Clearing Away the Clutter

November 8, 2011 5 Comments

clutter attracts clutter and space attracts space ~ Courtney Carver, Be More With Less

After rearranging our living room and bringing in a wonderful, new and fresh sense of space I was inspired to keep that feeling going.

I don’t know about you, but we have a few places in our home that attract clutter. They are flat surfaces where a book is set down, art supplies are stacked, toys are set after being picked up off the floor. It doesn’t take long until the table tops are covered with stuff.

I received the wonderful treat of a quiet and empty house the other night after dinner. Erik took the kids outside for a roudy game of Red Light/Green Light, and I set to work. One by one, I cleared our clutter spots. In only about fourty minutes I created these major changes:

Cluttered butcher block cart


Clean butcher block cart


Cluttered credenze


Clean credenza


As I cleared the surfaces I didn’t just pile things elsewhere. I put everything away where it belongs. This even necessitated creating a box (using a big cardboard box sitting in the recycling pile) for all of Cooper’s school papers, something I’d been meaning to do since September. It meant traveling all over our house to put stray playfood back with the toy kitchen, to re-shelve glue sticks and paints, to find new homes for objects and books displaced when we moved the bookshelf out of the living room.

As opposed to simply creating more clutter by stacking things in temporary resting spots I took a few extra minutes to make sure things landed in a “home”.

Looking at those cleared off spaces I felt totally energized and also calmer, thankful to have a bit of order restored.

After the kids went to bed I tackled the last big clutter collector — the stairway.

Clutter stairway


I have a terrible habit of stacking things on the stairs instead of bringing them all the way up into our bedroom. The most plentiful piles are the stacks of papers waiting to be filed.

You see, I hate filing. Abhore is also an appropiate description. I put it off, and put it off, and then put it off some more.

But, no more. All those papers got filed or shredded or put in the recycling. Books, notebooks, and artwork got put away. Finally.

And now our stairway looks like a stairway again. Ahhhhh. So much better.

Cleared stairways


The thing is, it isn’t just the piles of “stuff” that is draining. It is all the thoughts that come up every single time I see the piles. I see the piles of papers waiting to be filed and put myself down for not getting to it. I see all of Cooper’s school papers and get angry with myself for not having a way of keeping them all organized.

I see the clutter and I get down on myself for letting it build up. And man, that sure feels even worse than the scattered piles look.

Now I’ve got the blessing of a clean slate, and the beautiful reminder that it really doesn’t take much time or effort to just put everything away. My night of clutter clearing? The two tables took only about 45 minutes. The stairs took a bit longer, mostly because of all the filing. But, that was finished in less than an hour. Not long at all!

Clearing my clutter spots has also allowed me to reintroduce the 2 minute rule into my daily life. If you aren’t familiar, the 2 minute rule is a concept popularized by David Allen. I admit that I have never read any of his books. They tend to focus on productivity in the traditional workspace. But, I am a big believer in the 2 minute rule and apply it to my life as a work at home mom.

The 2 minute rule is simple. If you have a task that will take 2 minutes or less, do it now. When you put it off, or even just put it on your to-do list, it will end up taking more time.

Dishes are an excellent example of this. If you rinse your breakfast dish right when you finish and put it directly in the dishwasher it takes you far less time than if you let the dish sit. The food hardens. The dishes stack up. You know the routine.

Filing is another great example. Would I have had to sit and file papers for 45 minutes if I had simply taken 2 minutes to file bills right after I pay them? No. Definitely not.

Quickly reply to an email if you know the answer instead of putting it off for later. RSVP to a party right away so you don’t have to hunt for the invitation later. Pay a bill online and schedule the payment for when it is due instead of leaving it for later, and possibly forgetting about it. You get the idea.

Clearing my clutter spots has not only added space and beauty to my home. It has rejuvinated my productivity. And that is certainly something that all of us welcome.

What clutter spots can you clear today? When can you use the 2 minute rule? I’d love to hear about the space you clear for yourself and your family.

*Don’t forget about the Clean Food Challenge starting November 14. I’d love for you to join in!

Comments (5)

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  1. imene says:

    I am guilty of letting things pile up and letting my frustration about it build up. I like this 2 minutes rule.

    • kelly says:

      Don’t you feel like the frustation is worse than the piles sometimes, Imene? I find that whenever I’m frustrated about something else (kids fighting, running late for an appointment) that I beat myself up even worse about any clutter piles. It’s freeing in so many ways to take the time to get rid of it. The 2 minute rule is a great reminder. I’m certainly not perfect with it, but that isn’t the point.

  2. Lynnette says:

    What a great reminder. Truth is my husband and I came home from our vacation and we realized how much clutter we really have. We have been working on it bit by bit as well as home projects. The biggest challenge for us has been actually finding a home for things. We have little storage in our old house and our storage furniture has been lacking. Over the last few weeks we have been collecting homes that have allowed us to remove the extra clutter that was hidden in our homeless items.

    • kelly says:

      A fresh view can show a lot Lynnette. It is such a continuous process. I find it hard sometimes to keep up with all the “homes” our stuff needs as my children’s possessions and interests change, as the seasons change, etc. Like, we don’t have space in our house for wet boots, snow pants, gloves, hats, etc. and I’m trying to figure out how we can give these things a home that my children can start to manage themselves.

      • Lynnette says:

        We recently found a home for mittens, coats and scarves. The wet boots are still somewhat homeless but we will work on that. I will have to take a picture of the winter apparel’s new home and put it up on my blog but it has four wire baskets (one for each of us) for mittens, hats and such. Below the baskets we have hooks that can move but don’t come off for coats and scarves.

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