Kicking Clutter to the Curb

January 4, 2010

There is such a thing as The Clutter Monster.  He is real, and he used to live in my house.

The Clutter Monster broke into my house sometime last year, and made himself right at home. At first I didn’t mind.  He’d leave a pair of socks here, or a few papers there – nothing to get too worked up about.  I was so distracted with my projects and this blog and my job and helping my kids with their schoolwork that I didn’t realize how this new roommate, The Clutter Monster, had really impacted my life.

Every night as I lie sleeping, he began to wreak havoc on my home, leaving his piles of unorganized stuff everywhere.  The clothing, the papers, the toys steadily amassed all over the house.  There was that moment when my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I replied “To kick out the Clutter Monster.”

I finally realized over the holiday break that any time I was feeling a sense of anxiety in my life, it was because I was overwhelmed with all of the “stuff” in my home that I was forced to take care of.  There were many days I would literally throw my hands up in frustration.pb with text

Then I had an epiphany.

I thought to myself, what if those piles didn’t exist?  What if “poof”  they magically disappeared?

Was there anything in those piles that was so necessary I’d miss it if it was gone?  Would I really care ?  Were those things really all that important ?

The obvious answer was “No”.

I realized how relaxed I am when there is order, and how much anxiety I feel when there are excessive piles of laundry, paperwork, or toys lying around.   Clothes I didn’t wear, papers I didn’t need, and toys that were broken or never played with.  I decided that the feeling of serenity from having all that “stuff” disappear was far more desirable than the “stuff” itself.

So I decided to kick the Clutter Monster to the curb once and for all.  I decided I wouldn’t start any more projects until every last room was returned to order.  I’ve been dedicated to this task for over a week, and along the way l’ve learned a few things.

In Your Quest to Kick Clutter to the Curb, you must :

1) Get in the Right Frame of Mind.  Don’t start at the end of the day when you’re tired, start to conquer clutter when you are well rested.  Put on some comfortable clothes and energizing music to prepare.

2) Remove All Distractions:  Turn off the computer and the TV, put your phone in the other room, have someone watch the kids and give yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour of focused time, whatever you think you can handle.

3)  One Zone at a Time: Whether it’s just your desktop, your kitchen cabinets, your kid’s toys, or your linen closet, pick one spot and stick to that spot.  Don’t get overwhelmed thinking about an entire room or even your entire home.

4)  Get your Three Bins Ready. One bin for items to toss, one bin for items to donate or sell, and a third bin of things to organize.  If you’re sorting paperwork, it helps to have a shredder for receipts or paperwork with personal information that doesn’t belong in the trash.  Just getting every item sorted into one of these categories is success since you’ve already decluttered by sorting into the toss/donate/sell/shred bins.  What’s left just needs organized.

5)  Use It or Love It ?  If Not, Get Rid of It. I was amazed how much I was able to part with by just asking myself do I use it ?  If not, do I love it ?  If the answer to either is “Yes”, it stays.  If not, it goes.  I was shocked, literally shocked, how many bags of clothes, toys, and unnecessary items I removed from my house using this simple test.  I kept repeating those words of William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”   Like a mantra.  It worked !

There were several zones that were absolutely out of control.  The kitchen cabinets, the pantry, my personal closet, my kids’ rooms, the linen closet, and all that paperwork.

In the Kitchen:  I discarded any spices that were over 8 months old, and recycled any plastics that didn’t have matching lids.  I created one basket to hold plastic bases and one basket to hold plastic lids.  I recycled all the mismatched plates and silverware; and donated any appliance I never used.  Sayonara useless gadgets !  I repurposed the ratty kitchen towels as cleaning rags, and I plan to reward myself with some fresh kitchen towels and new spices.

clutter monster Kids’ Rooms: After Christmas the toys were completely out of control.  I had my husband take the kids on a long adventure, then I tackled their bedrooms and the playroom with them out of the house.

I sorted through all the cheap, broken plastic toys and tossed/recycled them.

Here’s a tip I picked up when I was a new mom:  Remove half the toys in their room, and store them in bins out of sight.  Then rotate these toys every 30 to 60 days to control clutter and keep boredom at bay.

With this technique, they rediscover their toys as if they’re new again.

Clothing:  I asked myself, does it fit now ? (Not will it fit when I lose those last eight pounds.)  Have I worn it in the last year ?  Is it comfortable and stylish?  If the answer was yes, then I kept it.  If it was missing a button, or I didn’t like the color, or it just didn’t make me feel good, then out it went.  Eight kitchen garbage bags of clothing, shoes and handbags left my closet.  Then I also stored away summer items in baskets for when warmer weather returns.

In one day, I changed my embarrassingly cluttered closet (below) into a spacious organized space with empty shelves !  Wooo hoo, now I can shop !  Er, um, I mean, now I can breathe !

master closet

Bathroom: I sorted through medicines and discarded anything expired.  I decided to store skin care products and first aid kits on one shelf/basket, and flu/pain medicines on another shelf so the products are easy to find based on ailment.  I store medicines on a Lazy Susan to access them more easily.  I tossed out any old lotion and soap  products that had changed color or texture over time, or had only a half ounce left in the bottom.

My last decluttering project involves all the excessive paperwork.  Financial records ?   I’ve started a filing system.  Receipts ?  I bought a collapsible file folder to keep in the mudroom.  Kids’ school papers ?  I bought a wall organizer and some magnetic boards for the mud room as well.  Coupons have their own basket, and so do the take out menus.  Magazines will get filed into baskets or recycled.

What about all that junk mail ? junk mail

I learned you can save a few million trees and stop unwanted catalogs by signing up with You personally opt out of whatever catalog you want, and they will contact the companies on your behalf and stop them from sending you catalogs free of charge.  Because I need my Ballard Designs, but I don’t need Gadget Universe.

Or you pay $9.00 to the to be removed from several sources of junk mail, including all Direct Marketing lists, ValPak and Pennysaver mailings, unwanted catalogs, mail order solicitations, unwanted magazines, pre-approved credit card offers and sweepstakes.   You can also be placed on National Do Not Call lists to avoid those pesky phone solicitors.  Save a tree, and save your sanity !

five days

So I was able to declutter most of my house, although it took me more than a week, and not just a day.  We’ll see just how far I get in this mission to start fresh, but I already feel so much better having purged my home and my life of all that useless stuff.

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