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Clutter Mutterings…

Top Farm, old barn, farm clutter
Creative Commons License photo credit: debs-eye
Is clutter driving you bonkers?  What small steps can you take to change your experience?

The facts of the present won’t sit still for a portrait. They are constantly vibrating, full of clutter and confusion.

— William MacNeile Dixon

No, that’s NOT my barn! Thank God. But it does epitomize my sense of clutter, clutter everywhere!

I do admit to a secret wish for my very own barn with an artist’s loft, a light-filled workroom, a retreat, a hideaway. Mine would, however, be neat, orderly and inviting.  And, yes, I’d have one room for anything I am of a mind to keep but don’t know quite yet know what to do with.  And organized space for some stacks n’ piles – ’cuz I function best with essentials “in sight”.  For me “out of sight” equals “out of mind”.  Every home should have such spaces, not too big, but accommodating.

I’m a fan of what I call “healthy clutter”, I wrote the post, Is Clutter Healthy? in which I blithely bragged:

I wholeheartedly subscribe to Thomas Edison’s advice, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”  I see myself not as a packrat, but as a hoarder of my very own possibilities pile. I do love my junk – it gives me the freedom to invent my very own as yet undefined creations… I suppose that each of us has our own clutter tolerance level – and beyond that threshold, we go bonkers.

…I think the secret to healthy stress reduction is in figuring out where you will draw the razor-thin line between ‘collectable’ and ‘clutter’ … figuring out  which stuff will, in the words of Peter Walsh, “make your heart sing.”

Well now.  Four months later, my clutter has crossed that razor-thin line; it’s out of control; it’s taken on a life of its own.  I mean, even the freezer in the garage is cluttered with frost build-up and who knows what outdated leftovers!  Hence my current clutter mutterings.  I need a new heart song. 

Arrrrggghhh – Clutter Everywhere

The unfinished, the untouched and the well-intentioned:

  • Tools used but not returned to “their place”. (And now unfindable.)
  • Thingamajigs intended to be used but set aside for other priorities. (And now languishing in limbo.)
  • Toys untouched, waiting. (And for now, unfulfilled.)
  • Tidy stacks of papers waiting to be filed or shredded. (And by the very nature of the pile, filled with unfindable documents.)

Almost everywhere I look there’s a stash of something that should be put away somewhere else.  Stuff that might have a place of its own, and then again, it might not.  Stuff that, at the very least, shouldn’t be where it is… Things that I will get to soon or someday…  Treasures I think I’ll want in the future… Treasures my late husband relished and cherished but which befuddle me. I can’t begin comprehend the utility much less appeal of the many gadgets he enjoyed! And if one was good, well five more were nirvana!  He was a happy man. For instance, I’ve collected six, yes, count ‘em, six canes to offer to my post-foot-surgery son-in-law’s recuperation!

And, suddenly, it’s all just too much, too much, it’s gone from healthy to unhinging.

I’ve reached MY tipping point – I’m mentally and unrealistically reacting to this sense of dis-order with magnified feelings of powerlessness and frustration – a perfect potential setup for little-girl-angry-tirades – as in throw yourself on the floor and have a screaming-meamy hissy fit, hysterics and all… Ok, that’s all in my head but definitely, this is NOT my most productive state of mind.  Not at all, a’tal.

My Brain on Clutter

Ellie’s brain on clutter
Highway Sign Clutter
Creative Commons License photo credit: ChiBart

My perception of over-much clutter weighs heavy, thwarts my good intentions, saps the resources I need NOW, and nags my brain with should do’s.  Too many pokes in my concentration, too many to-do’s on my list, too many, too much – my brain feels like it will explode in a glorious light show – a-bonkers I will go!

So, to counteract an imminent lightshow, I’m working at developing a more laissez faire attitude – for much of the stuff that bewilders and bewitches me, I don’t have to be the person who finds just the right recipient for each and every item, someone else can assume that function… I can give the item to charity, or, serendipitously, to the next Boy Scout who leads a yardsale fundraiser for his Eagle Scout project… They pickup, I get relief and the space to keep moving forward into a new future, unburdened by treasures of a different era.

My critic objects, I shouldn’t be so cavalier about giving away value – and I admit that giving to the Boy Scout yardsale gives me comfort – there are benefits in so many directions, the Boy Scout earns money for his project, the project is a community service so the community benefits in some way, and whoever buys the bargain either wins a product they NEED or the opportunity to resell it at profit which will fund feeding their family.  Everybody wins and I let go of a burden that’s weighing on me.  Looks like a win-win to me.

Therein Lies the Fix for Stuff ’n Stacks

For the rest of the “stuff” that clutters my corners, I will spend some time each week sorting keepers and discards.  The keepers will then be put in their very own designated “place” and/or passed on to a designated recipient in the case of treasures other family members might cherish.  The discards will, every Tuesday, will be set out in the pink bag for our local charity to pick up.  I will whittle away at the problem week by week, bit by bit.

That takes care of the Stuff.  What about the stacks???  Well, that has to be a whittling job as well.  I’ve brought one of the folding tables upstairs.  It will be my base of operations. That’s where I’ll lay out those mysterious stacks into logical categories that can then be designated keepers or discards.  And filed accordingly.  File folder/file drawer or shredder…

I’m starting with my current filing stacks.  I think that’s where I’ll get the best return on my time.  Right now, my most frustrating issue is lost paperwork, stuff I know I’ve kept but can’t find and need NOW. So a-sorting I will go.  Day by day I’ll whittle away.

Once the current filing has been sorted and put away in an orderly, findable system (I have the components: file drawers, folders, hanging files, labels etc.  I’m ready to execute.) then I’ll start finding out what’s in all those other stacks and piles, the ones left behind by me and my late husband – and who knows, with any luck, most of it’s so old I can just shred it!

I’m going to have to meter out my time spent on this de-cluttering project.  After all, life goes on and if most of the stuff is so old it can be shredded then most of it just isn’t important except that it needs to be categorized and handled.

A Return to the Healthy Clutter Stage

My expectation is that clearing the decks will help me cope with some of my other challenges if only by relieving me of the weighty burden of those befuddling stacks and stuff.  I don’t want to completely eliminate the clutter; instead, I’m aiming for a renewed and healthy relationship with my clutter, my piles of possibilities… and a new heart song that reverberates with simplicity so that I can heed Hans Hofmann’s counsel:

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

Is clutter driving you bonkers?  What small steps can you take to change your experience?

3 comments to Clutter Mutterings…

  • cocoricomom

    I reached my thresh hold 2 weeks ago and the clutter put me in a panic. We had a yard sale for my daughter’s school. That helped a little. I finally picked up the book “The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter” that was in the one of the piles on the floor. I love the irony that it was part of the clutter. One quote has helped me with my frustration of cleaning for days and it’s still a mess. “Remember it took time to collect all that clutter, so it will take time to remove it….Rome wasn’t organized in a day.”
    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with this.
    P.S. The author has a section on cleaning your freezer and a list of how long food can stay in the freezer.

  • Ellie

    cocoricomom — you have me LOL! I LOVE the irony of your find – Queen Conquers Clutter amidst the piles … and I take heart in your advice to remember that it takes time both ways, collecting and removing. Thanks for the insights.

  • Well, I just loved the quotes on clutter. They just spoke to me. So I cut and pasted them on a word document and placed them in a new folder in my cluttered computer. Now I have more to sift through to find the information I need. Of course clutter in a computer doesn’t take up physical space unless you count your hard drive. I could print them out and tape them to my office wall along with the other papers attached to my wall and hope they help with the mess.

    You know I think I will post them, but on my bathroom mirror. I’ll put an experation date at the top and let it remind me to cut clutter a little each day. Some progress is better than none. J.