I recently read about a couple who live in Oklahoma City. They don’t have a lot of clutter in their house, but they do find it impossible to part with their children’s things. The guest cottage behind their house is nearly filled with old toys, outgrown clothes, years of kids’ artwork, school papers, trophies, sports paraphernalia, baby beds, bassinets, and a rocking horse. Seems they can’t bring themselves to clean it out or part with all of these things for fear their now-grown children will think they don’t love them.
I know the feeling, and I don’t think it’s that unusual. But most of us don’t have a guest house to stash and hide all the clutter. Thankfully, it is possible to deal with clutter in realistic and reasoned ways so that it doesn’t turn into chaos.
Marla Cilley, known to many as the FlyLady and author of the fabulous book, “Sink Reflections,” says CHAOS is an acronym for “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.”
The good news is that clutter doesn’t have to control our homes and our lives. It requires only a modicum of determination to take that first baby step toward conquering stuff. Then another and another all the way to peace and serenity.
It’s natural to walk into the house and start dumping small things like keys, glasses, and mail on the first flat surface you see. “When things get strewn all over, it’s because they don’t have a clear or intuitive place to go,” says professional organizer Shira Gill. Here’s a quick and easy way to turn entry chaos into calm: Invest in a storage bench, attractive wall hooks, and a catchall tray. Now everything from shoes to keys and phone has a place.
Focus on a Single Location
It’s a big fail just waiting to happen when we attempt to declutter an entire room or the whole house in a single weekend. Instead, think small. Focus on a single location like the medicine cabinet, closet, or drawer. Remove everything from that space—every single thing. Clean the space thoroughly. Now, evaluate and edit. Once you have culled the things you don’t use or don’t love, return only the items that belong in this space—things you use regularly or that bring beauty to your life. Drawer dividers or shallow bins are so helpful to keep things organized.
It’s not at all unusual for the areas we do laundry to turn into disaster zones. It’s just the laundry room, right? Imagine walking into that area and feeling at peace because it is so attractive and inviting! Decanters are one solution. Store powdered detergents in clear jars with scoops to make it easy to use and to see when you’re running low. Pour stain removers and liquid soap can into olive oil jars with spouts for spill-proof pouring. Add simple labels. See how pretty that looks? Useful, too.
All of those things that you can’t part with because they hold such meaning and memory? Take a picture of each one. Take several. Zoom in, pan out. Do a panorama view if you want. Now the memories are preserved in a way you can really enjoy them. And you can part with the actual items, guilt-free.
Stash the Cash
I have a feeling our Oklahoma City friends are sitting on a pile of money. That rocking horse alone could bring a few bucks at a garage sale or advertised on Craigslist. Who knows what other treasures are rotting away out there—things that could be turned into money that would fit nicely in a savings account.
Read This Book
Honestly, I cannot give you a better piece of advice than to read FlyLady’s book, “Sink Reflections” by Marla Cilley, available at Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. You’ll laugh. You might cry. But for sure you will know what to do, starting right now. Marla is a reformed clutter bug and knows what she’s talking about. She could motivate our friends in Oklahoma City to get that guest cottage cleaned out—and in a loving, compelling way that would allow them to retain all of the memories, assure their children of their love, and end up with a place for guests to rest, relax, and enjoy themselves.
Just because you can’t imagine changing your life from chaos to calm in a single day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started. According to Cilley, “Things done imperfectly still bless our lives.” And isn’t that great news.
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com