Overwhelmed by the Mess? Use my Ten Step Program!

A post in my Facebook feed yesterday rang a bell with me, as  an acquaintance felt overwhelmed by her messy post-holiday house.

I wish I was like my mother. I swear the woman was born organized. German precision, cleanliness, and neatness is who she is. Not me, for me it is a daily effort. And since I clearly am pathetic at getting anyone in the house other than my daughter to help, it’s pretty much just me picking up after five people.

Many years ago I came upon one of the best ideas of my life. I was standing in my extraordinarily messy kitchen. Every sink was full, there wasn’t a speck of clear real estate on the counters. Even the kitchen table was crammed. I forgot what it was we were doing, but I clearly didn’t have time to do anything in the kitchen for several days. Thank goodness it was just the two of us then.

I was ready to cry. How does one clean something that monumental? ‘Just pick up ten things,’ I told myself. Just ten things!  Counting backwards from ten I picked up and put away ten things. And then I repeated that. And before I knew it I had some counter space on which I could place washed items. The kitchen, which before had looked like the ninth circle of hell, suddenly started to look do-able!

Years down the road, my little daughter’s room was a disaster. Clothes,toy cars, barbies, legos, books, and other playthings, lay strewn all over the floor. Boy, was I mad! I sent her up with a stern warning not to come out of the room without it being picked up. When I checked in on her twenty minutes later I saw a heartbreaking sight. My little five year old stood in the middle of the disaster zone with tears streaming down her face. The room was untouched.
“Why haven’t you started putting your things away?”
“I don’t know how!”

Her sobbed answer rang a loud bell with me and took me straight back to my own childhood along with the same sinking, overwhelmed feeling. I had been there. My mother, as I mentioned had been born organized and it never occurred to her that some people weren’t like that and needed to learn how to pick up and clean. I remember standing in my bio-hazard of a Kinderzimmer with the certain knowledge that should I emerge before it was picked up and clean, my weekly allowance of one-and-a-half hours of tv was forfeit. I also remember feeling overwhelmed, resentful, angry and utterly desperate. How on earth was I supposed to know what to do? Do I dust first? Or do I pick up? What do I pick up first? If only I had my idea for TSP then. Ten items. Any ten items. That doesn’t overwhelm. That is so ridiculously easy anyone can do it. Ten, nine, eight, seven,…..Yes, that is something anyone can handle, even a little child.

I sat my little daughter on my knee, dried her tears and told her we would do this together.
“Pick up ten things and put them away,” I said. ”
“Which ten things, Mommy, there are so many,” replied my overwhelmed daughter.
“Any ten things,” was my advice, as she jumped off my lap and began to clear her room.
Once she had done two sets of my Ten Step Program (TSP), the room was clearing up well enough to show her the light at the end of the tunnel and she took it from there.

As long as you can count backwards from ten, this Ten Step Program will help you out.


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