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.

Happy Flowers and Cleaning Robots

One morning as I was busy cleaning the exploding house, my sweet 5 year old brought me a bouquet of homeade flowers. She said," Let's do nice things so we can have a happy day." I'm so lucky to have her!
One morning as I was busy cleaning the exploding house after a very busy weekend, my sweet 5 year old brought me a bouquet of homeade flowers. She said,” Let’s do nice things so we can have a happy day.” I’m so lucky to have her!


Aaah, housekeeping…you know when you’ve just mopped the floor, and then someone spills soup or juice all over it…or when you spent 10 minutes scrubbing the highchair and letting it dry in the sun, and after the next meal no one can tell? Well, ‘bean’ there, done that!


Housekeeping can be overwhelming sometimes, but not as much when you don’t do it all alone. The other day the kids were into helping, so we all put on our aprons and got to business. It’s funny how if you say, “Let’s play house!” a chore becomes a game.


Even the baby tried to help:


My little homeschooler had a great idea as she helped with the dishes: “I’m going to be a cleaning robot who listens to all the mommies in the world and helps them.” Sounds good to me!


Although they really like being involved with whatever I’m doing, they’re not always this cooperative, and the smaller ones usually enjoy dumping out the toy bins more than refilling them…but I’ll take every good day as a gift!

For a good post on kids and chores, check out my friend Monique Leblanc’s “The Last Time Change: Family, faith and moving to the prairie.”