Bookending as a verb? Yes, and this action can ease your organizing journey. It is a well-known tactic used within the support group community of those with hoarding disorder. Traditional bookends keep books in place. In the decluttering community, declutter buddies use phone calls as “bookends” to keep decluttering sessions in place.
Two individuals pick days and times to declutter simultaneously. One individual calls the other at the beginning of the session. They briefly share what decluttering activity they intend to do. They speak again at the end of the session to report back. It is similar to body doubling I described in a previous article, but different in that each individual works alone during the allotted time. The beginning and ending calls act as “bookends” to keep the sessions in place.
I have worked with many individuals already employing this tactic when we started working together. They shared that they were more likely to stick to decluttering sessions when they knew someone else was counting on them to show up. Sometimes, getting started and sticking to a decluttering routine can be the most challenging part of the work. Once we gain traction, motivation increases to continue working toward decluttering goals.
The secret is out; body doubling is another valuable tool to add to your organizing toolbox. Decluttering does not have to feel lonely. It is a relief to talk to peers sharing the same challenges and feels uplifting to help others with life challenges like conquering clutter.
Children are often congratulated and rewarded for their efforts. Adults also need reinforcement to continue challenging tasks in their best interest. This includes decluttering and organizing tasks.
Envision a baby learning to walk. He stands up, attempts a step, falls, and tries again. His parents cheer him on, even when he falters. This baby is determined to walk, and his parents lovingly give him positive reinforcement as he learns. Eventually, they are all quite excited when he takes those first steps. The parents do not berate him for falling; they continue to encourage him to stand up again.
At some point in our lives, we stop getting excited about our steps in the right direction and instead start focusing on the falls along the way. This focus happens for many logical reasons but is counterproductive. Try a different tactic and congratulate yourself on each decluttering step. If this feels too difficult, start with rewards instead.
Various authors have written about the importance of rewards in establishing habits or reaching goals. The beginning and middle of a decluttering project can feel like a big slog if we hold off on rewards until we reach the final goal. Why not increase motivation throughout the project by giving yourself rewards throughout the process? It will likely result in a dopamine hit that creates a cycle of craving to experience that reward again.
When picking rewards for your efforts, ensure that they:
Here are some non-food rewards to get you started:
What activity do you generally avoid because it feels too decadent? That could be a great reward to put in rotation.
Do you have any unusual or wonderfully successful rewards? Add them to the Comments section below so other readers can also give them a whirl.
I am often asked, “Is this the worst you’ve seen?” when I first work with a new client. This question speaks to the stigma and shame that often accompany clutter. It also speaks to our proclivity for comparisons. What if there was a better way to get a read on the state of clutter in your home?
Fortunately, there is. I am a member of The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, which provides copious amounts of education to professional organizers working with those with individuals who struggle with chronic disorganization. CD is not a diagnosable condition. It is a way to describe individuals who have struggled with disorganization for quite some time, for whom clutter is negatively impacting their lives, and for whom self-help efforts have not worked. This challenge can result from various challenges, such as hoarding disorder, ADHD, depression, and TBIs (traumatic brain disorder).
One of ICD's free resources is The ICD® Clutter–Hoarding Scale®. This scale is not a diagnostic tool, but rather a way for organizers and their clients to identify how clutter is impacting their home in five arenas:
Each category contains a scale from 1 to 5 in terms of severity:
I typically share this scale before meeting with a new client. Rather than worrying whether their home is the “worst you have ever seen,” they can see where their baseline clutter falls on the scale. It provides clarity and helps prioritize goals.
Here is a fictitious example. Carl lives in San Francisco. Lately, he has been focused on a large project at work and increasing demands of his volunteer board work at a local community center. His home has gotten too cluttered for comfort, so he calls Certified Professional Organizer®, Judith Dold. They talk about his decluttering goals, the current situation, and what roadblocks have prevented him from reaching his goals.
He wants to start in the kitchen counters to reduce how many evenings he orders take-out. There are other areas to work on, but this is his first priority.
After setting up the first appointment, Carl peruses ICD's scale that Judith emailed. He determines that the majority of his home falls within Level I. As he reads the Structure and Zoning section, he realizes that the home falls into Level II because he has inadvertently blocked his back door with clutter. He instantly recalls that day in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. The floor of his home moved enough that his front door became inoperable. So, with the power knocked out, he had to quickly feel his way to the back door to get outside.
He immediately decides that the first order of business with Judith will be to address the clutter in the back entry area. That project would have stayed on the backburner if he had not seen the rating scale, so he was thankful to have read the scale. In short order, Carl and Judith clear the back entry and move on to kitchen organization.
I base this story on a compilation of those people have told me about having experienced that day in 1989. Thankfully large earthquakes are not an everyday occurrence, but it is nevertheless helpful to be cognizant of how clutter could impact us or emergency personnel in an emergency.
The scale can also pinpoint when additional help, such as a therapist knowledgeable about clutter challenges, a team of organizers or haulers, may be needed.
It also reminds us of sections of the home that may have escaped notice but we would like to address. Click here If you are curious or want more insight into clutter and its impact on the home.
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.