I have had clutter for a long time. If someone had looked in a crystal ball when I was in college and predicted that I would become a clutter clearing expert speaker/author, I probably would have laughed. My roommates back then would have laughed too—in a disbelieving sort of way.
I am not a natural organizer. I was not born “tidy.” I wasn’t really interested in “tidy” or “organized.” Sometimes I lost things. Many times it took too long to find things, and, to top it off, I liked to save things “just in case.” Do you remember the old television series “The Odd Couple?” Oscar was the slob-like messy roommate and Felix was the tidy three-piece-suit neat nick? Well, the best thing I could do was hide stuff when company came over, so people wouldn’t think I was a slob.
Then it happened: I married and discovered my mother-in-law. Yes, this is a mother-in-law story. Back in the 1960s, my mother-in-law, who raised three boys, was nominated for Suburban Homemaker of the Year in her city. Her home was described as “a model of neatness and comfort.” No kidding. She scared me. At the same time, I learned that because she had less clutter in her life than me, she had time for her priorities—her faith, family, friends, and life. I really admired and appreciated her, and finally I truly understood the benefits of Felix’s tidy behaviors. I wanted less clutter and more time and energy for the priorities in my life too.
Books provide many solutions. I began reading. One day, I looked in my underwear drawer with the new perspectives I had gained from all my reading. What did I see in my underwear drawer? You don’t really want to know. It was a giant mess that looked like it had been stirred together with a big spoon. What was there?
The Past: Certain frilly items given to me over ten years ago at a bridal shower!
A Life Stage: Maternity underwear! We are blessed with two wonderful children, and we are not so young any more.
Ratty Tatty Items: Stuff your mom would tell you not to wear in case you were in an accident and found yourself at the hospital.
And, Finally, Guilt: Two children and several years later, I wasn’t the same size I used to be, and the, uh, smaller items in my drawer made me feel guilty every day.
Wow! This wasn’t rocket science, I could do this! In ten minutes, I had removed these aspects of my underwear drawer and organized the remainder. I used two cardboard shoeboxes, one for tops and one for bottoms. Magic. The Underwear Drawer Lady was born, and she went on to apply the philosophy of removing things that no longer applied to her life from each drawer of her dresser and ultimately her home!
I began to help friends and ultimately was asked to speak to groups to share my ideas. I wrote a simple living column for several years for the local hometown newspaper. That was a funny story too. They ran an advertisement looking for a cooking columnist (I am not the best cook), and I responded with a sample article for a simple living column that would help readers declutter, organize their home, and simplify their lives. I was lucky the editor decided clutter clearing to free up time and energy for life was as important as cooking.
My writing and speaking expanded. I spoke to business wellness seminars, women’s organizations, and church groups, and they spoke to me. Every time I gave a talk, I learned something from at least one person there. I wrote a book to put all these great ideas together: Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, Jan., 2010).
I believe that clearing clutter is a win-win-win situation (no, that isn’t a typo). When we clear clutter, we make our homes into relaxing and restoring spaces and free up time and energy for our priorities. We also can donate these items to help our favorite charity and help the recipients of these household goods who may be experiencing tough economic times. Finally, when we donate, we are also living green—we are living responsibly and not contributing to a landfill.
In good time and in difficult times, we can make clutter clearing choices to improve our lives and the lives of the people around us. What clutter clearing choices have you made?