The Truth About Clutter

shelvesMy biggest problem with tackling clutter is that feeling of being so overwhelmed. I read posts all the time about taking it in baby steps; cleaning one small area at a time, or cleaning for an hour at a time or even fifteen minutes at a time. At first I feel encouraged by that advice and I’m ready to go! But when the reality of the amount of stuff I really have to deal with hits me, I find myself thinking “how is fifteen minutes going to make a difference. With three kids and a houseful of pets, won’t it get messed up again just as fast?

I realized this morning that we’re talking about two different kinds of clutter. There’s the everyday clutter that honestly does take fifteen minutes to clean up AND fifteen minutes to mess right back up again with a houseful like I have. But this is the kind of clutter-clearing that has become habit, part of my daily to-do list. Like brushing my teeth.

The other kind of clutter is the stuff that’s collected in the bathroom cabinet or on the laundry room shelf. It has taken MONTHS to get to that point. Fifteen minutes really will make a difference! And since it doesn’t seem to have the same overpowering magnetic force that the sofa or the kitchen table has, it would take months for it to get that way again (and of course I’m not going to let it!).

When you look at it that way, you really could clean year’s worth of clutter in your home in only a few months time – not bad!

11 thoughts on “The Truth About Clutter

  • January 29 2008 at 2:17 pm
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    You nailed it.

    I'm a pack rat a life time in the making, and at 47 years old, that's a LOT of packratedness.

    You would never have known it to look at my home, but open a single cabinet or closet, well, lets just say you'd better stand back because an avalanche was about to envelope you.

    I used the Flylady method – 15 minutes at a time. A year later I'll open any cabinet, closet, or even my basement, barn and workshop to the public at a moments notice.

    I can now lay my hands on anything in moments, there's no more hunting, digging or rushing around in the mornings. Cleaning takes minutes, not hours..and I can't even begin to describe the peace it's given me. I've been an insomniac for as long as I can remember – not anymore!! I can actually shut down my mind at night.

    The only thing is, decluttering and organizing is addictive. My husband says "For 18 years she hasn't thrown away anything, now I'm afraid I'll wake up and find my butt in the dumpster"

    Husbands, children and small animals – beware.

    Good luck!

  • January 29 2008 at 2:39 pm
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    Tink, that's awesome! And you don’t know how encouraging that is to me. We’ve been in this house for almost nine years now and that’s the longest we’ve ever spent anywhere. De-cluttering used to be something I did when I moved. Without moving every couple of years, I’ve been lost. (I’m having to clean things I’ve NEVER had to clean before – HA!) I think this was a revelation to me today. Every time I get overwhelmed with the daunting clutter in my life, I just need to stop, breathe, and remember this lesson.
    Thanks for commenting! :)

  • January 30 2008 at 7:20 pm
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    That 15 minute thing does work–I just need to practice it more often/more consistently. But on a different note, where did you get that gorgeous orange purse on the shelf?
    I love, love, love it!

  • January 30 2008 at 8:40 am
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    Thanks Nikki – unfortunately, I found that image online. I wish my shelves looked that nice! ;)

  • January 30 2008 at 11:05 am
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    I agree with everything you've already said but I thought I'd comment anyway.
    Decluttering truly is addictive. Once you have one closet that makes you giddy with joy, you want them ALL to look that way.
    I'll never forget what happened to me a few months ago. It was a "lazy" Sunday morning. I woke up, sat straight upright in bed, smiling, and the *FIRST* thing on my mind, was "oh my God…I could clean out the desk drawer in the sewing room!!!"
    I hadn't even planned on cleaning, but it was almost like my BRAIN had other ideas and was planning this event all night long!
    Before I had breakfast, or even coffee, I had a clean drawer. And it was fun! I found lightbulbs (hey those go in the hall closet, in the "lightbulb and candle box"…don't ask it works for me :-)
    I found buttons, which I added to my newly appointed button jar. I found a screwdriver, which of course goes in the toolbox. (I used to scatter tools everywhere. EVERYWHERE.)
    I found a dog collar. That goes in my "dog drawer" which is an AWESOME idea because if it's used/needed/eaten by a dog, it goes in one spot. (Except for the doggie shampoo, that's in the bathroom).
    Ok sorry for such a long comment, but the point is; it gets EASIER as you go, and more fun, and truly becomes automatic. Go for it!

  • January 30 2008 at 11:20 am
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    That's awesome, Minnie! Truly encouraging – thanks.

    The tools have got to be one of my greatest challenges. (And the scissors. And the tape.) My husband and youngest son are always getting them out and not putting them back. Any tips on that? A locking cabinet and a checkout list with a tool deposit? (you think I’m kidding, don't you?) :D

  • January 30 2008 at 3:37 pm
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    hmmm. I have two options. Which one you choose; depends on the depth of the problem and how much you love your husband and youngest son… ;-)
    First, you could secretly have "your own" scissors and tape, in a super top-secret undisclosed location. They will undoubtedly misplace "their own" scissors and tape, at which point, you shrug and say "well maybe you'll learn to put things back where they belong; now go FIND THEM". Repeat 10 million times, men and small children are difficult to train…the only downside to that plan is; you can be very sneaky when putting them away. Or they'll be lost in no time, too.
    Second, you could attach the scissors and the tape TO THE DRAWER with a long string. I am not kidding, my mom did this to our family. I always thought it was odd that other kids didn't have to bring their craft projects to the drawer, to cut something…

  • January 30 2008 at 3:52 pm
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    I LOVE the string idea!! LOL!

    Some things about motherhood are just universal, I guess.

    :)

  • January 31 2008 at 7:31 pm
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    Minnie, I sat here and giggled when I read your comment, you just described ME! LOL

    Isn't it the best when things actually have their own place to live? I love it that I can now tell somewhere else where things are so they can go get them, instead of me having to dig for it because "I just saw that, I know it's here somewhere!"

    What's weird is, when you've already done the whole house and you only have upkeep, you actually MISS decluttering.

    I never ever thought I'd see the day.

    Eva, hang in there. You CAN do this!

    We've been in this house 8 1/2 years – we too used to move every couple of years too. I know exactly what you mean.

    The more you do, the more you'll want to do, but try the 15 minutes at a time thing – it worked for me because I used to throw myself into it whole hog and then burn myself out and get frustrated when things got cluttered all over again.

    That little bit every day adds up in a week/month/year and it's AWESOME.

    You start with that bathroom cabinet, and if you get frustrated, go back and look at how great that shelf in that cabinet still looks two weeks later, it will really give you a boost.

    You can do it!

  • January 31 2008 at 7:33 pm
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    Hey – I have a lightbulbs and candles box also!

  • January 31 2008 at 8:38 am
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    Thanks so much, Tink (and all of you) for the encouragement! I think the best part for me is that my dear husband is finally in the same it's-time-let's-do-it frame of mind as I am. There's nothing like having encouragement AND accountability (and help!!)!

    Hugs to all of you!
    :)

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