Tag Archives: clearing clutter

One room at a time challenge – Laundry room

After spending the weekend really thinking about my priorities as far as time management goes, I made the decision that decluttering our space should be close to the top of the list this summer. We keep our living areas pretty tidy (most of the time), but behind closed doors, I’ve let clutter take over. There’s really no excuse for it since we’ve barely lived in this house a year. I shudder to think how bad it will be in 5 years if we don’t start tackling it now.

In a burst of motivation on Sunday, I decided to start with our laundry room. I jumped at the chance to take advantage of it during Judah’s afternoon nap so quickly that I completely forgot to shoot a before picture. It’s not that I’m embarrassed to show you what it looked like (well, I am, but I’m willing to do it). I honestly just forgot. Doh. Rest assured, I will remind myself to snap that before picture for future projects.

Since it’s a tiny room, it only took me a little over an hour to whip it into shape. While we were in the process of painting our house, we let the shelf behind the washer and dryer turn into a depository for paint supplies. Months later, it was still crammed with paint cans, brushes, and old towels we’d used to clean up. It was crammed so high with junk that it fell over onto the dryer about once a week. So we picked up all the paint supplies, and relegated them to an unused cabinet in the garage.

Next to the sink, I’d saved a ton of used plastic bags (they fit our bathroom trash cans perfectly, so we reuse them as garbage bags) as well as some broken down diaper boxes that I was convinced I could repurpose. I recycled most of the diaper boxes and crammed the plastic bags into a reusable bag, which I hung from the hook I used to use for my cloth diaper wet bag. (We switched to disposables full time a few months ago when cloth diapering a toddler just became too gross.)

Speaking of cloth diapering, I still had a laundry basket full of diapers taking up space in the laundry room. Since I plan to use them again someday when Judah has a little brother or sister, I packed them up in a couple of those diaper boxes and packed them away in storage.

I also gave the shelf we use for cleaning supplies some attention. Everything was stuffed on there with no method to the madness, and there were more than a few empty bottles even. So I rinsed and tossed the empty bottles into the recycling bin, and then organized the shelves — laundry stuff on top since we use it most, cleaning supplies in the middle, and rarely used or bulky items on the bottom shelf. It’s much easy to find what I need now.

The laundry room is between the kitchen and the den. Both the laundry room and the den are blocked by a gate, so Judah can’t get back there for now. I hate that the laundry room is open to view, though. Since we moved in, I’ve wanted to hang a curtain across the doorway to make our laundry room a little more private. Since this little reorganization cost $0, I finally went ahead and picked up the curtain and rod. It’s just a $20 curtain panel secured to the doorway with a $5 tension rod (it’s actually a shower curtain rod). I’m pretty happy with how it separates the utility room from the den and keeps our “dirty laundry” out of view — especially since it cost only $25.

Is there a room that’s been driving you nuts? There’s no better time to tackle it than today! This whole endeavor only took a little over an hour. I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner, especially since it’s was so cheap and easy. Sometimes all a room needs is a little spiffing up, and it feels like a whole new space.

Itching to move? Try this first

Tony and I are spending spring break painting, reorganizing, and assembling IKEA furniture (yikes!). I can’t wait to share our progress with you. In the meantime, I’m sharing a post from the archives that was originally published in July 2009. If you’re feeling the itch to move, try these tips to make your old place feel new again.


Maybe it’s a side effect from my college years when I moved into a new apartment every year, but I still get the urge to pick up and move every August. I hate moving, but I love the feeling of starting fresh — decorating, organizing, and waking up in a completely new place.

But moving tops my list for biggest hassles. On top of packing and physically lugging your belongings to a new place, moving is expensive, time consuming, and jarring.

This August is our third in the same apartment. Every year I’ve battled my urge to find a new place with these tricks:

Clean. I mean, really clean.

One of my favorite parts about moving into a new place is that all of those nooks and crannies are freshly dusted and cleaned. This month, instead of cleaning just what you can see, invest some time and elbow grease into cleaning your place as if you’re moving. Vacuum under furniture, remove everything from the shelves and closets to dust, and scrub the walls and baseboards.

Purge and reorganize.

I hate the process of getting rid of stuff before a move, but I love that when I move into my new place everything is freshly organized and I’m temporarily not overburdened with stuff. It’s hard to motivate yourself to purge and organize when a move isn’t looming, but clearing your closets and drawers and ridding yourself of the clutter will recreate that freshly organized feeling after moving into a new place.


Painting isn’t just an easy way to breathe new life into a living space; it also goes a long way to making your place feel cleaner. Your walls may be looking dingy after years or months without fresh paint, not to mention you’re probably sick of looking at the same neutral shade. Check with your landlord if you’re renting and see if you can repaint to clean up your space and give it a new look. Consider adding color to one wall to give the room depth and an interesting focal point.

Hit the end-of-summer yard sales.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of some clutter, check out the summer yard sales near you to find some new decorative pieces or fun new furniture. Don’t overlook furniture that’s worn or hideously colored. Look at the shape and sturdiness of the piece, and remember that a bit of sanding, new paint, and knobs can turn an ugly antique into a modern, functional addition to your space.

Rearrange your furniture.

Giving your room a new layout is the quickest, easiest way to redecorate. Flip the rooms into a new configuration, move furniture you’ve been tripping over, and add that funky antique table you picked up at the yard sale. You’ll feel like you’re in a brand new place without going through the hassle and expense of moving.

Photo credit: Lynie

Quick and easy ways to feel less cluttered

It seems like I’m always battling clutter of some kind. Papers stacked up on the table and desks; boxes of stuff I’ve been meaning to sell or donate for months; junk mail; random things that don’t have a place, so they just sit out in the open driving me nuts. When my environment is cluttered, even simple tasks can feel overwhelming. With the holidays fast approaching, I’m craving some peace and tranquility. So I’ve been working on getting the worst of my clutter under control.

Here are a few problems I’m looking to solve. Some of them are easy — I just have to motivate myself to do it already. Some of them require some creativity, and I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Get paper clutter under control.

I think most of us struggle with paper clutter to some degree, but our problem is pretty extreme. At any given time, my English professor husband is buried under 50-200 student essays and papers. When they overrun his desk, they end up on the kitchen table, the coffee table, and even the living room floor.

Thankfully, he’s mindful of how crazy this drives me, so he only scatters essays when he’s in the process of grading them, and he puts them away when he takes a break. But with so much necessary paper around, I feel more sensitive about the unnecessary paper. Junk mail, old bills, coupons, magazines, and other junk stack up and make everything seem less tidy. Here are a few strategies I’m trying to employ to get it under control:

  • Deal with junk mail immediately. It’s easier said than done, but I need to start sorting mail immediately when it comes into the house and putting junk straight into the recycling bin. I have enough paper to sort without making things worse by keeping junk around.
  • Create a paper sorting station. As much as I hate it, there is a certain amount of paper I have to keep around at least for a while. I need some sort of solution for sorting and organizing it so I can keep it off my kitchen table. I’ve seen lots of options on Pinterest, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to handle it. If I keep things sorted, it will make it less complicated to organize it and keep it under control.
  • Go paperless when possible. I pay all of my bills online, and I don’t have any real use for paper bills. Just like the marketing emails, I need to be proactive about eliminating this paper clutter completely. In the coming weeks, I’m going to start signing up for paperless billing for every bill I possibly can.

Unsubscribe from marketing emails.

Judah is almost one year old, and I still receive annoying pregnancy-related newsletters in my email inbox. I also receive newsletters for stores where I have no interest in shopping. It’s overwhelming to wake up to 50 new email messages, and 45 of them are junk. Plus I’m always afraid I’m going to miss something important, because it’s buried in the junk. I’m resolving to hit “unsubscribe” on marketing mail that doesn’t interest me rather than just putting it off by deleting it.

Tidy up.

I’ve gotten a lot better about this in the past few weeks, and it’s done wonders for my sanity. I deep clean the house once a week, and I take a few minutes three times a day to keep it tidy. It’s simple enough to walk through the house and put things where they belong a few times a day, and it makes the house feel clean throughout the week even though I don’t have time to clean intensively. I also do the dishes three times a day instead of once in the evening, which seems to help me feel more organized.

Just do it.

We have things laying around the house that we’ve been planning to do something about for months or even years. There are items that we’ve moved three or four times that we never use. Every time I see them, I think, “I need to donate or sell that.” But then it gets shoved into a closet or under a bed, and I put off dealing with it for another 6 months. I need to suck it up and take care of that stuff already. All it does is take up space.

What strategies do you use for conquering clutter?

Photo credit

3 simple things you can do right now to improve your state of mind

This post was originally published on July 16, 2009.

to do list

Sometimes when my to-do list is a mile long and I’m short on time and feeling overwhelmed, I feel like if I can’t finish everything right now I’m going to lose it. Don’t you hate those days?

Well, when I’m having a day like that, there are a few things I do to immediately make myself just a little calmer. That little bit of perspective is usually enough to allow me to get it together and get things done.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are some easy things you can do to get it together:

Clear your space.

Even if you don’t have time for full-fledged cleaning, take some time to ditch the clutter. I’m talking about the papers on your desk at work, the weeks of junk mail and magazines piled up on the table, and the breakfast dishes in the sink. My husband uses the dining room table as an office, which doesn’t bother me, until he gets a few days worth of papers stacked up all around him.

Take five minutes to clear the space around you. Get rid of the clutter, throw the papers into the recycling bin, and put the little nick nacks back where they belong. This includes your email inbox. Go through your emails, tackle the easy stuff with a quick reply, and add more involved tasks and responses to your to-do list. You’ll feel better instantly.

Make a list.

Now that your space is clear, take a few minutes to prioritize your to-do list. If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is scrawled in no particular order or, worse, stored in your brain. By making a physical list, you can not only prioritize and visualize what needs to get done, but you’ll get the satisfaction of crossing off your accomplishments.

I usually try to tackle the most difficult tasks first, but if you’re already feeling burned out, it may help to start with something easy to help you recharge. Find an order that works for you, and take a moment to evaluate your list and determine the best way to get everything done.

Take a walk.

I know, it seems counterproductive to take a break when you’re already short on time. But sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the stressful situation and take a time out to gather your thoughts and your sanity. I write a lot in my job (and of course for this blog), and sometimes I’ll spend two hours looking at a blank screen before I get up and take a break. After a quick break, I often come back and finish the project in 30 minutes because I’ve had a chance to gather my thoughts.

If you can’t take a walk, at least take a few minutes to take some deep breaths. If you feel tied to your to-do list, it’ll only make you feel resentful and you won’t be as productive. Remind yourself that you’re in control of the situation, and you can take a break if you need to. When you return, you’ll likely be more focused.

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Boxed in

The image you’re about to see may disturb you. Viewing this image is not recommended for people sensitive to clutter, disorganization, and mess. Potential side effects include headache, shortness or breath, difficulty concentrating, and severe writer’s block. View at your own risk.

This is the current state of my guest room and, consequently, the current state of my brain:

Somewhere under this pile of boxes and junk there is a bed and a desk and even a floor. Sadly, you can’t see any of that.

This mess has been accumulating for the past six months. At Christmas, new things left a lot of our old stuff homeless. Of course, I should have been getting rid of things then. But a funny thing happens when I know a move is coming. I start putting things off.

“I’ll be going through everything in a few months when we’re packing. I’ll deal with this then.”

Clutter began to accumulate a little at a time. A few boxes here; a pile of books there. We couldn’t decide whether we should sell our old TV, give it to Goodwill, or bring it with us — into the guest room it went. We¬† bought a used TV, and it was shipped to us in its original packaging. We thought it would be nice to keep the box so we could pack the TV in it when we move — into the guest room that went. A co-worker kindly gave us a trunk load of good moving boxes. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Now this room haunts my nightmares. I just keep closing the door tight, trying to pretend that mess isn’t there. Unfortunately, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem, though. The guest room is ground zero, but there are tiny little catastrophe zones throughout our apartment. Closets, drawers, cupboards, shelves — all piled with junk I’ll have to sort and pack.

We’re moving in about 6 weeks. During my least anxious times, I tell myself that’s plenty of time. But then I open that guest room door, and I’m reminded of just how much I have to do.

What I mean to say is I have a lot on my mind right now, and a to-do list that’s a mile long. I do most of my writing on the weekends, and unfortunately that’s also the only time I can focus on decluttering, packing, and planning. My brain looks a lot like that room right now, and sorting out the mess to find inspiration is becoming harder and harder. Something has to give.

Since I started this blog almost two years ago, I’ve updated most weekdays. For the next 6 weeks, I will likely be posting every other day. I don’t plan to disappear for days or weeks at a time, but cutting down a little will help my sanity immensely.

I can’t guarantee that this will be the last time I whine. Please be patient with me as I attempt to navigate a lot of stress.

How are you doing? I’m happy to join your pity party if you’d like to whine a little. :)

Countdown to Europe & moving: 3 months to go

These countdowns seem to be coming more frequently now, but it’s only because time is flying. I’m not complaining, though. Everything is coming together now. I’m pretty much done planning for Europe. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for moving. I feel like planning for that has barely even begun.

Last week, our passports arrived in the mail. It’s exciting, and it’s a relief. We applied about 8 weeks before we’ll need them for our cruise to the Bahamas, so we’re lucky they were processed so quickly (less than a month).

The only thing left for us to do is book our train tickets. We’re riding a train from London to Amsterdam and another train from Amsterdam to Paris. We can’t book tickets more than three months in advance, but next week we’ll be able to reserve our seats. Once we’ve purchased our train tickets, we’ll have everything booked!

We’ve talked a little bit about an itinerary, and I’ve asked everyone I know who’s traveled abroad to tell me what we must see. Honestly, though, I’m wary about over-planning. I want to relax while we’re there, and I don’t want to feel like we have to be doing something every second. We’ve made a list of the things we absolutely must see. Beyond that, we’re trying to keep things as loose as possible.

There’s nothing much to report as far as moving goes. To be honest, I’ve been in denial about what I need to do. The guest room where visitors used to sleep? It’s completely overrun with boxes and various items with which we don’t know what to do. I’ve been talking about clearing some of this clutter for months now, but I’ve yet to do anything. I’m sure this will be like every other time I’ve moved — I’ll put off cleaning until it’s time to pack, and then I’ll drive myself crazy trying to get rid of stuff and pack boxes simultaneously. I’ll probably never learn.

But who wants to think about packing and cleaning when I could be planning for Europe? Besides, think of how fun it will be when it’s time for me to pack and I’m going through 3 years of useless junk!

Photo by pedrosimoes7

Countdown to Europe and moving — Four months to go

The end of the holiday season was particularly bittersweet for me. We’re moving and taking a trans-Atlantic vacation in 120 days, and it’s finally time for me to start doing all the things I’ve been putting off until “after the holidays.” It’s so exciting, but overwhelming, too.

I’ve been breaking everything down month-by-month to make sure I get it all done. Here’s what’s on my plate for January.


Last month I set a date for our move and booked the movers and the truck. We’re renting a U-Haul and hiring a moving company to load up the truck. I don’t know if I’ve written about this before, but honestly, even though loading the truck ourselves would be more frugal, hiring people to do it is the best $150 I will ever spend. We’re on the third floor, and it’s just us. Knowing that two professionals will be here to lug our heavy possessions down three flights of wind-y stairs takes a huge load off my mind.

Just before the holidays I also informed my boss and co-workers that I’ll be leaving in May. My plan was to make an announcement in March, but the other employee in my department is pregnant and due in June. I felt like it was only fair to let everyone know well in advance so they could plan for both of us to leave around the same time.

We’re also continuing to declutter, but that’s not going as well as I’d hoped. :( I’m hoping the New Year will motivate me to really start getting rid of stuff so we can lighten our load.


For Christmas, Tony’s parents got me a couple of frugal vacation planning books for Paris and London. This month I plan to read through them and make a to-do list based on the tips I find valuable.

Since our flight and hotels are already booked, there isn’t much left to do beyond deciding what to see in the cities and getting our passports. This month we’ll be taking care of the passports to make sure we have plenty of time.

Everything is coming together nicely. Here’s hoping it’s smooth sailing from here to May.

Photo by tahir

Christmas is over. It’s time to purge.

Now that the presents are opened, it’s likely that you’ve got a lot of new stuff — especially if you have kids. I’m ashamed to admit it, but our guest bedroom was already so full that we could barely open the closet after we tidied the room for visiting family on Thanksgiving. With the gifts we received from generous friends and family at Christmas, we can’t even clear a path.

And we’re moving. In four months. Yikes.

So I’m starting to take serious stock of our stuff and start digging our way out. If you’re struggling to find room for all your new toys and clothes and electronics, maybe it’s time for you to take stock, too.

Here are some tips to make it easier on you (and me):

Take inventory and ditch the excess.

Is your silverware drawer overflowing? Do you have so many t-shirts that you can’t even close your drawers? Weeding out the excess is a great place to start clearing clutter. Keep only what you can fit in your space, and only keep the best. Now is the time to throw away holey t-shirts and socks, tarnished silverware, and anything else you’re keeping around just because you haven’t had time to get rid of it. If you think someone else can use it, then be sure to donate it!

Be honest with yourself.

It’s likely that your bread machine works perfectly. After all, you’ve only used it twice, so it’s practically brand new. But it’s time to stop telling yourself you’re going to use it someday if it’s been collecting dust and taking up space in your kitchen for two years. The same goes for your skinny jeans. If keeping one pair motivates you, that’s fine, but if you have a second wardrobe in a smaller size, it’s time to donate. Get rid of the clothes you’re not wearing, the kitchen gadgets you’re not using, and the electronics you’ve never used.

Use it or lose it.

I’m guilty of hanging on to things I don’t need for sentimental reasons. I tend to take Peter Walsh’s advice when it comes to this: if you love it, find a way to use it. If it’s crammed into a box in a closet, you’re not giving the things most important to you the respect they deserve. Start going through your sentimental boxes and finding a way to give these things a new life. For instance, I’m turning my wedding dress into a baby quilt. If there’s no use for the item, and you’re only looking at it when it’s in your way as you clean out the storage closet, it’s time to make some tough decisions.

What are your rules for clearing clutter?

Photo by theob68

On letting go of “stuff”

storage roomI’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. Not in the pathological sense, but in the sentimental sense. I often hold on to things for which I have no use either because I think I’ll need them or because I can’t let go for “sentimental reasons.”

Books, CDs, electronics, junk from college. I struggle to force myself to let go of things, which has led to an unfortunate amount of clutter stuffed into the closet in our guest room. Among the most embarrassing:

  • My old desktop PC that I haven’t used since I bought my laptop a year and a half ago.
  • A box of CDs that we don’t listen to (those are going to the record store this weekend, I promise).
  • Too many articles of clothing to count that I haven’t worn in probably two years.
  • A footlocker full of sentimental things from high school and college. Some of it is worth keeping (journals and letters and photos), but most of it is just garbage.

I’ve vowed to clear this stuff out of our apartment many times before, but this time I mean it. If it’s junk, it’s not coming with us when we move in 15 months.

If you’re like me, this change in behavior doesn’t happen overnight. Keeping things I don’t need has become a bad habit, but it’s one that I’m determined to break. I recommend the book “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh if you’re trying to break your clutter habit.

Here are the steps I’m taking in the next year to break my habit and clear the clutter from our apartment:

Get a second opinion.

Ask someone who doesn’t have a sentimental attachment to the item whether they can see a use for it. Your spouse or a close friend who doesn’t have a stuff collecting problem can offer you a fresh perspective. If you’re having trouble explaining why you still have your senior prom dress or you feel a little foolish saying that you you might someday wear that bright orange bridesmaid dress again, it’s time to let it go.

Put it to the one year test.

One of my favorite tips for reducing closet clutter is the one season test. At the end of the season, go through each article of clothing, and if you haven’t worn it at all, it’s time to donate it. Try using a similar test for those items lying around that you’re keeping “just in case” you need it again someday. If it’s been stuffed in a drawer or closet for over 12 months and you’ve never had a reason to use it, you most likely never will.

If it’s really that important to you, why is it collecting dust in storage?

My wedding dress has been stuffed in a closet since our wedding day. I saw no reason to have it preserved. I considered selling it, but it’s stained up on the bottom from our outdoor photos and I doubt any bride would want to wear a dress with grass stains. My plan is to use the salvageable fabric to turn it into a baby quilt, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

If you’re holding on to items that you can’t use anymore but can’t bear to throw away, find a way to repurpose them. That box of old photos can be put into a scrapbook; the baby furniture in your attic can be refinished and handed down to someone in your family who can use it; and the stone from your grandmother’s antique ring can be set in a setting that fits your style so you’ll actually wear it. If the item is really that important to you, it shouldn’t be collecting dust in storage.

What are your methods for fighting the war on stuff?

Photo by merrickb