7 Reasons We Keep Clothes + Ideas To Declutter Clothes

Today I wanted to share with you common reasons we tend to hold onto clothes, and some ideas for letting go. It can be overwhelming to downsize our wardrobe, especially if we are not in the habit of purging items from our closet and the job has gotten out of control. The best advice I have if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a decluttering project is to take it in bite size pieces. Choose one drawer a week to go through, or set a timer for an allotted amount of time. Oftentimes getting started is the most difficult part. Once we start, we have momentum to continue forward.

{{ONE}} We feel guilty about the amount of money we spent on the items. This is probably the number one reason we find it hard to declutter clothes – and really any items from our home. It can be difficult to just give away items that we have spent money on. If the items are in relatively good condition, an alternative is to sell these clothes. You could choose a consignment platform like Poshmark (my go-to), or Mercari. You could send it to Thread Up if you don’t want the clothes just sitting in your home as you wait for them to sell, or you could bring them to a local consignment shop to get some of your money back. You won’t make as much money with Thread Up or a consignment shop, but then the clothes are out of your house. If you have enough items in general that you are wanting to get rid of, another option is to have a good old fashioned garage sale. I have found it much easier to let go of items that I am on the fence about when I can make some money back. Lastly, if you have taken a basic economics course, then you learned about “sunk cost.” Basically, sometimes we make poor financial decisions, but keeping the item doesn’t get us the money back. If anything, every time we see that item we think – either consciously or subconsciously – that we spent money on that, but no longer love it/want it. It might be better to just get it out of our field of vision!

{{TWO}} We think we might lose – or even gain – weight. Sometimes we hang onto clothing items that used to fit us, but no longer fit because we have gained weight. We hold onto them as though it was an incentive to lose the weight to get back into that size. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem where you went through a weight loss journey and you’re concerned you will gain the weight back. Either way, I personally don’t keep items that are too big or too small. It can be discouraging to have that pair of jeans two sizes too small sitting in the back of your closet. Instead, perhaps you could use the incentive of purchasing new items when/if you do lose the weight. And if you went through a weight loss journey, it could be cathartic to get rid of all of those large clothes believing you WILL maintain the weight you are at currently. Certainly there are exceptions. If you are expecting a baby, you will likely need different sizes in your wardrobe to account for different stages of pregnancy and postpartum.

{{THREE}} We have sentimental attachment. This is a tough one. It may take time to be ready to let go of some of these items. When beginning the process of decluttering, I agree with Marie Kondo, it is wise to leave sentimental items until the end. This gives you momentum, and you also begin to “learn how to declutter.” You begin to feel more confident in your choices to part with things. If you have things like school or sports team t-shirts that you don’t want to let go of, consider having a quilt/blanket made out of the t-shirts/jerseys so you can still appreciate and enjoy them without having a box of them stuffed in the back of your closet. Other items that have sentimental value could be displayed in your home so you are able to appreciate them. Get a shadow box for that special jersey, or the outfit you brought your child home from the hospital in. Find a way to display/enjoy it, instead of continuing to allow these items to sit in a box in a closet or attic space. Perhaps you could pick your favorite few – maybe you don’t need to keep an entire tote of baby clothes from when your children were babies. Choose a couple of memorable outfits. Or perhaps you can keep a couple of school t-shirts instead of 13 from every year of school from kindergarten through 12th grade!

{{FOUR}} We don’t have time/don’t want to spend our time this way. I understand this. Honestly, in the end, it comes down to what is important to you. If you are okay with and not bothered by overflowing closets and drawers, then you do you. But, I would imagine if you’re reading this post, you are interested in paring down your wardrobe. As I mentioned, you don’t have to do the Konmari method and pile all your clothes from every drawer and hanger into the middle of your room. You could focus on a little at a time – choosing one drawer, or one section of your closet. Another idea is to purge clothing items by category. Sometimes you don’t realize how many of one category you own – so taking inventory of all of your shorts, or all of your sweaters at once may give you a better idea of what to get rid of. Think realistically about how many items in each category you might need. Think about the climate you live in and how often you do laundry. Another idea would be to set a timer. If you don’t have hours to spend decluttering. Set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes, then grab a bag or box and start filling it with the items you know you no longer wear. Another trick I use is to turn your hangers backwards, then turn them back forwards as you wear/wash each item. After 6 months to a year (depending on how temperate your climate is) you will get an idea of which clothes you are wearing. If turning your hangers around seems like a lot of work, push all your clothes to one end of your closet, then hang them back up at the other end as you wear/wash them.

{{FIVE}} It was a gift. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. The truth is, when someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you which means you can do with it what you please. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or does not bring you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is a boundary issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on be given to someone else who would use itl than for it sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

{{SIX}} We have space in our closet.  I relate well to this one. I used to not purge things that were difficult to purge because I had the space for it, so why not just leave it. The truth is, physical clutter can cause mental clutter. If every time you open your closet or drawers and they are filled to the top, your brain has to process everything that is in there. With less stuff, it’s less the brain has to process. I am beginning to enjoy having empty spaces in my home! For me personally, I realize that one day we will likely downsize and live in a smaller home. I like the idea of being able to slowly over time purge my items rather than being forced into it when we do choose to downsize. Even further down the road (or not since we never know!) when we leave this earth we will leave our things behind, and our family will have to make choices about what to do with those things. I don’t want my stuff to become a burden to my children or family members.

{{SEVEN}} We think we want lots of options. This may be true for some people. I have thought about trying to transition to a capsule wardrobe, but even I like to have a variety of choices when it comes to clothes. One thing I have found helpful for myself is to have a “uniform” then having options within that uniform. I pretty much assemble the same look every day, just with different items. But, some people want all different kinds of styles and options within those styles. I think having too many options can be overwhelming and contribute to decision fatigue. This may be the main reason people want to declutter their closets in the first place. They might not be able to put their finger on why, but ultimately it’s that there are too many choices in our closets. By using some of the techniques and tips mentioned earlier, you can pare down your wardrobe so it’s easy to get dressed each day and you love what you are wearing EVERYDAY! Can you say that now??

I hope this gave you some motivation or inspiration to reassess how many clothing items you own! It can be tough to declutter clothes, but if you do a little at a time it can be less overwhelming!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

10 Reasons To Hire A Professional Organizer

Getting organized can be difficult and stressful for some people. I wanted to share with you 10 reasons why you might want to hire a professional organizer. I also have a YouTube video with this content if you’d like to check that out!

{{ONE}} You want to declutter, but you feel overwhelmed. Many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about organizing a space. It can be difficult to know where to start. A professional organizer can help you break these big projects into smaller tasks, making it a bit more manageable. We don’t have to stay with you the whole time. We can give you advice and homework to do while we are not there.

{{TWO}} You need accountability. Many people have good intentions but no follow through. Life can get in the way and before you know it, your good intentions get covered by the day-to-day busyness. Hiring a professional organizer will give you that accountability to push through and get a project done. Often times when we organize one space in our home, it gives us momentum to continue with other spaces.

{{THREE}} Another set of eyes for organization ideas. It can be really helpful to have another person looking at your space and giving you ideas of how to organize it, or ideas of organizing tools which would work well in the space. We may have things to share with you that you have never thought of for the space.

{{FOUR}} Someone to talk you through getting rid of things, especially the difficult things. We often get wrapped up in our emotional connection to items when trying to purge things on our own. We can also be blinded by the fact that we spent money on items, making it difficult to let go. Having someone else there to talk you through the costs and benefits of letting go of an item can be very helpful.

{{FIVE}} We keep you on task – it can be hard to stay focused. When working on decluttering and getting a space organized, it can be easy to get side tracked. Having someone there to keep you focused on the task at hand can make the process of decluttering and organizing more efficient and effective.

{{SIX}} Our expertise. Whether it’s from education, experience, or just a natural bent, a professional organizer has expertise that you may not have. This expertise can be very beneficial if you want to get a space organized efficiently.

{{SEVEN}} You don’t have time to organize your space. Life can be busy, especially if you have a full time job and/or kids. Managing your schedule, your kids’ schedules and other responsibilities can be time consuming.

{{EIGHT}} It’s worth it for your mental health to have organization systems that work well for you and your family. It can be challenging to find organization systems or tools that help to keep your spaces organized. A professional can organize your spaces in a logical way. It’s worth it for your mental health to have spaces that are organized and prevent you from feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.

{{NINE}} You’re moving. Moving can be a very stressful and crazy time in life. If you don’t have the skills to efficiently pack things in an organized way, it can be helpful to hire a professional. This will make packing up your old home easier, and then the unpacking process when you arrive at your new home a more smooth process.

{{TEN}} It’s more fun to purge and organize with someone rather than by yourself! I have had so much fun helping clients organize their spaces. It has been fun to hear their stories and to share my own stories as well. We get to know each other in this process, which is fun!

If you live in the Austin, Texas area and need help with organizing a space in your home, I would love for you to connect with me!

12 Days to an Organized Christmas

The holiday season is a busy time. We often have extra responsibilities during this season, which can cause stress and feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to share 12 things you can do, one each day, to prepare for the holidays and make your holiday season run a little more smoothly. As of today (December 13th), we are 12 days away from Christmas!

{{DAY 1}}

Create a holiday to-do list. Writing out everything that needs to be done – whether with a pen and paper, or in a list app on your phone – begins the process of getting everything organized. From decorating, baking, and purchasing gifts; to wrapping gifts, sending holiday cards, and planning for parties, it can all be very overwhelming. Start by listing all the tasks that need to get done.

{{DAY 2}}

Allocate tasks to each day leading up to the holiday. It can be daunting to look at that list you just made. But, as you begin to plug in tasks to different time slots on your calendar, you begin to feel less stressed as you make a concise plan to get tasks done.

{{DAY 3}}

Clean up and organize your family drop zone. Everyone has a “drop zone” in their home – you know, that place where your family members seem to organically DROP all of their things when they return home? It could be a kitchen desk, mudroom, or entryway. Get this area into shape so that it functions well. Add labeled baskets, a file sorter for kids school work, or a bin for mail. This area of our home can cause a lot of stress if it is chaotic, and our stress level is already high during the holidays.

{{DAY 4}}

Keep a list of inventory. It’s important to keep track of everything you have purchased and need to purchase. You can write this down on a notepad, or use an app on your phone. Keep track of the gifts you have and need to purchase and how much you have spent to stay on budget. Also keep track of what you need to purchase for baking, special meals, or items for parties. Be sure to assess what you already have – check what holiday paper and ribbon you have leftover from last year to determine what you need to purchase. See what you already have in your pantry or refrigerator/freezer to determine what items you need to get for baking and holiday parties.

TIME TO DECLUTTER!

{{DAY 5}}

Holiday decor. After you have decorated your house for the holiday season is a great time to assess what you did not use this year. The chances of you using something next year that you did not use this year is very slim. This is an easy declutter process as it happened naturally just from you decorating! Purge what is leftover!

{{DAY 6}}

Pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Right before the holidays is a great time to declutter unused or expired food from your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. At this time, you can assess what needs to be replenished. We always need special items which we don’t tend to buy throughout the year for the holiday season – especially baking items.

{{DAY 7}}

Kids toys! This is a great time to assess what toys are broken and can be thrown away and what toys your children aren’t playing with. Include your children in this process. Remind them of the boundaries in your home with regard to toys and that you need to make room for the new toys that will arrive on Christmas morning. Encourage them to be generous, as it is a season of giving, and have them choose toys that you all could take to a women’s shelter or children’s home to bless those less fortunate. Not only are you teaching them about boundaries and decluttering, you are also teaching them about how this season is about giving.

{{DAY 8}}

Coats and blankets. This is a great time of year (at least for those of us living in the northern hemisphere!) to gather coats and blankets that you are not using. Again, get your family involved to declutter their items as well and take your extra coats and blankets to a homeless shelter.

{{DAY 9}}

Last on the decluttering list is mugs. Mugs seem to be an item that many people accumulate. Many of us are regularly using mugs during this season to enjoy hot drinks. Choose your favorites, and donate the rest!

{{DAY 10}}

Prioritize what is important to your family this holiday season. There are a lot of opportunities to spend time together with family and friends. There are parties, extended family gatherings, traditions, and more. It’s okay to say “no” to things in this season. Do what works best for your family, and the life phase your family is in. Maybe there is a tradition that worked well and was fun when your kids were really young, but now as they are getting older it’s just annoying to them. Find something else that will be meaningful and memorable to do together!

{{DAY 11}} 

Prepare for guests arrival. This won’t pertain to everyone, but many of us have guests in town for the holidays. Inflate the blow up mattress, wash the guest room sheets and towels, prepare a basket full of necessities – like an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. for in case your guests forgot something. You could also include extra things like water bottles and snacks to make your guests comfortable. Another idea is to display a picture frame with the wifi network and password. Or go all out and provide slippers and/or a robe for your guests!

{{DAY 12}}

Leave margin for rest! As I mentioned before, the holiday season can be a very stressful time of year. Plan into your schedule time for rest – to get a manicure or massage, or maybe it’s just leaving room for the things that you do all year long to recharge – reading a book, journaling, or exercising. If you organize your schedule and have a plan, then it’s much easier to include time to relax!

I hope you are inspired to start making a plan for this holiday season! The 12 day countdown to Christmas is on!!

My Definition of Minimalism

Minimalism has become a fairly popular trend over the last several years. The word typically evokes an image of white walls, sparse furniture, and house plants. Many people have written blog posts and articles regarding this topic of minimalism. Their response is based on their experience and preconceived ideas about what minimalism is, or the definition of a minimalist.  It saddens me that “minimalism” has become more of a recent movement that has changed the meaning of true minimalism. It’s not a one size fits all, as a lot of those who claim to be minimalist make it appear.

A friend recently posted on Facebook an interesting article about minimalism. The main idea was that people who are creative and artistic tend to be disorganized and messy, but that was a positive thing because it’s the messy environment which boosts their creativity. I recognize that everyone is different, but for me external “clutter,” “stuff,” “chaos,” whatever you want to call it stresses me out and distracts me. I know I’m not a minimalist by most standards, but I do strive to only live with what I truly need, use, and love. On the other hand, I would not classify myself as messy, but I do think I am a creative – and flourishing in my creative skills! 

The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things.

Another point that was made in this article was that messiness was an effective organizing tool. While this might be true for a very small amount of people, typically piles are not an efficient way to organize things. Searching through piles, and finding the correct pile where the item you are looking for is located can be time-consuming. The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things. I think if disorganized, messy people are honest, they would agree that a chaotic organizational system is not effective.

She also made the point that minimalism isn’t sustainable. I would argue the opposite – disorganization and mess isn’t sustainable – it has a toll on your mental health {{{I have another blog post here, detailing this information.}}} Once you are able to declutter enough to only have items you need, use, or love, it is VERY easy to maintain. You become intentional with what comes into your home. The other things that organically come into your home become easier to deal with since as a minimalist you have the space and mental bandwidth to assess all those things – kids artwork, free gifts with purchase, junk mail, and more! It’s also much easier to take care of your things – keeping them clean and organized.

The last point this article made was that messiness is “authentic.” I don’t totally disagree with this point. I have gone over to a good friend’s house on a moment’s notice and find it comforting to see the pile of laundry on her sofa or dirty dishes in the sink. But, guess what?? THIS CAN HAPPEN TO A MINIMALIST TOO! Most minimalists own clothes and dishes, both which need to be washed from time to time {{{GASP!}}} The difference might be that with less stuff, we have less to take care of, therefore there is less likely to be piles in our home. Having friends over at a moment’s notice is easy and not stressful for a minimalist.

So, what is “minimalism” to me? Minimalism to me is about living with only those things you use, need, or you find beautiful/inspirational. Some people find inspiration in books – therefore they may own more than someone who doesn’t. Other people may find inspiration from beautiful home decor, while someone else wants little or no decor. We are all different, living in different phases of life which requires different things, and that is why minimalism isn’t a one size fits all.  It’s also about living intentionally – deciding where you want to spend your time, money, and energy. It’s about being intentional with what you bring into your home. Everything we own has a cost – up front cost as well as time and energy to maintain, which takes away from being able to do other things. Excess stuff can distract us from fully enjoying (and perhaps being inspired by) the stuff that matters!

The Importance of Organization

Why is organization important? I will hear people say things like: “I’m just a messy person,” “I thrive in the chaos of clutter!” or “I just don’t think I will keep things organized. I’m a disorganized person.” These are really just excuses to not deal with clutter. They don’t see the benefits of organization, or they think the cost to getting organized is greater than the benefit. I want to share with you how EVERYONE can get organized, and the importance of organization in your physical space.

One thing about organization that some people don’t address is how organization systems are not one size fits all. We are all very unique and thrive in different environments. Some people like to have everything put away and their environment to be visually clutter free. For someone else, this may cause them to not use those items – out of sight out of mind. Some people thrive in a visually cluttered environment. Their creativity is sparked by seeing all the things! This is why it’s important to find out what kind of environment you are striving to create when thinking about organizational systems.

Cass, from the Clutterbug, has come up with four different types of organizational systems, which I have found to be great classifications. Each one is represented with a bug. The first is the ladybug. This type of person likes things to be put away out of site, but their cabinets and drawers can get easily cluttered because they want to quickly shove things in drawers, baskets, or cabinets. They need a macro-organizing system – where things are quick and easy to put away. The next type is a cricket. They also like a clutter free environment, but they like things to be organized in detail, so micro-organization works best for them. The next type is a butterfly. They prefer everything be displayed. A butterfly also needs the fast macro-organizing solution, however they will want things to be visible. They often feel like they could never get things organized and feel messy, but the truth is they can have a place for everything fitting within the way they thrive. Lastly is the bee. These people are also visual people and want their things on display, however they want things to be organized in detail. Like the cricket, micro-organization works best for them. They are likely the type of people who are big into crafting or even have a home business with a lot of supplies that need to be organized in detail.

It’s important to recognize what type of organization works best for you, especially if you’re the type that likes things visible and macro-organized. This type of person typically feels like they are just not the organized type, so they give up. So, why is it important to be organized? I would propose, whatever type of person you are, it is beneficial to have some sort of organization system where everything has a place. Organization allows for us to be productive and efficient in our day to day responsibilities. We are not slowed down by clutter: finding someplace to put something, or worse – looking for something we can’t find! When there is order in our physical space, we are more efficient and productive.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, well-known Psychologist and professor, has a wonderful lecture about the importance of “cleaning your room.” I will insert a video of that lecture if you’re interested in checking it out. The premise of this talk is when there is something in your life you are struggling with, whether it’s mental health, a broken relationship, or just something you want to change about yourself, the best place to start is by changing the external: “clean your room.” You start with something concrete that you can control. He says so pointedly, “If you want to organize your psyche, start by organizing your room.” There is a connection between our mental and emotional health and our external environment. Cluttered environment often equals cluttered mind. Peterson says, “Is that their house [referring to someone who is a hoarder] or is that their being, their mind? The answer is there is no difference.” Starting externally, turning chaos into order, can put you on the path of bettering other areas of your life. Clean your room. It’s the easiest place to start.

So, whether you’re a ladybug, cricket, butterfly, or bee, you CAN get organized. Organization is important so we are efficient and effective in basic routines in life, freeing up the time and space we need to live a more full life. We are able to work on our health, to work on our relationships, or to work on something we have been wanting to change in our lives. The upfront work of organization can be challenging, but worth the end results.

10 Area To Declutter In Under 10 Minutes

Many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about decluttering their homes. They may have flashbacks to a “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” episode in which the participants are required to remove all the clothes from every closet and pile them into a central location. While this technique may work for some, or work if you have the up front time to devote to it, not all of us are prepared to allocate a whole day – or several – to decluttering. What I have always instructed my kids and sometimes clients, is the old saying: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Sometimes it makes sense to declutter a little at a time to prevent decision fatigue or simply becoming overwhelmed, which can often lead to giving up on it all together. I wanted to share TEN areas in your home that you can likely delclutter in under TEN minutes! Doing little bits of decluttering over time is more manageable and you will see results in the end.

{ONE} The pantry. I’m not talking about a complete overhaul where you take everything out, clean it out, and purchase uniform storage containers. All you’re going to do is a quick sweep of the pantry and find food that is expired and food that you know won’t get eaten. This shouldn’t take long at all!

{TWO} The refrigerator/freezer. While you’re in the kitchen, you can do the same thing in your fridge and freezer. Look for food items that have gone bad, are expired, or your family is no longer eating. You might be able to get the pantry AND fridge/freezer done in 10 minutes!

{THREE} The kitchen utensil drawer. We often have too many kitchen utensils cluttering our kitchen drawers. If you fear you will get rid of something you actually use, you could store items away in a garage or basement for an allotted amount of time (perhaps 6 months) and if you were able to go without them, after the time is up donate the items! Also, The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have what they call the 20/20 rule: if you can replace an item that you may want to get rid of within 20 minutes or less, and for $20 or less, you should go ahead and let go of it. Many of these kitchen utensils are easy and cheap to replace.

{FOUR} Cleaning products. We have all bought cleaning products that we thought would work well, but don’t. We then just leave them in the back of our kitchen or bathroom cabinet. If you are not using a cleaning product, I would suggest getting rid of it. If it falls into the category of hazardous waste, just be sure to dispose of it responsibly. Most cities have a drop off location for such items. Also, on this topic, if you are trying to simplify, cleaning products is a great way to start! While marketing might tell you that you need a separate product for each cleaning task, the truth is you can easily make your own multipurpose cleaner with simple products you probably already have on hand. There are many resources online to find ways to make your own cleaner. Or, if you don’t want to make your own, consider just using a pre-made multipurpose cleaner for everything!

{FIVE} Sheets and/or towels. For some reason, it is easy to accumulate extra sheets and towels. It can be easy to quickly go through your linen closets and assess how many you need. When I purchase new sheets or towels, I immediately discard the old ones. Many animal shelters are in need of old sheets and towels, where you can donate them. I have two sets of sheets for each of our beds (one for on the bed, one for in the cabinet or in the wash), and two towels per person (one for use, one for in the cabinet or in the wash). This has worked really well for us for many years!

{SIX} Medicine cabinet. It can be difficult to remember to go through the medicine cabinet periodically to make sure we are discarding expired or unused medicine. I like to go through ours about every 6 months. This is also a task that doesn’t take long.

{SEVEN} Make-up drawer. Another place that can easily accumulate over time is our make-up products. Do you ever get sample make-up items then after testing just let them sit in the drawer? It’s good to go through and assess what products you are using regularly. It’s an easy place to declutter.

{EIGHT} Pens/pencils. I like to go through our pens and pencils periodically. This is another area that can quickly accumulate. Sometimes I wonder where all the pens came from! They multiply! You may not have time to test each one to determine if they work, but you can at least pare down the ones you know you don’t use. And next time, if you try to use a pen and it doesn’t work, throw it away immediately!

{NINE} Coats/jackets. Typically we don’t own too many jackets, so it’s an easy category to declutter. It’s a great idea to quickly assess at the beginning of a new season what jackets can go!

{TEN} Board games. Are we the only family that loves NEW board games?? It is a weakness of mine to buy new board games. Now that our kids are teenagers/young adults, it is one of the main forms of entertainment we enjoy together as a family. While purging this area of your home, include your spouse and kids! You could even make a game of decluttering the board games. Have them all out in a visible area one night during dinner and vote on which ones should stay, and which could go!

I hope this inspired you, knowing you can begin small when contemplating the process of decluttering. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Take a little “bite” every day, and before you know it “the elephant” will be gone!

Anxiety and Clutter

This blog post isn’t easy for me to write. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but I am so passionate about the topic of mental health and the effects clutter has on our mental health that I wanted to share my own story.

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life – or at least as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I remember being worried or nervous about all sorts of things. I learned in my late teens that controlling my environment eased some of my anxiety. I guess it was at this young age that my love for organization and order germinated. I learned that the less I had to take care of, the less chaos there was in my life. Less chaos equals less stress and anxiety.

As I grew up and older, slowly over time more and more responsibilities and things piled on me. First it was getting married, and learning to manage not only my things, but my husband’s things as well. Then our daughter came along, and two more children after that. The responsibilities and the THINGS kept multiplying. I suppose it was a mercy that I only added to our chaos a little at a time, however it was like that analogy of a frog in a cool pot of water that began to get hot and boil over time – so that it wasn’t noticeable. 

When our youngest son was a toddler I started struggling with severe anxiety symptoms. My doctor labeled me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed Xanax, which I could take when the symptoms were unmanageable. I was able to cope like this for several years, until my anxiety reached a point where it was affecting my everyday life. The journey that ensued is a whole other story, but ultimately I ended up seeing a holistic doctor and discovering that I had multiple food sensitivities, exasperating my anxiety. I was thankful to have answers, and with diet and supplements I have been able to manage for over 8 years now.

Several years ago, I began to learn about minimalism. I read blog posts and books, I watched YouTube videos, and listened to podcasts about the subject. I was so intrigued. I’ve always liked the idea of living with less. I remember when our kids were very young, I told my husband that I would happily sell everything and move across the world if the opportunity arises. That opportunity never came along, but I have always had this thought that we could live with less. Unfortunately, my husband and two of my kids like to keep things – as part of a collection, or hobby items, because we might need it one day, or simply because there is sentimental value to the items. I am learning to just be an example by minimizing my own things, hoping they will see the benefits.

The more I learned about minimalism, the more I learned of the benefits to mental health. I don’t know if I would have avoided the struggles I had with anxiety by becoming a family of minimalists, but I’m confident that having less to manage would have relieved some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.

There are times when I feel frustrated or disappointed that I didn’t learn about minimalism and how to implement it into the lives of our busy family of five earlier, but I recognize it is all part of my journey. It’s never too late to make changes in your life. We could get caught up on focusing on everything we missed from not making changes sooner, or we can make those changes and allow the new ethos to guide us moving forward – continuing to become a better version of who we are. Even though two of my kids are now young adults, I can still talk to them about the principles of minimalism, even if I didn’t teach them through my actions while they were growing up.

I hope my candor has in some way inspired you to evaluate your life. Are your things and the responsibilities that come along with those things causing extra anxiety in your life?

20 Things To Do Before 2020

It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three months away from the calendar turning over to 2020! As this new year is just on the horizon, I thought I would share some common things that perpetually stay on our to-do list, or chores we forget about. Get these (or some of these) 20 things completed before 2020 and start the new year with a clean slate!

{1} Make “that” appointment. We all have appointments that we push off because we don’t want to deal with the results or we just don’t feel like we have time to get it done. Your health is important, so make “that” appointment before the end of the year! Dentist appointment, routine well visit with your doctor, mammogram, or an appointment with a specialist you’ve been putting off. Perhaps it isn’t a medical appointment – you need a haircut you’ve been putting off, or other self care appointments.

{2} Finish a project. Anyone else start a project and lose steam? Or maybe your spouse started something and didn’t finish? Set aside time, and plan for it to get the project completed.

{3} Change the light bulb that’s been out. Is this just me, or does it seem hard to change out light bulbs that aren’t working? It seems like every time I noticed that light bulb, it’s an inconvenient time to change it. Set aside time to go around your house with fresh light bulbs!

{4} Clean the cobwebs off the ceiling. This is another task that seems like I notice at inconvenient times. It’s good to set aside time instead of doing it when you notice.

{5} Take the pile to the thrift store. I often have a pile for the thrift store that seems to quickly accumulate. The hard part for me is that it is in a storage closet in our garage, so “out of sight, out of mind.”

{6} Change the batteries in the smoke alarms. This task is so important, but may get left undone because it’s not a chore that noticeably needs to get done!

{7} Back up photos. You can do this onto Google photos, the Cloud, onto your computer, or onto a USB key. We unfortunately lost some of our digital photos because of a computer crash. I have now made it a habit to back up my photos in multiple places. My Google account is connected to the camera roll on my phone, so they automatically back up into my Google photos. I like to have them at least one other location as well.

{8} Dust your baseboards. This is a task that often gets forgotten. I like to “deep clean” one room per week in my house, meaning my baseboards get cleaned in each room about every three months.

{9} Clean your windows. This is another task that gets forgotten. I have to be honest and say our upstairs windows rarely get cleaned on the outside of the house because it scares me to get up on an extended latter! Maybe it’s time we hire someone to clean the outside of all of our windows! The inside of my windows get cleaned on the same rotation as our baseboards.

{10} Go through the pile of junk mail. I now have a “one touch rule” when it comes to papers that come into our home. I deal with them immediately. I didn’t always do this, and I know many people who have a stack of mail and/or papers that need to be dealt with. Set aside the time to purge those!

{11} Delete all the files that you downloaded onto your computer for temporary use. Whether it’s a photo someone sent you, or a form you needed to fill out and send back, our “downloads” folder on our computers can get cluttered quickly. Go through and delete all those items you no longer need.

{12} Take old/unused paint, chemicals, and batteries to a recycling center. These items can stack up in your garage or home since they are not easy to dispose of. I like to go every 6 months to dispose of these chemicals. Ask your neighbor or friend if they have anything as well to make the trip more worth it!

{13} Clean out the gutters. This is another task that we put off! Again, it can be difficult to do if you have a two story home like we do and need to get the extension latter out. This is another chore that could be hired out!

{14} Clean out the dryer vent. This chore is difficult to remember to get done since we don’t see the lint build up in our dryer line. It is something that needs to get done as it can be a fire hazard to let it go too long.

{15} Prune trees. This task is another that you may need to hire someone to do for you. If you have large, mature trees it might be worth paying someone who is skilled in this task to get done for you.

{16} Car care. Get the oil changed, routine car maintenance, car wash, or detailing.

{17} Put away summer items for the winter. Deflate and store pool items, take down hammocks or other storable spring/summer items, cover outdoor furniture for the winter.

{18} Declutter kids’ toys before the holiday season! I always liked to evaluate what toys my kids were not playing with or had outgrown before new toys came in during the holiday season.

{19} Change filters around your home. This is another chore that can be forgotten because we don’t see the dirt on a regular basis. Depending on what type of filters you have, this needs to be done several times a year. While you’re at it, vacuum and/or dust the vents!

{20} Power wash your porch/driveway/walkway! If you’ve never experienced the joy of power washing, you’re missing out!!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. On the other hand, you certainly don’t need to do all 20 things! This is just an idea of those things that often get overlooked or put on the back burner. Get a few of these things crossed off your list over the next few months and start off 2020 with a clean slate! 

The Cost of Clutter

There are all kinds of excuses we use to not deal with clutter, but what if clutter has an effect on our physical and mental health? Some don’t realize the toll clutter takes on the mind and body. It’s worth the effort to declutter things you no longer use, and organize the remaining items for your health!

Merriam-Webster’s definition of clutter is: to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. In the definition alone, we see that clutter impedes us and reduces our effectiveness. When our minds have to consistently process excess things in our environment, we are using brain space to process that input which makes us less effective.

Clutter is bad for your physical health.  It has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

Physical clutter often leads to mental clutter. When our eyes are being visually overloaded, it takes away from our brain’s ability to focus on and process other tasks at hand. Many people don’t realize that clutter is this distracting to our brains. Other people may have the urge to straighten up a bit before focusing on some work that needs to get done. This is a natural tendency we have because subconsciously we know the clutter distracts us.

In my experience, clutter often leads to procrastination. You might be surprised to learn that I have not always had a handle on keeping our papers organized. Especially when my kids were young, it was a lot to keep up with and even now it is still a struggle. If you need to pay a bill, but in order to pay that bill you must dig through a stack of papers, books, and other miscellaneous items on your desk or table, you are less likely to just get it done. Simple tasks feel overwhelming when dealing with clutter.

Don’t get me wrong, decluttering doesn’t come without its own consequences. Getting rid of items can be equal to physical pain, especially for someone who attaches memories to or overvalues their items. But this pain is well worth the end result. The best way to avoid clutter in your home is to slow the inflow of items that are coming into your home. I have found, for myself, that purging is best done in small doses. Choose one drawer, or one shelf in a cabinet or closet today to begin the road to better health!