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The Real Reason For My Clutter

real reason for my clutter

Guest post from Ashley of Lies About Parenting

Hi, I’m Mom. Otherwise known as the Finder Of Stuff.

We could never find anything, because clutter was a way of life. If there was an empty spot in my house, we found a way to fill it.

I had enough cleaning supplies to run the hospital’s sanitation program. Not-quite-right beauty products piled under every bathroom sink. Closets vomiting clothes, shoes, and bags. My garage was piled high with stuff, the kitchen full of outdated spices, and there was an endless cycle of always-dirty laundry.

My partner is a we-might-need-it-one-day kind of person, and I’m a this-is-old-and-special kind of girl. Our clutter just got worse with the birth of our daughter.

Sunday afternoons were often spent in the garage (or closet) sorting, stacking, and trying to create some order. Pinterest, Real Simple, and Martha Stewart never had a solution to my problem of having too much stuff.

I bought so many storage systems, that I’m still waiting for my thank-you note from The Container Store stockholders.

I found myself organizing my organizing. Like a teenager who can’t decide between two identical pairs of jeans, I was stuck, sorting through options that were not going to change.

Sick and tired of the last-minute hunts that made me feel resentful towards my family, disappointed in myself, and unhappy with my home, I read a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, that solved my clutter problem with one simple explanation.

Guilt is why I have clutter.

Why was I keeping things I didn’t love, use, or need? The answer was guilt, whether from the expense, a gift, or a poorly executed plan (Pilates reformer, anyone?).

Guilt was making me stockpile my possessions.

Clothes that never fit cost money, gifts from loved ones were supposed to be special, and family heirlooms were meant to be cherished.

I took a deep breath, and just let go.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 90% of my closet is gone, and I’m left with what I love (and wore most of the time, anyway). A handful of favorite books remain, surplus furniture is out, and holiday decorations got to stay only if they made me smile.

Decluttering worked this time, and my partner is now working through the decluttering, and de-guilting, process.

A surprising benefit is we clean less, because there’s less to clean.

By focusing on decluttering my belongings, I now breath happy, dust-free air. Try it. Just let it go, and you won’t be disappointed.

Ashley loves honest talk about parenting and life choices. She blogs about the good, the bad, and the funny at Lies About Parenting. She is known for debunking popular parenting advice that just doesn’t work, and is a passionate believer that clean homes create clean minds. She’ll consider herself a parenting success if she can, somehow, manage to raise kind and compassionate kids.

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17 Comments

  • Emily says:

    Similarly, Kondo’s book really resonated with me and allowed my family to declutter our home like never before. I, too, struggle with clutter related to guilt. We were able to sell, donate, and recycle so many items, and it feels awesome! Now we’re focusing on experiences versus objects, and have been enjoying several new family activities like miniature golf, hiking at a local nature reserve, etc. because we’re no longer shopping and have more cash to boot.

  • Kelly Cox says:

    I’m with you on clutter. I will try and just let it go too sometimes. I find that I often don’t miss what I “gave up!”

  • Jackie says:

    This post came at just the right time. I have been working on decluttering my house for the last couple of months. I just went through my kids clothes today and got rid of a huge garbage bag full. I also cleaned out their toys. I filled our huge outside garbage can full. I also loaded up my trunk with toys. I did feel guilty about getting rid of some of them. However we were tripping over them and we haven’t been able to watch tv in the family room. There were so many toys you just couldn’t walk through them all. They still have several tubs full of toys, a bookshelf full of books/coloring/activity, stuffed toys and riding toys. Now if I could just get dh to go through his stuff. Probably not though:)

    • Ashley says:

      Jackie,

      It’s tough, isn’t it?! That sense of obligation to keep what’s been given to you is just overwhelming, sometimes. But when your kids can actually play, and enjoy, the toys and environment you’ve intentionally created? That’s just the best feeling 🙂 congrats on your work! As for your husband, I’ve found that focusing on decluttering my things has encouraged decluttering from my partner. Focus on yourself, and he’ll notice the difference! 🙂

  • Tammy says:

    I recently read “Clutter Free” by Kathi Lipp which is not your typical “how to organize your stuff” book but goes into the reason why we have and keep clutter – all from a biblical perspective. Bottom line, we don’t trust God. We don’t know who we are in Christ so we buy to try to fit in, to be someone we want to be – we buy gourmet tools hoping we’ll actually fix amazing meals etc. We hoard because we don’t trust the Lord to provide. We make idols of items people have given us – keeping things we don’t want or need because we put meaning into the item instead of the memory. We buy as retail therapy and then punish ourselves by keeping things we don’t need or no longer fit. This book really helped me take a hard look at my “stuff” and my habits. I highly recommend it for dealing with clutter.

  • Jennifer says:

    Oh. My. Word. This is so me, and the timing is amazing. Just last night I decided that I was going to get rid of about half of our toys. It will be so much easier to keep clean, I know. I feel so bad because they were all gifts since we don’t buy toys, and I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one. I am excited to check out this book. Thank you so much for your post. It was just what I needed.

    • Ashley says:

      Jennifer,

      The book is an easy, sweet read. You will not regret it! I’ve yet to meet someone who regretted getting rid of the excess toys, clothes, and clutter. 🙂 it is such a freeing feeling! Good luck.

    • Need A Nap2 says:

      I’ve been reading this book (weird timing!). Just be warned that Marie Kondo’s worldview is different than what we (Americans) are used to. She has more of an Eastern (she is Japanese) view. The socks and other clothes have “feelings”, etc.

  • Delorise says:

    Loved this post. I have been decluttering for a few months now. Yep I said for a few months. After my first time I thought I was done. However, a few weeks later I opened some drawers and realized I could do a second round of decluttering. I felt great and thought I was surely finished this time. I just finished my third round and I think I have finally achieved the result I wanted. No more health books that I look at maybe once and a while. No more clothes that I hope to get into when I lose that 10 pounds. No more dishes that I may need one day. Talk about feeling free!! It is so much easier to clean and keep a neat and orderly home. There is a downside however. I don’t enjoy shopping as much because now I evaluate each purchase and question whether I need each item. However there is a plus to that, I don’t spend as much money. Or should I say I don’t waste money. Wish I had decluttered years ago.

  • Victoria says:

    I just shared a video clip the Today Show did on this book. It seems to have some great tips. I agree guilt and stuff is a deadly combo. For me the most guilt filled stuff is the stuff given to me my people who have passed away. Some items they gave me I really love and use daily, other items sit untouched and yet I can’t seem to make myself give them away. I keep thinking maybe the kids will want them or perhaps I will use them when…….I think what I need to do is take the time to truly think about who uses and loves similar items and give them to them. It would bring me joy I think to see things my parents loved in use again.

  • Kat says:

    great post. I’ve been understanding this concept more and more the past year. living minimally also clears your mind and takes so much unnecessary stress away. it also helps you value and steward what you do already have. I’ve noticed i’m cleaning and caring for my home so much more effectively, too. I love this post and this website. thanks for sharing!!

  • Heather says:

    You had me at Pilates Reformer! 🙂 I just unearthed ours from the depths of the garage last week! This weekend we are in a Cutter & Clutter Weekend…cut out and clear out those items that don’t serve us or bring us joy any longer. I am going to need a lot of coffee to make it through…

  • barb says:

    Well I know your pain because we live and travel in our RV. And have been for the last nine year. One of the problems is that if we are anywhere for an extended period of time we seem to collect THINGS. I am on a constant decluttering adventure. Having said all that we wouldn’t trade our lifestyle for anything. We could easily live in a tiny house!!

  • kariane says:

    We’re working on Simplifying too. Doesn’t it feel great to let go of what’s no longer serving you in order to make time and space for what’s important?

    I’m writing about my simplification efforts each week here: http://everydaymindfulliving.com/simplify-saturday/

  • Diana says:

    Reading this book was wonderful for me, and it made me so motivated. For about three hours one day, I got rid of 10-12 trash bags FULL of stuff. I even managed to donate most of it (something I don’t do often because it usually ends up staying in bags in my spare room – I’ve found throwing stuff away is easier for me, unfortunately). But then I looked around and there was still so much left to do, it put me back into discouraged mode.

    Part of it is my depression, and I know that. But I feel like I need a person with me to go through this process, and unfortunately I haven’t found anyone who has the time to help. I need someone to sit with me and force me to go through my things and ask me the questions that Marie Kondo asks in her book. I need my own personal Marie Kondo!

  • Karen C. says:

    This totally resonates with me! I am like your husband and in the “we might need it one day” camp. My parents are the same way, and my mom apologizes on a regular basis for helping me “inherit” this problem. This summer one of my goals is to de-clutter our house. Get rid of stuff we don’t need, use, or want. Bless someone else with it if it’s perfectly good or throw it away if it’s not. I think that would solve my cleaning problem… and I won’t have to pass it on to my kids. Thank you for this timely post!

  • cam says:

    A funny moment was talking to my grandmother about some dishes of hers, that I always wanted to have to remember her by and remember our family holiday dinners. I was surprised to find out that the reason we used fine china at the children’s table was because she hated that china and hoped it would break. Lesson learned. Not all heirlooms are what one thinks they are.

    Secondly, rethink holidays. Talk to parents/grandparents about alternatives to gifting toys or other things, such as going on an outing together, paying for lessons or focusing on the spiritual aspects of the holiday. Often grandparents feel as trapped into buying gifts as the receivers do keeping them. Have marketers been this successful at mind-control? None of us like this game, so why don’t we take our ball and go home?

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