Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Dealing with Clutter

Due to some rapid changes in our home life, (illness and subsequent deaths of parents, marriage of daughter and subsequent additions of children, children growing up and moving away, etc) I've let a lot of things slide. Consequently, I noticed myself declining invitations or putting off showing hospitality. Having too much housework and too much clutter, or just too much to look after, decreases the time available to really serve others.

My advice is to keep on top of the clutter as much as you can, from the beginning. When children outgrow something, send it somewhere or box it up properly and store it safely for the future. Don't let closets and drawers and storage areas collect things you can't use. Each time you enter a room, for whatever reason, keep a sharp eye out for clutter than can cause a problem later on. Pick it up, don't pass it up, is the best policy here.

One thing that really helps is to develop habits of decluttering and be aware of what you are doing. If you use a package of something, toss out the bag immediately. Throw away the teabag if you aren't going to use it again. Have a little trash can right near your feet that you can use in the kitchen, or hang a trash bag on the handle of the lower cabinet near the area you are working. Don't let the cabinet tops collect clutter. If you crack and egg, throw the shell away at once. Wipe and clean as you go. In any room, never lay anything down temporarily. Always put it away.

Special cleaning days and spring cleaning can make people miserable. You might feel more tension and tend to snap at everyone because you are starting to realize how they've helped cause all this work for you. The best way to handle this is to take out about 15 minutes each day to tackle a troublesome area, and just keep at it until a room or area or zone is finished. Do all your daily work no matter how bad the rest of the house is. The meals and laundry must be done and the floors kept clean, but inbetween all this, you can clean up clutter.

For the young homemaker, I would suggest you take special note of the toys and clothing strewn around. If your children tend to just drop something somewhere and ignore it for days, gather it all up and put in a box in the garage for awhile. The less they have, the less you'll have to pick up, and the less anger there will be in the home. Remember the pioneer children who were happy with one special toy. Toys can cause accidents and injury in the home, so supervise their care and storage, and don't let your home become "toy city." Children can still be happy and content with fewer things. It is more pleasant to have toys around if they are classical types of toys like a carved wood rocking horse, a good quality doll and carriage, a doll house, fire engine or truck. Balls ought to be kept out doors and not ever thrown inside the house. Lego and blocks should have plastic containers to keep them in and the lid used to build on, so that they can be gathered up and stored easily.

As for adult clutter, this is often very difficult to deal with. I've always thought of my humble little home as being a "castle" and unfortunately, stuffed it full of castle stuff. In reality, it has only the space of a trailer, and not even a double wide at that, so I've allowed clutter to collect a little more than I should have. I don't have an attic or a garage or any dry storage shed or any area to store things, so the junk must go.

One of the best reasons for clearing out the clutter is so that you can find things. When someone says, "Mom, do you remember that book we used to have...", I want to be able to see it in my mind's eye, and say, "Yes, it is on the far right of the third bookshelf from the top in the hall." If someone says "I thought we had a cookie cutter shaped like a rose," I will be able to say, "Third drawer down, near the back in the blue container." I certainly can't do that now, but it is my goal. The less I have, the more likely I'll be able to recall where it is. If you've ever been tempted just to go to Wal-Mart and buy a set of measuring cups because yours are scattered in messy drawers or been used as children's toys, you know you are disorganized. One reason it is easier to go to the discount store to get something is that it is in order on the shelves in those stores. You usually know exactly which aisle to go and look for it. Should it not also be so, in the home?

Still another reason to cut down on the clutter is so that you'll know what you have, and what you need, in order to stock the pantry. The pantry is whatever cabinet or section of the house you use to store your food. If you don't keep this in order, you'll find yourself doubling up on supplies that you don't need, and spending money that you really need for something else.

Ultimately, you will want to be able to entertain on a moment's notice. You see someone at church on Sunday and you dearly would love to have them over, but you know you aren't organized enough to really put on even a simple meal or make a sandwich.

Having too many things to look after, can be a great handicap, as you may not be able to be as flexible as you'd like to be. If you find yourself not being able to do the sewing and crafts you'd like to do, or writing letters, or other things that give you peace and pleasure, take some time out each day to organize and de-clutter. Don't be afraid to get rid of thngs if they aren't really important. You can't take it all with you when you die, and there is more where that came from.
I'm speaking mainly to those who have no place to store things and find themselves, like me, using plastic containers and stacking them up in hallways and corners. If you've got a big house and good storage areas, by all means, store up as much as you like. If, however, it is getting in your way, and you are having to move stuff around all the time, and are unable to function efficiently in the home, then find ways to store it better or get rid of it.


Lydia said...

One thing that affected me profoundly was the clutter we still have to go through of my husband's parents. They did not go through things regularly, and we had about 20 years of things to go through, which we still have not done. Their things are still in a storage area, waiting to be sorted. I want to streamline the home and imagine my children having to deal with the things when I am gone. I don't want it to be stressful for them. Photographs and keepsakes, papers, and other things, must have their places, and be easy to access or give away. Too much stuffed back into shelves and closets creates stress for other people, if they have to look after you or dispose of it when you are gone. It shows responsibility and courtesy when we look after our property with a view of how the next generation will have to deal with it.

Wanda said...

This is such an important thing! Sadly, it took me a long time as a new wife to learn this. The thing is, it is hard to feel peaceful in an environment that lends itself to distractions. Clutter keeps our minds hopping about from one thing to another and tends make us feel more pressured regarding all the 'things we need to do' such as cleaning and so on. When our homes are more organized and streamlined, we are more relaxed and this will carry over to the rest of our family and any guests that we entertain.

Anonymous said...

My mom died a year ago and I still have some of her stuff to go through and so does my sister. Before she died me and my hubby pulled a lot of stuff out of her house and much of it ended up here. There are some things that I definatly want to keep, but honestly I am finding it hard to just get rid of the rest. I sort of feel like, since they were important to her that I should hold on to them. kwim?

Thanks for the post, it was great!! :0)

~~Deby said...


I could not find a link to email you.

I like to ask permission to link you on my blog roll.I am finding the MORE I read your posts...the more minded we are...
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking the truth to this generation, it is sorely needed.
Puyallup, WA