I decided on some new commitments and directions for my work and personal life a few months ago. Now, I am allowing the new commitments to reorder my behaviors and actions to support them. I thought that once I made the decisions, everything would fall easily into place, but it turns out that I have forgotten some things I knew and have picked up some things that don’t fit anymore. Although these “things” are patterns of thought and behavior, the objects I’ve collected over the years represent the accretion.

Now, I’m reasonably sure that my survival isn’t threatened on a daily basis. I no longer feel compelled to try to be everything that someone in authority asks me to be. My ability to thrive will be enhanced by clearing space for the priorities and activities that are important to me now. I need only the objects that I choose to have around me.

I have acquired the tools of the trade for a number of sub-disciplines within the area I teach. I keep students’ work for years after they finish my class. I keep things in my office that were there when I moved in but that I don’t need to do my job or that get in the way of doing my job! I’ve bought things that I didn’t really need. I’ve bought things I thought I really did need and changed my mind. I hold on to things that belonged to other people because I believe they should be remembered. (I still do believe this, but I no longer believe that remembering requires me to keep every object or piece of paper I received from them!) All of the unnecessary stuff is going OUT (the first to go, back in August, was the enormous teacher desk that was in the office at work). The stuff I need, use and just plain want to have is going to be free to occupy the space!

This is going to take at least as much effort as deciding what is important to me now was in the first place.

I’m employing the Four-Day-Win philosophy to free my spaces from the artifacts of my journey to survive. I started with the goal of 15 minutes of de-cluttering activity for the next four days and rolled that back to 10 minutes a day. I’m great with this part of the program, establishing a goal that is ridiculously easy to achieve.

I’ve de-cluttered for 10 minutes (or a little more because it felt good) for three days in a row. The pictures in this post represent the results of this effort. A view of the floor in my office at work, a spot on the floor without a pile of paper and a table free of papers, boxes and randomly placed artwork.

I have some difficulty with the second element of the Four-Day Win — establishing rewards for achieving each day’s goal and a slightly more substantial reward for completing the entire Four-Day goal. I’ve identified four things that are getting in the way of planning rewards.

  • First, I inhabit a number of emotional ecosystems that don’t support the notion that any of us deserve rewards.
  • The rewards that spring easily to my mind all involve food.
  • Other “rewards” are things I think I “should” do. In other words, a reward of 10 minutes of walking outside to reward me for 10 minutes of de-cluttering amounts to a second goal to meet because I do not regularly walk but think I should.
  • Finally, although I often feel guilty for it, I pretty much do whatever I want. If I want to eat a piece of cake, carve, draw or hang with the Garden Kitties, I do. How do I build a sense of reward into these activities when I would do them anyway, I ask myself.

My daily reward is hanging a little extra time with the Garden Kitties. I haven’t established the more substantial reward for the fourth day yet, however. I need a little reward for myself for tomorrow because I know I can include 10 minutes of de-cluttering into another day. Some of you might say that the improved atmosphere in the spaces I inhabit is reward enough, but I don’t think that’s what Martha Beck had in mind when she suggested we reward ourselves for achieving our small goals. I’m brain-storming for rewards that aren’t food and don’t amount to adding a second layer of goal to my Four-Day Wins.

Any suggestions for how to reward myself for decluttering on four days straight? (I’ll let you know what I finally settle on.)