Posts Tagged ‘clutter’

Clutter control is awesome. It reduces stress, stops our stuff from taking over our lives, and helps us live more simply. But are there times when a person can go overboard with decluttering? In my opinion, yes.

Last week I was making a salad. My husband handed me the croutons and I took what I wanted. I noticed that there were only four croutons remaining in the box. Several thoughts quickly passed through my mind, like, “I should just eat the rest and be done with it” and “then I can clear a space in the cupboard and recycle the box.” Under some circumstances, thoughts like these would lead to productive decluttering. But didn’t I just waste those 4 croutons?

I’m not perfect. I strive to be organized. Hey, I love to be organized. But I’ve got a ways to go. And when I put those extra four croutons on my salad, I realized that I have to be careful not to go overboard with decluttering. There’s a line and I crossed it. Now, it’s only four little croutons, but attitudes like that could spill over into other areas of my life and I don’t want that!

After contemplating my actions with the croutons, I came up with five signs an organizer should be careful to watch out for to make sure he or she is not going overboard with decluttering. “Clutter control” has the word “control” in it, so let’s stay in control.


1. You are obsessed with decluttering

Do you go through your day constantly thinking about things you can get rid of? Does unsightly clutter cause you to feel stressed until you can get it cleaned up? These are signs of an obsession with clutter control. Getting rid of clutter is good. Letting clutter bother you and control you in a negative way is bad.

2. Your decluttering habits annoy people

I know a person who is so fixated on decluttering that he will literally take the soda can out of your hands before you are even finished drinking it so he can crush it and recycle it RIGHT NOW. These types of habits really annoy people, especially people who are not at all sympathetic to the organizing cause in the first place.

3. You judge other people for their clutter problems

As organizing junkies, it is very easy to walk into someone else’s house and think of ways they could organize their belongings more effectively.  For some of us, this is just second nature.  But when constructive observation turns into critical judgment of that person’s lifestyle and character, you’ve crossed the line.  Having an attitude like this is very dangerous, and you should try your best to avoid it.

4. Your decluttering methods result in waste

This is where my crouton example fits in. I didn’t need to eat those four croutons. But even though they were only four little pieces of toasted bread, I truthfully just wasted them. And you know what? They cost money. Be careful not to get so hung up on decluttering that you start to go against your frugal principals.

5. Decluttering costs you money later

Have you ever hesitated throwing something away because you were worried you might have a use for it months or even years down the line? Clutter control gurus would give you a time limit to put in place and tell you to throw that item away if you didn’t use it by that time. Well, I think there is something to be said about the opposite problem—what if you impulsively throw something away in order to declutter, but then you realize later on that you needed it? What if you have to buy it again? That’s money you wouldn’t have had to spend if you had saved the item in the first place. Now I’m not advocating that everyone become a pack rat. All I’m saying is that there is a healthy balance between what useful possessions to save for later and what clutter to get rid of now.

Reader Reflection

It’s clear I’m talking extremes here, but they do exist and we have to be careful not to go too far with decluttering. Do you notice any areas in your life where you sometimes cross the line?


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I love thrift stores. Lately I’ve been visiting them a lot more frequently. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe I just love the idea of finding a great deal.

A few weeks ago I hit up a new thrift store in my home town. It’s small, but seems to have high quality items. I was getting ready to leave when I spotted the shoe section. I’ve never bought shoes from a thrift store—I’m not at all opposed, I just don’t tend to buy shoes very often in general and thrift stores obviously don’t always have the size I need.

Case in point, a pair of hiking shoes I narrowed in on were a size too big for me. But I decided to try them on anyway because it immediately became apparent that they were in great shape and were probably a fairly expensive shoe new. And I love to hike.  Here’s a photo of them:


The price tag was $5. I thought that seemed like a very good price for new-looking hiking shoes with awesome gripping soles. Then the store owner noticed me trying them on and informed me that all shoes were 25% off. At $3.75, how could I pass up that deal? The problem was, I was having trouble making a decision.

Here are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind:

These shoes are a size too big. They fit even with just one pair of socks, but are not a perfect size.

I already have a few pairs of hiking boots (did I mention I like to hike?), so I don’t really have any pressing need for another pair. At the same time, I only have high-top hiking boots, not hiking shoes.

I don’t want to clutter my closet with too many shoes. Shoe clutter is annoying.

What if someone else in the community really needs these shoes?

Is there someone I know who I could buy these for?

Come on, these shoes are only $3.75!!!!

I bought them. And I’ve worn them several times since buying them.  To be honest, my deciding factor came down to the amazing price on a high-quality pair of shoes.  But I still wonder if I made the best decision. For example, what should be more important: price, need, clutter control, or whether I’m preventing someone else from buying a great pair of shoes?  And that’s where you come in:

What would you have done in my shoes? (pun intended)

After voting in the poll, feel free to explain why you voted as you did in the comments section below.

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I did…draw the line on my overfilled utensil drawer, that is. Do you ever have one of those moments where you just feel a strong urge to organize something? Well, that happened to me the other day so I decided to tackle an area of my kitchen that had long bothered me: my specialty utensil drawer. Not my regular utensil drawer, with forks, spoons, and butter knives. I’m talking about my serving spoons, whisks, measuring cups, you name it. And you know what, it was out of control! Check it out:


So I got excited. I thought, hey I can satisfy this urge to organize something AND fix a problem that’s been nagging at me for a while. Here was the situation:

Honey, can you grab me a whisk?

  • I couldn’t find anything. Okay, I was able to find some things, like those items I always kept on top the pile, but where was that black serving spoon we used to have? Or the whisk?
  • Even if I could see what I wanted, it wasn’t always easy to remove. Take the rolling pin for example. It was always kept off to the side, but was literally buried underneath several other utensils. The very thought of getting that rolling pin out to use it was a chore. And that’s only one of many examples. Anyone want to help me detach my potato masher from my pastry cutter?
  • Sometimes the drawer wouldn’t even open or close properly. Now you know you have a problem when this happens. Wooden spoons and ladles get contorted so much that the drawer gets stuck on its way open. Or you can’t remember how to arrange the funnels so that the drawer will actually close again.

Operation: Utensil Drawer

You’d think I wouldn’t have let my drawer get to this point in the first place. Well, I felt like I had no choice in the matter. I thought I really only had this one drawer for my specialty utensils and I basically had to make it work. That is, until I had that urge I mentioned up top.

Urges are funny things. Sometimes they can really crank up the creativity level. So I waltzed into the kitchen, determined to free up a second drawer to use for large utensils because clearly my one-drawer system was not working. Yes, I did think of putting a mug or jar on the counter with all my wooden spoons, but I rejected that idea ultimately because (1) I really do loathe clutter on my kitchen counter, just ask my husband, and (2) I don’t think removing a few wooden spoons would have made much of a dent in my problem.

How I freed up another drawer is really not too important here (if you’re curious, I moved my cutting boards to the oven drawer and then moved my plastic bags/foil/saran wrap supplies to the cutting board drawer…instant empty drawer!). What is important is that now I had a nice clean slate to work with to divide my one totally disorganized drawer into two organized ones.

Here’s what I did. I decided that the most obvious division between all my specialty utensils was serving utensils (wooden and plastic spoons, ladles, ice cream scoops, spatulas, etc.) and everything else (measuring cups, whisks, funnels, pastry cutter, rolling pin, etc). As it turned out, dividing the utensils that way meant a pretty equal usage of each drawer. Perfect. Check out my after shots:


Wow, I can see the whisk!  And I found that black serving spoon I thought we lost!  But I can just hear the naysayers now: Sarah, you can’t possibly keep those drawers looking so nice and tidy for very long. Well, I have kept it this way for 2 weeks. Is that long? Drawer dividers would be ideal, but I don’t have any of those. I think the real key is that my husband and I both stick to the new system and we enjoy it too much to mess it up. Simple as that.

It’s a thing of beauty

To summarize, the new organizational system ensures that (1) everything can be found, (2) everything can be easily removed, and (3) the drawer opens and closes with ease. My three initial problems are solved. I probably should also mention that I ended up getting rid of a couple of utensils that were doubles or triples (i.e. we already had one (or two) and didn’t need yet another) or totally unknown to us (i.e. um, what does this do?). Clutter control can be a beautiful thing.

Well, so goes my story of how I satisfied an urge to organize something. Do you ever get these kinds of urges?

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Have you ever been in a pinch to clean your house before guests arrive, or do you sometimes just have an urge to quickly remove some unsightly clutter? Never fear, all you need is 10 seconds, in fact, less than 10 seconds. Observe:


I woke up on Monday morning and spotted this disaster on our living room coffee table. I hate messes like these because they make the whole room appear cluttered and unkempt. But I couldn’t really put anything away because everything belonged to my husband. He left out his projects from the night before (which is fine), but he wasn’t around to do anything about it the following morning.

Should we give up when faced with situations like these? Absolutely not. You can still organize existing messes without having to completely clean them up if you aren’t able to or have no time. Take a few seconds and simply straighten these messes into nice neat piles. Arrange each pile so that they are evenly spaced on the surface and celebrate—you’ve instantly transformed your room.


BE WARNED. Don’t make this policy of temporarily organizing messes a habit and end up never actually taking care of the source of the clutter. You’ll just end up with piles all over your house! And whether they are organized piles or not, eventually lots of organized piles end up looking messy and cluttered too. This quick fix is just for those times when you are in a bind and need to organize an area fast. Or if you’re like me and just have a compulsion. 🙂

How do you feel about organized piles?

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With only 22 days until Christmas, if you haven’t started decorating your house yet then I imagine you will soon. Whether you go all out and really deck the halls or just keep it simple and put up a small tree, there are several ways you can help reduce stress and better organize your time and space when it comes to decorating. Today I’d love to offer eight easy tips to help you survive and hopefully even enjoy this year’s Christmas decorating adventure.


1. Chip away at it little by little

There’s no reason to put up every last decoration you have in one sitting. That could be really overwhelming! Take a few minutes here or a few hours there and before you know it, you’ll have it all done, but without taking up such giant and inconvenient blocks of your time.

2. Involve family

Not only will you enjoy the process better, but you’ll probably get it all done faster if you make decorating a family affair. Invite your spouse or the kids to help you decorate and cherish the quality time you’ll get to spend together.


3. Make it festive

Do you find decorating a bit boring? Help yourself have more fun by playing festive music, setting out fun Christmas treats, or playing games.

4. Consider clutter

There’s a difference between really tasteful decorating and just plain cluttered decorating. Ask yourself, your family, or your friends to be honest about it. Cut back on your decorations if they detract more than they add to your home.

5. Evaluate your attitude

If thinking about decorating your home for Christmas just makes you want to pull your hair out, then maybe you have too many decorations or you have set your goals too high. You don’t want decorating to cause you stress.

6. Don’t use every last decoration

Perhaps you are particularly short on time or space this year. Or maybe you like the idea of rotating your decorations on a cycle so you have different things out each season without having to buy anything new. No matter your reason, it’s okay to not put everything out.

7. Keep in mind that everything you put out now has to be taken down later

Most people like the decorating process much more than the undecorating process. Knowing what’s ahead, you should be sure to consider carefully how much you decorate.

8. Safety first

Last but not least, keep safety in the front of your mind at all times. Don’t risk your life hanging treacherous Christmas lights on the front of your house during a blizzard and be careful not to create any fire hazards with your indoor decorations. It’s all common sense, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook.

Reader Reflection

Have you decorated your home yet for Christmas? Do you have any tips or special traditions you’d like to share?

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Well today sees the conclusion of this week’s series, Organize My Wardrobe. My hope is that you have learned several new ideas you can take to your homes and apply to your clothes collection. Here’s a quick review of the topics we covered this week:

  • Clothes Clutter Control Part 1: Sorting through your clothes to discover what you should get rid of in order to cut clutter and only keep what you really need.
  • Clothes Clutter Control Part 2: Creatively selling or donating the clothes you decided to get rid of in order to make a little money or help someone in need.
  • Clothes Arranging 101: Logical organization of your wardrobe storage areas to allow easier access and more efficient use of space.
  • Savvy Shopping: Money-saving shopping tips when it comes time to have to buy new clothes.

Long-term strategies

If you’ve taken steps to get your wardrobe organized, then good for you! But keep in mind that these first steps are only part of the overall process—you have to figure out a way to keep your wardrobe organized in the long term. Below I want to outline some simple steps you can take to maintain your new lifestyle and continue to enjoy its benefits.

  • Schedule regular clothes sorting days throughout the year. Or better yet, just always have the habit of monitoring your closets and dressers and keeping an eye out for clothes you no longer wear for whatever reason. Staying on top of this will prevent clutter from building back up again.
  • When you remove something, put it back exactly where you found it. If you are trying to arrange your closet by type and color, your system will quickly break down if you start putting clothes back in places where they don’t belong. Consciously make an effort to stick to your system.
  • Whenever you shop, try to save. Don’t only plan to find deals every once and a while. Strive to get deals every time you shop. It will take a little more effort, but your bank account will appreciate it and you’ll quickly develop an attitude where you won’t settle for anything less than an amazing price.
  • Develop an outlook that less is more. Do you really need that extra pair of jeans? Does your wife have to buy a brand new dress for the upcoming charity event? Maintaining an attitude of buying and owning less will help you control clutter, save money, and reduce stress. It’s okay to treat yourself every once and a while (I know I do!), but be reasonable and always be thinking about the impact your purchase will have.

Wisdom from the web

I follow other great blogs on the internet and recently I’ve come across some useful tips relating to my wardrobe series that I thought I could share with you all!

The first tip comes from Kelly at Almost Frugal in a recent post, ‘How to Look Fabulous, Frugally.’ She outlines five categories of clothes that she needs to have around: grungy, lounge around, nice casual, business clothes, and fancy dress clothes. Then she asks herself the following questions to decide which clothes she should actually keep: “Do I love this? Does this look good on me? Do I wear it? Is it in good condition? Does it fit into one of the categories of clothes I need?”

The second tip I’d like to share comes from Amy at My Daily Dollars in a recent post, ‘One Weekend to Shop.’ She discusses fall shopping tips and one of the best pieces of advice she gives is to shop for one color family. She offers that “if you buy several pieces that work together, you’ll get more mileage. Odds are that they will also fit in with what you have at home.” She also reminds us that spending a little more money to get longer-lasting high quality clothes could pay off in the end because “as we all know, frugal does not equal cheap!”

Reader Reflection

After a week of wardrobe organizing tips, do you have any further ideas to share?

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Yesterday I outlined some steps you could take to do a lot of sorting and decision-making regarding controlling clutter in your clothes collection (now that’s some alliteration!). Hopefully you were able to be honest with yourself and let go of a few garments while also freeing up some closet space! Today I’m going to suggest some creative ways you can part with the clothes you decided to get rid of. No, they aren’t destined for the trash! On the other hand, they aren’t destined to get stored indefinitely in your garage or basement, either. But what can you do with them? Below is a list of creative options that range from various money-making solutions to interesting ways you can give your clothes away.

Make money selling your clothes

Why not try to make a few bucks so you can use that money to buy new clothes? Um, ya, I’m joking. But seriously though, you spent hard-earned money on the clothes that you’ve decided to part ways with, so it’s not such a bad idea to try to sell them to someone else if they are still in good condition. Here are four possible money-making solutions:

  • Sell your clothes at a rummage sale. Hold your own rummage sale or ask a friend if you can join their sale. Rummage sales are not only good outlets for selling your clothing, they are also great ways to meet new people in your neighborhood. But be sure to recognize that rummage sales, while fun, can also be a lot of work.
  • Sell your clothes on eBay. Do you have an expensive winter jacket you don’t wear anymore because you moved to a warmer climate? Do you have a bridesmaid dress that no longer fits you? Consider trying to sell it on eBay. While eBay might not immediately jump out at you as the ideal place to sell clothes, it definitely has potential. Selling on eBay comes with its downsides, like having to create auctions, paying small fees, and dealing with shipping. However, it also has its benefits. You will probably be able to get more money than you would at a rummage sale (where people expect real bargains) and you will have a much wider audience (the whole world!).
  • Sell your clothes on Craigslist. With Craigslist you’ll reach a wider audience than your rummage sale, but perhaps not quite as wide as on eBay. However, Craigslist is quite popular, very easy to use, and totally free! People in your area who might not have come by your house to your rummage sale perhaps would find you instead on the internet.
  • Sell your clothes at a consignment store. Consignment stores are second-hand stores that give you a cut of the money for the items you donate. Clothing consignment stores, as differentiated from basic thrift stores, usually only accept higher quality clothing (like new) and sometimes they might require that the clothes be modern (i.e. made within the last few years). But the beauty of this method is that you simply bring in your clothes and they do the rest of the work! You get paid when they sell your stuff.

Donate your clothes for a good cause

In addition to trying to find ways to make money getting rid of your clothes, you should also consider donation. Giving your clothes away to someone else who needs them will not only benefit the recipient, it will also benefit you! It feels good to do good, doesn’t it?! Here are five ways you can donate your clothing:

  • Consider the hand-me-down potential of your clothes. Before you even get your clothes out the door, you should consider whether what you are getting rid of might be able to be worn by someone else in your household. This method works best for kids clothes. There’s no need to keep buying your children all new clothes over and over. Kids go through clothes so quickly that doing the hand-me-down thing is really the best solution. As far as adults go, I for one will be the first to say that when I was a teenager it was a fun day when my mom would clean out her closets: new clothes for me!
  • Give your clothes away to extended family or friends. Does your brother have younger children that could wear your children’s old clothes? Do you have a best friend who would just love your jacket? Ask around. You never know who might be interested.
  • Look for a freecycle program in your community. Freecycle is an internet organization fairly similar to Craigslist where people can list items online that they want to give away for free. Go to freecycle’s homepage to see if you have a program in your local community. If you have a bin full of winter garments or a box of baby clothes you are trying to get rid of for example, freecycle may be a great option.
  • Donate your clothes to a thrift store. Different from a consignment store, plain thrift stores accept donated clothes but do not give you a cut of the sale. But in turn they are able to offer clothes at a very low price to people in the community who are looking for deals or who may not be able to afford new clothes at full retail price. Additionally, any clothes you donate can be written off your taxes!
  • Donate your clothes to a charitable organization. Does your church accept clothes donations? How about local shelters? Also, certain charity organizations love to get donated clothes that they can then send on to disaster-stricken areas or poor third-world countries. Investigate local organizations or contact missionaries to find out how you can help.

Reader Reflection

These are only some of the ways you can creatively get rid of your clothes clutter. Have you found any interesting options you’d like to share here?

What’s next?

So far you’ve made decisions about clothes you don’t need anymore and now you are equipped with several ideas regarding how to get rid of them. Tomorrow we’ll return to your closet, see what’s left, and get it organized!

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