My friend Lyneta Smitth shares how to rediscover your decluttering motivation so you can live a clutter free life.
I flew home from a conference in 2016 with a signed copy of Clutter Free in my hands. By the time I landed in Nashville, I’d finished it and determined that from then on, I would give away or throw away five pieces of clutter per day.
Slowly my house turned from a haphazard dumping ground for all-the-things into an organized, functional home. My daily five, as I started to call the declutter routine, became habit. Eventually, after parting with thousands of items, it became difficult to find five each day.
During those two years, I started buying less and making do with what I had. I put a moratorium on scented candles because we have enough to burn until 2025, and created a strict makeup policy in which I could only buy more if I threw some away.
Needless to say, Kathi’s Clutter Free system has worked great. We were at a happy equilibrium, or so I thought.
Until the other night while I was cooking dinner.
The Hidden Decluttering Project
I had two spice-heavy recipes going at the same time. Each needed six or seven different spices and I was trying to measure them all without burning something.
My biggest problem was finding the spices I needed. I kept them in a storage tote in the pantry, which meant I had to pick each one up to see it. What should have taken five minutes took me fifteen.
I must have sighed a little too loudly or slammed the bin lid on a little too hard, because my husband came downstairs from our office and stood just outside the kitchen with only his head poking through the large arch door. “Is everything okay?”
“Yep. Great.” I might have pushed the pantry door closed with unnecessary force.
At this point, he was probably regretting asking his hranky (hungry and cranky—like hangry only with exhaustion added in) wife any sort of question, let alone implying that she might not be okay. But he bravely forged on like a man whose evening (and more importantly, dinner) was on the line.
“Everything sure smells good.”
I nudged the refrigerator door closed with my foot and carried an armful of salad veggies to the counter. “The spice bin is not working for me. It’s really dysfunctional. I need a real spice rack.”
Still hiding behind the wall to the side of the arch, he said, “Okay, let’s get one. You decide what you want, and I’ll build it for you.”
In case you’re wondering, I do realize I have a nicer husband than I deserve.
He was rewarded for his valiant effort with a little smile. And a big dinner.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, I researched spice racks and ordered one from Amazon. Then I sorted through my bin to see what I could toss out before the big move. (Goodbye, mostly-full jar of coriander, dated 2012.)
I always joke that Clutter Free is the best marriage book I’ve ever read. But truly, learning to cull unneeded items and keep the ones I don’t need in cute containers has saved a lot of stress and frustration in our household.
Just like marriage, decluttering isn’t one and done. It’s a continual process of growth and tweaking. No matter where you are in your decluttering process, there’s always a next step.
How to Find Your Decluttering Motivation & Your Next Step
If you’re in a lull, or just don’t know how to figure out your next decluttering project, here’s a few questions to guide you.
What’s your biggest pain point?
Sometimes we get so busy, we don’t realize clutter is causing us extra stress. It’s become part of our home, like the furniture. As an empty nester, cooking isn’t as high of a priority for me, so I hadn’t realized how out of hand my spice situation was.
But when an urgent situation hits (like being late because you can’t find your keys or not finding that special, essential fall decoration in the attic) you realize it’s time to do something about a certain area.
Where do you waste the most time?
If it’s trying to find school-appropriate clothes in dressers jam-packed with swimsuits and tank tops, you already know your morning routine has way too much stress. Fifteen minutes a day (or one drawer at a time) can fast track getting your kids ready for school.
Or perhaps you’re like me, and you waste too much time searching for things in the kitchen, and spend too much money buying things you already have, but are hidden in the refrigerator or pantry. Tossing out all the outdated or unusable things (like the soy flour from your gluten-free phase six months ago) will save you time and cash.
Which area do you avoid?
Many of us have sewing rooms or other hobby areas we can’t create in because clutter is taking up too much space. Does your church’s preschool program need that can of buttons or leftover bag of pomp poms? Do you know a sewing 4-H leader who could use yards of practice fabric? It’s a win-win. You get more room to create something special, and bless others with your excess.
Another trouble spot is the garage. I can’t count how many times we’ve gone to buy a new sprinkler at the beginning of summer because we can’t find the one from last year. Same for bike tire pumps, canning jars and garden tools. When you realize you’re avoiding an area because clutter has made it dysfunctional, the decision about where to declutter next is easy.
Now That You’ve Figured Out Your Next Step…
What project are you going to tackle next? Let us know in the comments!