This week, Kathi continues her conversation with Tonya Kubo, founder and fearless leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, about some of the key ingredients to forming lasting clutter free habits. Last week, they talked about the importance of routine. This week, you’ll hear about how realistic expectations will help you live the clutter free life you’ve always wanted.

In this episode, you’ll hear three realistic expectations that are critical for your clutter-free journey. You’ll learn how:

  • Clutter is never one and done.
  • We live with humans.
  • It takes time and resources to make a lasting difference.

Clutter Free For Life

If you’re ready to invest the time and resources into making 2020 a turning point in your clutter free journey, now is the time to check out Clutter Free for Life.

Clutter Free for Life is full of personalized, hand-on help to have realistic expectations! As a member, you’ll receive tons of valuable exclusive content: monthly action plans, coaching twice a month from Kathi herself, access to a private, VIP Facebook group, and tons of gentle encouragement and guidance on how to move forward on your clutter free journey.

If you sign up for Clutter Free for Life today, you’ll save 60% off of the monthly price. You’ll get a full year of support on your clutter free journey for the unbelievable price of $118.

Don’t wait! This offer expires on December 31, 2019. Sign up today and make 2020 the year you become Clutter Free for Life!

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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #388

Clutter Free for Life: Realistic Expectations

<<intro music>

Kathi – Well hey, friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. I am super excited, because here we are with part two of How to Create a Clutter Free Life. This is the secret sauce. So, last week, all about creating routines, that was the honey mustard of the secret sauce. Today it’s the barbeque. It’s like the good chipotle barbeque sauce.

Tonya – So it’s spicy.

Kathi – That’s right. Not too spicy, though, you know. ‘Cause I can’t do too spicy. You just heard Tonya Kubo. She’s the founder of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. We’re talking about ‘what is the secret sauce to being clutter free?’ So, today, what we’re talking about, is the second ingredient to creating a clutter free life. Everybody says they have them, but I don’t see them in action very often. It’s Realistic Expectations.

Tonya – Oooh.

Kathi – Okay, so can we talk about what we’ve seen in Clutter Free Academy and the discussions online and stuff like that? You know, it’s really interesting when somebody new comes into the group. I’ve never seen them post before and they’re showing before and after pictures. Especially of their garage. When they show me a before and after picture of their garage, I’m like, “Where did you shove all the stuff?” I don’t even understand? So what have you seen with people coming in with unrealistic expectations?

Tonya – First of all, if I can be totally blunt?

Kathi – Please.

Tonya – People come in and they think we’re going to scold them.

Kathi – That’s true.

Tonya – So they come in with this expectation that we are the decluttering militants or they’re already planning for us to tell them that they’re lazy and stuff. So they come in, and very defensively, state their intensions of “I’ve set tomorrow. The husband and the kids are going out of the house and I’m not going to go to the bathroom or eat until I have dug my way out of my garage!”

Kathi – Oh, that sounds terrible.

Tonya – Well, it does! I’m always like, “Whoa! Do me a favor. Get a timer. Just set the timer for 15 minutes.”

Kathi – They can’t do it for fifteen minutes, ‘cause in their brain it has to be two hours.

Tonya – It has to be a million hours and it has to be until you can eat off the floor. What is the truth? The truth is: Your house did not get to the condition it is in overnight.

Kathi – Right. And let’s talk about why saying, “I’m going to declutter my entire kitchen/garage/house today!” is such a bad idea. One, I really believe that clutter is the physical manifestation of decision fatigue. It’s having to make one more decision. When you start off in the morning, you are chucking things left and right. Things are going to the garbage. They’re going to the dump. They’re going to Good Will. You’re making all these decisions. But the later in the day you get, you get serious decision fatigue. So, what starts to happen is, you start to put it in a pile for later. What you’ve just done is created another clutter pile. You don’t think you’re going to do it, but it happens to absolutely everybody.

Tonya – And the reality is, not only do you do that, but you’ve exhausted yourself so much that going back to it? You don’t go back to it tomorrow. You don’t go back to it next week. You need three weeks to recover and by the time you’ve recovered, that pile of clutter invited all its friends over to play.

Kathi – Right! And your kids have gone through that pile of clutter to say, “Oh my, gosh! I haven’t seen that in twelve years but now it’s my favorite thing!” Here’s the thing I hate the most about it. It’s so punishing. “I’ve been such a bad person. I need to be punished, so I’m not allowed to leave/eat/drink/pee until all this clutter is gone. Your clutter didn’t come because you were a bad person. Your clutter came because, maybe you didn’t have any routines in place. Maybe there was a life event that changed everything. I don’t know what it is, but your clutter didn’t happen in a day. Rarely do I find people who are clutter-y who are lazy. What I find are people who are clutter-y who are serving everybody in the world and they just get scraps from the table.

Tonya – Yup.

Kathi – It breaks my heart that people are so punishing. So instead, we want you to set realistic expectations. So, one of the most common phrases in Clutter Free Academy and Clutter Free for Life is “It’s not one and done.” What does that mean, Tonya?

Tonya – Well, it means that you don’t clear off your table and then never have to revisit your table again. It is normal to have your hands full and to set something on the table. It’s normal to say, “I just came in from outside. I’m carrying my mail. I’m carrying my laptop bag. Oh my, gosh. I’m going to put this on the table so I can go to the restroom.” Then, get distracted when you come out of the restroom. Right? At the end of the day, to be like, “Wow. How come that stuff is still on the table?” That’s normal!

Kathi – That’s just every day.

Tonya – You just have to have a practice so that that table gets cleared off and stays cleared off, daily. Only if you’re focusing on it. If you expect to be able to enshrine it in Plexiglas then that’s a different life than I live.

Kathi – Right. So clutter is not ‘One and Done’. What it means is, “This is a process you have to live every single day.” By the way, clutter is a natural part of life. Your kids are going to bring stuff home. You’re going to bring stuff home. We got a Yellow Pages delivery on our front step. I’m like, “How is this still happening?”

Tonya – What year is it?

Kathi – Exactly. People are bringing stuff into your house that you have to deal with. And you’re bringing stuff into your house that you’re going to have to deal with. Every time you have to buy a new dish towel, you have to decide to get the old dishtowel out. Or, whatever decision you’re going to make, but it’s a process every single time.

Tonya – That is exactly the point that I think every listener needs to really internalize. It’s a process every time. Just because you did it once, even if it took you fifteen hours, doesn’t mean you’re never going to have to do it again. It is a process every time.

Kathi – Yes. Okay, so clutter is not ‘one and done’ and here’s the other thing that butts up against our realistic expectations. We live with humans. Here’s the other problem: We are humans.

Tonya – I don’t know why you have to such low blows like that.

Kathi – I know. It’s ‘cause I’m a mean girl. What can I say? I love to tell the story about our boy’s tennis shoes. They’d just kick them off all over the house. I bought a cubby at Ikea, and I said, “Okay! Mandate for everybody in the house. We are all going to put our shoes in the cubby when we come home. So, we’re going to come home and you’re going to go behind the couch and you’re going to put your shoes in the cubby.” Only one person in our house did it. You know who that was?

Tonya – You?

Kathi – No. It was Roger. ‘Cause Roger has the investment of keeping his wife happy. I couldn’t even do it. I could not be bothered to do that every single time. So, realize that we need to create paths in our home that work for real human beings. Now, when I put a basket by the front door, 50% of the shoes made it into the basket. The other 50% I could just throw in there and it didn’t make me hate everybody I lived with all the time. We have to understand that real humans live there and we have to be kind to the humans and be kind to ourselves. That doesn’t mean we don’t institute programs, that we don’t say, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” You’re allowed to have boundaries in your own home. How do you get to the place where you can accept living with two little ones and a husband who is amazing, but may not always be living the clutter free life that you want to live?

Tonya – So anybody who has been listening to this podcast for more than a minute knows that I’m the person who leaves the laundry all over the place. I just get undressed wherever I’m at, and that’s where the close live. Now, I don’t do that if I have laundry baskets. Now, my husband grew up in a home where clean laundry goes in the laundry basket and dirty laundry goes in a pile. So, we’ve spent years in this push/pull where I’m putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket and he’s frustrated because he goes to put that laundry away and it’s not clean and la la la. So, finally, we’ve had to come to terms. So, we have tall laundry baskets that are for clean clothes and then we have short, horizontal ones that are for my dirty clothes.

Kathi – Interesting. Okay.

Tonya – And, you know what? It works for us. I will tell you, honestly. I took a year fighting this. “I shouldn’t have to buy extra laundry baskets. You should just do things my way.”

Kathi – Any time you think “I shouldn’t have to” really examine that statement.

Tonya – Here’s the thing. I bought two extra laundry baskets. I don’t think I even did it on the same pay period, ‘cause I’m crazy like that. We have so much more peace. We don’t fight about this anymore. Then, I can’t help be embarrassed that this was worth arguing about to me, a year ago.

Kathi – Trust me. People have got divorced over stupider things, I promise you that. Okay, so: Clutter is not one and done. Clutter happens ‘cause we live with real people. Finally, because of clutter, it took years to get this way, give yourself a year to make a lasting difference. Right? We want instant results. We love to watch HGTV, where they go in, the house is a mess, and in 30 minute it’s all done. What we don’t know is that there were twenty seven people working on that house, 24/7 over the course of a month. We just saw the before and after.

Tonya – They tidy up in 45 minutes, if you fast forward through the commercials.

Kathi – Right. Exactly. So, we want to give you a way to make a huge difference in your house, in the space of twelve months. This is a program we run all year long. It’s called Clutter Free for Life. It’s an investment, but the investment is because we want you to see results. You never get results unless you make an investment. So, why don’t you explain a little bit about what they get in Clutter Free for Life, when they join our program?

Tonya – So, when you join, and the reason that I love that we focus on the twelve months, you can become a month-to-month member, but what I find is, I shouldn’t say this, but I know for myself, when I do something month-to-month, in the back of my mind is, “I can always exit.”

Kathi – I can leave whenever I want. Whenever it gets hard.

Tonya – Yeah. I’m not as invested. But our annual members really do stick with it. Some people are members for four months and they’re just observing, right? They’re planning to plan. Then they go for the gusto and it’s the crazy HGTV transformations in a month. It’s funny. You get a monthly digital download that has everything from a deep dive into how do you practically live, day to day, clutter free? How do you make those milestones while you’re juggling life and school and kids and spouses and roommates or families? People who come to your house, out of the blue, and stay way longer than you expected them to. So, we have this monthly deep dive. We have some reflection. We encourage you to look ahead. What do you want to feel and how do you want life to be 30 days from now? Then we encourage you to look back. I find that we clutter-y folks do not give ourselves enough credit for the progress we’ve made, which is why I’m so happy that you have fully invested in the suggestion that we take a year. We really take a year. We go into it knowing that we’re going to take a year. It’s going to get better every single day. Honestly? My house, because I moved to my housed a little bit before we launched our program, it does not look like the same place. I will admit, I have redone my bathroom four times, because I try to live with what I do, then I’m like, “Oh, that sounded really good in theory. Not so much in practice.” So, you get that, you get a community. You know, I’m not awake 24 hours a day, but I’m awake a fair amount of hours a day.

Kathi – You are! You need less sleep than most human beings I know.

Tonya – So, we’re in there. We support each other. We talk about real issues. We talk about real things. “I need my nightstand to have nothing more than my phone and a cup of water, but my spouse doesn’t mind a whole lot of other things on theirs. How do I handle that? What makes the most sense in our house?”  Not what makes the most sense in your house, ‘cause those are two different places.

Kathi – Right. So, understanding that and saying, “Yeah, you’re going to see a difference in a month, but you’re going to see a different house in a year.” That’s going to affect you in a different way. We’ve seen this happen over and over again. Give us a year and you can get your house back.

Tonya – And, if I may, your relationships change.

Kathi – Yes! It’s so true. ‘Cause clutter is an agitator.

Tonya – It is.

Kathi – Yeah, so being able to live with less clutter means less agitation in your life, day to day. It really does. It’s so interesting. You can either start with your house and it’ll change your mind, or you can start with your mind and it will change your house. So, that’s what we love to see here. We’re going to help you with those routines. We’re going to help you with those realistic expectations. This program is $25/month. Now, that’s normally. However, we have an open enrollment with a huge discount. From the 17th of December to the 31st of December of this year, 2019, you can get the entire year of Clutter Free for Life for less than $10/month. It’s just amazing to me that we can do this. What we want to do is, we want to get everybody up and running at the same time each year. When you go together, you grow together.

Tonya – Right. I find that we clutter-y folks, we assume everyone has it more together than we do, so when you’re one of ten people who comes in to an established group, that can be intimidating, but when you’re one of fifty, you go, “Oh! I’ve got my own people here! We’re all starting.” We know that everybody’s mileage varies. If you’re trying to declutter a studio apartment, life’s going to look a lot different for you, than if you’re trying to declutter a six bedroom home.

Kathi – Yes. It’s so true.

Tonya – But you know what? You’re at the same level of overwhelm when you get started.

Kathi – Right. Everybody is at their own challenge. So, we’re really going to encourage you to sign up when it’s $118. It’s still an investment, but we want you to invest, because investment brings return, and that’s what we want for you. As a little added bonus, which I’m really excited about, we will also give you our program, Kickstart to Clutter Free, which is normally $49. You get it for free when you join. This is, so that, in the space of just a little bit of time, you’re going to get rid of 500 things in your home. Super quickly, just to help you feel like you’re making a difference. It’s surface clutter, but that’s okay. It feels really really good. So, sign up. Go to our show notes. Go to our link below, and you will get to join our posse. You get the downloads, you get time and attention from Tonya, you get two free trainings with me each month. Twice a month is great and we have a lot of fun. It’ll change your life. It has changed so many lives. It’s been so great to see the transformation, the before and after pictures, the changes in people’s attitudes. It’s my favorite place to be. It’s been super fun guys. Okay, you guys, thanks so much for being with us. I hope you’ll join us over in Clutter Free for Life. It’s such a special thing. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items


Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at or

Clutter Free Academy Team