Clutter

ClutClutterter. It was everywhere I looked. I spent a day (a whole day!) fighting it off, but it rolled right back in like a peeping-Tom wave to a nude beach.

This phenomenon is known in family circles as the “clutter factor (CF).” Here’s the formula:

CF = 

(Number of people in the living unit) to a factor of pack-rat lineage 


(The volume of the clutter container)

Screw the math: If you buy too much stuff, never get rid of it, work and/or go to school, and have a lot of busy people under one roof, your Clutter Factor is high. My husband said I obsessed over it, but then, I saw it, he didn’t. (Neither did the boys.)

When the kids were home, my husband and kids focused on their work, their studies, their music, and their hobbies. I worked, too, but I railed at the insufferable encroachment of detritus as the work/school week wore on. On Monday, it seeped in the back door; by Tuesday, it washed through the living area; Wednesday found it sloshing into the bathrooms; and on Thursday, it surged into the bedrooms. By Friday, we were neck deep in it, barely able to crane our necks above it to carry on a conversation. Newspapers, laundry, homework, music, bills, projects, books, invitations, purchases, and pets whirled and spun through the churning sea of our busy lives. Weekends sighed in hopes of stemming the tide. Sometimes they succeeded. Sometimes they didn’t.

The Clutter Factor had (and still has) a companion that lurks shamefully in my very own personality. This sin sister is what I call the “Project Factor.” I own this one. I have three to five projects besides work on the front burners at all times – volunteer stuff, hobbies, things to write, things to read, and more. Because all of these contain anxious due dates, their associated files and piles dot the house like seagulls at a picnic. I am a contributor to the clutter! There, I said it.

To overcome the reprehensible clutter side of myself, I invoked my alter ego, “Buffy the Clutter Slayer”— who is still alive and well. Buffy wields trash sacks and Goodwill bags, and tears as if possessed through the house. Her ruling mantra: “If I Cat_Clutterhaven’t seen it move in the last five minutes, it’s clutter and it’s history.”   We lost a cat one year. She was too slow.

One summer, Buffy and I cleaned out the garage in a flurry of self-righteous de-cluttering. My family didn’t speak to either of us for three weeks after that: Buffy threw out their valuable stuff that they hadn’t used since we had moved in. Buffy wanted to move. I said we had to stay. Good lord, we’d have to corral the stuff and box it. I didn’t have the energy!

Here’s the deal: Our clutter defined us, and tried to control us, but with Buffy around, it shouldn’t defeat us. Some days, I actually reveled in our clutter: it told me we were busy and doing. I didn’t trust people whose houses were too clean: they weren’t supporting the American economy, I’d argue.

The very next day as I looked across the burgeoning heaps, I grabbed myself by the collar, pulled myself just an inch or so off the ground and said, “Civilized people don’t live this way.” I strained toward civility as Buffy cleaned out a drawer. I wondered if I would ever live a Spartan, monkish existence, wearing a robe with no underwear, and murmuring all day. I wondered if that would make me happy. Probably not. I wondered if it would be okay to have at least one clean room. One? Okay, I’ll take a closet. No? Then, give me a drawer. I’ll take anything.

It’s a lot of stuff!

Those days are gone. Well almost. The kids are grown and out of the house, but their clutter remains. And while it’s contained in the attic and the garage, mostly boxed with labels, waiting to move on to the next phase it’s still here! I don’t miss the clutter in the house, that’s for sure. But when we’re feeling like we need a fond reminder of what it was like to have noise and craziness filling our space, Buffy and I go up to the attic and look at what remains. It’s a lot of stuff. We sigh. And then we shake our heads, with thoughts of the cat we lost. After we clean up a little, we check to make sure our new dog is still around, we give each other a high five and walk through the house, mostly clear of clutter.

Oh… but don’t look in the guest room closet, please.

 

Saving Money

Saving Money with Freelance WritersSaving money by spending is my idea of a good time. As in, “Look how much money we saved when I bought that [fill-in-the-blank] on sale.”

Although buying something on sale to justify spending isn’t a good practice, it is the correct attitude if you really needed the item. Same thing goes for businesses. Really. Sometimes you spend money to save it. Like when you buy a machine to do work for you so that you don’t have to do the work yourself. Businesses often buy machinery to save time.  They hire a part time employee or an independent contractor so they don’t have to do the work themselves, but they don’t have to pay for benefits and keep a person busy even if there’s no work to do.  The company sees the benefits of spending money to save money.

Really SAVING MONEY is even harder.  That’s when people and companies simply do not spend it. They put it away in a bank, stuff it in the proverbial mattress. Squirrel it away in a jar or a … hmm…piggy bank or equivalent. It’s delayed gratification that is very hard to do, but the reward can be humongous. As Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.” It’s more than that. It’s really good when the company loses a big customer, or if a person can’t work for a while. If that money is available, it can help avoid a bankruptcy. Or survive an emergency. The money is there, and the credit cards are not challenged to see how much they can pick up, like a heavyweight champion with buckled knees and bulging, vein-popping biceps.

Keeping the goal for the business or for a family always visible is very important. If we are conscious, we’ll hesitate before buying something we don’t need. Taking the money out of everyone’s clutches by having it withdrawn from the checking account automatically is wise for both businesses and individuals. The less liquid it is, the better. Simple savings accounts can even be tempting. Parking the money in a fund of some sort…with penalties if withdrawn, is safer. There should be a very good reason for transferring it back to spend it…an emergency. A REAL EMERGENCY.

People make budgets so they are conscious about what they spend. Businesses make budgets. Disciplined people and profitable businesses stick to them. Spend, yes. But spend wisely. Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” He was a wise guy.

Saving money can be achieved, by the way, by hiring a professional freelance writer. We freelancers save businesses money every day by providing excellent written copy, but not adding benefit loads or overtime costs to the payroll.

Contact us today.

Image by Katie Phillips.

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

Everyone from marketers to writers to web designers needs Fresh Eyes. Find out why and how.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I don’t like to edit. Well, I like to edit other people’s stuff, but not my own. I like what I write. Or I wouldn’t be a writer. That said, everyone needs someone to edit their work.

 

EVERYONE. (Including moi).

Fresh Eyes are other people’s eyes. Or they’re your own eyes after a good night’s sleep.

Fresh Eyes are your eyes after 24 hours away from the project. Maybe 8 hours. Or 2. For longer works, Fresh Eyes, if they’re your own, require time and a blink-worthy dusting (think powdered sugar here) of amnesia.

Stephen King says Fresh Eyes are needed between book drafts. In his writing craft memoir On Writing he says, “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks.”

Fresh Eyes could be called “vu-jà dé” … (I stole this from Adam Grant’s TED Talk at minute:second 10:57 into the talk. Thanks Adam! J). It’s like the opposite of déjà vu, where instead of already having seen it before, you’re seeing it for the first time.

Fresh Eyes bring someone else’s perspective into your life, onto the project.

Fresh Eyes sing new tunes and bring new rhythms.

Fresh Eyes understand there are more ways to approach the problem, write the story, paint the picture, take the photo.

Fresh Eyes are untainted by prejudice. Fresh Eyes are unclogged by confirmation bias.

Fresh Eyes are often “focused” by listening ears and open hearts and reading out loud.

Fresh Eyes are gifted by a willingness to admit you’re wrong. A possibility that you made a mistake. The welcoming of another opinion, instead of an anxiety about being criticized.

Fresh Eyes are not fearful, nor are Fresh Eyes to be feared. They are your friends.

For your writing project, your film, your new product, your idea, your company, or your invention or daring marketing scheme, take a moment and a deep breath. Take two steps back, or take a walk around the block. A trip around the world. A night away. Take in a movie or a play. Read a book.

Then return with Fresh Eyes. And when “Did I really say that?” escapes your lips, you can thank us. Or thank Stephen King. He’ll be glad he could help. I’m sure.

Artwork by Katie Phillips