We’re loaded for bear today, Gentle Reader. I’ve got so much to pack into this one post that I hope you make yourself a cup of tea or bulletproof(ish) coffee, and settle in for a bit. 🙂
Easter is early this year, so the 40 days of Lent that precedes it is early, too, natch’. Lent starts today, as a matter of fact. Last year, I wrote about my determination to do a bit of de-cluttering every day, to address the dreadful matter of too-much-junkness that seems to plague me and mine. Always has. Always wi. . .. no! We can change, right? 🙂
Here’s that post. I made the point at the time–and I still believe it–that clutter, like so many things, can get in the way of a relationship with God, so a worthy Lenten focus would be to get rid of as much of it as possible. It takes time, after all, to shuffle it around, organize it, search through it for things that you actually need, and so forth.
Clutter = Stress.
(Ask any mama who is desperately searching her child’s room for an overdue library book, or shifting through piles of papers in her studio looking for a bill that was due last week, if clutter doesn’t cause stress!)
But your life–and my life–doesn’t have to be this way. And besides, if you hang onto clutter even after you’ve decided that it gets in the way with relationships with God (and with others), it just might be a idol. And you know how God feels about idols. Yikes.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:19+
So. When I get the unnecessary, superfluous stuff out of my house, I’ll have more time with God, more time with my lovely family, and less stress, right? Of course, right!
So what is keeping me? What is keeping you?
Sure, there are other de-cluttering challenges out there. Tons of ’em. But I daresay–this here is the only one which will use the word “superfluous,” and use it often. 🙂
I am determined to do better at keeping the clutter at bay. It’s my one weakness. 😉 I have lots of excuses for why this is so. Excuses. Not logical reasons. I teach a drama program that keeps our attic full of costumes and props and such. I love to go shopping at thrift stores and yard sales. I love my collections. I am an artist. I have so many children. I have a goose. It’s Wednesday and Wednesdays are crazy. The sky is blue. And so on. You probably have plenty of
excuses reasons, too, lovely Gentle Reader. Perhaps you prefer to read excellent blog posts to having a clutter-free house (cough).
But. Here’s the secret: you can do both.
You know how lovely it feels when you give a cluttered area a good clean-out. And generally, if you do a thorough job, it stays clean, because it is then much easier to tidy.
By the way, I find it is awfully handy to have all these photos in the public domain for me to use in this post (cough). I mean really, whose house could ever be this messy? 🙁
Lent is such a perfect time to focus on this.
Some believers give up meat, some give up sugar or pop or movies or whatever, in an effort to spend more time and energy on drawing closer to God. I choose to give up clutter and disorganization. The kids and I really did make some progress in de-cluttering last year during Lent, but we didn’t exactly finish the job (obviously). We still have areas of our house that I would never let you see, Gentle Reader. Never-ever-ever. Can you relate? Yup, we still have a few superfluous objects kicking around. (eye roll)
Please tell me that you can relate. Tell me that I’m not alone in this. 🙁
I downloaded some simple forms at the beginning of this year that have helped me immeasurably: two sheets with a grid of 2015 little squares. The goal was to get rid of 2015 unnecessary things in 2015. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I started filling out my sheets–and getting rid of things–in January, and I am nearly half done already. In a half an hour of cleaning in my studio the other day, I pitched 92 things. Boom. Score!
Every time I get rid of a bag or a box of stuff that we don’t need, I feel my spirit (and our o’erfull house!) breathing a happy, delicious sigh of relief.
I’m offering you something similar at the end of this post (but better, because it contains the excellent word “superfluous”) but first, I have a treat for you!
Because this is not an area that I excel at, I talked my friend Nona, an accountant and professional organizer, into writing down a few tips for me. Nona is sweet and non-judgmental about the fact that she is a Rockstar in this area. I love her to pieces. Also I’m a bit jealous of her: actually, I want to be Nona.
So here are a few de-cluttering tips from a professional, my friend Nona: (I might make a few lame comments, too, but I’ll put them in a different color, so you can distinguish between them. Not that there’ll be any question, *sigh.*)
START with a long term goal.
What’s your reason for de-cluttering? Do you not want piles of clutter sitting around all the time? Do you want everything to have a place, and to be in that place? Do you want to not shrink in embarrassment when somebody drops in on you? (Yes–yes–and yes!) (Do you want to not nearly die of mortification when the insurance adjuster shows up–without calling first–and takes a photograph of every stinkin’ room in the house, for insurance records, and then *blushing* puts them online for all to see? 🙁
Set short term goals, as well.
“It didn’t get this way overnight, and it ain’t gonna get fixed overnight, either!” Think baby steps.
Swallow the Big Frog first.
Do the job you hate the worst, first! ( You probably are going to hate this until you see success, and then you will get excited!) In this situation of tackling your biggest job first (you know what it is!) we need to swallow a lot of little frogs! In other words, we are going to cut this job down so you can wrap your arms around it and be successful in reaching your goal.
Start in the farthest corner of the house (you’ll like being close to the front door as the project winds down) and do one closet or one room or one cupboard or one box at a time. (This will depend on how much time you can give each day or a couple days a week, whatever you set as your short term goal.)
Define where everything is going as you are de-cluttering.
Are you donating or saving for a garage sale? Or is it going out on the curb in a “free” pile, or straight to the dumpster? Whatever you decide to do, have a place planned out where this stuff will go, until you can remove it, so you aren’t stumbling around it. (And so you can see the beautiful results immediately!)
Once you’ve de-cluttered:
If you buy a new clothing item, get rid of an old one: One in–One out! A de-cluttered area is so much easier to keep tidy than a cluttered area. (See photos below of one of my de-cluttered areas from last year.)
Decide first where you want everything to be.
It only seems natural that you would have things in proximity of where you will use it. (Save those steps, you will appreciate it as you get older.) I suggest purchasing crates, baskets, dividers, etc to help put things in to organize them. (From me again: first, look around at what you already have. I know that I have lots of containers sitting around that I can use for these purposes.)
The most important thing to remember:
In order to stay de-cluttered and organized, everything needs to have a place and everything should be in its place! It takes less time to put it away when you are done with it, than it does to start through the house, picking it up and putting it all away. You will also become more efficient in your work as you will not be looking for stuff. You will know exactly where to find everything you need. (Thanks Nona, I needed to hear that!)
Celebrate little successes.
Treat yourself to something special when you have completed a room or the project you set up as a short term goal. (Dairy Queen Blizzards are a terrific motivator at our house.) 🙂
Get the family onboard!
You cannot do this alone. If they can’t help you do the de-cluttering, then they ought to help you keep it the way you want it, once it’s finished. (But they ought to help you do the de-cluttering, unless it’s only your stuff–really!)
Wow. That was so helpful! Thank you so much, Nona, for taking the time to share these tips with us. Once again . . . when I grow up, I want to be YOU!
And here’s my add-on: Play mind games to keep at it. Here’s where my refrigerator chart comes in. I find that with this carrot on a stick—filling out a chart works like magic for me—I will stick at my task longer. It makes it like a game!
Honestly, after I’d been filling out the chart above–I fill in one little square for every item I get rid of–I start moving about the house with a search-and-destroy mentality. I won’t toss anything that is precious to my housemates, of course, but everything else is fair game. Magazines that I’ll never read a second time–out! Clothing that I hang onto but don’t really like? Boom–out it goes! Toys that nobody will play with again? Into the donation box!
Now here’s the little gift for you, Gentle Reader, from me. My son Andrew designed a chart of 2,000 little spaces, for you to download and print off, and hang up on your ‘fridge. If you’d like to join me in my 2,000 Superfluous Things De-Cluttering Challenge this year, I would like to challenge you to get rid of 2,000 items that you no longer need or want. That’s only 50 items tossed, per day.
I’d love to have your company! I’ll be posting occasionally about de-cluttering triumphs at our place (with
humiliating encouraging “before” photos), and I’d love to hear about yours, too.
Click below to get the free chart: “2,000 Superfluous Things,” print it off, and get started, baby!
And Hey, are you a friend of vomitingchicken.com on Facebook? If not, would you click here and “like” my page? You don’t want to miss a thing, do you? We’ll be posting plenty of de-cluttering anecdotes and tips throughout the next 40 days, on Facebook and Twitter, too. Thank you!
Good luck! Happy de-cluttering!
- Question: Does your chicken need a sweater?
- Help me put the Chili & Cinnamon Rolls Controversy to rest!