Monday, June 6, 2011

The Stress of Mess

My 5th grader watched a video at school called The Story of Stuff ( Among other things, it shows where all our stuff comes from, why we feel the need to have so much stuff, and what happens to our stuff when we’re done with it.

I was already in the “thinking about stuff” mode, as I recently visited a friend’s home. Their house is about as big as mine, but it was neat as a pin! I was so impressed that everything was put away, and unlike my own house, I could actually see their floors! When I asked them how they accomplished this magical feat, they gave me a book on de-cluttering. Now, I have lots of books on de-cluttering. After I read them, they usually end up as… you guessed it… clutter.

My friends swore this book was different, so I borrowed theirs. The good news is that eventually I have to give it back, ensuring that it won’t add to the clutter of my already cluttered de-clutter books.

Both the video and the book happened in the last week, which made me wonder…. Is this a sign from the gods of Groove? Was somebody trying to tell me something?

Not one to jinx juju, I decided to pay attention.

I’ve been a clutter-queen for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my sister didn’t want to share a room with me because I was such a slob. My college roommates, I’m sure, felt the same way. In fact, one housemate threw a bunch of chicken wing bones into the washing machine just to prove a point. (What the point was, I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was effective at the time.) My poor husband, who is one of the most organized people I know, cringes every time he walks past my clutter collections, which, to be honest, are hard to miss. What’s worse, I’m passing my rubbish routine on to my kids. Their bedroom looks like a department store threw up.

It appears I’m not the only one with this problem. Along with the aforementioned de-cluttering books, there are tv shows teaching you how to organize, magazines showing you how to live more simply, and websites with step-by-step guides on how to manage your mess.

I thought about buying bins and shelves and hooks, but when I really looked around my house, I realized that more than half of my stuff is useless to me. More than half of my stuff could be gone, and I wouldn’t miss any of it. Even better, I could donate this stuff to someone who just might need it. The point is not necessarily to organize the stuff I already have; the point is to have less stuff.

De-cluttering isn’t just about cleaning up my house. It’s about cleaning up my mind. External chaos leads to internal chaos, and chaos is never mojo-making. What’s more, having less stuff makes me feel like I’m doing my small part in saving the environment…. And it’s inhabitants. In our race to out-stuff our neighbor, we’re all stuffing ourselves to the point of ridiculousness. And for what? You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But really, he who dies with the most toys just leaves a lot of crap for someone else to clean up.

In my pursuit of pizazz, it is time to purge.

Here are the steps I’ll take this week. Won’t you join me?

1. I will donate clothes not worn in the last year. Even if, someday, I manage to fit into my jeans from 1988, they will probably be a little out of style.

2. I will recycle papers and mail that I think I might do something with someday… or, I’ll actually do something with them.

3. I will pack up clothes that are too big for the kids for next year, rather than continuing to put them in their drawers, try them on, find out they’re too big, and put them back into their drawers (you see the problem with this pattern?)

4. I will not buy stuff to replace the stuff I just got rid of. This point will hit home when you visit

5. I own a Kindle. There is no need to purchase books. Unless of course they have pretty pictures.

6. I will save projects that the kids did that are truly heartfelt. I don’t need to save every spelling test they ever took.

7. I will throw away socks and underwear that have holes in them. That should free up half my dresser right there.

How will you de-clutter your space, your mind, and your life? Looking forward to hearing your tips!


  1. I was once wisely told that every time I bought new underwear, I must throw out the same number that I bought. It has worked well for me and I have adopted it to other pieces of my life. But I must say that moving out of my home and putting everything in storage forced me to take a hard look at all the "crap" I had accumulated over the past 16 years. Waste Management, Salvation Army and Vietnam Veterans all benefitted from an excellent system of purging.
    Good Luck with your organization. It takes commitment, but you feel wonderful when you have accomplished a purge task.
    One word for you - SIMPLIFY!

  2. I put those chicken wing bones in your laundry to help build character. Those buffalo sauce stains made you the person you are today! You should be thanking me!

  3. I've been working on reorganizing my office and I did go the bin, and shelving route to realize I just now have the same amount of stuff but, it is all packed in clear containers so, I can now see how much stuff I really have where before it was buried in nice little piles. Now, I've donated umteen amounts of Avon products to womens shelters, church thrift shops, and have been giving my regular customers free products to thank them for their business. I put items on freecycle and gave away clothing, jewelry, more avon products and sheets, blankets, and I still have a lot of stuff left. So, it is an ongoing project but, one that has made many people very happy and there is no price to put on that. Thanks for sharing this blog!

  4. I for one can't function in clutter! It makes me crazy! Clutter free house, clutter free mind, and at my age, I need every brain cell possible to get through the day's tasks!
    I had the good fortune to work in a clothing store, I've shopped in for many years, and the discount was fabulous! I LOVE clothes and being a yo yo in sizes through out the year,I have quite the seasonal collection, in several size ranges! Honestly the best part of closets and bins full of clothes is when I realize in a purging moment I don't need them and can give them away to someone who will love them as much as I did! :) It's a great feeling, and who doesn't like to make someone else's day brighter!?
    My downfall however is being a sentimental mush! I have probably every card or letter sent to me, pictures of friends children some who have children of their own now and don't remember who I am anymore! I just can't bring myself to get rid of those cute little faces! And when it comes to my own children, throw it away!?!? Isn't that sacrilegious? Besides, they are having children now and my grandchildren may want to see if the stick people Daddy drew looked like the cavemen from back in his day! But the double closet with the chest of drawers and the umpteen bins containing all these memories, are organized, well somewhat anyway! So you see Ronni, some people's clutter isn't visually apparent until you open up a closet!
    My suggestion to you is you have a friend who LOVES to organize, like myself, come and help you declutter! THAT could be a blast and a win win situation all around!

  5. Awesome post Ronni - LOVED it!! I'll be moving in another year, so I'm all about keeping a low inventory of stuff. These are great steps that I'll be carrying out in the meantime ;-)