What Are the Hidden Reasons for Clutter?

What Are the Hidden Reasons for Clutter?

For some people, a three-step plan for a decluttering system results in a neat and cozy home within a few months. For others, decluttering is an arduous journey. It’s not because of busyness or not having a system in place. Behind stacks of clutter, hidden spiritual and emotional issues lurk. If we’re honest, we admit that sometimes it’s just easier to keep those issues hidden in the piles of clutter.

Here are some hidden reasons for clutter:

  • Low self-worth
  • Pleasing other people
  • Clinging to the past/reliving our mistakes
  • Poverty mindset—fearing the lack
  • Depression/anxiety clutter cycle—If we’re constantly in the emotional part of our brain, we can’t use the logic part (where we make decisions).

Some of these reasons are chronic, while others are situational. In 2014, my eyes were opened to a long-time clutter problem in my own house.

A few months after my dad passed away, my siblings and I traveled from three different states to his house. It took us four days to clean it out, working from early morning until late evening, when we were too tired to move.

I lost track of how many giant, industrial garbage dumpsters we filled. Time and again, a driver would load it onto his truck, empty it at the dump, and bring it back again.

Anything you could think of, we threw away. (We gave a lot away too. A charity came and took what was useable to help needy families.) Stacks of old magazines, mattresses, bank papers from before I was born, and an entire drawer full of keys to who-knows-what. Sixty-seven years’ worth of stuff, and I don’t think Dad ever tossed anything besides old food.

For me, it was like looking into my future.

When I arrived home, I saw everything I had piled around my house. Even some stuff I didn’t want but kept anyway, for fear of offending the relative who gave it to me. If I didn’t do something now, I realized, my kids were going to be saddled with loads of useless stuff to deal with upon my death.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever learned a practical system for being clutter free. One of the books in my many stacks was Kathi’s The Get Yourself Organized Project. I’d read it and even written a review for a newspaper article.

So how did I get from cluttery mess to (mostly) decluttered and organized home business owner?


Here I share five crucial elements on my clutter-free journey.


1)      Awareness.

Here’s the main difference between then and now: Today I really can’t stand clutter and work the systems from Clutter Free daily to keep it out of my house. Before, I didn’t notice it or care that my house was cluttered. I lost time, money and sanity because of my clutter, but I tolerated it because it just seemed normal to me. I didn’t consider there might be a better way to live. This is the simplest—and also hardest—of the steps.

2)      A new safe space.

Since clutter is often accompanied by feelings of low self-worth, we must redefine what feels safe to us. It’s a big mind shift to feel worthy of the time it takes to improve our living spaces. Making change is hard; it’s easier to just stick with what we know. Gradually, I accepted that my new way of living was the actual safe space, and not the unhealthy condition of an overly cluttered house. Instead of making ourselves feel better by buying more things, we can enjoy the calm, peaceful feeling of an uncluttered home.

3)      Treat yourself like the treasure you are.

Once I became aware of my clutter problem, I worked to keep my thoughts about it positive. I changed “I’m such a slob!” to “I’m working through Kathi’s steps to get clutter free; I didn’t get here overnight, and I won’t be rid of it all overnight, either.” If we’re constantly berating ourselves, we’ll stay stuck in our low self-worth mindset. Kathi’s mantra of decluttering being a lifestyle and not a “one and done” became my mainstay. The more kind and gentle you can be with yourself, the more progress you’ll make.

4)      Deal with specific issues you’re hiding.

Among my stacks of books, I had one titled Not Marked that deals with childhood sexual abuse. I had purchased it with several other titles and dumped them into my other piles of books. At that point, I hadn’t told anyone I was suffering from PTSD flashbacks to childhood trauma. Not even my husband knew about the abuse or that I was trying to cope with overwhelming memories. Other places to hide our issues might be ridiculously messy pantries to hide eating too much junk food or crammed-full closets to hide a clothes shopping addiction. It starts with telling one friend you can trust (or a therapist) and getting to the source of whatever’s eating you.

5)      Celebrate your wins by enjoying that decluttered room again.

Once I got all the piles of books out of my living room, we bought some pretty pictures and couch pillows to make it cozy. Since it looks so nice, I’m really hesitant to leave anything that doesn’t belong out in the living room. One by one, as you conquer the specific areas of your home, decorate and personalize them so that they feel complete.

Whether your hidden reasons for clutter are chronic or situational, there is hope. Establishing a system for decluttering and recognizing the hidden reasons behind the clutter is the first step. Remember, give yourself grace for whatever you’re struggling with; even if it takes longer than you hoped, you’ll get to the place where you can live peacefully in your space again.

Enter to win!

Want a chance to win a copy of Lyneta’s memoir, Curtain Call? Comment below and two random winners will be mailed a copy by March 13th. (Winners outside the U.S. will receive a digital copy.)

3 Ways to Stop Screen Time from Ruining Your Mood — and Your Marriage!

3 Ways to Stop Screen Time from Ruining Your Mood — and Your Marriage!

3 Ways to Stop Screen Time from Ruining Your Mood–and Your Marriage!

A few years ago I found myself, on pretty much a weekly basis, pondering, “How can life be so cruel?”

I’d fixate on how deplorable our culture was. I’d bemoan how awful so many men were to so many women. I’d stumble to the bathroom and brush my teeth, and drag myself to the bed and crawl under the covers, hoping to disappear.


My husband would find me like that and try to talk me out of it. He’d want me to open up and explain what was going on in my head. He’d offer to help me make a list of good things that I could focus on instead.

And I would lie there and fume. “Why can’t he just let me have my mood? Why can’t he just leave me alone instead of trying to fix me? He’s always doing that. Every week, he tries to make me see the bright side when I just need to FEEL. Every week. In fact, every Thursday he does this.


“What’s wrong with him that on Thursdays he always has to interfere?”


Then I thought,”Wait a minute. What’s wrong with me that every Thursday I’m depressed?”


And then I realized that every Thursday, we watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Every Thursday, I’d get depressed. And every Thursday, I’d take it out on my husband.


Maybe the problem was not Keith. Maybe the problem was my television preferences!


So we turned off the TV and we switched off Netflix and a couple of times a week we’d find other things to fill our time and build our relationship — things that didn’t make me grumpy and hate men.


It’s not just our homes that can get cluttered. It can be our minds, too.


What we fill our minds with affects our outlook on life. And watching TV or watching a movie doesn’t necessarily build your relationship with your husband that much. Sure, it can be fun occasionally, but many of us turn to screens by default in the evenings, when there are much better options that raise our mood, make us laugh together, and build memories.


Keith and I have focused on three different things that help us. See if you can find one that can work for your marriage, too!


1. Play a board game as a couple.


Board games aren’t just for groups! Board games can be awesome as a couple, too. And we’ve discovered some great new ones, even in the last few years. It’s not all Monopoly and Scrabble and Boggle. Here are a few others that we love:

Hive: It’s like chess, but with bugs. And octagons. Or are they hexagons? Your five pieces can move in different ways, and whoever surrounds the queen bee first wins! The great part about it? It only takes about 10 minutes to play a game all the way through.

Carcassone: Here’s one of my favorites that works great with really young kids and bigger groups, as well. You get to build a medieval French countryside together, putting down tiles that create the board. Monasteries, villages, roads, rivers, and more. You rack up points by finishing a road, city, or building, or by cultivating crops. But the best part is that the board looks different every time!

Pandemic: Another game that works well in groups, but also works well just for couples! It’s a cooperative game, so you can play it with a super competitive husband and no one will get grumpy. (Although you may get killed by a wicked virus. Sometimes stuff happens.) Four viruses are spreading in the world, and you need to use the skills of scientists, researchers, medics, and more to stop the spread. It’s great strategy, and you’ll learn geography, too!


Find 17 other suggestions for board games to play as a couple!


2. Find a new hobby to do together.

A few years ago, my husband and I watched the movie The Big Year, all about competitive bird watching (yes, there is such a thing). It was such a great movie, and right after that, we went out and bought two sets of awesome binoculars, a bird book, and started ourselves. We live near one of the best bird migration sites in North America, and it didn’t take long to start getting quite the list!

Keith’s way more into birdwatching that I am, but I still love it. We get outside. We get fresh air. We get to talk. And hey–the birds are pretty!

We also love ballroom dancing, and periodically take classes to learn more steps. We’re to the point that we can actually impress people now at weddings.


If you’re looking for a new hobby that you can enjoy, I’ve got a list of 79 hobbies that couples can do right here.


3. Get outside.

If you were to say to your beloved, “Honey, can we talk tonight?“, chances are he’d panic. But if you were to say, “Honey, how about a walk after dinner?“, he wouldn’t get his back up, and he may even agree.

When women talk to each other, we tend to like to do it face to face, gazing into our friends’ eyes. But when men talk, they tend to do it side-by-side, when they’re doing something together.

One of the best things we can do for our marriage, then, is to do something that puts you side by side with your husband. And for that, nothing beats getting outside, whether it’s just taking that walk, or taking a bike ride, or even just gardening!

When we get outside, the screen isn’t trying to pull us in so much with its promise of Netflix and movies. We’re able to be fully present and fully available. And that’s going to make you feel far closer to your husband, too!


I had to declutter my mind to see clearly that my husband is a good guy, and he can be a lot of fun. And when we added some fun things that had nothing to do with screens, we increased the laughter. (And I stopped dwelling on horrible sex crimes, too.)

Maybe, as the new school year starts up, it’s time to develop a new routine of your own. After all, no one wants to be grumpy every Thursday!


Get Tasks Done: How to Tackle Your Never-Ending To-Do List

Get Tasks Done: How to Tackle Your Never-Ending To-Do List

Learn 3 simple ways to get tasks done so you can spend time on what matters most.

get tasks done - how to tackle your to-do list
If I could pick one word to describe being a single mom, that’s the word overwhelmed. When Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory came out with the book Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore your Sanity, I’m pretty certain I was one of the first to sign up to be on the book launch team. I was only a few chapters in when I went to my Small Group Coordinator at church and offered to lead a women’s small group diving into it.

And that group filled up fast.

It’s. Not. Just. Me.

So many of us struggle with that feeling of being overwhelmed and how to get tasks done. Where do I even start with this? Overwhelm can apply to a lot of things in our lives—our clutter, our calendars, our projects that need to be tackled on top of daily necessities, or our daily necessities!

When my husband was alive, we could divide and conquer. And if I was just out of steam, he could cheer me on to finish or begin a task that needed to be tackled. He helped me with motivation and I helped him. (Ever seen a husband’s face when you hand them a Honey Do List on a sunny Saturday? That’s encouraging them to be productive, right?)

So what’s the secret to tackling the must-do-but-not-fun-to-do things when you are the grown up and there’s no one there to help you get motivated? How do you persevere to complete the things you’ve been avoiding once you realize YOU are the grown up?


How To Get Tasks Done


Microsteps for the Win

In Overwhelmed, Kathi and Cheri talk about microsteps. It’s such a simple concept, really, but one that we often forget. I even forget to use it when trying to get my kids to do their chores or tackle their odious tasks. Microsteps are simply breaking the big task down into smaller pieces and then breaking those pieces into smaller steps.

There’s a psychological payoff to this that might seem silly, but has been proven. When you accomplish something and put a little check mark by it on your list, you get a bit of a mental rush. “Yay! That’s done!”

Recently I needed my kids to step up and clean up the house for my son’s graduation. Company was coming and I’ll be honest—I’m not the best at housekeeping. I can let it go for too long until it’s a whole lot harder. Tackling this kind of huge cleaning project often led my kids to losing momentum and devolving into whining and complaining. Instead, I put this micro step plan into action.

I didn’t say, “You clean the bathroom and you clean the living room.” I wrote out all the things that needed to be tackled in each room we were cleaning. Then I said that anyone could tackle any task, just let the rest of us know what you were working on and put a check with your initials when done. The bathroom list, for example, included:

  • Clean outside of the toilet.
  • Clean inside of toilet.
  • Clean mirrors.
  • Wipe down tub.
  • Sweep floor.
  • Wipe down floor and baseboard.
  • Pick up dirty towels and take to laundry room.

You get the idea.

It was an amazing change. The house was cleaner than it had been in a long time. No one fought. And only the littlest one ran out of steam before we were fully done.


Make a List and Check it Twice

Santa’s not the only one who likes lists. Writing down the steps of tackling an overwhelming job can help you feel like you’ve got a plan. It lays out for you in black and white exactly what needs to take place and lets you mentally follow the progress and celebrate each step accomplished as you get tasks done.


Set a Reward

Kids aren’t the only ones who like a reward for finishing something loathsome. My reward for my kids when we tackled the whole house was a promise of no one having to get up early the next day (teens love their sleep) and no one having to do any chores either.

But what about you? Do you give yourself a reward for finishing the grown-up list that you need to tackle? Maybe it’s getting to binge watch your favorite Netflix or Hulu show for a bit. Maybe it’s going to coffee with a friend. Maybe it’s doing your nails or some other type of self-care pampering. You may not need a trip out for ice cream, but setting yourself a reward for finishing a task is a mental motivator that shouldn’t be overlooked.


We all have those things that we hate to do—cleaning, running errands, making appointment calls, balancing the checkbook…. I could go on for a while. But we all have to get tasks done so sometimes we need to just do it. Help yourself by using micro steps, making a list and rewarding yourself to make it fun.

Now go out there and be productive! You can do it!

Jenn Buell is a writer, speaker, radio DJ and widowed mom of four kids who lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. She loves using her superpower of encouragement to cheer on other Christian single moms through her blog and podcast, “Right There With You.” You can connect with Jenn at JennBuell.com.

How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

Learn how to stop arguing about clutter and enjoy a stronger marriage. 

My grandmother’s Norman Rockwell figurine is permanently placed on top of the piano. My father-in-law’s collection of watches will always fill a corner of Rob’s dresser drawer, dead batteries and all. We both hold on to keepsakes the other doesn’t value or understand.

Over our 25 years of cleaning, organizing, and shuffling possessions from one address to another, we’ve had our share of conflict. We don’t always see eye to eye on what to keep or purge from our house.

As we face this inevitable conflict, it can be positive or negative. On the up side, we can choose to value each other over our stuff. We can practice problem-solving as a team. We can open the door to sharing ideas and knowing one another better. And we can be challenged to be our best selves—listening, working, and putting each other first.

Yet conflict can also bring out the worst in our nature, stirring up anger and driving us apart. We’re not just fighting about material things, we’re fighting for our identity and sense of “home.” Before we can solve any dispute about what to save or throw, we have to eliminate the “clutter” keeping us from coming together.


How to Stop Arguing About Clutter

Here are five tips to clear the way to agreement and unity.


Kill the bunny.

When we start to tackle conflict, it’s tempting for the discussion to rabbit-trail into other issues and complaints, but it’s important to keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on the one keep-or-throw question at hand instead of trying to reinvent your entire relationship dynamic or five-year financial plan.


Play nice.

You might think your husband’s grade-school clay sculpture is stupid, but he’s not stupid. Your wife’s affection for vintage salt shakers does not compete for her affection for you. Keep insults, sarcasm, and criticism out of your conversation. Avoid remarks you know will push your partner’s buttons. It’s impossible to resolve a thing when you’re too mad or hurt to see straight. Attack the problem instead of each other.


Face forward.

Keep the past in the past. Dragging old mistakes and tensions into the now will push you farther apart. It will feed discouragement, stealing hope for tomorrow. Declare confidence in your relationship by pressing on to work it out. Cast a vision for a peaceful space you both can enjoy together. Give yourselves the gift of change you can look forward to.


Clear the decks.

Dedicate time to talk through your differences. Give yourselves the benefits of privacy, quiet, and energy. Don’t fight about sex in bed after midnight, argue over parenting while your little darlings can hear you in the next room, or wrangle out your budget in front of the car dealer. Don’t start sorting and cleaning when your garage sale starts in two hours! If your conversation becomes heated, show respect by taking time to step away and cool off. Do what’s needed to finish the hard work of resolving your issue.


Count the cost.

Is it more valuable to win the debate or win your loved one’s heart? Let go of your need to have the last word. Be willing to listen, compromise, and honor each other’s perspective. If you walk away feeling one of you lost and the other won, you both lost.


One of the greatest benefits of resolved conflict is the intimacy it can bring. You can celebrate your tenacious marriage. You experience a fresh sense of unity. You hold hope for the future, knowing you’re strong enough to overcome any battle. Let God use your conflict to deepen your love and commitment today so you can stop arguing about clutter.

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2 NLT)



Win one of these beautiful gifts from Growing Home Together!

To Enter to Win:

Leave a comment below telling us one of your “prized” possessions that you’ve had trouble decluttering.


Giveaway Rules 

-One entry per household. A comment on THIS post only constitutes an entry.

-Prize includes one of the three items pictured above from Growing Home Together..

-Contest ends July 26, 2018.

-3 winners will be randomly selected from the comments on THIS post using third party software and will be notified by email.

-Prizes will be shipped by Growing Home Together.


Thank you to Growing Home Together for sponsoring this giveaway. Please see our disclosure policy for any questions.


Joanna Teigen and her husband Rob have celebrated 25 years of marriage and are loving life with five awesome kids, plus a beautiful daughter-in-law. They share an addiction to coffee, bookstores, and Christmas music. They’re a neat-freak married to a mess, an explorer to a homebody, and an introvert to a ‘people person.’ But they do agree that their vows are for always, children are a gift, and prayer is powerful. Over the years Rob and Joanna have lived in five states as they made their way to West Michigan. They look forward to meeting you at www.growinghometogether.com, supporting your pursuit of God and the hearts of your loved ones. They can’t wait to grow together with you.

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)

Learn simple steps to declutter your mind so you can have better sex.

declutter your mind for better sex

Have you ever had this happen?
You’re in bed with your hubby, and things are heating up. He starts kissing you, and you’re thinking, “Oh, yeah, baby.” Then all of a sudden you push him away and out comes:

“I just don’t know what to do about Katelyn. Every time I try to get her to practice piano it’s a big fight. She’s so gifted, but she has no discipline. I know you think we should just let her quit, but what’s that really teaching her? Of course, if we did let her quit I’d have my Tuesdays back. And I wouldn’t have to bicker with her everyday after school. It would be really nice to have Tuesdays. I never have time to do groceries on Mondays, and there just isn’t time when she’s at lessons …”

And your husband’s lying there with a perplexed look on his face, thinking, “Piano? Katelyn? Groceries? HELLO!?!?”

Where did you go?


I have to admit that story isn’t all that fictional. I don’t have a Katelyn, but I do have a Katie, and she refused to practice piano, and it was a source of great consternation to me. And often, just when things were heating up with my husband, my brain would go on overload and I’d start spewing everything that was on my mind.

Part of that is because I’m an external processor. But it’s not only that.

It’s because of one simple fact: For women, our biggest sexual organ is our brain. If our brain is not engaged, our body won’t follow. In general, we have to be able to concentrate for sex to feel good. Women are far more distractible than men, largely because when something else pops into our head, all thoughts of sex can disappear until we can adequately deal with it, dismiss it, and get back to the topic — or person — at hand.

When I used to push my husband away and start spouting everything that was on my mind, it wasn’t so much a rejection of my husband as it was an effort to stop these things from popping up and distracting me! It’s like our brains are big pinball machines, with all of these things bouncing around and clanging off of walls, and all of that makes sex difficult.
And that, my friends, is why clutter is a marriage issue.

Yep. Clutter. Whether it’s physical clutter in your bedroom, or unending to-do lists, or relationship issues you haven’t dealt with, when there is stuff lying around, either physically or metaphorically, it’s hard to feel at peace. And if you can’t feel at peace, then feeling in the mood tends to be so much harder! You need to declutter your mind for better sex.

Keith and I have both figured out now how I work. And we have instituted our own “pinball machine” strategy that helps get rid of all those pesky pinballs and lets you feel frisky again!

(Now, if it’s your husband who never wants to make love, you’re not alone, and I’ve got a series on that, too! But for many of us, if our brains are getting in the way, read on!)

How to Declutter Your Mind (& Have Better Sex!)


Go for walks and get rid of your emotional pinballs.

For us, the best way to get rid of my pinballs is to talk them through. So now, every evening after dinner, my husband asks, “have any pinballs?” And we go for a walk and I tell him what’s on my mind, and we make plans to deal with what we can, pray about those we don’t have a solution for, and just commiserate over other things. Talking them through helps them stop rattling around.

If you’re not an external processor, taking time in the evening to journal through the things that are bothering you, and praying through the issues that pop up, can also help silence them later.


Plan tomorrow’s day.

Some people hate to do lists, because they never seem to get “to-done”. Lists are just one big guilt trip!

I know I’ll never get everything on my to do list done, but I still love my lists, and here’s why: When you put something on a list, you give yourself permission to forget about it. Need to buy your mother-in-law a birthday card? Put it on a list! Need to schedule an appointment for your air conditioner to be cleaned? Put it on a list! If you don’t, you’ll be lying there in bed, frantically trying to remember all the things you need to do tomorrow, and give yourself little hints, like, “when I see that ugly china cat on the mantlepiece that Mom gave us, it’ll remind me to buy a card.” That’s too stressful. Put it on a list and let it go!

My husband and I make it a habit now to go over our lists in the early evening and again in the morning. Then we can rest easy knowing that nothing is going to be forgotten. And I can free up my brain for more positive pursuits!


Keep your bedroom peaceful.

The bedroom is the most important room in the house. It’s where you keep your relationship with your husband alive, and it’s that relationship that is the foundation for everything else that happens. But it’s also where we often let junk and laundry pile up, because let’s face it: no one ever sees your bedroom.

Stop it! There’s nothing unsexier than starting to “get it on” and looking up and seeing cobwebs on the ceiling fan. Or, even worse, bills piled up on the dresser.

We’re already distractible enough without a million small things in our bedrooms making us feel guilty (“Wow, you haven’t cleaned in ages. What’s wrong with you? You really should have paid those bills! Wonder what will happen now….) Clean it up. When clutter isn’t crying out, “do something with me!”, it’s much easier to laugh and jump in as your husband says the same thing.


Would sex be easier if we weren’t so distractible? Perhaps.

But I also think that God made us so that we would have to care for our mental health for our sex life to work, too. So let your husband in on all of your pinballs. Brainstorm together on how you can start to get rid of them and declutter your mind. And as you do, you’ll likely feel a lot closer to him, too, because he’ll understand far more how you work. And maybe bells will still ring—but in a much better way!


Sheila Wray Gregoire blogs about marriage (and sex!) everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. She’s the author of 9 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex.

Grab your FREE copy of 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage when you sign up for her marriage emails HERE!

Clutter Free Habits for Kids

Clutter Free Habits for Kids

Picture this. You’ve just spent the last few hours tidying up the house while the kids are at school and you finally sit down to have a drink of water. You take a sip, let out a huge sigh of relief, and marvel at the wondrous sight of your squeaky-clean kitchen. “Nice work!” you say to yourself. Now, you just need to figure out a way to keep it like this even after your kids get home. Here are 5 tips to help you instill clutter free habits in your kids.

1. Bags up and lunchboxes open. I started this clutter free habit at the beginning of the school year and it’s been one of the easiest and best ways to save myself from tripping over my kids’ school stuff. I told my school-aged children that if they put their shoes away, hung their backpacks up, and opened their lunchboxes and placed them on the counter every day after school without me asking, they would each get fifty cents. It has worked like a charm. My kids had saved up enough money from doing this one thing every day that they were able to cash in their coins for dollar bills when we took a trip to the beach over spring break. Not only were they excited about being able to buy what they wanted but the daily “kerplunk” of the coins in their piggy banks was an auditory reminder of their hard work.

2. Placemats or bust. We do A LOT of crafts in my house. I’m not afraid of glitter and we use it often. We also have washable markers but get this, we have permanent Sharpie markers, too! I know. I’m a daring mom. But, I don’t worry about my counters anymore because my kids know – no placemat – no craft. I learned with my first child, mistakes happen and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean off a placemat (or throw it away) than it is to cry over something that won’t come out of granite. My kids have made placemats somewhat of their calling card by picking out a new one each year that suits their individual personality.

3. Craft kit corner. My mom ordered the most adorable craft bags for my kids. They put all of the stuff they’re currently using in these bags and tote them around from place to place when they want to. It’s a cinch to clean up. When they’re done with whatever they’re using, they put everything back in their totes and hang them on their hooks. Each tote has their name on it so they know whose is who.

4. Operation pantry. Once upon a time, my pantry was unorganized; not with food but with my kids’ arts and crafts. I’d had enough one day and so I organized everything into bins with labels. My husband hung a couple of wire shelves and with a pep talk and a few incentives, I showed my kids exactly how I expected the pantry to look from that point on. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than how it used to be. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) so we have a lot of rice bins, bean bins, and sensory-type toys. Things like this can easily spill or become cumbersome because of the touch-and-feel type items they are. I knew I wanted to keep these things because they were helpful to my son but having them strewn about and finding beans in nooks in crannies in our house was stressing me out. I now have a system. My son knows that when he gets his sand bin out, he has to do it at a specific table on top of a placemat. He also knows he has to get the broom out and sweep (as best he can) up anything that has fallen on the floor. I’m not looking for perfection out of the cleanup process but rather, responsibility from him on what it means to be able to play with those types of things.

5. Stairway catch-all. The stairwell seems to be the catch-all for anything and everything that has been worn, played with, used, or doesn’t have a home. My kids know, that if there is something left out (not on the stairs) it gets donated or thrown away. Their responsibility is to put everything they find of theirs in a basket that I have put on one of the steps for them. This basket is big and flexible and one they can easily carry up to their rooms to help them put their things away. This basket serves so many purposes; it collects everything and my kids don’t have to make multiple trips up and down the stairs because they’re able to carry it all in one basket. They know to return the basket to the steps once it’s been emptied.

Creating clutter-free habits in our kids doesn’t have to be scary. Think of the things that you’re already doing every day and find a way to make them work for you and your family. Sometimes it just takes a minute or two of thinking, “How can I make this easier while allowing them to take responsibility?” I bet you’ll find that your kids actually like the way they feel when they claim ownership over their belongings. It’s a win-win for everyone.


Parenting journalist and author, Meagan Ruffing, encourages and equips other moms who may be feeling overwhelmed and lonely in the midst of parenting in her debut book, “I See You: Helping Moms Go from Overwhelmed to In Control.” Meagan talks about the challenges of living with a child who has behavioral disorders and talks candidly about her struggles with mom guilt. To read more about Meagan’s story and real-life parenting tips, visit her at www.meaganruffing.com.