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Of Clutter, I Utter

Of Clutter, I Utter

Lately I’ve been asking friends and clients about this rather messy topic.  I was given so many examples of clutter, I thought I’d use them for a quiz to see how clutter affects your life!  

Take the Quiz

Give yourself one point for each yes…be honest.

  • Have you ever bought something you already owned because you couldn’t find it?
  • Do you spend more than 10 minutes each day looking for something? (Yes, this includes your keys and phone.)
  • Do you have a junk drawer in your kitchen that is completely full? (One point for each full drawer.)
  • Do you own extra towels, blankets, and sheets that don’t match because “someone will want them some day”?
  • Do you have expired medications?  (Can you find your medications?)
  • Do you own old appliances you never use, such as a bread machine?  A frozen margarita maker that you were going to use over the summer?
  • Do you have a pile of mail, magazines, catalogs or newspapers that you are “eventually going to get through…”?
  • Do you have trouble figuring out what to wear even though your closet is full of clothes? (Give yourself two points if you have clothes in closets that you have forgotten about!)
  • Do you rent a storage unit?
  • Is your refrigerator full of cartons of the same stuff, all with different expiration dates?
  • Do you park your car outside since you can’t fit it in the garage?
  • Do things fall out of your cupboards when you open them?
  • Do you have more than 100 unopened messages in your email inbox?
  • Do you have a coffee mug for each day of the month?  (Give yourself two points if they all have “witty” sayings.)
  • Do you own unused gift cards that have expired?  (Give yourself an extra point if you think you have unused cards, but can’t find them.)
  • Have you been late in paying bills because you misplaced them?
  • Have you ever discovered that something you loved was ruined because it wasn’t stored properly? 
  • If you were unable to access your checking, investment and retirement accounts, health insurance details, or other important financial records, would someone else be able to “step in” and find needed information?
  • Does clutter cause you stress?         


Sum up your score.  Here are my thoughts on your total:

0 points- We will cover lying and its harmful effects on relationships in a future blog.

1 - 2 points- You could write this article!  Please come to my house and help me get organized.

3 - 5 points- You are on your way, but still could use some strategies to declutter.

6 - 19 points- I’m here to help!  Please keep reading.

20 + points- Reality TV is looking for you.

If you scored high on this quiz, you are not alone.  As I started to talk about clutter, I realized that in addition to costing us time, money and productivity, clutter causes unneeded stress.

What’s the connection between “Investing in Your Values” and clutter?  Well, first of all, I’ve yet to meet someone who values clutter.  But seriously, the process of clarifying your values begins with stripping away things that aren’t important, but take up your energy.  


Observations on Clutter

Here are some observations about clutter from friends and colleagues:

A friend mentioned that his garage was so full, he had to park his car outside and it was vandalized.

Another friend mentioned that when she moved two years ago, she never unpacked 10 boxes and they were still in her basement.  They probably will stay there until her next move.  Did she really need to keep all these items? 

A client remarked that the clutter in her home was a constant reminder of work to be done.  This added stress and overwhelmed her as she did not know how to begin. 

A colleague added that they love the feeling of dropping boxes off at Goodwill - it brings a sigh of relief that they are getting organized, while helping others at the same time.

A close friend’s mother recently moved into an assisted living facility.  The responsibility for getting her mother’s home ready for sale fell to her.  Mom never threw anything away, and my friend had to sort through 50 years of “collected items.”  (The actual words my friend used to describe the clutter cannot be printed.)  The effort took over her weekends for months, taking her away from family, and unfortunately led to resentment between the two of them.  My friend vowed that she would never make her children go through the same experience.


Let’s Begin the Process

Like so many things in life, the first step is the hardest.  Once you get past that, you will be amazed what you can accomplish. 

So, where to begin?  Schedule a time to declutter, just as you would for other things on your to-do list.  Maybe a quiet Sunday morning...Do it now while it is snowing and zero degrees. 

Start with one room at a time.  Pretend you are moving - so everything needs to come out of the closets, drawers and shelves.  Divide your stuff into four boxes: throw out, keep, donate, and store for later.  Then throw out everything you are storing for later.  Just kidding.  Not really. 

Less is more!  Get rid of:

  • Your old pasta maker - you are not going to learn how make pasta.  You are not going to have a dinner party with friends gushing over your hand-made rigatoni.  
  • Clothes you never wear that have sentimental value.  Take a picture. 
  • Clothes that never fit properly.  Sorry, girlfriends.
  • Stephen, if you’re reading this - throw out your ratty 1997 Cleveland Indians jersey.  We all know what happened in Game 7.
  • Your kid’s third grade art projects.  Give them back to your kids with love!  Ok, maybe keep one for sentimental value.  But just one.
  • Your old cross country skis.  I know you had dreams of PyeongChang 2018, but it’s too late.
  • Your gardening tools. You live in a condo. 

Take advantage of our digital world.  There are services that will take a box of photos, scan and store them on-line for you. 

Find a convenient place for everything that’s left.  Finish one room before moving on to the next.  And keep an eye out for future clutter.  Stop it before it starts!  Before you buy anything, “shop your home” first.  Do you really need it? 

Keep what is meaningful, what truly can’t be replaced.  The decision process - what stays and what goes - can be cathartic.  (Look that up online - do you really need the Funk & Wagnalls dictionary you got with points from Jewel in 1982?)

Once you have spent the time to declutter, relax and take time to enjoy your more spacious home.  (Now where did I put that wine glass?) I promise you’ll want to keep things that way.

I’d love your decluttering suggestions!  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).  I’ll either use your suggestions or delete them right away!


My next blog will provide steps to declutter your financial life.


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Skokie, IL 60077
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