I signed up for Cairene’s fantastic Bite The Candy class (it’s today but you can do it next month) because I was tired of being intimidated by the Gigantic Scary Pile of Doom that was taking over my office/life.

But then in a fit of something or other I grabbed Selma and we disappeared it.

Which is good. Because now I can use the class to work on the scary bits hiding out inside the pile instead of on the pile itself.

So. A collection of things I noticed while pile-storming.

Some might be true about piles in general, but they’re definitely true for this Gigantic Scary Pile in particular.

Some of these are new to me. And some are things I thought I’d already learned.

All of them are going straight into the Book of You. Well, in this case, the Book of Me.

If something is useful for you, take it. If not, ignore it. Assume the “people vary” rule.

Here’s what I’ve got:

My pile is like my monsters.

Just like with the monsters, I think the pile is out to get me when it’s not.

I assume malicious intent and vindictiveness (gah, just look at the way it eyes me when I’m trying to work).

I build walls of guilt around it. I barricade myself out of my space.

Until it isn’t just collected bits of information and ideas. It’s a Gigantic Scary Pile of Epic Proportions of Doom.

All that monster guilt is trying (though not very effectively) to motivate me. To get me to interact with the pile. And then it’s all confused when it doesn’t work.

At least half of any given pile goes straight to the recycling bin.

This has been true of every single pile I’ve dealt with in the past three years.

A useful experiment (at least theoretically)? To go through Giant Scary Pile with no intention other than shrinking it in half. That could have made the last few weeks a lot more bearable.

Anything that feels familiar is a clue.

The thing that kept coming up with this particular doom pile was my god I keep a lot of crap I don’t need.

And I know I’ve said that before.

My pile is old.

It may only have formed over the last few months, but it is old. In some ways, it has nothing to do with now.

My pile is (at least partially) inherited.

I come from a long line of pilers and compilers.

The first time my gentleman friend visited the house I grew up in, he said ohhhhhhhhhhh. And I said what’s THAT supposed to mean?!

It was the piles. He recognized the piles.

Part of my own stuck is that I don’t want to have this in common with anyone. I resist the pile because there is too much symbolism there. Too much heaviness.

Not enough sovereignty. Yet.

Having a costume really helps.

If you don’t have a pile-jumping costume, you should get one.

I just use the same sparkly rhinestone arm-warmers that I use for filing treasure-mapping.

And the tiara to remind me that I am the pirate queen.

That way you can take the costume off. It gives you a stopping point.

Changing your words helps even more.

When I stopped saying the word “filing”, my life got about seven thousand times better.

God bless Metaphor Mouse for helping me with that.

The main thing that gives a pile its power is the iguanas.

An iguana is any [stupid, crappy, annoying] thing you don’t feel like doing.

Usually I think of the pile itself as the iguana. But that’s not what’s actually going on.

The thing is, there are generally three or four things in the pile that I really, really do not want to deal with.

And so the entire pile gets neglected because I’m walling off the painful stuff with resistance.

So the most important thing for me is to isolate the iguanas. Get the painful bits out of the pile.

Those iguanas need a place to go.

Like their own folder. In this case, I’m taking them to Cairene to help me with.

I can also take them to Drunk Pirate Council or work on them with an iguanability buddy or get a Twitter friend to check in with me.

The point is, it’s not helpful to let the iguanas live in the general pile because then I won’t go near the pile.

No pile can resist the lure of colored index cards!

The way I de-pile piles is this:

As something comes up, I give it a category.

Like: iguanas, stuff to file treasure-map, product ideas, things for a wish list.

Each category gets a card.

That way, if the de-piling gets derailed by a pirate ship emergency or an anxiety attack or whatever, I know what the parts and components are.

I also use sticky notes on papers to briefly state what the next step is, because half the nightmare of the pile is trying to read my pages of mad scribblings.

Big chunks = requests for system tweaks.

Anything composing more than 10% of a Gigantic Scary Pile means a system isn’t working.

Example. If a quarter of my pile is client session notes that haven’t been filed treasure-mapped, dammit … , something isn’t working. What is it?

One: taking session notes on loose paper instead of in the designated notebook, which means putting stuff in the binder which is one more step that I never feel like doing.

Two: These end up in the pile because they have blog post ideas in them that I’m afraid of forgetting.

go through the client notebook with a yellow highlighter before Drunk Pirate Council, and make a list of the post ideas. No more piling.

It helps to have a duck.

And helper mice.

Knowing that Selma is beaming at me adoringly while I do something hard and uncomfortable makes the whole thing less annoying.

It’s astonishing how much it helps to have people cheer me on when I’m in the hard. So I go to my Deguiltified Chicken Board so people will say yay.

There are treasures.

I found all sorts of great and surprising things in that pile.

Including that book I’d been looking for.

So if I can think more about treasure-hunting and less about being ambushed by iguanas, this is good.

Piles are a sign of creativity. A monument to what I believe is possible.

This is something I learned from Jen Hofmann.

Huge resistance to this concept. But I think she’s right.

There is some part of me who truly believes I can accomplish all the things represented in that pile. A part of me who is excited about the things in the pile.

A pile doesn’t say anything bad at me.

It says human. It says wishful. It says hopeful.

I still don’t have to like it though.

And I don’t. Most of the time.

The important piece is more about interacting with the part of me that fears and distrusts the pile so I can learn more about meeting myself where I am with kindness. And rhinestone arm-warmers.

So. That’s some of what I got from the Great Depiling of April 2010.

And now I’m off to learn more about my iguanas. And about my relationship with them.

Maybe there will be some unexpected treasures in there too.

And comment zen for today…

We’re all working on our stuff.

And we respect each other’s stuff-working-on process by acknowledging the hard and not giving advice.

That said, if there are things that work for you that you think the hive mind might appreciate, share away.

We remember that people vary and that what works for one of us might not work for everyone. Use what helps. Ignore what doesn’t. Trying things is good!

The Fluent Self