October 8, 2011

{OrganizedHome} Day 8: Defining Clutter


When I think of clutter I imagine knick-knacks.  Ceramic kitty cats and creamers in the shape of cows.  But the truth is that knick-knacks are the most benign form of clutter. They sit on a shelf and collect dust, but they do little to complicate our daily lives.

We need to dig deeper for a truer definition of clutter.

Clutter is the stuff that is keeping our homes from being what we need them to be.  Clutter is too much and too many.  Too many toys.  Too many clothes.  Too many things to do on a Saturday morning.

Clutter complicates life without adding anything to it.  

Clutter is the meaningless getting in the way of the meaningful.

Go back and read day one.  Think about what you want your home to be.  Maybe even get out a piece of paper and a pen and write a mission statement for your home. Dare to use big lofty words like refuge. HavenSanctuary.   These things don't come just by uncluttering, but clutter might be standing in the way.

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" ~William Morris
The only way to organize clutter is to get rid of it.  And we can't get rid of it until we know where it's hiding.   What is your definition of clutter?

30 comments:

  1. Great post! That is such an interesting way to define clutter and so true! I'm really enjoying this series!

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  2. Great post. I'd have to think of my definition of clutter, but my husband and I are notorious for being a bit on the minimal side. We don't like extraneous or useless in our home. at. all.

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  3. Great perspective on something I definitely struggle with! Also, I'm a huge fan of William Morris so I was happy to see his wise words included here :)

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  4. Clutter is the bits of stuff my kids play with (legos, blocks, toy cars) or craft with (colored pencils, paper, crayons, glue) that doesn't get put away when they are done (that I come home to after work - thanks, husband, for keeping the kids entertained). Clutter is the pots and pans in our tiny kitchen at 11 o'clock at night when I have no more energy for cleaning. In our house, clutter is the exploded results of daily living - there IS a place for it, it DOES get used, but it doesn't always go back where it should, when it should. Clutter is a mommy with a full-time job, school, and limited energy. I guess could throw all our stuff away, but active minds and bodies need a certain amount of material to work with...

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    1. I disagree. Clutter is stuff you don't need. Your kids need their toys like you need your car. They are only that age for too little and I can see you looking back on this and wanting to trip over a toy but find your son away at college. What will be your "clutter" 5 years, 10 years? Our "clutter" is always changing because we are changing but clutter to me is not the stuff we use and need, it's the way we use that stuff. If you were to take away a piece of clutter, then you might be taking away someone treasure. I would suggest to sit down with your family once a week and make a treasure box instead of a clutter box. If you do this for a long time you will find the "clutter" will change with the age of the person.

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  5. I struggle with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I was finally diagnosed after years of living a cluttered lifestyle. I didn't realize that my lack of organized thoughts could be the cause of my unorganized home. Thank you for your blog! I am getting help for the A.A.D.D., and with your help, my clutter filled home. I am deeply appreciative!

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    1. My struggle with paper clutteer is also related to ADD; and I just don't like filing and I tend to print off stuff from internet or blogs that I follow because it is easier to read from a "hard copy" then the monitor/screen for some reason. I am a stickler for organization with any financial matters. My paper clutter is flower gardening, genealogy research, home decorating, and organizational and cleaning.

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  6. I really like what Katherine said! In my house--even books are clutter. Read everyday and well loved, but not in their simple to use system. :-) We're a work in progress

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  7. "Too many things to do on a Saturday morning." You nailed it right there. But how do you get rid of those things?? They are generally the things that are working towards de-cluttering our home...

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  8. My biggest clutter problem is the papers and mail that get piled up on my counter. My daughter brings home stacks of paper and artwork from school and will freak out if she finds anything of hers in the garbage. I usually try to thow those things away (not artwork) in the outside garbage can when she is asleep at night. Mail is my second biggest problem and I am working on ways to organize that now. I always think that I am going to need that piece of paper someday and I have a hard time throwing it away. I have started going through the mail by the garbage can everyday and throwing the junk mail immediately. I do need help however with the things like permission slips from school, order forms and coupons and such we receive in the mail? We live in a very small house with minimal storage space and stuff just seems to get piled up in a corner.
    Your blog is an inspiration to me though. I will get there!

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    1. You post about your daughter reminded me of something i read... The items that children create or get an A+ on are some of their favorite items to bring home...and some of our biggest headaches to keep ALL of them...so i read about a woman who will take a picture of the child with their artwork, or just of the artwork itsself and she will scrapbook it, put it in an album, or add it to her blog. That way you get to keep the memory and maybe not the "200th play-doh bowl" hope this helps!

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    2. "anonymous" just said what i was going to say! =) I used to hang my daughter's art on the wall in the playroom until the wall was full, then took a picture of her standing in front of the wall, dated it, and recycled the paper. They were pleased, and so was I. (Of course i couldn't get rid of ALL of it, so i always kept a file folder where i could keep a few things....which is what is cluttering my storage area now that she is a teenager) =)

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    3. I recently saw something about people scanning children's artwork into the computer and then creating a memory book from the photos using Mixbook or something similar. I thought it was a great idea.

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    4. Take pictures of the artwork (several pieces at a time) digital pics take up less room than physical papers & you both can look back at them anytime, just be sure to label/date them. Then you could bring her to the local nursing home or senior center to give out her artwork, they would love it!

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  9. To the poster with the mail issue - you are on the right track by immediately throwing away the junk mail. It terms of coupons,I keep 2 cute little bags in my car - one for grocery store coupons & one for other store coupons, frequent buyer cards etc. I'm not sure what you mean by order forms & school permission slips. When we occasionally get paperwork that needs to be returned to school, I fill it out the day I get it & then put it in an outgoing basket by my front door to return asap. For bills in the mail, we do online bill pay. I set up the payments the day I receive the bill & then either shred/recycle the bill or save it in my file drawer.(I like to save some bills, like gas & electricity in order to monitor our usage)Other than bills, junk mail & coupons, I can't think of other items we get in the mail.

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  10. Odd I would see this on pinterest an hour after I finished reading an article in january 2012s issue of Entrepreneur magazine relating to it. The writer is talking about a 6 wk backpacking trip & how "The things you own end up owning you, if you don't need it, don't buy it, ignoring the 'Jones'', & experiences are more likely to make you happy than material goods. Another benefit: they don't take up space." Great article and great blog!

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  11. I know people who scan children's artwork and make "computer books" of it...a way to "save" it without having the actual paper stacked up.

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  12. Anonymous, we do this in our family. We scan and save the really great pictures and paintings that our children have done and put them on an external hard drive and make a back up copy (just in case). That way we get to keep them forever, without fading or perishing or the clutter! It is a wonderful way to keep the memories! Of course some are for immediate display in the home or on the pin board in the kids room, but once it is time to put a new picture up, the previous is scanned and the paper recycled!

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  13. Just started reading this series after my daughter-in-law made me aware of it. I have a favorite quote on clutter. I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I read this years ago in a book about clutter and memorized it. I have no idea who to credit. "Clutter is visual noise, and I can't hear myself think for all the useless possessions I own."

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  14. I have now recognized that I have a serious clutter problem. I never could understand why I would spend all day cleaning and then at the end, it still looked dirty. I could not believe it when my husband suggested donating some of our stuff a few months back..but..but..Its MY stuff, I can't give away my stuff like that. What I have discovered is that sometimes there are emotional issues that also have to be dealt with. Growing up, I was not as privilaged as some others and I find myself trying to compensate now as an adult by surrounding myself with possessions and my poor house suffered for it. Thank you for this blog, it has been a huge help and inspiration as I declutter myself from "stuff" and free myself from that little girl who never got an easy bake oven.

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  15. Just discovered your blog, and I love this post. I shared some of it on my blog - http://one-little-woman.blogspot.com/2012/02/exactly-what-is-clutter.html. Thanks!!

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  16. I live in the basement of my parent's in law house, in a "suite" that has one window, a nook for our bed, no inner doorways, the baby's crib, changing table, a computer/tv and couch space, and a kitchen area. clutter to me is the stuff that collects anywhere that I want to walk, cook, or look at. And that is almost everywhere. We have used up almost all of the space that we have, because what is in it is necessary to have, and there isn't enough for extra stuff. also, my baby will be crawling soon, and I need to find a way to keep things off the floor pronto. (notice that my sentences aren't capitalized, because the little guy is a movin' and a shakin') I'm wishing I had a neat-desk, so we could easily file documents. also, the empty counterspace in the middle of my house is full of the stuff I borrowed from my mother for Easter. my clean laundry never gets done, because i work and watch a baby and my husband works 40 hrs a week. so, that means that the clean clothes hang around in baskets all over the house. i also have adhd, and have a hard time staying on task, and utilizing my time wisely. my memory constantly feels cluttered by a desire to have time to clean my house (but not really knowing where to start).

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  17. I just had the sad job of helping my siblings (in-law) clean out their mother's home. She is too ill to live in her home anymore and stays with her daughter. She said she didn't want to be there when we did it. She said it was all just "stuff". We were able to completely clear out her home in one weekend. With three dumpsters full, important memories piled here and there, couches set by the sidewalk that were taken within an hour, and about 20 boxes for goodwill in the garage, we were done. A lifetime of living in a home gone within three days. It was interesting to see, when push came to shove, what was really important. Now that I am back home, I am trying to be more thoughtful about the "stuff" I have in my home. My goal is to unload a lot of things and make my life more simple. I have a niece that does something fun with her family. They have Throw Away (or Recycle) 100 Things Saturdays. With children in the home, even a broken crayon, McDonald toys....count as a thing. It is fun to see what you will let go of to make the 100 goal.

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  18. Great article and a fine series. Found you on pinterest and plan to come back for more tips.

    I'm always fighting clutter, especially the paper tiger, but I do have small victories. My kitchen while full, works great and I now live by new rules, - if something new comes in something I else must leave the house.

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  19. Hmmmm clutter for my family I think is the 'i want' factor, not much of we need so slowly there is just too much of everything everywhere.

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  20. I open my mail by the shredder and recycle basket. I lay stuff to shred on top of the shredder, throw the recycles into the basket, and put all bills on top of my bill binder. My bill binder started when we were selling our house and I didn't want my personal bills on my desk (I had a file folder for bills on my desk so that whom ever opened mail knew where to put them.) I have 4 envelopes inside the pocket of the front cover. I write the dates (4 envelopes=4 pay dates) on the outside of the envelope and slip the bill into the week it is due. I also have a monthly calendar that is 3-hole punched and I write what bills are due on paydays. This has worked so well that 18 months after selling our house I am still using this system. I can grab the binder and take it with me. I have paid bills while waiting for doctor's appts, waiting on children at bus stops, etc.

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    1. By the way, my daughter has the chore of emptying the recycle basket into the big one for garbage day (they pick up our recycles too.) and shredding papers.

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  21. By the way, my daughter's chores also include emptying the recycle basket into the large one in the garage and shredding papers on top of the shredder.

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  22. I, also, am a "Donna". When I divorced, I had to move from a 5,300 sq. foot home to a 2,100 sq. foot home. My friends were astounded to find 80 empty photo albums and 110 cookbooks in my possession. I had boxes packed of wedding gifts that I had never opened, waiting to be used because they were too "pretty". Now I'm moving to a 1,500 sq. foot townhouse and I need to declutter again. This blog is perfect for me to realize what is truly valuable in my life. I always feel disorganized and messy. These things are what they are, things. My computer can store my information and I can feel organized and clean. Ugh, to haul that stuff around.

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