Clutter-Clearing “Container”

In the book Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, the author Carolyn Koehnline says, “creating order can be messy.”  That’s certainly the truth.  I’m in the stage with my decluttering that some areas look worse now than before I started the process.  But I just try to keep my eye focused on the end result I’m hoping for, and just keep plugging away.

In her book, Koehnline suggests putting together what she calls a clutter-clearing container, a place to hold all your clutter-clearing process materials and a way to make sense of the mess that comes from decluttering.  She suggests something like:

  • a 3-ring binder
  • a file box
  • a digital folder

The container is basically a place to store and access notes and writings related to decluttering.  She says to skip this step if it seems too overwhelming for you.  At first, it did sound too overwhelming, but when I found myself reaching for a small steno notebook, I realized having a place to write about the process was a good idea for me.

I don’t feel the need to decorate my journal/container like she suggests at one point.  But I can see how that could be inspiring for some people.  I’m afraid I might get lost in the details of beautifying the journal and lose sight of the process of decluttering.  I think I just need to keep it all very plain and simple.

I also decided that updating my blog and Facebook page with thoughts and observations would give me another place to keep ideas and to keep track of my progress.  When notes from my steno notebook gel into something somewhat cohesive, I’ll share them here for safekeeping.

Things that Koehnline suggests keeping in the clutter-clearing container include:

  • helpful resources
  • details about projects
  • questions for self or others
  • process writing
  • inspirational quotes
  • poems
  • song lyrics
  • scriptures
  • pieces of own writing

I personally am just keeping notes on thoughts that come to me while reading Koehnline’s book, and the pieces of writing that are inspired by her book’s writing prompts, or by the process itself of clearing clutter.

Another idea she shares in her book for including in the container is photographs of “before and after.”  I haven’t included photos in my container(s), but I can see how that could be a valuable part of the decluttering journey.  Since I’ve already completed a few areas of my house, I might take a few “after” photos.  An empty bookcase.  Empty dresser drawers.  Neatly stacked boxes with carefully sorted Christmas decorations.

When I first read about her idea of keeping a clutter-clearing container, it didn’t resonate with me.  But as I found ways of adapting the idea to the way I work and the things that inspire me, it’s become the backbone of my decluttering project.  And also allows me to share my journey with others.

What sort of container do you think you would find helpful?

Decluttering Focus

I’m planning on moving in a year and downsizing in the process.  I hope to declutter enough that I’ll only be moving things with me that matter.  Right now, I have things in my home that I never use, so I’ve been asking myself if these unused items are things I want to haul with me to my next home.  The answer is frequently no.

I took a few minutes to make lists of the areas I need to focus on.

Big Picture Questions

What sorts of clutter do I have?

  • books
  • decorations
  • office supplies
  • clothing
  • bedding
  • games and puzzles
  • art supplies
  • kitchen gadgets and dishes

Which places are the most cluttered?

  • bedrooms
  • kitchen
  • office

How big of an endeavor is this project?

  • an entire house
  • a year’s time frame
  • a little bit at a time

I heard someone talk one time about how sometimes having a meandering focus can be helpful for people like me who can get overwhelmed with firm lists and agendas.  A meandering focus would be keeping the end result in sight, but allowing your time and attention to move organically through the project at hand.

For example, with my decluttering project I can keep the end goal (having things cleared out in a year) in my mind, but allow myself to move throughout the house fluidly as things come to the forefront.  I have most of my bedroom and its assorted closet space and drawers pretty much finished, I started working in the spare bedroom during and after the holidays, because I store much of my Christmas stuff in the closet there.  I’m going to move my focus into my office.  It might seem haphazard to other people, but it helps me to have the freedom to meander around my house as it seems appropriate.

A meandering focus is also like steering a sailboat.  You move around with the wind and waves but keep the destination always in sight.

Decluttering Fears

The book I’m reading, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, had us think about fears we might have that relate to decluttering.

Possible fears:

  • Not completing the process
  • Getting overwhelmed
  • Stirring up emotions; finding triggering objects
  • Regrets over things I part with

What should I do with those fears?

  • Acknowledge them gently.  All of them are real possibilities, so denying them isn’t helpful.
  • Not completing the process is an error in thinking because the process is a process, an on-going process.  There’s not a “finish,” but just a “doing.”  As long as I keep doing, it’s victory.  Even taking pauses in the process isn’t failure.
  • Triggering objects are everywhere in my house, so it’s just a matter of course that I’ll stumble upon them.  The last time I did, I sat quietly, breathed slowly and deeply, and practiced being mindful of my immediate surroundings.  I also talked with someone about it.
  • I might regret some things I’ll part with.  In fact, I already do.  So, I gently acknowledge the regret, I don’t beat myself up about it, and I move forward.

There are probably more fears than this, but these are the ones that came to my mind the first time I thought about it.  I’d actually never thought about ways that fears could potentially interfere with success with clearing clutter.

Decluttering Update

I took down my Christmas things and sorted through the ornaments. I have a lot of ornaments. I was surprised to find an entire box full of ornaments that triggered negative feelings or sadness. I boxed them all up and will be donating them. They will be beautiful, but they need to be on someone else’s tree, not mine anymore.

I’ve started decluttering by clearing the shelves in my bedroom, clearing the drawers in two dressers, gotten rid of several boxes of papers, found important(!) papers, sorted through some games and puzzles, and began working with the drawers in my spare bedroom.

That sounds like a lot of decluttering, but it took place over the course of a couple of weeks, just doing a little big here and there. I never felt overwhelmed or hurried. I just took my time, set small and realistic goals for myself, and smiled when I was done. I find that smiling is proving to be an important aspect of this decluttering journey.

Even when I sorted through the ornaments that triggered sadness, I could still smile because I knew I was clearing space in my life, space that had been cluttered with negative feelings. Yes, I believe that even feelings have the potential to be clutter.

Random Thoughts on Decluttering

Thoughts about decluttering:

I don’t want to carry clutter with me. I want to make a fresh start, with spaces for newness of life to come in.

If I work a little bit every day, the project will be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. I have already begun by clearing some drawers and shelves. I have found bags and boxes to donate, bags and boxes to throw away, and will find the bags and boxes meant to be kept.

There is healing in the clearing. Even when there is pain, there is healing. This process won’t always be easy, but it won’t always be difficult, either.

One room at a time. One closet at a time. One drawer at a time.

I will touch all of it, and all of it will touch me.

I will be my own helper, my own cheerleader, and my own deepest friend and companion on this journey. And throughout the process, I will make room for my Future and for my Future Self.

Proclamation for Clutter Clearing

The book I’m reading (Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act) had me identify a person or thing or concept to dedicate the clearing process to, and then to write a short proclamation of intention.

“I proclaim that my clutter-clearing process is an act of devotion to my Future, and to my Future Self. As I clear my clutter, I am making room/space for a deeper, more vibrant engagement with my Future, opening myself to new possibilities, and trusting, as I go, that richer treasures will come into my life.”

This weekend, I made a list of the next areas of my house that I need to focus on, and came up with 1) the Master bedroom and bathroom, 2) the spare bedroom closet, and 3) Christmas things. Since I will be taking down my tree and putting away other holiday decor, Christmas things moves to the top of the list.

I’ve found that after some difficult family things happened a few years ago, I can be triggered into great grief and sadness unexpectedly when I come across items with heavy emotional attachments. I’ve moved on to a place in my healing that I can now let go of things that bring me pain without the guilt that used to accompany parting with highly charged items.

I’ve noted that several of the ornaments on the tree this year were bringing me haunting grief when I’d see them, so I’ve decided as I take down the tree, the ornaments that bring pain will be finding their way into the donation box to find a new home. I’ve come a long way. The first couple of years, I couldn’t put up any of my ornaments and just bought a box of inexpensive plain ornaments that I used for a couple of years. Each year since, I’ve taken steps to reclaim my holiday decor. Now what’s on the tree are ornaments that bring me joy and happy memories. It took a while to get to that place.

So, I’m going to start the New Year with clearing holiday clutter. There may be some pain lurking in the process, but I know from experience, there are also steps leading to healing.

Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act

I’ve been doing a slow-but-steady decluttering project in preparation for some big changes coming in my life. I don’t want to carry my excess clutter into the next phases. I want to open up space in my life so there’s room for new things to come in. And by “things,” I don’t mean more clutter. I mean new and clearer vision and purpose and connection and perception and people and dreams and passions and adventures. Not necessarily big things, either. Just the small everyday actions of a new life stage that’s coming in the next year.

A friend recommended a book to me called Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act by Carolyn Koehnline. I’m finding its collection of gentle essays, poems, writing prompts, and ideas resonates with me. It’s not so much a “how to declutter” book (although some of those are wonderful), but more of an inspiring look at finding reasons to declutter and ways to find focus and success with the process.

My decluttering process is going to take place over the course of a year. I have almost exactly twelve months to clear out all the things that don’t belong in this next stage of life. Taking things step by step, room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, I feel it’ll be a process that has the potential to succeed with what I need it to do.

The first assignment in the book was to identify someone or something you can devote your clutter clearing to, and then write out a dedication. I choose to dedicate this process to my Future, and to my Future Self.

“As I clear out space and make openings in my home, it will make spaces that are open and ready to be filled with the newness of a new stage of life, an exciting Future, and a new Future Self.”

Chores. Ugh, who wants to do chores?


When I feel badly about myself and about life, I tend to let things around me fall apart. Especially housekeeping. My house hasn’t been “company-ready” in several years due to events that kept me feeling badly about myself and about life. I’ve been feeling much better lately, though. Hope, joy, sunshine. I think the clouds finally parted.

This past month, I’ve spent my free time digging my way out of my mess. It wasn’t hoarder-level mess, but it was a mess none-the-less. When I realized I wasn’t even willing to let one of my best friends into my house anymore, I knew I had to get a handle on it.

I tried pulling out my old Chore Lists, but it was just too overwhelming to only be doing a little each day. I needed to do a lot each day to dig myself out. So I spent my free time in April working on my house. Sorting, cleaning, asking if things bring me joy, and I can finally see the light.

On Friday, I pulled out a Chore List to see if I was now at the point where I could work with this particular technique that has worked well for me in the past. I did Friday’s chores. And after all the heavy duty chores I’ve been doing lately, just doing a small list of daily chores felt like nothing. But it made a big difference. It’s amazing how even just a gentle reminder to make your bed can give you a feeling of accomplishment when you actually follow through.

If you just need some help keeping up on the dailyness of housework, you might want to take a look at my Chore Lists (they’re printable and free by click here). I just print out a copy of the current week’s List, hang it on the fridge, and mark things off as I accomplish them. When my kids still lived at home, we would work on the Chore Lists as a family, and everyone could easily see what had been done, and what still needed doing.

It’s so nice to feel like I can have people over again without feeling ashamed of my house (which made me feel ashamed of myself which just contributed to the whole vicious shame cycle). I hope by keeping up on the Chore Lists, I can keep the downhill slide (housewise) from happening again. We’ll see.

I don’t keep up on it much anymore, but my homemaking blog, I’m Not Susie Homemaker, is a Nag Free Zone if you’re looking for some kind, friendly thoughts on digging out of the dailyness of chores and housework.  Like it or not, housework’s gotta be done at some point.  Take it from me, procrastination just makes it worse. Boy, oh boy, do I know that one from personal experience.

Join me? I don’t think I’m the only person who struggles with this.

~Debi

https://notsusiehomemakerblog.wordpress.com/weekly-chore-lists/