593 – What I Learned About Clutter in 2023 that Will Change My Relationship with Stuff in 2024: Part 1

Kathi Lipp and Tonya Kubo have been decluttering their own homes and teaching others to do the same for many years. But there are always new things to learn! In this two-part series, this decluttering duo discusses what they have been learning this year about their clutter and about themselves. 

Listen in and learn:

  • What kind of language can we use to talk about clutter with those we live with?
  • How can we focus on our own stuff without building up resentment toward others?
  • Ways to discover if your stuff problem is really a relational or personal issue, and what to do about it.

Come back next week for the rest of the conversation, when Kathi and Tonya talk about how to trust yourself and how to know yourself when it comes to your clutter. Be sure to sign up here and be notified when the next episode is released.



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What if you were able to create a life where you not only got rid of the clutter in each room of your house but were able to stay on top of it?

What if you learned to organize in a way that made sense to you so that once you decluttered, you could find the things that were important enough to keep?

What if you could live in a house that was at peace?

You’ve been thinking about how this will be the year to finally declutter your house and create the home you’ve always dreamed of. One that is filled with peace instead of stuff.

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Meet Our Guest 


Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious and fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group and the Clutter Free for Life membership program. 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 www.tonyakubo.com.


Kathi (00:02.262)
Tanya, it feels weird to say welcome to the program because Roger just said, just came into my office and said, do you talk to anybody but Tanya? And I’m like, we haven’t talked in weeks. We have not talked in weeks. We’re making up for all that lost time. But you know, you and I were recently teaching and I just thought, you know, I sometimes wonder, okay, Tanya, we’ve been talking about, I think we’ve been talking on this subject for eight years now.

Tonya Kubo (00:31.964)

Yeah, we have, we have. And there is! There is.

Kathi (00:32.382)
Is there anything left? And there is. You know what? I discover new things each year that are not just aha moments for our memberships, but are aha moments for us. And I just thought I would, you know, as we are leaving 2023 and ringing in 2024 and people are, I know what they’re saying.

Tonya Kubo (00:42.157)

Kathi (01:02.094)
I just need to try harder in 2024. I just need to work harder. I just need to buckle down. I need to stop playing around. And that sounds terrible. And I don’t want you to live that way. And so I thought I would share some of the things that you and I have been talking about that made a difference for us in 2023. And maybe these will be, you know,

Tonya Kubo (01:05.1)

Kathi (01:29.554)
I don’t believe in light bulb moments. I believe in marquees. You know, it takes a thousand light bulb moments for us to make huge systemic change in our lives. But that’s what I want. I want that systemic change. And so I wanna share some of the light bulb moments that Tanya and I have been having this year. And…

Tonya Kubo (01:49.019)

Kathi (01:57.422)
Let this be on the way to your marquee where you’re like, it’s going to light your path. Okay. I’ve taken this metaphor a little too far, but

Tonya Kubo (02:05.764)
I was there with you though every step of the way. It’s like when I try to use sports analogies and then I’m like, wait a minute, I don’t actually know anything about sports. Yeah.

Kathi (02:11.564)

Yeah, go sports. Yay Yes, and yesterday you said in the training we were doing you’re gonna give everybody a shot in the arm I’m like want walk cuz I just got my I’m just old enough for my shingles shot And can I tell you it is now two days later and I still can’t raise my arm above my head That is no joke that shot

Tonya Kubo (02:37.08)
I just want to say shingles went through my office space a few years ago, right? So like people like in their mid thirties to forties getting shingles, I can just tell you right now, whatever you’re experiencing, 10 times better than actually having shingles.

Kathi (02:41.047)

Kathi (02:45.006)

Kathi (02:50.218)
This is true. This is what you’re no, and we have a rule in our house. You can’t whine unless you’ve taken your medicine. I’ve taken my medicine, so I’m whining, but you are correct. In the hierarchy of things that are terrible, actually getting shingles. Okay, so this has been a new way of thinking for me this year. You know, people are always saying, how do I get help from my family? How do I? And I,

Kathi (03:20.126)
I don’t want to ban the word help because we all need help. But help is not the word that I feel like we should be looking for, whether it’s with a partner, a spouse, a roommate, older kids. It’s not about help. It’s about we as a living together community agree on a standard of living. And

Tonya Kubo (03:22.604)

Kathi (03:46.662)
I wanna know how that hits you, because this is the one we’ve probably talked about the least, but how does that idea hit you?

Tonya Kubo (03:57.708)
So it’s funny is because I get the question on a deep level because I’m still a mom in the active stage of parenting, right? And I understand how moms feel like everything is on their shoulders. And sometimes we get so sucked in to what I’m gonna call the murder feeling, right? That we forget that we can make some changes, right? And so when you were talking…

Kathi (04:03.794)
Yes. Right. 100%.

Kathi (04:11.404)

Kathi (04:18.066)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Kathi (04:24.078)

Tonya Kubo (04:26.832)
recently about this agreement on the standard of living. It just reminded me of early in my clutter journey, just the importance of vocabulary, because I had just been, in my mind, we were living in a small space. It was one of those model homes, which you could tell they actually built for nobody to live in. So it just didn’t, like, everything about that house did not make sense. But it was one of those things where we had, it was such a small space, we had so much stuff.

Kathi (04:48.33)
Yeah. Hehehehe.

Tonya Kubo (04:56.488)
Like we needed to pull stuff out of the house in order to be able to do anything inside the house. And the only place we could put stuff is in the garage, but the garage was overfilled with all sorts of stuff. And for like, we lived there for a year and a half. And I was like, I, we need the garage cleaned up. We need the garage cleaned up. I want to park my car in the garage. And that’s what I kept saying, right? Cause I had this little girl dream of parking my car in the garage. I’ve mentioned on the podcast before Brian did not have the same little girl dream. And so,

Kathi (05:01.794)

Kathi (05:18.786)

Tonya Kubo (05:26.096)
You know, he was just like, he was tone deaf. He wouldn’t do anything. And I was so frustrated. And if only he would help me clean the garage, then I could tackle the rest of the house. Right? And so we were at such a stalemate on this and I was getting really bitter, really resentful. And we were having a conversation. I don’t even, I can’t even tell you the whole conversation, but what came up in that conversation is he did not believe garages were for parking carts.

Kathi (05:53.115)
Oh, you guys systemically believe different things from your gut. Yeah.

Tonya Kubo (05:57.972)
We had an yes, we had a different internalized use, ideal use for our garage. For him, garages were your storage space. And for me, they were where you parked your car. And so once I realized that, then I was able to change the conversation from you need to get all this done so I can park my car in the garage to, you know what, you’re right.

That is a great place for us to store stuff, especially since we live in this tiny house. However, the way that stuff is stored, boxes on top of boxes, they’ve fallen over, that we pick them back up, the stuff inside is getting damaged. It’s not a safe place to store our stuff anymore. And that resonated, because he knew he had valuable things in there. And so once I said that, he was like, oh.

Kathi (06:48.886)

Tonya Kubo (06:52.22)
Okay, you’re right. And then the next conversation, he was like, but when it gets to your stuff, like I don’t know what to do. Like it’s overwhelming. And so I said, well, I can, I, so I walked out with him into the garage and I, there was like 13 boxes that I have been moving since college, right? And I’m just like, I can tell you right now, based on what they look like, that box, that box, that box, they can go. I don’t want to know what’s inside of them. I haven’t looked inside of them since I left college. I’m good. If you find a way,

Kathi (06:58.571)

Kathi (07:15.954)
Mm-hmm. Right. Mm-hmm.

Tonya Kubo (07:21.536)
for them to leave the property, I promise you I will never say a single thing about it. And so that’s how we got the space, right? So we moved my 13 boxes, then we had the space to organize in the way that we needed to in order to do the rest of the house. Very long answer to your short question, Kathy.

Kathi (07:29.389)

Kathi (07:39.03)
No, no, but you know what? This is something that needs to be discussed because it is, you know, sometimes it’s a fundamental difference in language. Sometimes it’s, you know, somebody’s on the spectrum and they can’t make those kinds of decisions. But I think that it’s important to say, it’s to change our language from I need your help

to we have to figure this out together. And I think it’s also important to be able to say, the way we’re living right now is hard on me, emotionally, physically, whatever it is, mentally, and to be able to work towards that. So you did a couple of things. You said you…

Tonya Kubo (08:13.204)

Kathi (08:35.002)
you know, when you were first having these discussions with Brian, that you had to focus on your own stuff. Uh, you had to, because I see oftentimes that people are frustrated with other people in their house, where, um, they could be making some room on their own. So how did, how did, how did you focus on your own stuff without resentment? Or maybe you had resentment, I don’t know.

Tonya Kubo (08:40.212)

Tonya Kubo (09:02.2)
It’s funny. So, you know, it’s like, what’s your kryptonite? Right. That’s, that’s the start is you like, you got to know what your kryptonite is. And so in our early in our marriage, the kryptonite that we had was that we had both been married before. And oftentimes we did not have a Tonya and Brian conflict. We had a Brian and his ex-wife conflict. I was just the stand in, right. Or a Tonya and her ex-husband conflict, but Brian was the stand in. So and I

Kathi (09:05.326)
Mm-hmm, yeah.

Kathi (09:14.861)

Kathi (09:20.619)

Tonya Kubo (09:30.204)
I used to call it ghosts of marriages past. And so one of the ghosts of marriages past that we had was that he had a house, like his ex-wife had a house that she let Brian live in. So Brian had none of his own stuff. He couldn’t make any decisions on what the house looked like. So anytime I said anything about his things, that’s what he heard.

Kathi (09:33.514)

Kathi (09:45.346)


Kathi (09:57.391)

Tonya Kubo (09:57.92)
And you know, like you’ve been in those situations where you’re like talking to somebody else, it doesn’t have to be a spouse, but you’re talking to somebody and you’re like, okay, I don’t know who they’re mad at, but it’s not me. Cause I’ve never said anything that warrants this reaction. And so as we were going through, so your book, Clutter Free, there’s a part in there that talks about negotiating space over stuff and how it’s easy to see clutter in somebody else’s stuff. And I was like, well, you know, I’m the daughter of a hoarder. I’ve got enough of my own stuff.

Kathi (10:06.964)
Right, I-

Kathi (10:10.402)

Kathi (10:17.556)

Kathi (10:27.116)

Tonya Kubo (10:27.38)
And so back to that garage example, what else was in that garage was his like ginormous Star Wars collection. I could have easily said, you need to take those 15 boxes because it’s 15 boxes and you need to put those against the wall and did it did it right. That would have been easy. But I was just like, no, if we’re going to make space in this garage, it’s going to be my stuff that goes first. Right. And, and then it was for him.

Kathi (10:34.507)

Tonya Kubo (10:53.156)
It wasn’t conscious, but he was just like, oh, there’s all this space now that Tanya stuffs out of here. Because he has ADHD, he just got on a roll and he was like, let’s make more space. And then his stuff went.

Kathi (10:55.016)

Kathi (11:05.406)
Ooh, okay, yeah. Okay, you know, this is so interesting to me because I mean, this is probably one of the questions that comes up most in, you know, and I know you said one of the other trends is about not wanting to leave stuff behind for older kids, you know, because our stuff has to go somewhere. So a couple of points is that

Tonya Kubo (11:17.918)

Tonya Kubo (11:26.769)

Kathi (11:33.422)
I think that one of the things that’s important is in our house, we need to agree on that standard of living. So if Tanya and I were living together and Tanya says, you know what, I just do so much better when the house is picked up, the counters are clear, that kind of thing. And I’m like, yeah, that doesn’t really affect me. Like I can be, I can live in my squalor and it’s just fine.

Tonya Kubo (11:40.524)

Tonya Kubo (11:57.696)

Kathi (12:03.17)
But here’s the thing, I love Tanya. And so I need to figure out why I’m not willing to make my housemate happy. Why I’m not willing to, you know, now also, Tanya may be, her idea of neat and tidy, may be a disorder. Like it may be OCD or something like that.

Tonya Kubo (12:16.14)

Kathi (12:30.226)
And so I think it’s really important to understand, is it, you know, we haven’t agreed on our standard of living? Is it a personal situation? Maybe there is a disorder, or maybe I need things really picked up because I have mobility issues. And if I trip over something, that’s really bad. You know, so is it a personal issue one way or another, or?

Tonya Kubo (12:36.884)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Kathi (12:59.314)
is it a relationship issue? Because if Roger said, I like things really nice and neat, and I’m like, well, then you do it. Oh, that’s not a healthy relationship. And so, you know, we don’t usually get super deep and clutter-free, but this is the language we have to start using because, go ahead, yeah.

Tonya Kubo (13:11.654)
I… write!

Tonya Kubo (13:18.526)

Tonya Kubo (13:22.888)
Yeah, well, I was just going to say, we don’t get super deep in Clutterfree Academy, right? It’s a huge group. It’s like 15,000 people. Woohoo! It’s like 15,000 of my best cluttery friends. But you know, it’s a big group. You just don’t know each other really well enough to go very deep. But we do go this deep over in Clutterfree for Life, our paid membership program.

Kathi (13:32.158)
Yeah, yeah. We’re so happy with that number. Yeah, yes, absolutely.

Kathi (13:43.115)

Tonya Kubo (13:48.992)
You know, that’s a smaller group, it’s about 300 people or so. And I think this is where you and me have really had the opportunity to see the difference between the relationship issue versus the vocabulary issue versus the medical issue, right? Cause we’ve seen that play out with our members. Our members are always so open and honest with us because we’re open and honest with them.

Kathi (13:49.111)

Kathi (14:05.047)

Kathi (14:08.728)

Kathi (14:14.286)
Mm-hmm. Right.

Tonya Kubo (14:17.265)
But I would say like that’s that is a place where we go deep

Kathi (14:21.182)
Yeah, and so, you know, if it’s a personal issue, I need to get personal help. If it’s a relationship issue, you know, you may say it’s just clutter, nothing is just, no, it’s just the physical manifestation of something not working in your life. And so it might take marriage counseling or counseling with you and your kid, and that’s okay because we all have things.

Tonya Kubo (14:35.028)
Nothing is just clutter.

Kathi (14:50.978)
We all have issues, and relationships have issues, and it’s okay to say, hey, we need help to get over this.

Clutter Free Academy Team

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