Category Archives: Clutter-Free

Day 8: Clutter-Free Forever! – Clean Your Mess First


I didn’t make as much progress last week as I planned because I ended up finding and buying a new elliptical machine and most of my time was spent getting the elliptical and setting it up.

One nugget I read in Tidying which I found valuable and had experience implementing was the advice to always begin with m own mess before I get annoyed with the messes other people make.

This came up yesterday when I found myself feeling upset with my family because the kitchen was a big mess and I had spent a couple hours the day before getting the kitchen completely clean. Now there were dirty dishes seemingly on every possible surface: countertops, the stove, and tables. The sink was filled with dirty dishes. And even though we have plenty of drawers and cabinets, food and clean dishes hadn’t yet been put away.

When this happens I get angry and I feel like my family doesn’t care about me and what I want. Unchecked, I would have started yelling at my family, “Look at this, everything was perfectly clean and now it’s a disaster!” My family would have felt bad and probably felt resentful towards me for being so unreasonable. They might have cleaned up but it would have been in a very grudging way (I’m only doing this because you’re being such a total bitch and making me feel guilty).

Instead, I followed the advice in Tidying which goes “when you’re angry with other people’s messes, first clean up your mess.”

Even though I like to think I always clean up after myself, I checked and, yep, my breakfast stuff was still sitting out not yet put away. Similarly, the dining room table was covered with all kinds of work-related stuff I’d taken out for a project.

Seeing all the mess I’d left was humbling and I took care of all the stuff I’d left out and forgotten about.

By the time I’d finished, my husband was carrying a stack of his dishes into the kitchen and helped me empty the dishwasher so I could get the dirty stuff out of the sink.

This was a good lesson for me on two levels:

  1. It reminded me that I’m not such a paragon of neatness and that very often my irritation has more to do with my own mess than my family’s.
  2. To remember one of my favorite bits of advice which is before I start anything new, put away everything from the project I just completed.
  3. Like most people, I have a tendency to focus on what’s wrong with everyone else and think “if they would just change, I’d feel happy.” The truth is happiness begins inside and I need to first address what isn’t working within. By the time I finish addressing my own shortcomings, the outside world seems to have magically come into alignment with what I want it to be. Go figure!


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Day 7: Clutter-Free Forever! – Attack of the Resistance Monsters!


In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, the author, Marie Kondo, advises that we follow two rules when we are deciding what to keep and what to discard:

  1. Discard by category: Collect everything in a particular category and put them in one place (for example, all my coffee mugs)
  2. Criteria for deciding what to keep: For item in the category, handle it and ask, “does this spark joy?” Only keep the things that spark joy.

My initial reaction was a feeling of relief and excitement. I felt these two simple rules would finally get me off my proverbial “should I or shouldn’t I?” fence when it came to trying to decide whether or not to keep stuff.

But then the doubt monsters crept in.
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Day 3: Clutter-Free Forever! – The Joy Scale


Because it’s so important and because I tend to lose sight of it, I’ve added the “Joy Scale” I use to rate my daily activity.

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March 12, 2015 · 6:59 pm

Day 3: Clutter-Free Forever! – What to Keep? What to Toss?

Sparking Joy

When I’ve decluttered and organized in the past, the place where I always get stuck is when I try to decide, “Should I keep this or get rid of it?”
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Day 5: Clutter-Free Wardrobe

I haven’t added anything to this project because I’ve been in the “School of Hard Knocks” learning about just how much time and energy less than perfect clothes take up.

And..not so great shopping strategies.

I’ll start with shopping strategies.

The end of the year/beginning of the New Year is a time when I check to see if any of the things I’d been drooling over during the year have gone on sale. If yes, I take advantage of the sale assuming the item is still in stock.

But I’m rethinking this strategy because I’m realizing just how time consuming it’s become.

I used to prefer shopping online because it saved me time. This has changed for a few reasons:

  • I’m no longer at an age in which most things look good on me and the question is more “do I like this enough to keep it?”
  • I’m pickier about what I keep. I have to really love something to keep it.

I think being picker is a good thing. One of the reasons I have to declutter to begin with is because I used to keep things that were “good enough.” Keeping things that are “good enough” is one of the reasons I’m the proverbial “woman with a full closet but can never find anything to wear.”

I really want to love everything in my closet!

As for age, I find because fashion is oriented towards women in their 20’s and 30’s, a lot of things just don’t work on older women.

I know I pay a lot of attention to color and details because as I’ve gotten older, it’s easier for something to overwhelm my features. And if something is less than perfect in terms of shape, the way it drapes on my body, and tailoring, I can look like I’m wearing a sack.

So I ended up returning nearly everything I ordered and it takes time to do returns. I don’t know how other people return things but I’ve always spent time making sure everything I buy is clean, folded, and returned in salable condition because I hate to lose a refund because the seller can’t resell it.

I also take time to scan the invoice so I have a copy in case there’s a question.

So by the time I’ve tried things on, packaged what I want to return, and arranged (sometimes paid for) return shipment, I’m looking at at least 2-3 hours per package.

Even though going to retailers and trying things on takes time, it saves time and guess work. As I said at the beginning, when most things worked, getting things delivered worked for me. That is no longer the case.

I also find myself disappointed by the quality of a lot of things I’ve bought lately. I find that some of the brands that used to be reliable when it came to quality have changed. Often I find the quality is uneven. Sometimes what I buy is great. Sometimes it’s really disappointing. Last year things I bought from two “old reliable” retailers developed problems I wouldn’t have expected. Trim fell off a belt and a cashmere sweater developed a hole after minimal wear.

The best thing to do is to actually look at things and how well they are made before I buy.

The last argument for shopping “in person” is it’s better to see the item “in person” rather than rely on photographs. Recently some of the items I received looked so totally different from the way they were pictured and described I wondered if that was the item I actually bought! And of course, you never know how something will look until you try it on.

So often the way something looks on a model looks entirely different on me. Sometimes that’s actually a good thing. There have been times when I liked how something looked on me better than the way it was photographed but that the exception to the rule.

As I write this, I feel like I’m writing a “blinding glimpse of the obvious.” But going back to the “School of Hard Knocks” definition, sometimes I need a critical mass of negative experience to make changes in the way I do things.

Bottom line: one way I’m decluttering is by only buying things I can see and touch rather than assuming an online purchase will work.

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