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Picking Up the Pieces; Resolving Clutter



This was written in response to a friend asking me for advice on how to get organized. At first, I had to laugh...then reality hit....I can do this. ;)


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It hit me around the end of the year how truly messy my house was. For many reasons, things have gotten stacked, shoved, piled, mounded, and shuffled to where I couldn't tell up from down, right from left, let alone in some cases, what was clean or dirty. This is such a far cry from how I wanted things to look, from how things have looked and it bugs the life out of me whenever clutter takes control.


True, we have a lot of stuff. Stuff I can't let go of, stuff that is a touchstone on memory, belonged to a loved one, or that is just necessary for daily living or my profession.


Part of the clutter is compounded by living in an old house that has nothing built-in or planned well so we're working around dysfunctional furniture and the like. I know it won't always be like this, but I still find myself looking around with my eyeballs bugging out of my head going "YIKES!"


The only way I've been able to reflect on this and not get caught up in the phrenetic energy of "Oh my messy house!!!" is to tackle a piece at a time. Everything I touch has to have a place or be put somewhere for sorting. If it's a bill, it goes into a "to be paid" pile or into a box for filing. If it's junk mail, it goes into the recycling or shredding. If it's something of my husband's, it goes into a tote for him to sort.


Yes, this can lead to rows of totes for various purposes like the way our living room is now. BUT, the totes are smaller pieces of the overall puzzle that can be dealt with in smaller chunks of time – 20 minutes here, after dinner there, etc. It CAN be manageable in small chunks.


I tend to come home from work wound up. SO, I select a task and hyper-focus on that for twenty minutes. If the sink needs cleaning, I clean it. If the dishwasher needs unloading, I do it, then quickly fill it and wipe down the counters. I'll take a tote to the basement and empty it into the pantry, closet, or laundry storage. Done! Small tasks in a short about of time, then I rest. Grab a cup of tea, love on a kitty, read the mail, but only for a short time, then back to another task.


Yes, it takes determination, follow-through, and true grit to ruthlessly pick through some things and realize, "Hey, I've not used this in 3 years, do I REALLY need it?" When the answer comes back as "No" or "Oh…that's where that went." I really reflect and have to remind myself the difference between a 'want' and a 'need'. Needs are those things that are essential to everyday living – sheets, blankets, socks, underwear, groceries. Wants are those things that are nice to have but not necessary. A bowl or lamp from a garage sale, pet shampoo for the pet you no longer have, shirts you no longer wear. Always ask, "Do I need this?" Chances are there's a resounding "NO". So - PITCH IT. Recycle it, donate it, put it in the bag and get rid of it, get it out of your house!


This will take more follow-through on your part. It's not enough to put those items in a bag or box. You will have to get rid of those boxes, bags, etc. of 'unwanted' things. Find a charity, a friend with a kid smaller than yours, etc. Such a good feeling comes when purging. It's addictive. Really. You'll grow to love it.


There is a balance, though. I can't keep a surgically clean house, it's impossible because we don't live in a sterile environment. We have kitties - they LOVE to find things to get into, my knitting being one. My husband is constantly bringing things home from one job site to another. Mostly though, my balance lies in the fact that I do not have obsessive compulsive disorder and REFUSE to let my things rule my life.


If a friend or family member calls or needs something, I don't have trouble leaving the dishes or laundry and focusing on their needs. Work and dirt will always be there. People and relationships will not. It's important that you take to time to watch your son skateboard for the first time down the driveway, read to the one with the scratchy throat or play dominoes on the dining floor. You're making a memory. Your kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews won't remember the dirty dishes in the sink but they will remember you playing with them and making memories.


Remember, though, clutter is like the ocean – you can't turn your back on it – even for an instant and it will sneak up on you and suck you under like a tsunami.


I don't want my epitaph to read: "Here lies a Crazy Canning Lady, friends of -------, who had too much stuff." Such a sad testimony.


I'd rather mine would read, "Her house always looked 'lived in' but she knew the meaning of friendship and would leave dirty dishes in the sink for a friend."



Copyright 2009


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Awww.. C4C, we don't live in museums with roped off rooms. However, pitching stuff you don't need leaves room for stuff you do...so thanks for the reminder. I'm fighting a bit of clutter here, too and it just took me determining to work at it like a job every day until it was done to make it go away. I couldn't believe all the space in the basement afterwards! C4C they won't remember you for your clean or messy house...they will remember you for your kind heart and your love of canning!!

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True. Thanks for that. When my SIL told her boy that I would be coming by and he squealed with joy. She asked him why, he said, "I love her. She always smells so nice."

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I've been making efforts towards tackling the clutter in my home, but need to get more focused and goal oriented. Thanks for the encouragement!


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I'm preaching to the choir on that one. I've been so busy the past couple of weeks with my DH sick and some family stuff, my house is once again a wreck. Guess what I'm doing today? :)

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I like the tsunami quote...it seems like you get a handle on the clutter and you turn around Bam! It's all over the place again.

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