For now. These two words cause more havoc in our lives than any others in the English language. They alone are responsible for most of the clutter in our homes and offices. We are a nation of mega-consumers. We are constantly bringing new items into our homes and because we are rushed or because we are unwilling to make a decision about where the items will be stored we just put them down on the table counter or floor for now.
We take items from where they belong, use them, and instead of returning them to their homes we just lay them down somewhere convenient for now. Most often in both examples for now becomes forever. Multiply these two examples by the number of average occurrence times the number of family members in the household and you get clutter, chaos and frustration. I called the two examples in this equation the For Now Factors.™
Both of the For Now Factors™ are responsible for creating clutter.
The first factor and the easiest to correct is that items have no home. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”. These are wise words that can simplify our lives if we live by them. Before making a purchase for our homes or offices we should think about where the item will be stored. Sometimes this exercise will prevent unnecessary purchases. When we do bring a new item in, we should immediately assign it to a home. Clutter is a direct result of postponing this decision.
The second factor and the most difficult to correct is: forgetting to finish.™ Every task or project no matter how large or small has a preparatory stage and a finishing stage. Most of us in our excitement to move on to the next project forget to finish the first one. Let’s use for example something as simple as fixing a bowl of breakfast cereal. The preparatory stage includes gathering a bowl, a spoon, a box of cereal and a jug of milk. After the bowl of cereal is prepared, and before we eat it, we must do the cleanup or the finish. We put the cereal away, the milk away, and wipe up any spills from our table or floor. It is so tempting to leave the mess and eat the cereal first.
Another example of forgetting to finish could be assembling a bookcase. We remove the parts from the box and read the assembly instructions. We remove the screws from the plastic pouch and get the screwdriver that is required. We assemble the bookcase and move it to its permanent location. The finishing part of this project would be throwing away the box and the plastic wrapping, filing away the instructions and warranty information, and putting the screwdriver back in the toolbox. It is more likely that instead of finishing we will begin a new project, filling the bookcase with books, and leave the mess on the floor for now. Forgetting to finish is a bad habit that causes clutter. Once we become aware of the habit we can correct it.
The kitchen table in the picture is typical of a surface in a home or an office where the for now factors are prevalent. I doubt that the family has gathered for a meal at this table recently. Does it look like your table? Leaving items on the table for now seems like such a harmless and temporary solution. For now is not harmless; it’s destructive. Learn to recognize the for now factors and resist them. Get into the habit of finishing every task and asigning a home to every possession. Take back control of your space and ultimately your life.