Unblogging My Clutter

Whatever you can’t give away, you don’t possess. It possess you.
Ivern Ball

For years I’ve had the problem of having way more stuff than I could handle. I’ve spent endless hours shuffling around junk and not knowing what to do with it. I’m constantly sorting, recyling and giving boxes to the thrift store, yet I never do more than melt the tip of the iceberg. I get paralyzed by the tiniest decisions…like keeping or chucking this trinket or piece of paper, and end up shoving it back in the box and running away to cook dinner.

My friend Reiko remembers me doing the same thing in highschool. “It seemed like every Saturday you were stuck inside cleaning your room again” she told me the other day, when I told her of my renewed mission to declutter my house. I realize now that what I was really doing was “neatening.” In her book “Let Go of Clutter,” organizational expert Harriet Schechter defines this as follows:

Neatening: straightening, tidying, and/or hiding things away to create the illusion of orderliness.

In other words, pretending. Ugh. I hate pretending. Trying to create an illusion of something I’m not. Keeping up appearances. What I really need is real change….to be liberated from the suffocating hold of too much stuff. I need to declutter, and this time not a little bit at a time, but in a radical major way.

Decluttering: discarding, removing, or markedly reducing any accumulation of material objects.

If it’s so obvious and simple, why is it so hard? Schechter believes we are hard-wired for hoarding. It’s an old survival instinct…our inner squirrel packing away nuts for a snowy day. Your waste-not-want-not squirrel might say while you attempt to declutter:

But it could be useful one day…
But it’s not broken…
But it was expensive…
But it was a gift from Aunt So-and-So…
But I don’t want to be wasteful and make more garbage…

The problem is that we live in a time at least in many parts of the world, of abundance rather than scarcity. Hoarding in this context makes no sense. We end up with more that we know what to do with…and as a result spend hours and hours every year shuffling it around, looking for new storage solutions, sorting and resorting.

If I had $10-15 for every hour I’ve spent sorting mismatched kids socks alone, I could likely take a cruise. Schechter suggests you add up all the minutes each day you spend sorting, looking for lost things, and trying to put away stuff that has no place of it’s own. If you value your own time, you’ll realize that clutter is a luxury you can’t afford. An hour a day wasted adds up to about $3500 a year!

What is your clutter preventing you from accomplishing instead? Playing music, taking an art class, trying new recipes, taking a long walk at the beach, taking time to stay connected with friends, getting a promotion? How does a messy house affect your sense of self-worth?

While I know clutter is a waste of time, space and money, and a stressful source of tension, I find it hard to deal with alone. I feel overwhelmed:

I’m really blessed to have some awesome friends who are willing to get up to the elbows in junk and chant, “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” So with their help and you all cheering me on (and sharing your best declutter tips, please!) I hope to at last conquer my clutter by letting it go…unblogging my emotional blocks around “stuff” to create a clear and peaceful home…and heart as well.

13 thoughts on “Unblogging My Clutter

  1. Roberta Cottam

    Awesome, Anna! I have been on the decluttering journey for a few years now. I still get snagged up on (too many) family photos, but that’s okay….it’s a process and not all of it comes easy right away. I eagerly await additional posts on this topic ;oD (and love talking about this subject, because I spent too many years ruled by STUFF!) xo


    1. Oh, good! I’m so glad it’s a helpful topic and I do plan to write more about it as it’s quite the process, and one many people struggle with. And if I’m writing about it I’ll be more motivated to keep plugging away…


    2. rachelglalonde

      Oh, I think I’ll do a post on how to deal with those messy piles of family photos…the more sentimental the objects, the more difficult it is to address. So when beginning to declutter your life, start with the easier items first (like clothes) – otherwise you’ll tire yourself out and give up! Keep up your purging journey, Anna!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Teressa

    Great article! Yes, decluttering is so hard – especially with kids – I always think they will need it or have a melt down when they realize it is gone. Good luck on your new adventure of decluttering!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynn Conrad

    Anna,As I am reading this, I looked around my computer room and thought to myself……. she is so right. I think I must do the same. Thank you for opening my eyes.


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