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Thread: Reformed Clutterbugs--are you out there?

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2011

    Reformed Clutterbugs--are you out there?

    Hi, folks:
    I'm seriously considering a major decluttering project. I would say our household is moderately cluttered--depending on what room you are in. Both of us are "to blame," if I may use that term--but honestly, I think "he who shall not be named" is more likely to clutter than I am.

    That said: Are there any truly reformed clutterbugs on the forum? If so, how did you reform your evil ways? (Remember "Young Frankenstein," when they found that big book that said, "How I Did It"?) What worked for you? What did NOT work for you?

    I've tried bribery, begging, threatening, "we really need to set aside 15 minutes a day," setting an example (I"m not sure it gets noticed), and I'm frankly tired of having a home that's embarrassing both inside and out, where I can't invite friends, where I dont' even feel comfortably taking photos for my blog or my journal. It's just plain UGLY. Not only is it's half painted, uncurtained, old and deteriorating, rented (and cheap) so I can't pay for too much cosmetic stuff.

    How can I get and STAY motivated?

    Open to suggestions. Also, what can you do if you've got family members who "talk the talk" but don't "walk the walk."

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dhiana's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Not exactly a reformed clutterbug but I do much, much better than I used to

    It has been at least a 10 year process for us to declutter and learn to really just plain pick up after ourselves.
    You'll purge as much as you can the first time around but then you'll see that you really don't need to keep this item or those things as you
    walk through your home again and again. Then you'll move and see more that doesn't need to be a part of your life. It's an ever evolving,
    ongoing process so don't get frustrated. The purging helps to find homes and space for those items you really need to keep around.

    The easiest way I found to help with the general clutter around is to pick up after myself. So much more difficult than it sounds. Still
    working on perfecting this =) Everything must have a home, a place the daily clutter belongs.
    Clearing my clutter away showed how much clutter left that really belonged to my husband.
    That helped because then he could clearly see what he needed to do.
    He also does have a spare room specifically for his stuff in which I'll dust/vacuum a bit but don't say anything about how he keeps it.

    Don't get too frustrated because I think it really is a skill, some are born to it while others such as myself need to really, really work hard just to be average

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2010
    Still working on it all myself, so I'll be watching this thread - lol. As for "helping others" in the same household declutter - I've given up! I'm at the point where I will try to declutter myself and, hopefully, actions will speak louder than words.
    To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer." Mahatma Gandhi

    Be nice whenever possible. It's always possible. - Dalai Lama

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    New Hamsphire
    My husband was a major clutter bug, but not anymore. We started by drastically decluttering one room in our home. I told him I needed one room that was a completly clutter free zone. He agreed (saw it as a compromise) and I choose the living room. He helped out, relocated some things into storage that he wasn't ready to get rid of and moved others off to their new homes with the good people at the Boy Scouts annual yard sale. I simplified the room, removed everything from it, gave it a fresh coat of paint, washed curtains and mini blinds and carefully moved back in only those pieces of furniture I truely loved and wanted in the room. Turned out he loved that room and realized it was a great space to really relax in, so when I asked if he'd like to do another room he agreed. We did the kitchen next... Then onto the bedrooms and eventually our shared office/studio space.

    Even his garage is neat and organized. Though he still has a lot of things that go unused. One step at a time. I'm hoping to get him to par it down to just what he needs/uses this summer.

  5. #5
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    New England
    My house was always a bit cluttered until the first time I was laid off and had some time to actually go through it all. I did a drawer or cabinet at a time. Seeing an immediate difference is what kept me motivated. I sat down and thought through what items should be where, and got rid of excessive duplicates or added duplicates for things like scissors so I wasn't wasting time going from room to room. I found Julie Morgenstern's book Organizing from the Inside Out to be the best book out there- a lot of other books give techniques that may or may not work depending on your circumstances, but Julie's book made me think about how I do things so the system designed would work for ME.

    My hub puts things away to optimize storage time while I put things away to optimize retrieval time. He will just find any empty space to put something, where I try to put things in a logical place so I'll be able to find them again when I need them. This was actually a recent revelation. Now that I know this, I go to extra pains to explain to him why I put things where I do, so if he doesn't do things my way at least he understands why. My way of doing things is as foreign to him, as his way is to me.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Consistency and Containment -- that is what has worked for us.

    For example, DH attracts paper. He loves bits of paper. He attracts so much of it. I usually clear my papers at the end of the day -- so I keep the ones that are useful. I have a notebook -- I'll recopy things into my notebook which I carry around and keeps all of my notes in order.

    Dh likes to have piles of paper that he doesn't organize. Then he gets angry that he can't find his notes on a given topic. Then, I force him to go through his piles, and he finds it and then sorts it into his pile-basket.

    Back in the day, his piles were everywhere. Over the years, I started to contain the piles, and if he didn't go through them by a deadline, I would pitch the whole pile. Doing that once was enough to get him in gear! LOL

    Right now, he has a pile basket. He can put anything he wants into that to make his pile. When the basket overflows, he has to go through it. 90% of the box is nothing-papers that we recycle/compost. The rest he needs and puts where he can use them and/or where they actually go.

    I let him get into a bad-bad habit by not having the closet functional for him. The closet is the drop zone -- it's walk in. So you remove shoes and put them on the rack, coat on the hanger, bag on the shelf, then the keys in the bowl, mail gets sorted (into mail and recycling), and then he could use his pile basket. The closet got in disarray, so he wouldn't go in there which meant that shoes would end up in the entry hall (which is narrow so it would be hard to get in and out of the house), coats put on the chair in the kitchen, pile on the kitchen table (which made it impossible for anyone but DH to eat there), bags in the walk way, keys getting lost, etc.

    So, yesterday, I reorganized the closet so that it's useable. now he's back into that pattern. We did a tidy of all coats, shoes, and bags, as well as that infernal pile at the kitchen table! Now the kitchen table is clear again (we have: 1. vase with succulents; 2. bees wax candle; 3. inspirational quotes book that we use for some contemplation/etc in the am) and all three of us can sit at the table (and if i remove the book of quotes, we can fit 6 around the table.

    This house is so small (about 600-650 square feet) that we have to stay organized or we'll just be pushed out of the house. LOL Lots of decluttering. Having minimal space helps keep clutter down!

  7. #7
    Senior Member fidgiegirl's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Saint Paul, MN
    For me it was doing the inventory of YMOYL, and it was several passes through the stuff, as Dhiana pointed out. I would go through everything once, then sit on the remainder for a few months, and stuff would start to call out "you don't need me . . . . . . " and I would go through it again, and repeat the process.

    In the new house I feel we are at a point of needing to do it again, but most of it is DH's, so it will have to wait until he is ready. But he will be . . . just not now. Luckily, on this point, we ARE on the same page.

    My mother is a borderline hoarder, so I would say one thing with family members is to NOT let them talk you out of that they need to keep something that is yours, or influence you with their reasoning. If you don't want it, out it goes. There are lots of tricks that you may have seen on the boards in the past . . . our most successful is the outbox, a running box of giveaways that gets picked up every time there is a charity pickup. I realize not everyone has these; when we didn't, I would run it to Goodwill periodically.

    Another thing for me personally that has helped has been to implement Getting Things Done's two-minute rule. Do it now, and get it done. If it takes more mental energy to hold in your head "clean off that table" than to just do it, then it's better to just do it and let it go out of your mental space. I find it freeing.

    That said, I need to go clean up some stuff for my friends coming over tomorrow

    Good luck, Lib!

    My gluten free blog: Twin Cities Gluten Free
    Our house remodel blog: Our Fair Abode

  8. #8
    Senior Member Selah's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Mohave Valley, Arizona, U.S.A.
    Moving frequently helps declutter. Marrying a non-clutterer also helped me, as he keeps me focused and demands that I justify bringing new stuff into the house. This has helped my own thinking process about purchasing things, so it has helped to eliminate clutter by generating less of it in the first place. Watching "Hoarders" repeatedly was extremely beneficial and motivating...I will never see "stuff" in the same way again.

    Also, doing YMOYL and determining to get out of, and stay out of, debt was enormously beneficial. Now I still do that "how much life energy will this object cost me?" calculation, so I buy very little. Identifying my own gazingus-pin weakspots was enlightening, too, and I'm sure I've saved thousands of dollars over the years (and lots of landfill space) by not buying them anymore.

    Yes, good luck to you!

  9. #9
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Saint Paul, Minnesota
    Quote Originally Posted by Selah View Post
    Moving frequently helps declutter. Marrying a non-clutterer also helped me
    Moving frequently cured me, too. I just tired of packing, unpacking, finding space for, and dusting or maintaining stuff I didn't use between moves. Why carry it around?

    But I do have to say that I think the tolerance for clutter is a personality trait much the same as introversion/extroversion, patience/impatience, and spender/saver. Ask yourself how hard it is to change those qualities about yourself (or even if you want to) and you may see why it's so hard to get a clutterer to change. I'm not saying it can't happen. Just that everyone hoping to set a quiet example for their loved ones is ... well, you're likely to be at it for a long time (cf. the thread in Family Matters about spendthrift relatives).

    I'm also curious about people who get rid of a partner's "stuff" without their okay. I certainly can understand how such behavior can stick in someone's craw (my ex- resembled a comet in the way she put items down somewhereanywhere when they no longer had her attention). But, again, asking yourself how you would like to be on the receiving end of someone tossing your stuff might lead to a different course of action. Our solution? Put her stuff in her "room", to which the door could be closed and which she could leave as messed up as she wanted it. Maybe not everyone has a room, but everyone should have a corner or even a decent-sized basket.

    None of this behavior changes while it is a problem for you. It only changes when it is a problem for the perpetrator.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  10. #10
    Senior Member Kestra's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Thinking about this topic a lot. I think for me it's an issue of getting into a habit. We don't have that much stuff. There's a few areas that I need to go through and ask DH about what I can get rid of. But our main problem is not putting stuff away or cleaning on a consistent basis. I always feel too busy, which makes no sense since we have no kids or pets, I work 35-40 hours a week, over half at home. I have time to randomly surf the internet for an hour, but I don't clean or de-clutter for even 5 minutes a day. It just annoys me all week then I spend 20-30 minutes on the weekend. What I want to do, starting tomorrow, is do 5 minutes a day of cleaning/decluttering, other than dishes or laundry, which are done as needed. Just need to form a habit.
    In the last few months I went from not flossing (I'm bad, I know) to flossing daily - just because I forced myself to get into that habit. Have been getting better about eating and exercise too. This is the next challenge. I think the best time is after work, before super. I will set a timer and just find things to do until it rings. Maybe I will need to increase that to 10 minutes, but will start with 5. When we get a house, I don't want the clutter to just expand to fill the space. I want a bit more room so we can hide the craft/project stuff away, and have the rest of the house nice. Need to start practicing now, while the space is smaller. Once I get started doing 5 minutes a day of cleaning, maybe I will add 5 minutes a day of paperwork/money stuff/computer projects. It would be nice to not have that stuff on my mind as well.
    That is my plan. I wrote it on my white board.
    My current motto is: "If it's boring AND useless don't do it." Need to remind myself and stop doing mindless internet surfing instead of improving my life.

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