When Is Clutter OK?
This month I posted an article discussing the stresses of having clutter and how it can negatively affect a home or workplace. Obviously I am an advocate for decluttering all aspects of one’s life and leaving room for a more relaxed, fulfilled mental state. Clutter can be overwhelming and debilitating. Here’s the thing though — clutter will happen sometimes and…it’s ok.
I have helped clients declutter and organize their entire homes room by room and get asked by my clients: When is clutter is ok? How do you (meaning me, Heather) keep your home in order? For me personally, an acceptable amount of clutter is when you can reset your home in a few hours or within a day or two if there’s been a big event. Keeping your home perfectly put away all the time can be as stressful as having clutter and, in my opinion, isn’t an obtainable or totally healthy goal.
When my children were very small I ran myself ragged keeping everything put away and trying to stay on top of everything — like many mothers do. Along with being exhausted from toddlers, I was also holding myself to completely unrealistic expectations. Over time I found myself becoming very wound up about tasks and more rigid in our daily schedule – to the point of being, well, a bit of a control freak honestly. Luckily for me I have some very kind friends and family members who were able to gently and kindly bring the changes in me to my attention. It was a real wake up call! After taking an honest look at myself (hard to do, not gonna lie), I saw that some changes needed to be made about my expectations. Afterwards, I found myself even better able to relate to clients, their struggles, and to see how easy it was to get bogged by clutter and its antithesis — ‘anti clutter’.
Find a Happy Medium! The advice I give to clients is often from my own experience. Find the level of organization in your home that you can realistically keep up and routines that help you and your family function smoothly on a daily basis. This takes trial and error and changes with children’s ages, home changes and life changes. For me I found a few routines to be put into place for me to feel sane, and they are still in place today:
I Made My Bed Every Day. This brought a level of peacefulness to my room. Didn’t matter if I dumped laundry on the bed later to fold or if the kids curled there to read with me. I just felt better knowing a part of private space was tidy and civilized under it all, and I could loosen up about other things until I had time tend to them.
The Kitchen and the “20 Minute Power Pick Up” The kitchen was the one place that I worked to totally clean every night. Walking into a clean kitchen in the morning really helped me set the tone for the rest of the day. Then on the occasion when this didn’t happen I could be more relaxed knowing that it was a blip in the routine and it was easily fixed. The “20 Minute Power Pick Up” was just that! I went around for 20 minutes and put things away, took things back upstairs or downstairs, maybe threw in a load of laundry and just generally reset the house for the day.
I Created “Clutter Hubs”! Oh yes I did! Me, Declutter Duchess and organizer am saying yes to controlled clutter! There were three (two now) small spots in various places in the house where things could accumulate to be dealt with on a daily or weekly basis. It's a constant ebb and flow of items and I am at peace with that as long as it stays in control. Is it neat? Not always. But that's what works for me. The parameters that I set for my Clutter Hubs were that it should only an afternoon to reset my home. Every two weeks or so I tackle filing and papers. Letting myself put something down in a Clutter Hub on a busy day, knowing that I will come back and file/put away is what works for me. Some clients have the time to do this every day or so. One client hires me quarterly to help her reset the house seasonally – she has five kids and my helping her reset is what works for her.
Clutter is stressful, but holding yourself to standards that you cannot possibly meet is also stressful and damaging. Racing around to make sure that everything is in its place at all times is not a healthy way of life. Be kind to yourself. I am more gentle and realistic with myself now, and encourage my clients to find their own Happy Medium. I had so much joy when my children were little but could have stood to have given myself a lot more grace. Now I do, and am teaching these things to my children while working to help clients find their way.
What would work for you? Really think about what you can let go of and/or routines you can put into place. I still, and always will, advocate for a decluttered life on all levels, but invite you to explore what is a healthy, self-loving way to get there.
Heather Shore is a professional organizer based in Cary North Carolina. She brings peace of mind to her clients one room at a time, with budget-friendly decluttering, no judgment, and a friendly disposition. Peace of Mind Decluttering services the Raleigh and Cary areas, with appointments for clients available in Wilmington for an additional fee.