Have you ever done the Limbo? Do you remember an announcer asking, “How low can you go?” as someone moved the pole closer to the ground each successive round? I have long forgotten when I did the Limbo, but I still remember that man’s voice repeating the phrase. I was out of the game relatively quickly.
If you have ever seen or done the Limbo, you remember that the host always started with the pole at the highest position. Beginning with the lowest setting would have undoubtedly resulted in awkward silence. So, to recruit any willing participants, the announcer had to start with the Limbo stick at the highest position.
As it is with the Limbo, so should it be with decluttering. Many individuals tell me that they started from the opposite direction before our collaboration began. That lowest pole setting might take the appearance of organizing an entire garage in one day. It could be attempting to review a lifetime of objects a few weeks before a large downsize. It may be trying to decrease possessions by 50% in one go, even though the last considerable reduction was excruciating and, thus, done years ago.
You can set that pole high rather than starting with the Limbo pole at the lowest setting! Otherwise, your goal will look as appealing as a Limbo stick that rests an impossible 6 inches from the floor. That is not exactly enticing. You will likely sit the game out entirely because it is too difficult.
So, what would a high and low Limbo pole look like? Let us look at how this could play out with a typical garage decluttering project.
Starting with a painfully low Limbo stick:
“I’m going to clean out the garage this weekend, once and for all!” That might be ok if you have practiced higher Limbo settings with more manageable decluttering projects. But if you have not decluttered in months, years, or even decades, your Limbo muscles are probably too weak to make it under that pole. When the weekend rolls around, you will likely take one look and walk away defeatedly.
Starting with a seemingly ridiculously high Limbo stick:
“I really want to clean out that garage because I’d love access to my holiday decorations again. I had so much fun decorating, and I miss it. But I haven’t decluttered in a while. Given how many items are in there, there’s no way I can declutter that entire garage this weekend. Plus, at least a few categories will be hard to cull. So let me list how I could start so small that it almost feels ridiculously easy.” Your list might look something like this:
Do some of these steps sound ridiculously simple? If so, good! So many individuals I work with are dubious when I suggest they start their solo decluttering sessions this way. “How can I possibly get anything done with such a short session?” Of course they have a valid point, but my counterpoint is that many people mention previous unsuccessful marathon decluttering sessions. If they got anything productive accomplished during that marathon, they were left so frustrated and exhausted that they never wanted to declutter again. Who can blame them? I generally avoid full-day sessions when I work on-site unless there is a hard deadline. Even then, we ensure they take more breaks than they might be used to.
As you start, the goal is not to clear all the clutter. That would be the same as attending a party and expecting to Limbo at the lowest setting, even though you last did the Limbo decades ago. The initial goal is to anesthetize yourself to decluttering. You need to acclimate to the organizing process with a Limbo pole set so high that you can practically waltz under it, but it is slightly uncomfortable.
Keep repeating that level until it feels much too easy, almost as easy as sitting the game out entirely. Then you can increase the length of your decluttering sessions, but only by a few minutes, which will be almost imperceptible to your internal clock. Keep repeating this process.
You might argue that it will take forever to declutter in this fashion. It will be slower than spending twenty-four hours in one-weekend decluttering, but I would bet that rarely comes to fruition anyway. If it does, I will go out on a limb and say that the weekend left you feeling exhausted, frustrated by the lack of progress, and defeated. Why not try a new method that is not agonizing? There is very little risk in experimenting with this method. Clients who try this method report more success than trying longer sessions, especially when they are starting out.
With enough practice, you could start to enjoy decluttering! I have witnessed this fun phenomenon with multiple clients. With their steady, realistic sessions, they resemble individuals who appear to effortlessly bend below the lowest Limbo pole that is mere inches from the floor!
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.