Thoughts on Decluttering

Just thinking.

In books and websites and seminars by clutter experts, they sometimes say that decluttering is easy. “Just get rid of it.”

But it’s not easy. It seems at first like it would be easy. Just take a dedicated weekend, dive in, and deal with it once and for all.

But so much is hiding in the nooks and crannies. Memories, good and bad. Unfinished tasks. Feelings I don’t want to feel.

Decluttering isn’t easy. It demands courage, thoughtfulness, and sometimes actual heroism. There are emotional minefields lurking in the cabinets and drawers and boxes. You’ll stumble upon both joys and sorrows.

Decluttering isn’t simple. It isn’t easy. But it can be done. Be gentle with the process. Be kind to yourself.

Assorted Facebook Posts

I was looking for a place to put some of my recent Facebook posts, so I decided to put them on this page.


Quote that spoke to me from Carolyn Koehnline:

“I thought about how my culture is very good about teaching us how to accumulate things, but not very good at teaching us about how to let go of possessions or loved ones or homes or jobs. To let go means to consciously say, ‘Good bye,’ and to open up space. For many of us, that is a terrifying proposition. We don’t tend to experience open space as delicious spaciousness, full of mystery and possibility. For many of us it is a frightening emptiness to be avoided at all costs.”

– from Confronting Your Clutter by Carolyn Koehnline


Had a trunk full of old books that I hadn’t decluttered yet. Worked my way through it this afternoon, and I’m about to cart off five big bags of books for donation. I think I’m now down to just the books I’m keeping. Although I might find another stash somewhere in the house. But the cupboards and drawers and hiding places throughout the house are pretty well emptied now. So this really may be the last of the books. Amazing. Decluttered so many books and still have so many I’m keeping. There was a time when I had 3,500+ books. Nearly every room was lined in bookcases. I never would’ve thought back then that I’d be so ruthlessly parting with my personal library. Did I read all those books? No. But I read a lot of them.


I was feeling a little stressed out about my new place not being ready yet. So many delays. So many moving deadlines looming. So many dominoes to put in place. I told my dad I was feeling stressed and he said, “However you look at it, in a few months it’ll all be done and you’ll be all moved into your new place. Just take it one day at a time.” That actually helped.


Just read in a book a common phrase that you should only keep things in your home that are beautiful, useful, or rich in sentimental value.

One thing I’ve been discovering while packing/decluttering is that I have a lot of things that I used to love, so I’ve held onto them for that reason, but now I’m asking myself if I love the item now. How do I feel about it today?

I’m parting with a lot of things that held former sentimental value, but that I don’t love in this current season of my life.


I’ve been trying to build more “self-time” into my day. Time to read, time to practice being mindful in the moment, time to sit in the morning sun with a cup of coffee or a glass of ice tea. Time to pet my cats. Time to journal. I’ve been sneaking “self-time” into my regular daily routine. For example, rather than spending my lunch break from work doing chores around the house (which I’d been doing), I sit in a sunny window and read for a bit and write in my journal. I try to take some time in the evening to think over the day. I have a couple of daily reader books that I keep by my desk for slow times at work when I can’t get up and do something else because I’m tethered to the phone , but I do have time to read a short entry and meditate on it for a bit. I’d been feeling for a while like I didn’t have “me-time” in my day, but now that I’ve found ways to sneak it into my day, I find that I feel more refreshed.


What are you reading these days?
I’m reading The Simple Abundance Companion by Sarah Ban Breathnach.


Still packing. I decided to pack up the majority of my clothes, leaving out only the items I wear regularly. The little bit of clothes left hanging in the closet make me smile. It’s like a mini wardrobe of favorite and comfortable things. I sort of wish I had done this earlier.


I read recently that one way to discover what wardrobe would make you happy is to go to a paint store, look at all the paint swatches, and see which ones “speak to your soul.”

Well, I was at a store the other day that sells paint, so I decided to give it a try. I kept telling myself not to look for colors that I would choose to wear, but to look for colors that “speak to my soul.” I was about to give up because nothing was speaking to me. But then I saw them. Peacock blues and vibrant purples. The cards with those colors almost jumped off the display at me. Those are NOT colors I would choose to wear, but wow, were they “speaking to me.”

I brought the swatches home with me and have looked at them now and then. Nope, still not something I could see myself wearing.
Then the other day it dawned on me …. I’d decided a while back that if I ever decided to go wild and crazy with my hair, I would have it dyed those very colors! Deep blues and vibrant purples … I think of them as peacock colors. Oh. My. Gosh. I honestly wanted to dye my hair those colors. Maybe I actually could see them as clothing.

The book recommended for the next step to take your color swatches to the fabric store and find a fabric with the colors you’ve chosen. Buy a yard, and live with it for a while. Throw it over a chair. Maybe make a pillow out of it, or a scarf.

I haven’t done the fabric part of this experiment yet, but so far it’s been an interesting experience. Peacock blues and vibrant purples. Wow. That’s a far cry from the colors I usually wear, I wear a lot of autumn colors and black and white and blue jeans. I don’t have a single piece of vibrant colors in my wardrobe.

I’ll report back if I do the fabric store visit.

I was reading something that talked about ways to get in touch with your “inner decorator” (well, something like … I’ve forgotten the exact term the author used). She said to think about your first experiences with color. What color was your bedspread when you were a child? What color were your childhood bedroom walls? Did you have a favorite flower growing up? The question made me realize that a bright, sunny yellow is a color that brings me joy. Forsythia, daffodils. I realized while reading that I have yellow pops of color in my bathroom and bedroom. They make me feel light and happy. Maybe at my new house I’ll decorate the main bathroom with bright yellow. Funny thing is that I already picked a new chair for my living room … and … it’s yellow. If you’d asked me if yellow was one of my favorite colors, I would’ve said no, not really. Now I’m wondering if it’s a color that “speaks to my soul” even though it’s not necessarily a favorite. Or maybe it is a favorite and I’m just in denial?


I found the following quote while reading today. It expresses what I’ve been feeling while decluttering and simplifying. She says it so much better than I could’ve:

“Simplicity does not mean making do with less, but appreciating the important things more. It means making deliberate decisions to surround yourself only with objects that inspire, comfort, soothe, and serve you. Paring down to those essentials is more than just cleaning, organizing, or rearranging. Clearing away the clutter is a spiritual endeavor made up of choices, not chores, the process itself can be as satisfying and empowering as the results. With every decision, you are creating a calm, clear space for yourself. You are making room for wonderful new gifts to come into your life.”

— Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Simple Abundance Companion


I posted a while back about how I was following some suggestions for choosing wardrobe colors. I won’t repeat the whole process, but I was at a thrift store earlier and looked specifically for items in the colors I’ve been contemplating. I brought home four shirts. They’re in the wash right now. I’m going to try wearing these shirts in the colors that “spoke to my soul” at the paint store, and we’ll see how it goes. Reminder, these are NOT colors I would normally wear. We’ll see what happens. I have to admit these shirts are pretty. I don’t usually do pretty. I tend to wear very simple things in neutral colors. I’ll report back.


Yesterday I wore one of the shirts in the new colors I’m experimenting with. I received a compliment that the shirt looked very nice on me. I never receive compliments on my clothing. Hmm. Interesting. Honestly, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in the new colors, but a compliment was a nice boost. Today I’m wearing my normal colors (jeans, dark khaki green, white) and feel like myself again. Although I suspect I probably won’t get compliments at church this morning on my attire. It’ll be interesting to see how this color situation plays out over the long run.


Many items in my house have made me sad over the past ten years. The past few years, I’ve been working on clearing things out that raise feelings of sadness, but during this current moving-related purge, one of the questions I ask when I’m making decisions on what to keep and what to part with is, “Does this make me feel sad?” If the answer is “yes” it goes in the donation pile. Eight to ten years is enough time to know if the sadness that’s related to particular items is going to ease up or not. I’ve decided I want a fresh start, and I don’t want to carry excessive sadness with me into this next phase of life.


I’m laughing at myself. I just closed up a box and thought, “There, that takes care of all the books.” And then I walked to another part of the house and found another small bookshelf of books. And here I’d thought that I’d pared down a lot of my books. While decluttering in preparation for moving, I’ve donated many boxes of books … and I still have many left. Amazing.


I’m reading a book called Better Than Before. It’s about the importance of habits and gives practical steps for creating new habits. I’m finding the amount of information in the book to be a little overwhelming (she tells lots of stories and gives lots of examples), but I think I’m going to go back through and grab out the practical step-by-step instructions. One of the most important ideas that I just read is that it’s always tempting to put the formation of habits off until tomorrow. She says that NOW is the time to begin. Not some magical time in the future. Right now. Today. I think I’ve been mentally putting things off (like going back to the gym regularly) until after I move. My move is my magical tomorrow. But there’s nothing stopping me from putting on my workout clothes and heading to the gym today. Will I do it? I honestly don’t know. I’ll report back if I glean anything helpful or inspiring from the book. (The author’s name is Gretchen Rubin.)


I found something in my freezer that I’d made and then frozen in a single serving. But I forgot to label it and had no idea what it was. I decided to be brave and plan it for my dinner tonight. Turns out it was a stuffed green pepper. Yum! And now I know that the other unlabeled frozen blob in the freezer is probably also the same thing. (Note to Self: Don’t forget to ALWAYS label the frozen meals, even if you’re absolutely certain you won’t forget what it is.)


Somebody asked me what books I’m reading right now for personal growth/self-care. The books I’m working through (taking notes, writing responses) are Confronting Your Clutter: Releasing the excess baggage from your home, head, heart, and schedule by Carolyn Koehnline and The Simple Abundance Companion: Following Your Authentic Path to Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I think I’m finished with the Confronting Your Clutter book now. I might go back through it and review a bit. The other book is big with lots of thought-provoking work. I think I’ll probably be working my way through it for a while. So my two current topics are 1) decluttering (because of the upcoming move) and 2) finding direction for the next chapter of my life. I have a couple of books that I’ll be reading next, but I’m wondering does anyone out there have any suggestions of books to read on either of my two topics? I’d love to hear what you’re reading or have found helpful.


“If you want to be good at anything, you need to do that thing. If you want to be great, you need to do that thing like it is your job. To be a master, you have to do it like it is your life. All three levels are acceptable.” – said to me by someone on Facebook (I don’t know if they were quoting from somewhere else, or not)


As moving time is getting closer, I’m trying to declutter and pack at the same time. I ask myself while I’m sorting, “Does my new house want this?” I’m discovering that my new house doesn’t want a lot.


Simple Daily Decluttering Steps

1. Declutter the inside of your car.
2. Clear off your bathroom counter.
3. Remove ten items from your wardrobe.
4. Declutter the visible areas of your entertainment center.
5. Clear off your nightstand.
6. Walk around your house and fill one box with items to donate.
7. Walk around your house and fill one bag for trash pickup.
8. Remove old or expired food from your pantry and fridge.
9. Declutter old or unused coats and items from your coat closet.
10. Clear off the top of your refrigerator.
11. Recycle old magazines or newspapers that are left out and piled up.
12. Declutter your underwear or sock drawer.
13. Clear five items from your kitchen counter.
14. Remove excess towels and linens from your linen closet.
15. Declutter your laundry space.
16. Clear off the tops of your living room side tables.
17. Declutter your Tupperware (start with anything without a lid).
18. Declutter your shower keeping only what is essential and used daily.
19. Clear out and sort through your medicine cabinet.
20. Return toys to where they belong in the house. (No toys? Pick another spot in your house that could use a quick declutter. For me, it’s the top of my piano.)


From the workbook Confronting Your Clutter by Carolyn Koehnline:

“Imagine that you have all the time in the world with no immediate obligations hounding you. How do you imagine yourself spending that precious time? Think about what would bring you the most joy and would have the most meaning for you. Don’t worry about answering this in the perfect way. Just notice what you think and feel today. Set a timer and write for five minutes. Don’t edit or think too hard. Let it come out however it wants to.”

I did this assignment from the workbook and one of the things I noticed from my list is that many of the answers I listed could be done right now in my life (or at least partially) if I just reprioritize how I spend my time and then actually made a plan to slip the ideas into my days. I can’t reprioritize my working hours, but there’s so much time during the day that I just fritter away when I could be doing things to add more quality and meaning to my life.


My new place is next to a green belt. So right out of my bedroom, I have a view of trees and a little meadow. When I was visiting the place the other day, I realized that during the winter when the trees are bare, I’ll have a partial view of a little lake. I’m so excited! Right now all I have a view of is my neighbor’s yard (that’s overly full of “stuff”). My dad said it’s very rare these days to find a place in the middle of town with open space next to it. I feel very fortunate. I’ve already noticed some interesting birds, so I bought some new binoculars.


Second List of Daily Decluttering:

1) Sort out your kitchen utensil drawer.
2) Declutter your junk drawer.
3) Clear off kitchen counters.
4) Clean out under kitchen sink.
5) Declutter desk.
6) Tidy your refrigerator.
7) Declutter bathroom closet or cabinet.
8) Sort through cleaning supplies.
9) Organize and declutter shoes and handbags.
10) Declutter a clothing drawer.
11) Declutter your home’s entryway.
12) Clean and organize refrigerator condiments.
13) Declutter utensil holder and any pen cups.
14) Sort through sock drawer.
15) Declutter paper piles.
16) Sort through coffee mug inventory.
17) Clean out under your bed.
18) Sort and organize pantry.
19) Clear off front of refrigerator of magnets, etc.
20) Sort through sheets and towels.


I was reading something earlier and it was talking about how to get in touch with your authentic self. They had several questions they suggested spending some time writing out answers. 1) Who am I? (Not a list of jobs or roles, but descriptive words and personal traits.) 2) What do I feel? 3) What do I need? 4) What do I want? These questions sort of resonated with me. I think I don’t take enough time to identify my needs, wants, feelings, etc.. I’m going to spend some time later today pondering and writing on these questions. Join me?


For some unknown reason, I’ve been feeling oddly nervous. Not about anything in particular, just a general sense of uneasiness. A long time ago, I learned to deal with anxiety by asking myself, “Right here, in this moment, am I safe?” If the answer was, “Yes,” then I would take a deep breath and focus on the safety in that moment. I’ve been doing this with the current uneasiness, and it helps. I just have to remember to do it. It’s so easy to get caught up in the current feelings, that I lose touch with possible solutions. So I’m off to breathe and to focus on the safety of the present moment.


Decluttering tips I received from people who know: 1) Take breaks, and 2) do things in small amounts. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, and then exhausting myself and getting burned out. That’s why I started preparing for my upcoming move several months ago. Many, many bags of clothes and household items have gone on to live new lives via donations. A great deal of actual garbage had found its way into my cupboards and closets and drawers. Anyway, I hope as the time comes closer for moving, that I can continue to take a fairly slow and easy pace so I don’t burn out at the last minute. I had someone out to give an estimate for moving costs, and it was still amazing to me to see how much stuff I still have. I don’t want to move it all, so I’m going to keep working.


Anyone out there still cooking for the freezer? Back in the day, it was so helpful for feeding a houseful, but I’m finding it to be just as helpful when feeding just me. I can make a recipe that feeds several people, eat one serving, freeze the others. Easy-peasy meals. Cuts down on spur-of-the-moment trips through the drive-thru, too. Not that I’m doing that these days … doesn’t fit with my food plan. Having meals ready to go that fit with my meal plan really helps with the weight loss journey, too. All sorts of great benefits to cooking ahead for the freezer.

Keeping Your Summertime Organized

(Excerpted from The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book.)

Just because life is a bit more relaxed during the lazy days of summer doesn’t change the fact that we still need to know where things are and keep them handy. Here are some simple tips to keep your summertime activities and supplies running smoothly.

1) Keep like items grouped together in separate crates: BBQ supplies, pool maintenance supplies, etc.

2) Keep a basket of beach towels clean and rolled up in the laundry room near the outside door for easy pool, lake, beach, sprinkler, play.

3) Keep a handled bin in the back of your trunk or van for putting supplies, groceries, etc. and keeping them from rolling all over the car.

4) Have an insulated bag rolled up in the trunk, too, for keeping frozen foods cold on the trip home from the store on hot days.

5) Keep a folded blanket or sturdy tablecloth in the back of the car for impromptu picnics in the park, or to sit on during an outdoor theater or concert event.

6) Store all hand-held gardening and weeding tools in plastic bucket with a handle. Trowel, gloves, knee pad, etc.

7) Hang a shoe-bag organizer over the back of one of the car’s front seats for your kids to store their toys, books, games, maps, water bottle, and other car or travelling related supplies. If the bag’s too long, cut it to length and hem the bottom.

8) In your guest bathroom, keep a small bin or wooden box on the countertop for easy access with a collection of summertime ointments and lotions. Sunscreen (a variety of SPF levels), aloe, hand lotion, bug spray/lotion, antiseptic, anti-itch lotion for bug bites.

9) Store a small accordion file in your car with all essential car-related stuff. Registration, insurance information, maps, emergency contacts, receipts, and directions.

10) Store a “Before We Leave” checklist in luggage. Make a master list of chores, errands, and packing requirements you encounter before each out of town trip you make. You can even laminate the list and then check off complete items with a dry erase marker.

11) Before leaving on your summer road trip, make certain that your jumper cables, tire jack, and emergency kit are all actually in the car.

12) Keep all camping supplies in one place. Store camping cookware in a hamper that stays packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. A Camper’s Word to the Wise: If you’re going tent camping, double-check that your tent poles are actually packed with the rest of the tent before you find yourself attempting to set up camp in the mountains—miles and miles from civilization—without tent poles. Please don’t ask how I know this one.  😉