How Clearing Out Clutter Can Improve Your Life

By Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt
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
August 31, 2021 Updated: September 5, 2021

Getting organized is like dieting. Everyone knows how to do it, but the problem is getting around to it—to clearing out clutter, cleverly organizing what remains, and then maintaining the results.

When we remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, I emptied every cupboard and drawer, carefully labeling every box and bin with its contents. That process alone ran a few red flags up the pole. I found things I’d forgotten completely. When it was time to put everything back, I decided to put things away as I actually used them—not with the mindset that I might need them someday.

I quickly realized why it was such a problem to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. It is impossible to organize chaos. I needed to clear out everything first. Funny how that cleared my mind as well.

Getting rid of the unused items that had obviously become unnecessary created space to organize the essentials.

Too. Much. Stuff.

Face it. If you don’t have enough closet, drawer, and storage space to comfortably handle your possessions, you probably own too many things. Give away; pare down. Let your rooms, closets, and drawers appear serene and controlled.

There’s no single “right” way to organize your possessions and home. Organization must fit your style, energy, and schedule. Find a system that functions best for you and your family.

Eliminate, Concentrate

No matter the way you do it, let this be your mantra: eliminate and concentrate. Say it over and over. Then say it some more.

Eliminate: I will admit to this being very difficult for me. I have this thing in my head that says someday I’ll need it. It’s worth a lot. It has value. After all, the power grid might go down any second, and these candle stubs could save the day. Just articulating those words makes me laugh and prompts me to do the right thing: eliminate, in any way that I can.

Concentrate: It’s ridiculous how the things we really do need get scattered all over the house in random drawers and cupboards. Getting everything similar into one place is also a shocking experience. Yes, we need that thing; whatever it might be. But do we really need 18 of them?!

Brown Bag Method

Getting rid of the clutter is a good place to start. Personally, I’m fond of the brown bag method for instant results—something that works wonders, especially when you are at your wit’s end over clutter and chaos.

Take one (more as necessary) large brown paper grocery bag, bin, or box and fill it with all of the stacks of extraneous papers, magazines, and mail—your basic clutter. The purpose here is not to throw anything away, but just to get it out of visual range until you have time to sort and file. At least that’s what you tell yourself.

Stand back and enjoy that completely clear counter, desktop, table, or another flat surface. Amazing, isn’t it?

If no one in the family has mentioned missing something of importance within 48 hours or so, it is probably safe to throw the whole thing out. While this may be a method of last resort, I guarantee it works.

Salami Method

A more preferred way to get organized may be the salami method. You wouldn’t think of eating an entire salami in one sitting. You’d eat it in slices over a period of time, right? Think of your project as one big salami. Start with one thing. One room. One closet. One drawer. Tomorrow is another day; another drawer and another attic. Soon you’ll be in control.

I’ve learned that gaining control over the stuff in my life has an effect on my attitude. When everything is in its place, I’m less stressed, able to think clearly, and a happier person, basically.

Order brings calm; clutter results in chaos.

Additional Reading for Severe Messies

I have found some kind of comfort in knowing that I’m not the only organizationally challenged person out there. Just the other day, I was reading that the ratio of naturally-born neatniks to messies is about one to a million.

Not everyone has a severe case of the messies, but if you think you might, you need to read “Sink Reflections” by Marla Cilley.

Cilley, aka “The FlyLady” to the thousands who log onto her website Flylady.net, kindly and with great empathy reaches into every person’s home to help make housecleaning more fun and life more organized.

Beginning with Shiny Sink 101, Cilley explains how a spotless kitchen sink can direct even the most discouraged housekeeper onto the path of well-ordered domesticity. And who wouldn’t love that?

Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt
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