things I could keep. I especially didn’t understand that the shelf upon which these buckets and baskets sat was itself a container. A limit.
So even when I did put things away, it never looked right. I simply had too much stuff.
Now I understand “contain”ers and have decluttered like a maniac. I have places for (almost) everything.
But I sometimes still get jealous that my house doesn’t look like hers.
I’m not even talking about décor (which she is a master of, and I struggle to care about at all). I’m talking about how I never see scenes like this in her home:
That’s a pile of shoes by my own back door.
This pile made me think about the always and never concept.
Pre-Deslobification Me would have whined that solutions like shoe shelves never work for our family.
Pre-Deslobification Me would have wondered how solutions like shoe shelves always work for other families.
But in shoe shelf situations, there are no nevers or alwayses. There can’t be. Shoes must leave the shelves to be worn and go back on the shelves when they come off feet.
In craft closet situations, there are no nevers or alwayses. There can’t be. Scissors must leave the craft closet to cut things and go back to the closet when they’re done cutting.
So even in a house where things get put back into their places immediately, always and never don’t happen.
Putting back happens.
It’s the putting back that makes a space look good. The putting back keeps things under control.
But putting back equals transition, and the fact that there is transition time means there’s no always.
So how do I keep my own spaces under control?
I put things back. And then they look good again.
It’s the transition between “out of place” and “back in place” that’s the kicker.
As long as I only have what will fit on the shoe shelf, shoes that aren’t on the shelf are just shoes in transition.
In an ideal world, people in my house would personally put their own shoes on the shelf as soon as they take them off of their feet.
It’s always true that I never live in an ideal world.
I don’t notice when or where shoes leave my own feet. And either by nature or by nurture, the people who live with me have similar issues.
But as long as I have embraced the Container Concept and decluttered to the point where all our (current season) shoes will fit on the shoe shelf, I only have to work on the transitions.
Since I’ve decluttered to the point that I have places for (almost) everything, I’m forever amazed at how much easier it is to get the house picked up. Really picked up. Not shove-it-all-in-a-closet picked up.
And realizing that my brain is very different from the brain of my friend whose home always looks great lets me skip over the self-loathing and just start moving the shoes over to the shelf.
It’s not that her stuff is always in place and mine never is, it’s that her transitions are much shorter. And they happen more often.
And they’re shorter because they happen more often.
If you’re new around here, and references to “contain”ers and shelves-as-limits and such boggle your mind, check out these key strategies below. And/or get my book(s) to learn what I’ve learned, hopefully a lot faster than I learned it.