I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.

The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.

Surprising clutter 

I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.

I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.

It was just that we could only see the mess.

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.

How to clear out the surprising clutter

As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.

My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.

Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.


You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.