Over the last few months I have been having counselling and journalling my experiences. This has lead me to ask myself a lot of questions. The big two questions I am asking myself at the moment are why am I cluttered? and why am I incapable of being clean and tidy?
I have read dozens of books and blogs and even watched TV programmes. There is no system that appears to wholly solve my problem.
Do I own too much stuff?
I think most adults are guilty of owning too much stuff. However most of the stuff I don’t often use is shoved up in my groaning attic. I regularly go through my clothes and remove items I don’t currently wear, excess kitchen stuff is stuffed in the garage or under the stairs. Yes I do have items which I no longer need and the big questions are why do I still have these items? and is decluttering the answer?
Looking around my home there are several items which do not have a home so are always out on display. These items help make the home appear cluttered, in my house the following items are homeless and tend to be poked everywhere:
- Spare toiletries
- Essential oils
- Ironing board
- Laundry basket
- Spare coat hangers
- Craft stuff, spare materials as well as half finished projects
- Sewing materials
- Computer bits and bobs
- “Witchy” items like tarot cards, candles, incense etc
- Packaging materials
- Gift bags, greeting cards, wrapping paper etc
- Plastic bags
- Recycling waiting to go outside
- Compost bin
- Cat items such as toys, food, litter, box
- Paperwork that needs attending to including appointments, bills etc
- Remote controls
- Band merchandise
- Clothes that need mending
- Empty jars and bottles
- Herbal preparations
- Large cooking and serving bowls
- Spare toilet rolls and bathroom cleaning products
- Linen, towels etc
- Steam cleaner
- Mop and bucket
- Dustpan and brush
- Tea towels
- Cleaning cloths
- Table mats
- Kitchen gadgets
- Kitchen utensils
- Oven gloves
- Shoe cleaning stuff
- Shopping bags
- Vacuum attachments
- ID cards, wallets, bank books
- Sewing machine
- Hats, gloves, scarves, sunglasses
- Gifts bought early or items for other people
- Shower mats
- Bathroom scales
- Exercise equipment
- Massage table and rollers
- Extra books, CDs, DVDs etc
- Paper bags
- Tissue paper
- Electric items such as as chargers, cables, light bulbs, hairdryer, razor, batteries
- Things that do not belong to me
Why do these items not have a home?
Some of these items do have containers but the containers themselves are clutter and do not have shelves or cupboards to go in. Other items have assigned places e.g. Books but I have too many.
My kitchen is very tiny and is missing a wall due to the house having been made open plan downstairs. The house was knocked around before we moved in and I have to say that my neighbours’ houses that are not open plan do seem to have more room. This means I have a genuine lack of walls to put extra cupboards or shelves. Marie Kondo, the declutter queen, tells us not to purchase additional storage because most people already own sufficient storage.
I can see how that applies to some of the items on my list but some really don’t have a home such as the vacuum cleaner and ironing board. The traditional cupboard under the stairs has been incorporated into part of the kitchen so what is left is too small for them to fit. When we viewed the house I clocked the ironing board in the garage and thought to myself “perhaps she doesn’t do much ironing”. It’s only when you move in that you realise why it was there.
The other problem I have is that when I moved in a decade ago things got unpacked and shoved wherever very quickly and as more and more items came in they got shoved in the roof and new stuff placed in front of it, so it is all very difficult to access. The thought of sorting and the mess it entails is horrendous.
Over the last few years I have had little periods of enthusiasm and managed to sort some items in the roof but this hasn’t been touched now for at least 18 months.
A massive problem is that items are not boxed up ready sorted so any given box out of the 100 plus boxes up there in the attic could contain a mixture of items which has originated from my emergency tidying up method of shove everything in a bag when people are coming. Eventually the miscellaneous bags get emptied into a box in the roof and the cycle repeats.
Sometimes sorting requires space and time, both of these I don’t have at the moment.
Hobbies and frugal living
I love crafting and upcycling. I have craft and hobby items related to knitting, sewing, embroidery, card making, preserving, herbal lotions and potions. All of these items make use of items that most “normal” people would throw in the bin without a second thought. This is why I keep old clothes and bedding, glass jars and bottles, pretty paper and card, old wrapping paper, gift boxes etc. I see a future use in these items and am reluctant to throw away items that I have a use for. In an ideal world my day job would be pottering in the garden and doing crafts. Unfortunately I can’t make a living doing that so I have to go out to work and don’t have the time to do as many crafts as I would like. As a result of this my “craft stash” and unfinished projects take longer to work through. This also means that things I don’t particularly like doing such as cleaning, tidying, sorting, organising and decluttering get ignored.
How do I remedy this?
In my darkest moments I have considered either burning it all down or just running away. That is clearly not the solution.
I have considered renting a large storage unit, decanting the entire contents of the house into it. Creating a home for everything then bringing all the items back one by one; sorting and decluttering as I go. This is incredibly expensive and time consuming. It took weeks to pack everything into storage last time we moved and storage units are expensive. That time and money could be more usefully spent.
Marie Kondo: I love reading Marie Kondo’s books. I think her philosophy of thanking objects for their time with you is lovely way to respect once cherished items. I also think that she has some genius storage solutions. I would love to have all of my possessions neatly filed and organised but I am not ready for a full on “konmarie” festival which involves spending days sifting through huge piles of items, handling each item. This is something that that I can see myself doing in the future but I need to get there first.
Flylady.net: Flylady is another favourite. I have subscribed to her emails for 15 years and have tried to take on board some her philosophy. She is very much queen of little and often, making regular use of a kitchen timer for short cleaning bursts. This really does work for me if I can motivate myself in the first place. She promotes regular decluttering and focusing on one job at a time. She also champions two things I fully agree with: getting plenty of sleep and drinking enough water. Her advice is to create a home so that items can be easily put away and one of favourite mottos is “you can’t organise clutter”. Where I fail is that I haven’t enough places to create homes.
I have spent hours over the last few years visualising where extra shelves and cupboards could go, rearranging, remodeling. Much of this is currently beyond my capabilities and would require hiring in tradesmen – not something I want to do when I am trying to save money. Perhaps something I can save up for maybe in 2020.
So what can I do now?
I think that the way forward is to attempt what Flylady says is not possible and attempt to organise my clutter. I need to try and decide what should live in each room. Where the eventual home will be and remove items from the wrong location to its new room. I may have to continue to live with the storage boxes until I can afford shelves or cupboards. I can also return borrowed items to their rightful owners, sell or donate items I really don’t want and to try and generally be a bit tidier. My mum always says to take something upstairs if you are going upstairs and bring items back down with you. I do tend to place things on the bottom stair to go up and items on the landing to go down. I have started off some storage boxes in loft for specific items such as packaging, wool etc. This project must be continued.
I am setting myself some tasks to work on over the next 12 months. In theory at least some of the clutter will decrease by itself as I am using items up and not replacing them.
Task one: work on one room at a time. Decide what should live in that room and remove all items that do not belong there.
Task two: once it is decided what should live in that room work on the existing storage space so that it is organised and efficient.
Task three: have some boxes set up for unwanted items e.g. Sell, donate, recycle, upcycle. Try and deal with the boxes ASAP. Photograph and list items for sale immediately. Take charity items on next trip into town.
Task four: set aside some time each week to venture into the roof. Maybe tackle one box per week.
Task five: every day pick up after myself and put away what I have got out so that the clutter does not get any worse.
Task six: clean at least one thing everyday