The De-clutter Craze

by LauraFromBaltimore

The Clutter Cure’s Illusory Joy

Oh, the heresy! Discuss!!


200 thoughts on “The De-clutter Craze

  1. Interesting! I think there are several factors at play.

    First, as the article mentioned, those Hoarder shows. One of the discussion boards for that TV show had a thread called “I Had Plans for That Rock!”, and I think that really resonates with a lot of people. Certainly it does with me. I’m probably not ever going to use old scraps of fabric to make quilts because I don’t like quilting and I’m not good at it. So I need to just let it go.

    Second, the population has reached an age where many of us have had to clean out an older relative’s house. That’s a really breathtakingly horrible experience, and makes you think long and hard about your own stuff, and how you might wish to spare your kids the same nightmare. Also, after the relative has died or gone to a nursing home, there’s something just so awful about the uselessness of all the remaining stuff.

    Finally, some of this is just culturally cyclical. Every so often everyone decides to be Gary Snyder, or some other Dharma Bum, and live without commitments to the material world. We’ll hike in Yosemite with just a Bowie knife and a fry pan! We won’t worry about the cold, and we’ll be hardy and wear shorts and hiking boots everywhere! We’ll be free, man! Eventually we’ll get over it and go back to acquisitive individualism.

  2. RMS,

    I also think this ties in with the 43% drop in (young) childhood obesity. I thing a great deal of that drop can be attributed to the end of the clean your plate club. People had been taught to clean your plate, use it up, wear it out, make it do etc. from a time when people were much poorer. Now, with so much food and stuff available people have to change their thinking.

  3. Rocky–I think you just gave me the title for DHs autobiography–“I had plans for those books (yes, plural) on coaching T ball even though my youngest is 17.”

  4. My partner’s family was quite poor when he was growing up. As a result, he keeps a lot of things because (1) just because I don’t use it now doesn’t mean I won’t use it later (waterskies that haven’t been used in 20 years immediately come to mind) and I don’t have the money to buy it again, and (2) this might be useful in fixing something else later. Due to some issues on both sides of my family, keeping ancestors things was a huge value, even though the items themselves may not have been of value. Unfortunately, even though we both realize how these upbringings turn us into “collectors”, we have not been able to fully overcome them, but we have both gotten better.

    Add to this the items (a lot of paper) that come into our house via children (school, extra curricular activities, things they like or do), our activities or hobbies (see waterski example above), and our volunteer activities. I find you need to keep most of it for a period of time anyway, but our downfall is going back and purging timely. Especially with kids, I find teachers usually expect families to have a number of things on hand that we NEVER did before kids – as they always say, “Oh, just use what you have at home.” This has become its own small monster as we now save some things, just in case!

    I will admit to participating in the 40 bags in 40 days with a group of friends during Lent. So far this year, I have purged a couple thousand email (yes this is my downfall), taken a cardboard stash to an organization that reuses vs recycles, taken slightly bigger than a shoe box of “goodie bag” toys to the school to use as reading prizes, cleaned out my car, sorted and shredded/recycled a stack of paper from all sources that filled by shredder bin completely twice, have collected two boxes of items to go to Goodwill (even though we always have a box for collection these things never made it that far), and purged my cosmetics drawer and the stuff my kids had under their bathroom sink. It’s not a permanent solution, but it somewhat takes the place of a spring cleaning.

  5. I read this quote on someone’s blog the other day about how the person never looks at a price tag. They just buy what they want and/or need. This is how most people need to operate (that can do so). People buy crap (me included) because it’s on sale, way too much.

  6. I am always wanting to get rid of some stuff that my husband thinks we should keep. (And he’s definitely right at times, but having/storing stuff we don’t currently have a use for makes me feel nutty.) We’ve sort of drawn each other towards a happy middle over time, though there is always more stuff I would donate or throw out if I could.

    I do think the rise of cheap consumer goods has contributed to an increasing amount of “stuff.” With our recent move to suburbia, one of the things we have noticed is the truly staggering number of self-storage facilities. In part I know it’s because they are a relatively inexpensive way to make money off property while waiting for a time when redeveloping is more profitable, but still–there must be someone willing to pay for all of those spaces?

  7. I think her point re: mental clutter is a good one. Thinking about 10 different things at once makes me agitated, just like seeing piles of stuff everywhere does. (Or, seeing DH’s books that he had moved from one place to the other in piles…or cardboard boxes full of wires!…or our kids’ “collections” of old crumbs and mini erasers!)

    However, getting rid of ANY kind of clutter usually makes for a lightening of spirit/mood that can last either all day (for mental clutter IME) or for WEEKS or MONTHS (when I look at my closets, which we fixed up last spring). :)

  8. Dh and I were sorting through my kids’ play room yesterday and he was going through the costume pile and found a bonnet that my MIL had bought for my daughter last spring. He was ready to pitch it because she never looks at it and I had to say wait, 4th grade has colonial day, we had better keep it! That’s two years away but why buy another bonnet?

  9. I’m probably buying/acquiring more than almost any of you- I need to wash and donate my maternity clothes that I acquired (many from the maternity closet at church) five months ago, for example, and I just bought a folding stroller and bouncy seat on craigslist this weekend. I’m borrowing two baby carriers from a friend to see what works for trips to the bus stop as she grows.

    So my house is cluttered right now, but I don’t feel either good or bad for acquiring stuff. It’s just a stage of life. And part of the reason I’m re-acquiring baby stuff is that I got rid of the stuff I had before…

  10. AustinMom, my husband came from an economically unstable family and they have the same mentality. It results in lots of clutter and an almost insatiable drive to continually accumulate more things. He has mostly broken away from that mentality at this point, I think in part because he sees how overwhelming it is for them.

  11. The solution isn’t getting rid of the clutter, it is in not acquiring it in the first place. The problem I see a lot is we clean it all out and then slowly over time, it fills back up with more stuff.

    @Atlanta, I do the same thing. We HAVE needed some of the things I save just enough to positively reinforce the behavior in my brain. DH would have nothing around if he had his druthers. Luckily, I am in charge of all druthers around the house! ; )

  12. He was ready to pitch it because she never looks at it and I had to say wait, 4th grade has colonial day, we had better keep it! That’s two years away but why buy another bonnet?

    1. Will you remember you have it in two years?
    2. Will you be able to find it?
    3. If you find it will it be in useable condition?
    4. Is it worth all the effort when a new bonnet is $1:99?

  13. AustinMom – my husband has the same background and is the same way. His (single) brother had a stroke about two weeks ago, and scrambled to make a will, asking my husband to be the executor. His brother lives on property that has been in their family for over 100 years, and has the giant metal shop building where there grandfather, father and uncles ran an auto mechanic business, so it literally has 100 years of accumulation from men with the same mentality. (And my husband spent an entire summer in college taking loads of stuff to the dump, so a first pass has been done. They had parts from Model A Fords, etc – if the internet/eBay had existed then, they probably could have made some good money.) The thought of having to clear it out almost sent my husband into a panic attack. I told him that’s how I feel about our garage, although it’s a fraction of the size. Hopefully that will motivate him to start clearing at least a little bit out of here.

    L, totally agree with the feeling of lightening after clearing stuff out. I LOVE getting rid of stuff, and have been very good about not bringing in replacements.

  14. The end of the article gets into what I think is the real clutter nowdays – the clutter in our brains from the constant onslaught of input, both digital input and real world input.

  15. I really liked Marie Kondo’s book “The Magic of Tidying Up” or something like that. It has inspired me to start purging lots of stuff. I’m going slowly due to lack of time – but the drawers that I have purged now make me so happy!

    My MIL was born in 1935 and was very much influenced by the Great Depression/austerity during WWII. She saves everything. I am hoping she lives forever because I am dreading going through her house after she dies.

  16. MBT – call American Pickers!:)

    Rhett – I actually will know exactly where it is because I have all play hats in their own little compartment in the closet (unless of course my little darlings decide to throw it somewhere else, which is entirely possible). I’m guessing it will be usable because they never play with it, but you’re right, at the price of $2 for a new one, we probably don’t need to keep it.

  17. I hate clutter, but I am not always good about doing the work to actually purge. I have too many old clothes that I have set aside to donate someday, the toy bin is full of things that DS hasn’t played with in years but I haven’t actually thrown out or given away.

    And the mail. The never ending mail. I throw catalogs & junk mail away daily it seems, but there are still too many papers coming into the house.

  18. Our biggest source of clutter is the kids. So much crap comes in with them – both on paper and via computer. Notices, sign up deadlines, rubrics, announcements that on Thursday they must wear yellow, party invitations… It makes me crazy, and invariable I lose something important and end up with some teacher saying “But we sent THAT FORM home”.

    And there is the physical clutter too. Just last night I got into a minor fight with DD because she had a whole handfull of uninflated balloons from the Chinese school LNY party, and typical of her, she was depositing them all over the house. She had already strewn a pile of paper money from a goodie bag around the living room, and the cat had managed to shred the goodie bag itself all over the kitchen. So I kind of snapped and asked her to give me the balloons so I could throw them out. She started insisting that she LOVED those balloons and that her heart would be broken if I threw them out. I kept repeating, but you don’t NEED the balloons and I certainly don’t need to be finding them under the sofa. Finally we ended up compromising – I would put them on my dresser. Great, now the balloons have been added to the clutter on my dresser.

  19. We forgot to take out the trash a few weeks ago, so our recycling is STILL behind (eg what we have doesn’t fit into the 2 big bins of recycling). In addition, the following week our trash can was stolen or disappeared (!!!! who does this? apparently with the snow it has happened a lot) and we haven’t yet gotten the new one, so all the trash is in the garage. Luckily it has been cold!

  20. Oh, where do I start? Hell, I have been meaning to literally clean out my sock drawer for a while now…I am sure it would take 5-10 minutes…and I cannot ever remember to do it until I open it when I do not have those 5-10 mins and say to myself, once again, time to clean this thing out.
    As I walk thru our house:
    Bedrooms and bathrooms: Pretty good. Sure there are some clothes we will never wear again even if we lose the weight we say we want to lose…styles do change…but nothing major. The linen closets and under our sinks all have too many days of supply of personal care items. We (probably) will use it all eventually, but we could stand to cut out 1/3 of what we have and donate it to a homeless shelter (“but it was on sale and I had a coupon!”)
    Kitchen…I’d like to get rid of 5-10% of the things in the drawers and cabinets, that would create enough breathing room for me
    Family room…bookcases and my desk area need attention, low priority
    Basement is where the action is (or should be) but…mostly out of sight, clearly out of mind.

  21. yeah, we kind of need to take a round turn on this issue. I would love for someone to just do it for me. Although DW isn’t great about getting rid of stuff, she used to be a lot better about organzing it, but with her working more, that’s fallen by the wayside.

    For me, it’s more of a time issue. I never wake up on Saturday saying that THIS is the day I want to spend sorting through old toys and clothes.

  22. After reading these comments, I am grateful for a small apartment. We are forced to purge regularly and since I hate shopping, we really do buy only what we need (stuff for kids quickly becoming the exception).

    My dad kept stuff forever, but at least it was organized. When he passed away, all of his bank and credit card statements that he’d organized in boxes and files from 1963 – early 90s – thrown out after only a cursory review. (It was interesting to see what he paid for his second house , but now that we had been in the third for over 20 years, no need to keep that paperwork.) My mom – well she thinks she is organized. =)

  23. From the article:

    “The richest Americans increasingly consume expensive experiences — like a trip to Bhutan — rather than material goods.”

    We are all so busted! : )

  24. Milo – Hire an organizer. Even though I purge stuff regularly, the one we hired told me it was OK to throw out that second ball of rubberbands (but we might use them!), and watched me do it. She also helped me re-think our closet space and how to organize kid stuff.

  25. “Second, the population has reached an age where many of us have had to clean out an older relative’s house. That’s a really breathtakingly horrible experience, and makes you think long and hard about your own stuff, and how you might wish to spare your kids the same nightmare. Also, after the relative has died or gone to a nursing home, there’s something just so awful about the uselessness of all the remaining stuff.”

    Anecdotally, that hit my parents big time. They found it so awful going through my grandparents’ house after they died and seeing toys from the 1960s and all sorts of random junk that should have been long gone. They soon went on a decluttering binge. I got lots of calls from my mom “either you take this piece of furniture/box of old report cards/trophies, or it’s going to charity or the junk yard.”

  26. Time truly is the issue. Organizing weenies will say “But it takes just 5 minutes to clean out that drawer!”. Fine, but there are so many of these tasks all over the house, from the drawers to the bins of toy crap in the kids bedrooms to the piles of books to the clumps of tools and old camping gear in the basement – it is EVERYWHERE – and when I start adding up all those little 5 minute tasks, I end up with months of work. The time just isn’t there to do it all.

    Over Christmas break we organized the pantry (we have a walk in pantry that tends to become a clutter magnet). Originally we were going to do the upstairs closets too, but by the time we finished with that pantry, we were out of time and energy. So the closets still look bad, and now the pantry is getting all cluttered again.

  27. My mother was the most organized hoarder ever. When she passed away, we found the entire basement set up with shelving, with stacks of neatly labeled matching plastic bins – all of them contained carefully sorted piles of plastic junk. Every kind of Christmas tree ornament, several cheap flatware sets, plates, kitchen towels in every theme, our school stuff, clothes, books, everything. I was really glad she kept some of it, and those bins are now in my house. Because she was so organized, it was actually really easy to clean out her house and we did it in a couple of weekends.

  28. Milo – I would block out a day when both you and DW are not working, AND (this is crucial) when the kids can be out of the house with a babysitter. ATM is right that an organizer may be helpful, but I would see how you do with a full day to yourselves and no kids.

  29. How do you convince your 6 year old that they should donate the stuffed animals she doesn’t play with? She insists that every single one has meaning for her and that she can’t possibility give them away. We’ve gone through the discussions about how much we have and how little other kids have. She sees me donate my unused items all the time. She won’t even let me donate the stuffed animals that her younger sister doesn’t play with. Younger DD doesn’t care for stuffed animals and is happy to see them go, but older DD will have a meltdown to see random stuffed rabbit leave the house. I should note that most of these animals enter our house as gifts from others, so my older DD will remember who gave what, only makes it worse.

  30. I get mentally exhausted with decluttering. For me, it’s hard work, so I limit it to 30 minutes at a time. I try (with varying degrees of success), to do a quick clean of a single, small area when the mood hits.

  31. Lemon: I’ve donated stuffed animals to the police department. It seems that they give the stuffed animals to kids who have just been through a trauma. That helped me let go of them. That said, our stuffed animals were rarely played with and our kids didn’t care.

  32. Lemon – we are mean to our kids and just toss or donate the ones they never play with when they aren’t around. DH had a big pile going yesterday and my 3 year old was starting to take things back into the playroom, so the trick is definitely to get them out of the house before they notice. They forget about the thing within a few days 100% of the time.

  33. Ditto ATM – Also, there are companies to help the elderly downsize into the space they are moving to. My parents used one, but my dad sabotaged it…long story…as a result they still have close to twice as much stuff in their new place as they should and don’t use any of it.

    The flip side is my DD is into a lot of the same crafting my mom was 20 years ago. DD got a good amount of that stuff in the downsizing. Now, that isn’t necessarily good for us on one hand, but it saved DD a lot of allowance procuring it herself. She has also donated some things as she has found multiples of the same thing that I think my mom acquired when she couldn’t find the first one.

    Yes, most things take less time than you think, but some just can’t be done piecemeal, which as MM says makes it a longer project. Funny Fred, I did my sock drawer last month. I decided the next time I put away clean socks, the drawer was getting purged. It has 50% fewer socks and is much easier to use.

  34. My kids love their stuffed animals. Even my teen boys sleep with them. We own a mountain of them too. Many came into the house when DS2 was sick – people would just hand them out at the hospital on almost a daily basis, and tons of friends and family were mailing them too. That aspect adds poignancy to the animals. So we haven’t been good about getting rid of them. Instead, we have a large basket in the boys room that contains lots of them, and now DD has her own large basket too (but like everything else, she tends to strew the animals about the house).
    My now 15 year old (just turned 15 yesterday) still sleeps with this ancient stuffed dog named, very ceremoniusly, Doggie. What is he going to do when he goes to college?

  35. DH is much better about decluttering than I am. I also tend to have more clutter of the paper/small item variety (including organized pages torn from magazines, scraps for card-making, etc.), whereas he will have a few big items that take up space. So it takes much more time for me to free up an equivalent amount of space.

    I also get more attached to stuff than he does, which means that I spend a lot of mental energy on deciding whether to make a purchase in the first place. As Moxie and others have said: if it doesn’t enter the house, no need to remove it later on! Gifts are harder, though I am trying to embrace the “appreciate the thought of the gift, let go of the item itself” approach. We always have a bag going for donations, though I wonder at what point it is better to just trash it. Straight to garbage without use seems so wasteful, but isn’t donating a gifted camembert baker to the Salvation Army really just saying, “here, you throw this away for me” to the organization?

    We are accumulating (as slowly as possible!) in prep for baby and really, really, really trying not to overbuy (and also being ok with re-gifting/donating unused items).

  36. Lemon – move the ones that are not regularly used into a separate box/area and see if she even notices. (Yes, I can be a mean mommy.) We take toys out of rotation every 6 mos. or so. When it’s time to come back into rotation, it’s really clear which toys/books are no longer appropriate and can be donated or sold in a stoop/yard sale.

    That said, one stuffed animal recently came back into play and my boys are obsessed with it. I’d saved it because it was a gift from my sister when the boys were really small and it sat on a shelf out of the way or occasionally one of them slept with it. Now they sneak it to school, it’s evil, it’s a football, it’s a hero etc. and they play with it ALL THE TIME.

  37. For kids, we limited the area that they can use to keep stuff. We have one “memory box” for each one (as I will never scrapbook), one binder each for official papers/awards (this was super helpful in applying for high school and some scholarships as you could go back and have a record of what you did), and a limited area for their stuff. They must purge it to fit the space. DD#1 – books never leave unless we have two of the same title and stuffed animals rarely go. DD#2 – just about anything is fair game to go out the door. DD#1 is good about initiating her own purges, DD#2 must be done kicking and dragging.

  38. ” I am grateful for a small apartment.

    You should be. I sometimes get envious of the idea. But I don’t need to hire an organizer. I just need the shit gone, not organized. It’s not worth it to pay someone $30 an hour to organize Little People that are worth a fraction of that.

    L – it’s often better to leave DW out of it entirely, as she gets emotional about stuff at times. Better that the stuff just disappear and she’ll never be the wiser.

    I also am thinking about getting clipped because of DW suspecting some side effects of BC. That could certainly help us get rid of the baby stuff.

  39. Milo, there are services that will just come in and take away all the crap you don’t want. DH’s family has used those services to clear out deceased elderly relative’s houses.

  40. Stuffed animals–oh boy. I get attached (my mom and sister are the same way). There is a big bin of them (down from several bins) at my parents’…I suggested that for the baby, perhaps animals could be retrieved from the “archive” vs acquiring new ones. We will see if this plan can be put into action.

    I did have one or two favorites that started to disintegrate…photographing them then tossing (with a little “thank you for your service”) helped me let go.

  41. I definitely have genetic tendencies toward hoarding, and DD got that gene from me. One of the best things to come out of my marriage has been learning how to purge (or just don’t keep stuff to start with) and organizing what you do keep. I grew up in a family that never threw out a shoe box, but now I know that it’s better to recycle that shoe box than reuse it and go buy a set of matching clear plastic boxes for the stuff you would have put in shoe boxes. That said, I am still terrible at it. I spent time this weekend sorting through papers – I purged old medical records as well as misc stuff from my last 2 jobs, and finally started DD’s scrapbook for this school year. (And by scrapbook, I mean a binder of plastic sleeves with “saveable” things like artwork and report cards stuffed in them – nothing fancy.) There is always just so much to do, though, I feel like I will never catch up.

  42. (And by scrapbook, I mean a binder of plastic sleeves with “saveable” things like artwork and report cards stuffed in them – nothing fancy.)

    Is she ever going to look at again? Or, will it end up, in 20 years, in the basement in the same unopened box it was in 3 moves ago?

  43. “it’s often better to leave DW out of it entirely, as she gets emotional about stuff at times”


    I do try to be somewhat sensitive to DW, at least with respect to toys/books/games as I believe the taking flight stage of life for our kids is harder on her than she’d like to admit. (It’ll hit me eventually, sure, but for now my lifestyle with one who needs to be driven places is about the same as the past few years, and I’m enjoying having one around.) The kitchen is really her domain, but nonetheless I try to purge periodically if only for accessibility. I have a lot more unilateral say-so on stuff that’s in the basement. If it were upstairs, then the argument about using it now/in the future is stronger.

  44. Lemon, can you really donate stuffed animals? I’d think they’d be in the same category as used pillows & mattresses. If you really want to get rid of them, I agree with ATM’s idea of a temp holding space. It’s hard to tell what kids will remember when they grow up, but she sounds like she really means it. Why not get one of those mesh hammocks for them (or 2–one that’s up high & in which you have carefully stacked most of them, and one that she has to put the rest in when she cleans up. With all the things clotting people’s houses, I have a hard time seeing how such a specific thing could be THE issue.

    “by the time we finished with that pantry, we were out of time and energy. So the closets still look bad, and now the pantry is getting all cluttered again.” I have a question that’s sort of a generalized version of MM’s plight. I’m back cleaning up the daybed & surrounding area again, because we haven’t been as to sit on it for weeks, and the stuff is starting to block the door. Once you have an area cleared off, how do you keep it that way? We also make an agreement that x area will stay picked up, at least until the rest is cleaned, but it never works. Mostly it’s DS putting stuff there. Any suggestions?

  45. Milo – is your DW okay with that? My DH is not okay with me throwing away ANYTHING of his unless he goes through it WITH ME. He is also the more emotionally attached to stuff person of the 2 of us. If she is okay with it though, by all means, have her take the kids out of the house and you do the getting-rid-of! :)

    Lemon – we tell the kids that the stuffed animals MUST be reduced by 1/3 (or whatever) to give to kids who don’t have any stuffies, and they comply. Or I just toss them.

    Apropos of the above, we have 3 sheep, one for each kid. Each one is named Lamby. We also have Beary (can be applied to any one of a number of animals) and Doggy (same).

  46. Atlanta, that kind of car accident is what really scares me. It seems like he did everything right, just some idiot doing something stupid got him killed. Nothing he could have rationally done to protect himself.

  47. Nothing he could have rationally done to protect himself.

    Well, an S550 or GL550 might have made a difference.

  48. I refused to buy more storage boxes for DD’s arts & crafts. If she has more organizers she tends to spread things out. What she needs to do is throw out other stuff that is occupying the space.
    We have settled into our house, our kids have outgrown the toy/baby clothes/lots of birthday party goody bags/bringing home reward toys from school – so we have less of a challenge now than before.Now it is mostly getting rid of outgrown/old, shoes/clothes and making sure we buy wisely. I felt awful discarding DS’s hardly worn shoes which he outgrew too quick.

  49. “it’s better to recycle that shoe box than reuse it and go buy a set of matching clear plastic boxes for the stuff you would have put in shoe boxes. ”
    Really? Why? I’ve been trying to get DS to take better care of things, including shoe boxes, so we don’t have to buy the same thing over & over.

  50. Atlanta – Oh no, that’s sad. It’s kind of a shock because I was sort of composing an email to him in my mind. And his blog has no mention of it:

    L – With DW, it’s kind of one of those regulatory gray areas. Best just to act, not ask.

  51. “Well, an S550 or GL550 might have made a difference.”

    Relative height, not necessarily luxury, might have made a difference. A Corvette is extremely low to the ground. A RAV4 might have helped, and in this case would probably be better than an S-Class.

  52. popping in briefly off topic again
    got my lab work back. negative on both RA and lupus, which is good , but sucks because now I am stuck with uncontrolled hand pain (ulnaris tendonitis) and foot pain with no answers. going to follow back up with hand doctor and get 2nd opinion from podiatrist now that RA has been ruled out. I get to sleep with my CPAP machine on wednesday :)

  53. “I’ve been trying to get DS to take better care of things, including shoe boxes, so we don’t have to buy the same thing over & over.”

    Plastic bins are more durable than shoe boxes, so it could just be one less topic for crazy bickering.

  54. I also find it very useful to have clear plastic bins because you can SEE what’s inside, so for example, if there are 4 bins of “3T Girl” clothing, you can look at them without opening and see which one holds the winter coats.

  55. Relative height, not necessarily luxury, might have made a difference.

    That’s why I included the GL550.

  56. Milo – is your DW okay with that? My DH is not okay with me throwing away ANYTHING of his unless he goes through it WITH ME. He is also the more emotionally attached to stuff person of the 2 of us. If she is okay with it though, by all means, have her take the kids out of the house and you do the getting-rid-of! :)

    L-sounds like my DH

  57. One of the most freeing experiences of my life was getting rid of almost all of my clutter for a cross-country move. I literally threw away or donated 80% of what I owned, maybe more. I regret none of it, though I could have planned a little better and sold more of it rather than just giving it away. I just wish DH had done the same, as I look onto a shelf of college astrophysics books that will never be opened again.

    The only way I can make myself feel better is this study, and remembering how I used to read random books around the house that my parents had long forgotten about.

  58. Winemama – my FIL has one of those and he loves it so much. He said his energy was through the roof once he was finally sleeping. He had no idea he was getting such poor quality sleep.

    That accident scares me too, people doing such stupid things in a hurry. It sounds like he finally treated himself to a Corvette too.

  59. Milo – Don’t envy me too much. We have no kids playroom, or rather their playroom is our living room or their bedroom. I also do not have the options of saying “Go play outside in the yard!”. Cannot wait for this winter to be over!

    L – we have several “beary”s as well.

    Winemama – A friend of mine has a CPAP and I got to share a sleeping quarters with her recently. Sexy is not the word that comes to mind.

  60. “Oh, where do I start? Hell, I have been meaning to literally clean out my sock drawer for a while now…I am sure it would take 5-10 minutes…and I cannot ever remember to do it until I open it when I do not have those 5-10 mins and say to myself, once again, time to clean this thing out.”

    this is me also Fred

  61. “I am grateful for a small apartment.”

    On a bigger scale, we similarly benefit from the fact that basements are virtually unheard of in the Houston area. They are ubiquitous in the state I grew up in, and make it far easier to accumulate lots of stuff out of sight/out of mind. Not having a basement has really forced us to think more about whether something is really worth keeping and storing because everything has to fit in a closet, room, or the garage.

    We are also in the process of going paperless because of the ridiculous avalanche of paper mentioned up thread. Basically involves scanning everything to Evernote as it comes in and labeling it. So far so good, though we need to tackle old stuff in the filing cabinet. A few years ago, my parents reorganized their office when they had to move everything out to put in new flooring, and they complained about how insane it was to go through all the old paperwork. My dad’s advice was “just shred everything!”

  62. “I also am thinking about getting clipped because of DW suspecting some side effects of BC. That could certainly help us get rid of the baby stuff.”

    Milo- do you guys have 3 kids?

  63. Rhett – truly, a G500 might have helped. But my point goes for all of us and harks back to the old defensive driving commercials that ran in the 60s and 70s…watch out for the other guy. We may drive perfectly, according to the law and as taught in drivers ed or on DMV materials, but sometimes random, idiotic, acts occur, against which we have no chance.

  64. “Once you have an area cleared off, how do you keep it that way? We also make an agreement that x area will stay picked up, at least until the rest is cleaned, but it never works.”

    I hope this doesn’t come out in written word sounding snarky or short, because I’m not saying it that way. But I don’t understand the problem. If you clear an area off, you don’t put stuff there. If you do put something there, before you go to bed at night when you’re tidying up, you put it where it really belongs. Is the issue that the stuff that keeps re-accumulating doesn’t have a home? Everything should have a place where it is “supposed to” reside. Your DS is plenty old enough to just put his stuff where it belongs, and with him being at school for most of the day, it seems like it could then stay neat. I think this is one of those areas where people just think completely differently on topics, or maybe I completely misunderstood the question, but it seems like one of those situations when you go to the doctor and say “it hurts when I do this”, and the doctor says “then don’t do that” and charges you $100.

  65. “Don’t envy me too much. We have no kids playroom…”

    But in other news, my problematic upstairs HVAC system seems to be out of refrigerant again. It was last summer when I noticed that it was running all the time and not blowing very cold air. The tech suspected a leak and added refrigerant, at about $100 a pound, and said “let’s wait and see.”

    Well, *NOW* it’s blowing cold air, that’s for sure. It doesn’t really work until the emergency heat clicks on, so I’m guessing it’s about empty again. He’s coming tomorrow afternoon, and he’ll probably say the whole thing needs to be replaced. So that’s like $8,000.

    There are times when I tour some serious McMansions/model homes and I see the *THREE* HVAC fans humming outside. So at least I don’t have that.

    If anyone has any input, I really like and trust this guy. He deals exclusively with Amana heat pumps. Does anyone feel one way or the other about those? I don’t know if I should shop around for this, or just trust him.

  66. If you do put something there, before you go to bed at night when you’re tidying up, you put it where it really belongs.

    Some people just aren’t clean as you go types.

  67. MBT – I think this is one of the fundamental flaws with the “it just takes 5 minutes to clear that drawer” approach to decluttering. It doesn’t address the real reason for the clutter, which is that typically you have no place to put the stuff. So it just reappears. It takes a lot more time than 5 minutes to find places for the stuff, which is why those breezy little articles on decluttering never address that part.

    I think organizing even one room has to be a project that is going to occupy a day or more, because it has to be tackled holistically. Otherwise, the clutter will just come back.

  68. Everything should have a place where it is “supposed to” reside.

    Yes, in the trash.

  69. @winemamma– hopefully not overstepping here with some unsolicited medical advice, but I hope it’s okay since you have posted about your problems here. I have the (not really mainstream) belief that a lot of difficult diagnose medical problems (i.e. unusual hand pain and swelling in a young person, IBS, etc.) are auto-immune in nature. I also think that auto-immune problems may (in some cases) be markedly reduced by eliminating certain things from the diet that are pro-inflammatory in some people. I have always said that if I ever (or my child) had a diagnosis of one of the big AI problems (lupus, juvenile rheum arthritis, etc.) or if I had a significant, undiagnosible symptoms (chronic headaches, etc.) I would do a strict elimination diet to see if I could resolve the issues. It is hard to do well, but essentially risk-free to try. You have to kind of be religious about it — not one drop of gluten/milk protein/legumes to cross your lips. Whole30 is a great place to start (and I think their book is surprisingly medically accurate for mainstream health book). Anyway, I am happy to go on and on about this…..

  70. MM – I agree, which is why purging my sock drawer may take %-wise way more than 5-10 minutes.
    – match the loose ones up
    – decide which ones to keep / discard
    – put the discards in something (grocery store shopping bag is fine for the ones good enough to donate, trash can for the others)
    – actually take the bag out of the house and put it in the car and throw the others in the trash
    (then, unsaid: (a) actually remember to drop the bag into the charity box when I go by it, or (b) eventually get tired of seeing the bag in my trunk and just throw away the ones I thought were good enough to donate.)

  71. “Everything should have a place where it is “supposed to” reside.

    Yes, in the trash.”


  72. “Everything should have a place where it is “supposed to” reside.

    Yes, in the trash.”

    love it

  73. thanks for the advice Ada, was actually just this morning thinking about trying an elimination diet, I need to read more about it

  74. Fred,

    How about this. You buy 14 pairs of new socks. You come home and dump all your old socks in the trash and throw all your new socks in the draw. Problem solved.

  75. Guys, another side note, I just watched Schindler’s list for the first time this weekend. makes you think about everything we tend to take for granted and our first world problems of too much stuff and too much in our diet

  76. MM – agree. But when I hear the term de-cluttering, I actually think donating/throwing away, not just moving it to another place in the house. If it doesn’t have a place, then it doesn’t get to stay (or something else has to be moved out to create a place for that item, which I agree can start an endless time suck of having to now declutter the next cabinet or closet in order to find space.)

  77. Rhett – I may have reached my limit for Navy stories recently, but a guy in the wardroom with me used to do just that. Every time we were set to go underway, he’d stock up one or two nights before on T-shirts, underwear, and athletic socks. When we returned (three, six, eight weeks later) he’d just dump them all in the garbage.

  78. Rhett – do you say “draw” instead of “drawer”? Just curious! :)

    MM and Fred – we have a staging area for all the charitable donations, by the front door. Key is to find someone that will PICK THEM UP. Then all the discarded clothes just go in that area until it gets full-ish, and I call the charity and the charity picks them up. Truly life-changing! :)

  79. I’m going to mention the elimination diet idea to my mom, Ada. She has a lot of symptoms of RA but her doctor said she doesn’t quite meet the criteria for clinical diagnosis, even though apparently her blood tests showed some type of autoimmune problem. The fatigue and pain are really getting to her though. She has tons of autoimmune stuff in her family- asthma, allergies, JRA, lupus, sjogrens, so she’s convinced it’s autoimmune. Any book recommendations or articles on the diet/autoimmune connection so I don’t say “this random person on the internet suggested?”

  80. Some people just aren’t clean as you go types.

    There are some people (mostly women) who just naturally have their hands moving all the time. After they cross a room, picking this up & putting this there, it winds up a little cleaner. I do not have that gift.

    For a while we are good about not putting stuff in the place that’s been cleaned up, but since other areas aren’t done yet, the items don’t necessarily have a home to go to.

    Wine, does your husband like Darth Vader? Really like him, like “like” him like him? Then he’ll find the CPAP very sexy.

  81. L,

    Eww, it most certainly does not. It’s like when people say ant rather than aunt – like fingernails on a chalkboard.

  82. Well, if it’s Ming dynasty I’d call it a vaaaaasssse. If its just something to put the tulips in – then it’s vase.

  83. I put the bags in the back of the car. When there is no room for groceries, then stop at Goodwill. Calling people took all the momentum away.

  84. on clutter, when we moved last May, we downsized in terms of square feet and land. went from 14 acres to 3. no basement here, but our barn is bigger. we still have crap to go through in the garage. I’m about to just toss all (well most) of the baby clothes even though we may not be done yet, friends are always passing them down

  85. Book suggestion: It Starts with Food — really would love to distribute this book in my place of work — accessible and accurate.

    Books I have heard good things about, but haven’t read: the inflammation syndrome, the paleo solution.

  86. Rio, I’m not a doctor but have read a ton of those types of books. I would start with the Whole 30 book as Ada mentioned – it has easy to follow rules (not easy to do, but they are clear) and their anecdotes are pretty powerful. Chris Kresser has a similar book where he recommends a 30 strict paleo approach and I like his approach to nutrition.

    Rhett +1 on the aunt v. ant thing. I am fighting an uphill battle living in the south/being married to a man originally from Pennsylvania, on the correct way of saying that word, but I am determined that my children will say aunt.

  87. “I really like and trust this guy”

    I think that has to count for something. We all want to avoid a callback for a major failure, but that’s really the issue, right? Will he stand behind what he sells/installs? If you think so, then go with him. (you can look him up on Angie’s List if you want)

    Amana is probably fine. Perfect, no, but everyone has an opinion. You can check Consumer Reports.

  88. A parent – Do you keep a record of Goodwill donations for tax deductions? I need to get better at that. I’ve done things like stuff it in the console, or worse, in my wallet, where the thermal paper receipt eventually goes blank before tax time.

    This year, I think I’m going to take a picture of the contents of the car at each drop-off, take a picture of the receipt, and email them both to myself into a specific gmail folder.

    Of course, my in-laws are the kind who won’t start “going through” stuff until they have the publication printed out and are diligently assigning the appropriate dollar values to each item and recording it in a notebook. “Potholder, cloth, blue, duck design: $1.05.” On the other hand, for years they’ve been paying a few hundred dollars a month for a rented storage unit for stuff that will never, ever get used. So there’s a revenue optimization somewhere in the middle.

  89. Saac – most of the stuffed animals are new/barely touched. She only snuggles with a select few. The rest are just everywhere in our small house. We’ll gather them up into her room, but then she decides she is opening a “pet store” in the living room, and 8 dogs come out, 2 lions, 4 bears, etc. I like the idea of photographing them as a thanks for your service memento. I also will try secretly boxing them up and then after 6 months move them out of the house.

    As for myself, paper is in my downfall. I’m terrible about going through it and trashing what is truly unnecessary. The other day I went through a random pile of paper in my closet and found an expired $50 visa rebate gift card (expiration dates are valid if the card was never used). Lesson learned. I’m trying to purge the day it enters the house.

  90. Did my weekend drop off at goodwill Saturday, trying to load up the back of the Highlander for a drop at least every other weekend. I have been really good about not cluttering up the kitchen counters or stuffing the refrigerator. The kitchen remodel was really good for showing me how much $ I waste buying random food and kitchen related clutter. The kitchen makes me so happy the mentality is starting to spill over to the rest of the house. So far I have been successful in keeping the dining room table clear of everything that is not temporary – like a birthday present wrapped and waiting to be given. Nothing that should have a home elsewhere in the house or trashcan is allowed!

  91. Just as people continue to believe that organizing their crap or decluttering a counter will make their lives better, Florida continues to believe it just has to find the right test. Jeb started it all, of course, but a couple years ago when they implemented FCAT, they had to throw out bad questions & “adjust” scores because kids didn’t do as well as expected. Now they’ve come up with another new one, apparently without testing the system or calculating the load on the website/servers

  92. Lemon, can you really donate stuffed animals?

    The Denver Police take them. My daughter gave them two garbage bags full last year.

  93. Fred – He’s the kind of guy people are talking about when they say “you know, learning a skilled trade and starting your own small business can be a really good option for a motivated, technically oriented young person.” He’s just one of those people who has his head screwed on straight. He looks presentable, speaks intelligently, got married before fathering children. The whole deal.

    Plus, when I was having problems with a switch that kept shorting, the second time he fixed it he said that something’s wrong and he’s going to actually find the cause of the problem. He searched for a long time before taking apart the outside fan unit and finding a tiny wire that had not been taped correctly upon installation, so when it vibrated as the fan was running, eventually it wore off the rubber coating and if it hit the metal side of the fan housing just right, it shorted the whole system. An hour or so of searching and a few wraps of electrical tape was what actually solved the problem, but many techs might not have the inclination to do that.

  94. Milo, on your ISIS link: I am so sick of hearing re Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”. They are boys (& girls)!in search of adventure & meaning, who have joined up with a bunch of sick, barbaric mofos. “Civilization” my a$$!

  95. Saac – Fair enough.

    Rocky – Do you think they’re driving around with their headlights on during the day, waiting to shoot someone who flashes his lights back?

  96. I write it on a piece of paper when I place the things in the bag and place the piece of paper over our computer furniture. When tax time comes, I go through them with Tubro Tax and then save them with the return. The TT value calculations add up . I also have a Goodwill rewards card. The guy scans it every time, and emaisl me a receipt, but I have never used them in preparing taxes.

  97. RMS, that one might not be true, but we know already that they are depraved. Heck, look at everything the people of Libya have gone through. In my FB groups, they’ve been worrying about ISIS in their country. And we’ve got Fox & its ill claiming that ISIS is some kind of decent representation of what 1/6 the world’s population believes. Those morons just lap up the ISIS rhetoric.

  98. Rhett – I 100% agree with you on aunt vs ant. DH says ant and I am CONSTANTLY trying to stamp it out of the kids. He also says “carmel” instead of “caramel”, another heresy!

  99. “Well, at least carmel is correct.”

    For a town in California, sure. But the amber-colored sugar-and-butter topping for ice cream and lattes is CARE-uh-mel.

  100. Milo,

    The town in CA is car as in automobile and mel like Mel Torme. Karmil is the amber colored candy and dessert ingredient. CARE-uh-mel. is ridiculous.

  101. Car-mull. Candy, topping, etc.

    The place where Clint Eastwood was mayor is Car-mell.

  102. So the NASDAQ is back above 5,000. It only took 15 years. Last time it was priced at 120 times earnigs; now it’s 23 times.

    That will help pay for the heat pump.

  103. I find “ahnt” to be ridiculous, my DH thinks “ant” is a bug. Maybe I’ll tell our kids to call his side “ahnt” and my side “ant” so that they won’t think we’re raising rednecks, and my side won’t think the kids are pretentious.

  104. So the NASDAQ is back above 5,000…
    with inflation your breakeven is ~7,000

  105. We’ve always said aunt (rhymes with “jaunt”), but it’s Antie Anne’s pretzels. (rhymes with “scanty”)

  106. Fred,

    The current NASDAQ 100 dividend yield is 1.13% so that closes some of the gap.

  107. Fred is correct on car-mul. And yes, the extended “au” at the beginning of ant sounds like pretension and snobbery, real or wished-for.

  108. “I find “ahnt” to be ridiculous, my DH thinks “ant” is a bug. Maybe I’ll tell our kids to call his side “ahnt” and my side “ant” so that they won’t think we’re raising rednecks, and my side won’t think the kids are pretentious.


  109. I am also not one who is on autopilot to put things away, other than food and dishes. The thing that works the best for me is to set an alarm for 9 pm. At that point, I stop or quickly wind down what I am doing and do a quick run through of the house and prep for the next day. It keeps the easy clutter away – no clothes overnight in washer/dryer, dishwasher started, clothes laid out, etc. However, lately I find myself dealing wih children at that hour (who should be in bed) and by 10 pm, I’m too tired to stay up longer other than to check the dishwasher!

    We are working on having a place for things rather than just piling them up more!

    Question – Do you get paper statements for bank accounts etc? I have a mixed bag of some yes and some no. They pile up fast. I have some statements back years because of dividend reinvestment and the brokerage didn’t show original valuation back then and they carry forward without it. But, I have noticed that the bank, credit cards and some others only allow you to see the statements online for so long. Do you download or ignore or what?

  110. ok, but the point is just getting back to 5000, is not a reason to feel all whoop-di-do.

  111. I’m young enough to not be implicated in this, so I have to ask someone like Fred, “WTF were you all thinking buying at 120 times earings???”

    Leading up to that, when I didn’t have much interest in this stuff, I remember riding in the car with my Dad and he was saying “some of these companies have NEVER made a profit!”

  112. Milo – with the 3 syllables, I pronounce it more like the A in apple than the A in care.

    I wonder how many of these differences are regional? :)

  113. Austin, I am glacially moving to having bank/investment statements online only. Even some bills. I am especially motivated if someplace charges me for the privilege of having paper statements (e.g. $2/mo) or if they put a bounty on moving that direction.

  114. Mooshi- I was like your 15year old. My stuffed dog came with me to college. He lives on a shelf in my bedroom and when DH is gone, keeps me company in bed with the 35 lb dog.

    If you DS doesn’t want him at college, he’ll probably still want him at home.

  115. saac – a little late to your clutter question, but what exactly is cluttering up your sun room? If it is your son’s school work or hobbies, they need to go in his room. If it is your paperwork or magazines or knitting, they need to go where they belong, whether that is in your bedroom or the magazine basket on the floor, or wherever.

    Something that works for me is not going to bed with stuff in the wrong place. Before you retire to your room for the evening, pick up everything in your living spaces and put it where it belongs, especially if Rhett is correct and that spot is the trash or recycling. If it is your son’s stuff, he needs to pick it up and put it away before he goes to bed, or gets to play video games or read a book.

    If you want to be hard on yourselves, collect the stuff in a trash bag and throw it in the trash for a couple of days – and see what your really even miss.

  116. Something that works for me is not going to bed with stuff in the wrong place.


  117. Haha, I always thought it was a slight jab at the kind of things yuppies name their kids. (No offense intended to parents of little Milos or other hipster baby names)

  118. Our clutter tends to be stuff that is “in process”- Home Depot receipts for stuff that might need to be returned this week if it isn’t right, medical bills that are incorrect that I’ve called on but can’t forget about so they don’t go to collections, reading units for the kids that have to be reviewed and returned on a particular date 5-7 days away, etc. I have a tax folder for each year and do reasonably well at sticking stuff in there.

    I have mail slots for some of this, which has helped, but if the problem isn’t staring at me, I tend to forget it needs to be done. Advice?

  119. Nope, from one of my favorite books. And it’s actually a good reminder that I should re-read it, because just from reading the Wiki entry, I’m thinking there are references I missed when I was in college.

  120. On pronounciatons-

    Do Mary, merry, and marry sound the same? Mary rhymes with airy, merry with perry, and marry with Harry.

  121. WCE – I’m not sure what your calendar system is (mine is a yellow steno pad plus a monthly calendar). If you know that you are going to go to Home Depot on Thursday, can you put a note on your calendar for Thursday saying “Home Depot – get receipt”, and then put the receipt in your pending folder. Same with the bills and notes back to school: put them in the folder and write on your calendar which day you plan to deal with them. If you use an ongoing to do list, then the reminders could go there.

    If it is a paper that you have to fill in each day (like a reading log), I would probably put it on a bulletin board to get it off my desk.

  122. Milo, I’ve always associated that name with Venus de Milo, as she makes an appearance in Wedekind’s Spring Awakening.

    Rio, we pronounce ‘saac just like Zack. What really drives me crazy that I hadn’t expected when I chose what I thought was an international name are the local spins put on it. In Spanish it’s Issac. In German it’s Isaak, with the “I” pronounced like “Ee”. In Arabic & related languages, it’s pronounced “EeSSACK”. Subtle differences, but noticeable, especially when he was just starting school.

  123. Mr WCE leaves a majority of the clutter and never clean it up, so that’s part of it. And he is overloaded on reminders so I tended to put the day’s stuff for the kids out before I went to work (he got the kids ready for school)- if I rely on him,stuff is often forgotten. This mostly affects the twins, since DS1 (second grade) mostly keeps track of his own stuff. The twins don’t yet know what day of the week/month it is, so they can’t keep track of their own stuff yet. Family calendar is paper on the wall.

  124. Rhett – whoops, I guess I could have phrased that better!

    Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way. But, your advice is kinda funny. It’s like if a friend asked what they should do about their weight gain and looked at them with all the love and concern in the world and said, “What works for me is eating less.”

  125. SWVA Mom: (And by scrapbook, I mean a binder of plastic sleeves with “saveable” things like artwork and report cards stuffed in them – nothing fancy.)

    Rhett: Is she ever going to look at again? Or, will it end up, in 20 years, in the basement in the same unopened box it was in 3 moves ago?

    This kid will definitely look at it again. She goes back to her K & 1st grade binders now. We also keep things like the school handbook, class directory, and logins for various school-related websites in there (so they don’t get lost in the rest of our clutter). The process helps me purge multiple times too: 1) Daily/weekly papers come in from school, save some (informational or for posterity) in the pile “to be filed” & toss the rest; 2) Monthly (well, sometimes longer) sort through pile, toss expired notices, organize what should be saved, and toss even more; 3) When she gets older, she can decide what to save or toss the whole thing.

  126. Milo, a couple of your comments resonate with me.
    1) Decluttering is progressing now that I’m not working, so your DW and I have that in common.
    2) When I entered my third trimester, my statistician friend and I met in the restroom and I confirmed that I was expecting Baby #4. I joked, “This is what 95% confidence over 13 years looks like.” (0.95 ^ 13)

  127. “MY-lo. My namesake:”

    I always think of Milo, as in Venus de, as Nina Foch’s character in American in Paris explained to Gene Kelly’s character.

  128. “And my mother thought “awwnt” was pretentious”

    I kinda remember being told that was the British pronunciation.

  129. “You buy 14 pairs of new socks. You come home and dump all your old socks in the trash and throw all your new socks in the draw. Problem solved.”

    Especially if all the socks are identical, and you use the same socks for all occasions, whether with a suit of to go running or anything else.

  130. Austin, I’ve converted mostly to electronic statements, which has really cut down on the clutter in on and around my desk. I download my bank, credit union, brokerage, pay, and credit card statements and back them up. I stopped getting a paper bill from the cable company, but haven’t bothered downloading all of them.

    Rhett advocated deleting old electronic statements, but I don’t see the point.

  131. How to turn a $50 Visa card from a rebate into $50 of Amazon credit:

    Put a $50 Amazon gift certificate, payable to yourself and to be sent to your e-mail address, into your cart. Check out and use the $50 Visa card as your payment info. Check your e-mail for the Amazon certificate and copy the number. Go back to Amazon and follow the “apply a gift card to your account” link under “Your Account.” Paste in the gift certificate number and enter.

    Now you have $50 of non-expiring Amazon credit and you can throw away the $50 Visa card.

  132. HM – that is good to know. I hate receiving the Visa gift cards because it is always a hassle using it (you need to always know exactly how much is on it, etc). Unfortunately for my expired Visa I think I’m too late. But I will try it anyway when I get home.

  133. At Walmart, Safeway and my Kroger affiliate (Fred Meyer), I can just run my Visa gift card and it looks up the remaining amount and takes it off my bill, then I pay the rest with debit.

  134. Harry has the same a sound as in happy. Unless you live where i grew up, and then it’s pronounced “hairy”, to the undying misery of the Harry’s in my life.

    What about “route”? Root or rout?

  135. Most of us are or were in a situation where multiple residents of our home brought in and left stuff all over the place and we were too rushed/tired to deal with the mail or to make sure all of the critical path steps were done to sort or accomplish what is needed to reduce the accumulation. So the only partially differentiated piles grow bigger and bigger. That was certainly true at my house in the family days. (You will be happy to know that this too shall pass.)

    But the root problem has been identified above, in my opinion. Everything should have a place. After all, most of sort our clothes by category into different dresser droars. We don’t keep the stockpot under the bathroom sink or our underwear in the dining room hutch. If there aren’t enough places to put things, or the piles accumulate on the dreaded multi use surface, it may be time to call in the professional organizer to create distinct storage and use areas, or to follow Rhett’s mantra of use and lose.

  136. WCE – the home depot receipt resides in the wallet of the person who will be the one to return it, and discarded when the object has been pronounced fit for use. failing that, it is tacked to a household bulletin board in a designated corner.

  137. ” “This is what 95% confidence over 13 years looks like.” (0.95 ^ 13)”

    I think I need this explained.

  138. @saac – I should pop over to your place. It will probably take me a day to get you clutter free. I do have the constant declutter gene – I’ll put things away or throw them out. Then, even the put away things are periodically scanned to see if they need to be tossed or given away. I leave DH’s things alone, he’ll put away his paperwork in a week or so and will do a major purge of his clothes/things once a year. He doesn’t acquire much so once a year is enough.

  139. WCE – Agree a chunk is “in process” stuff. Today, I am tackling a pile of that since Thin Mint season has ended and all the paper receipts and computer tracking have to be reconciled. It has taken a substantial pile off the desk and almost all of it is appropriately processed and filed. Just a few more print outs and holepunching to go.

  140. I assume WCE is talking about birth control effectiveness statistics? 5% failure rate per year, about a 50% chance of pregnancy in 13 years?

  141. Yes, Rio, it’s the kind of joke that a female statistician will groan at. Her response was, “Better you than me. “

  142. “I also am thinking about getting clipped because of DW suspecting some side effects of BC.”

    Off the top of my head, I can think of one other way.

  143. Saac, I fully understand what you’re saying with respect to the pronunciations of your son’s name.
    I have the same problem. Junior has a very common name in the Spanish-speaking languages and it’s pronunciation in Spanish is very different than it is in English. (Don’t, but you can probably figure out his name.)

    I’ve given up. When I use his given name, as opposed to “Junior”, like everyone else I use the Spanish pronunciation although that is very far different than what we tried to name the kid.

  144. As far as I’m concerned, for “Marry merry Fairy Mary to very airy Harry Perry” everything rhymes except “to.”

  145. Milo, down here your name is pronounced “Mahlo”.or “Mahlooh, depending.

  146. “5% failure rate per year, about a 50% chance of pregnancy in 13 years?”

    I have to say, one nice thing about being my age is that I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant any more!

    Winemama, I have posted before that after my DD was born, I started having some frightening neurological issues. Bad enough that the doctors were worried about MS. Long story short, I tested negative for MS and everything else, but the problems persisted. On a whim, and in desperation, I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet for a month and see what happened. What happened was that my symptoms disappeared. On two occasions thereafter,I experimented with adding some gluten back into my diet, and on both occasions my symptoms came back. I am now strictly gluten-free, and (knock on wood) the troubles have not come back. So I would definitely look at diet as you try to figure out what’s going on. I hope you can figure out something that will give you relief.

  147. Louise, I’d love to have you come do that! The next day, I’d drive you to the beach. I think the problem is that even though we’ve been here over a year, I don’t know if everything that should have a place does. That’s part of why I’m hanging pictures–I don’t want to stay here, but making it feel a little less temporary might help get the work done to get us out.

    “Don’t think about a pink elephant. Or about Junior’s name.” I think the easier command to fulfill is the first one.

    LfB, nice article. Are you going to drop in today?

  148. ““Marry merry Fairy Mary to very airy Harry Perry” everything rhymes except “to.””

    Ya, none of that rhymes to me… must be a NJ thing because DH and my mom agree that they don’t rhyme. But, my friend from Syracuse believes they all rhyme.

    I still need to finish our basement. We were very close, but then DS arrived early. If we can get through a couple of boxes and one shelving unit, we can condense those boxes onto the unit and free up some space. The last corner is the workshop/storage area. It’s a dark dungeon which sucks you in and makes you fear both Halloween and Christmas.

  149. @saac – the one thing from all our moves I learnt is 1. dispose off things before you pack 2. unpack as soon as possible (this is contrary to what most people will do after a move). While doing so if there are things that won’t fit in the new place/you will not need – dispose them off. Get rid of the moving boxes (if you have boxes sitting around – these add to the clutter).
    My new neighbors hosted an open house party a couple of months after their move – their house was immaculate. It is a great way to give yourself a deadline to clear things.

  150. Great topic, LfB! Sorry I missed it. I have the declutter gene, too. Love getting rid of things.

    When the kids were little, I decluttered their rooms when they were out of the house. Could get rid of garbage bags full of crap and they would be none the wiser when they returned. I didn’t get rid of really special things like stuffed animals, but all the little plastic toys etc — gone. Now, they have far less silly little crap. Mostly their clutter in their rooms is clothes, and our rule is that they don’t get their seasonal clothing budget unless and until they clean out all the things they don’t want, and take those bags of clothes to the Thrift Store.

    We clean out the garage every spring and every fall and make a trip to the dump and the Thrift Store. This year, we have warned them, just about everything is going — all the scooters and the 15 extra basketballs, etc. I can’t wait.

    We collected boxes of special books from when they were young and kept those for future grandkids — DH’s idea. I’d have been happy to chuck and replace later, but he wanted to do this and we have a little corner of the basement up north where these go, along with certain games and toys. Other than that out-of-sight corner, we have no little kid things here anymore. For books in the city, DD and I go once/month to a women’s shelter and deliver a full box there — all the books from elementary school to present day from the kids’ bookshelves in the family room, which are a free for all, I have warned them. They can offer up books from their rooms, too, and they generally do. And I buy too many, so if I haven’t read them after X months, I take those, too. Hugely helpful in terms of shelf space.

    I don’t think awnt is English. It’s certainly not Canadian, and just about everything we say up there is English. But I’ve also never heard it said that way by an English person. My dad says things like petrol and various other Englishisms but he always said ant. I’ve always thought it was a southern U.S. thing. I heard it a lot in TX (and heard it there for the first time, I think). I confess I correct my kids when they say it that way. It sounds pretentious to me *because* my kids didn’t grow up saying it that way (because I didn’t). Maybe affected is the right term, not pretentious, in that case. I think a lot of American kids say it that way and I can’t tell anymore who’s being affected and who legitimately thinks it’s pronounced that way (when it comes to kids).

    I say vawse and my youngest SDD says vayse and she cannot let this go. It’s pretty funny — she’ll ask me to repeat what I’ve said 10 times, an unspoken suggestion that I need to correct my pronunciation. So, I exaggerate the AW more each time. If I’m asking her to fetch one for me, she will claim she has no idea what I’m talking about, and she’ll hand me various objects from around the kitchen, pretending she thinks that’s what I mean. Getting flowers arranged in this house can be a long and uproarious production.

  151. On the pronunciation, I say ant and vays (hard s). If I am being charitable I consider awnt and vahze regionalisms. Growing up in Maryland I do use such expressions as fetch for actions not performed by dogs, you all (not y’all) as a form of address, and until it was beaten out of me in New England the sound for “I” was closer to aihh than eye. I only encounter hard r’s when I visit family in the midwest.

    My affectation was crossing my sevens. I did it for many years despite never setting foot in Europe – it was part of my fantasy training to be a secret agent – eating as naturally with the fork in the left hand as in the right, using the thumb to count 1 instead of the forefinger, and everything else I could glean from books. I think I was in my 20s when I stopped.

  152. Oh, man, I’m sorry I missed this — twice in a row I missed my own posts. Dangit!

    I think the clutter divide is like the introvert/extrovert, saver/spender divide, where folks with one predilection just. can’t. conceive of why in the world anyone would (pick one) surround themselves with crap/toss meaningful mementos.

    I do tend toward the clutter side. I would like to say I don’t have enough time, but that’s crap — we all have the same 24 hrs, and some people manage to maintain order. The real answer is that decluttering and maintaining order is just way lower on my priority list than things like getting my work done, spending time with my kids, feeding us, reading books (just treated myself to the latest Kellerman as my bday present– paid for a full-price hardback, gasp) and crashing on the couch to watch Top Gear. And I like it that way. So I’d generally rather feel marginally guilty about the clutter instead of actually changing my habits to address it. Until it goes over the top and drives me nuts, and I go on a binge, and everything looks good for a while.

    But there’s another aspect, too: we do what gives us pleasure. Just last week, we needed some silly little thing, and I remembered we had one in the basement. Little happy spark in the back of the brain. Sure, we could have bought another one, but we *had* one — it was free, it was useful, it was here!! OTOH, the worst possible feeling is when we need something and I realized that we HAD that very thing, but then we threw it out/gave it away. It’s dead bang on with the research that shows that a loss is far more painful than a gain — that slightly-sick feeling will stick with me, no matter how cheap the “thing” was or how easily it could have been replaced.

    And that makes actually getting rid of stuff emotionally fraught. First, of course, many things have meaning to me (the “memory triggers” I’ve discussed before). But even for things that are not meaningful in and of themselves, all of my instincts are telling me to keep it around, I might need it and then I’ll feel bad; and overcoming that and tossing something requires me to impose my conscious will to override those instincts and continuously remind myself that I can afford to buy a new one, that even if it fits it’ll be out of style, that I won’t be able to find it, etc. etc. etc. Frankly, it’s *exhausting.* Like “staring at a chocolate buffet and forcing yourself not to eat” exhausting. So it should surprise precisely no one that I force myself to do that as infrequently as possible — that I wait until the mental burden of the clutter overwhelms the fear of feeling bad from tossing something I might need.

    OTOH, my mom is of the opposite persuasion: she gets visibly antsy and upset when there are dirty dishes in the sink, or when clothes are left on the floor, or when things are out of place or need to be gotten rid of. So clearly, she has a very different innate thought process than I do. Which also explains why neither of us will ever move back into the other’s house. . . .

  153. Meme, I cross my sevens because my dad always did and he taught me algebra one summer so that I could be on the most advanced math track when I moved from private to public school (very totebaggy!). But I continue to do it because my handwriting is horrendous and without the crosses they can easily be misread as 2s.

  154. “Our clutter tends to be stuff that is “in process””

    @WCE: This is us, too, and I will tell you I have tried innumerable ways to address it, and they all flopped. For ex, I once did a calendar thing buy buying a big folder with 31 slots, and whenever anything came in I placed it in the date on which I would deal with it; if something didn’t have a date, I’d do something like put it in the next Saturday, or just pick an arbitrary date. Except, basically, life happened, and I’d forget to check it, or I’d get caught up in other things.

    Here is what is currently working for us: I have a box, and it is labeled “to do.” Bills, receipts, camp registrations, school forms, things to respond to, checks to deposit, things to return (hah! fake category, I never return anything), etc. — they all go in there. Uncategorized, it’s just one big pile. And then I go through the pile usually about once a week and see what needs to get done. The box also lives right next to the box I set up for incoming mail, so it’s easy just to drop the bills from one to the other.

    Actually, it’s not quite that simple: for investment accounts/bank statements that need to be entered into the computer, I put them in a separate stack in the office next to the computer, with a sticky note on them that says “to enter.” And statements and things to file go into a cubby in the kitchen labeled “to file.”

    This is about the level of complexity I can tolerate on a daily/weekly basis. Now if I could keep the other three humans in my house from dumping their crap on my kitchen island, life would be good.

  155. AND they’re closing schools early today (before a singly flake has fallen), after a 2-hr delay yesterday that morphed into a full-day closure despite 40F+ temps that had the roads completely clear by 9:30 AM. Sigh. At some point I *will* again have a normal week in the office.

  156. “AND they’re closing schools early today (before a singly flake has fallen), ”

    And they’ll probably close on Thursday, too. The way they close and delay for nothing this winter….I just can’t. I can’t even.

  157. @Milo: Exactly.

    My assistant’s response: “We had better have a beautiful summer.” As much as I hate Florida, it’s looking awfully good right about now. . . .

  158. Maybe you guys should invest in some road salt? Or a plow? ;)

    Rhett – I took that dialect quiz and fit PERFECTLY with Boston, despite not having grown up here. :)

  159. Snow changing to sleet here, so I left the office after AM rush hour and high-tailed it home. “High-tailing” meaning 50mph. I’m done spending rush hour in this kind of weather. School is out today anyway, for everyone but the juniors, who’re taking the SAT.

  160. Afternoons here are already uncomfortably warm, unless you’re at a pool or the beach.

    Louise, my fantasy way to move is over the course of a month, one room or bookshelf a day, sorting everything before packing and setting up the new place as I go. The last time we moved, however, we were leaving a house we rarely even slept in anymore, because I was so skeeved out by the rats I could. not. stay there. Everything just got tossed into a truck & into the apt/garage.

    Moving into an empty apt on a different continent than all your stuff is the ultimate in decluttering. There was a time when I’d come home & greet my old friends the dishes with a smile, but last time around I basically shrugged & grunted “so there you are again”. But there are a few things I had to leave over there that I still remember fondly. We took a lot of DS’s stuff over & back, because I thought it’d help him feel some continuity. I don’t think it mattered. I once had someone come help me pack up 3 large totes of stuff from the floor in his room. I thought he’d miss it when he came home from school. Instead, he walked into his room & marveled “it’s so clean”. At least we have never gathered the kind of cheap plastic crappy detritus people talk about on here. It just doesn’t come into our home.

  161. Btw, I do most of the stuff Meme mentioned–cross my “z”s & “7”s, hold the fork in whichever hand, take shoes off when I enter a house… But I also chew gum a lot, wear shoes without socks, and go to drive-thrus. Equal opportunity annoying.

  162. “DD tells me it’s the ACT that the juniors are taking today.”

    I know that today is ACT day for juniors at at least some of the local schools as well. I’m guessing the testing today is only for school-wide or district-wide type testing; the ACT website does not indicate today as one of its test dates.

  163. “for investment accounts/bank statements that need to be entered into the computer”

    Going paperless for brokerage and bank accounts, and downloading statements from their websites, has eliminated this pile for me.

  164. My son’s whole high school is taking the ACT today but I think the younger grades are taking some kind of junior version.

    I still cross my 7s. It’s way beyond affectation into habit by this time. And I’ve used chisanbop to count on my fingers ever since first learning about it circa 1980. You can count up to 99 that way and it doesn’t take any more thought than counting to 10 the normal way, at least not once you know the system.

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