Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Decluttering of Me

Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them. ~Ivan Illich

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about how I feel about my home. In some areas nearly everything is neatly organized and put away, but in others there is clutter—you know, all those things that seem to just accumulate over the years.

Before moving to our present home, my husband and I lived in a small mobile home. We had accumulated things over the years there and we felt crowded, but this house still seemed empty when we moved all that stuff with us over ten years ago. Then we added a child and the stuff accumulated twice as much in the next ten years!

I have been thinking of all the things I really want to do, but have not—and why not? Instead of feeling comfortable, inspired, and content, I find that I often feel uncomfortable, burdened, and unhappy in my home.

I am not suggesting that I want my home to be a sanitized showcase that never looks lived in, quite the opposite. I am suggesting that my home should be a personalized showcase of my family, our lifestyle and our interests. When we walk in the door, we should feel good about what we see. Right now, though, it is not a place of comfort for me, and I think it is because it does not reflect the lifestyle I really want, it does not reflect the person that I want to be.

On my quest to make my home a place of comfort, I decided to clean out my kitchen cabinets some months ago. One in particular bothered me having air tight containers of all sorts, bowls, and casserole dishes becoming cluttered regardless of how I rearranged all its contents over the years. It just had too much in it and some had sentimental ties. My husband's grandmother gave us identical sets of casserole dishes in addition to another set we already had. I decided to get rid the older set and a larger dishes from one of the identical sets that we had not used in the last decade nor were likely to use in the next one; I still would have the sentimental ties with one full set.

After I reorganized everything back in that cabinet, I felt inspired to do the other cabinets also. Surprisingly, the rest of them were in good shape, not as time consuming or labor intensive as I had imagined. It seems I had judged the state of every kitchen cabinet as being overwhelming because that one cabinet that bothered me the most, it was key in forestalling the clean-up of all the cabinets. Once my kitchen had been cleaned and rearranged, I also felt a renewed interest in preparing food, cooking, and baking.

Amazing how that happens, isn’t it? When you clean and rearrange a room, it seems the first thing you want to do is be in that place more. It is inspiring! I naturally wanted to maintain it better and all my kitchen cabinets have stayed well organized for months. Kitchen Mission accomplished!

Being a homeschooling family, we have bookcases full of books. There is not a room in our house that does not have a stack of books in it somewhere—perhaps clutter to some, but comfort to me. On my night stand, I have at least five books at any given time, more often I have more than that. I have six large bookcases filled. The books on these shelves are neatly organized in categories with an inviting appeal, but I realized recently that I have been shunning those books. I have not even looked at my bookcases nor had I cleaned them for some time. I was feeling uninspired, even blocked when I thought about looking for a book.

Why didn’t I even look at my bookshelves anymore? I had reorganized them just a few months before and I remember feeling highly inspired then as well. Oh, but look—boxes! When I had been focused on cleaning out other areas, I placed boxes filled with items for a yard sale in front of the bookcases. Although I could see my books neatly arranged, I had to lean or step over those boxes with all that stuff in them. It was meant to be temporary situation, but it had changed the way I felt about my entire library. I realize now that I had created another barrier, after the previous barrier of books in boxes had been removed and the books arranged on the shelves.

I also realized that the most used areas of our living space are free of unnecessary clutter, I still have pockets of clutter all over my house in the places we don’t use as much. Do you see the pattern here? Sometimes that clutter just gets moved from one place to another, but wherever it goes it creates a barrier. It is a vicious, unending cycle, if I let it be.

I found that clutter freezes me up in my art studio and exercise/workout spaces also. I realize now that I have to make an extra effort to mentally hurdle those blockages, but it is draining for me, so it is easier just not to bother with it at all, but then I stop doing what gives me the most enjoyment as well. The clutter limits me and I allowed it to shape my lifestyle! Now, though, I have had enough of it! I am on a quest to hunt down and break down all these mental barriers in my home.

Now that I have identified the problem, it is all going in a yard sale to be scheduled very soon and what does not sell is going to charity—not back into my home! What does not promote the lifestyle I want to have is being cleared out so that I can have an inspiring and healthy home for my desired lifestyle.

To help me see this project in bite size tasks, I made a mind map using a free program called XMind. It is functional, easy to use, and even fun, for me. It really has helped me organize my thoughts and tasks, which is its purpose. One day, though, I would like to make one of those colorful mind maps with artwork. Some are really quite beautiful. Here is one I found on decluttering:

Please, my Lord, bless my efforts to make my home comfort and reflect the lifestyle I should be living according to Your Will.


  1. I dislike clutter too & I live with hoarders. Ditz got so bad I worried about Children's services. I waited till she was out for the day & threw everything out. There was great wailing & gnashing of teeth but she hasn't missed any of it.

    Dearest is terrible. One day I am going to live somewhere with just me & the cat & NO CLUTTER whatesoever...& I will probably hate it. *sigh*

  2. One of these days I need to write about my maternal grandmother and her sister--especially her sister! The worse cluttered rooms of my home aren't even in the same classification as the least cluttered rooms in their houses. I think I am just average really, but it seems I have a limit on how much I can take before I feel closed in and begin to lose my mind! (Well, I don't think I have lost it completely yet, but I do wonder if I actually did lose my mind, if I would know that I did...?)


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.