Ask Liz

  • Sunday, March 9, 2014

What a difference a week makes – from two winter storms back to back, to summer! I love the Lowcountry, even the moody, often changeable weather.

Dear Liz,

My kids are playing outside! My kids are playing outside! Yay! Then I look at my house, and without the kids filling up the spaces – I see all that has been neglected in clutter and cleaning – especially since the almost two weeks of lost school during the ice storms. I work part-time. My children are six and 10. I can help others clean and organize, but when I look at my mess, I just get overwhelmed.

Mixed up Mess


Dear “Mixed up,”

I see nods of understanding out there in reader-land. A few suggestions:

1.“Rome wasn't built in a day,” (nor was it cleaned!) so devise a REALISTIC plan of a set amount of time each day, with specific goals and deadlines. Give your children a set of goals that they each can accomplish during designated work times – give them the tools and play upbeat music to keep energy up. Plan less than you think you/they can accomplish.

2. During each session start in one area, and stay there – moving from one corner to the doorway.

3. Bring a laundry basket for items that belong in other rooms. Many of us leave the space to put something away and end up starting something in that area. We end up “starting fires” all over the house creating a frustrating mess.

4. Work in each area with boxes labeled: keep, put away, store, donate, fix, trash, and donate (Or whatever categories fit your needs).

5. Before you leave the space, put away the things that belong there. Keep a labeling device to help identify what goes where. You may want to take a before and after picture.

6. You mentioned you are good at doing this for other people. That is very common.

Perhaps you may want to enlist the help of a friend to assist you because that person doesn't have an emotional attachment to the stuff. Most of us are embarrassed about bringing in someone who might judge us. Someone who does that for real is not the friend of choice. Maybe you can do a trade where you do it for one another!

7. Celebrate your victories; get yourself a massage or lunch out.

8. Have systems so that the order lasts over time. This is one of the single most important elements. Each thing used gets put back in its place properly (and make sure you TAKE the time before you move on to anything else to do this every time). Have a “Saturday box” for items left out and ignored after a “last call pickup” for the day. The items need to be earned back with extra chores on Saturday before fun time.

If there is no interest to do so, donate them. If it is an item of common, family use, the “offender” loses access to the item for a pre-determined (reasonable) amount of time.


Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master's degree-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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