"It’s no secret that countless families are deluged by household clutter."
Catchy phrases called out to me as I surfed – zero waste, garbage free, plastic free – each enticing me with the hope that life would become…simpler. While ‘zero’ and ‘free’ felt heart pounding intimidating a simpler, more joyful, happier life would unfold if I could just… start to declutter the ‘things’ in my life.
This I believed as I much of time seems to be a slave to stuff.
Over a several-log fire on a cold Boston day with two oversized mugs of tea I shared my frustration with Pam Young, a self-professed Sidetracked Home Executive, one of the original Slob Sisters, a New York Time Best Selling author and mentor to internet sensation Flylady, and my step-mom. She is just as passionate about joyful organized living (or becoming organized just enough to make you happy) as I am about health focused living.
Together, we found the intersection of decluttering and nontoxic living.
Really, you don’t have to choose one path over another – both paths weave in and out of each other- in the same direction toward health, joy, freedom and happiness.
Pam’s Seven Tips to Clutter Free Living
One of the main reasons stuff piles up on counters, dining tables, coffee tables and floors is that it’s homeless. When an item has no "home," it gets added to an IPOD (Important Pile of Decisions). That’s why it’s important to make sure everything in your home lives somewhere. “Homing” items in the room where they're used, helps ensure that they get put away when you're finished. For example, I keep a sewing kit in a drawer of an end table in my living room, because I like to mend garments in that room and not in my sewing room in the basement.
Savvy Insight: Less piles = less stuff to accumulate dust. Dust exposes people to a wide range of toxic chemicals, originating in consumer products and building materials. Studies have associated dust with numerous health effects including cancer, hormone disruption, and development and reproductive problems.
Stop Clutter at the Cash Register
Use that, waiting-to-buy time when you’re standing in line at the cash register, to re-think what’s in your hands or cart. Imagine it as clutter. What you buy today can turn into clutter tomorrow. The better you are about keeping things out of your home, the less likely you’ll be to create IPODs when you get home.
Savvy Insight: We are a huge fan of the Power of the Pocketbook. Be proud of your purchasing power. You dollar votes are counted and watched, creating powerful message to business with some companies watching more closely than others.
Baby Step your Way to Clutter-free
Start with the room that’s bothering you the most. (In my almost 40-year career helping moms get organized, the kitchen is the room most picked by baby-steppers.) Marla Cilley, the Flylady says, “Start by shining your kitchen sink.” That’s so brilliant! In order to keep your sink shiny, you have to keep it empty. In order to keep it empty, you and your family have to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. In order to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, it has to be empty!
Savvy Insight: Did someone say shining your kitchen sink? How about a velvety soft scrub for sinks? Nontoxic of course!
Do some crime scene investigation by periodically scanning your home for clutter hot spots, and spend some time figuring out why stuff accumulates there. Often, it's not what you think. Take that pile of magazines under the end table. Behind that pile is optimism. You think, ‘tomorrow I’ll read those back issues of Parent Magazine, but right now I just don’t have time.’ The truth is, if you did have some free time tomorrow, you’re NOT going to want to read the August, 2009 Parent’s Magazine. My rule for magazines is, keep only the current one and dump and Google.
Savvy Insight: Sign up for Catalog Choice a free service to reduce your junk mail and protect our natural resources. Pile them up (okay, okay, it is a pile) for a month and then blast through the pile while watching an evening sitcom and then recycle. Are your local daycares looking for magazines for crafts?
Keep Away from Organizing Containers
Victims of clutter often think the solution is to run right out, first thing, and stock up on organizing bins, baskets and pretty boxes to organize the clutter. Stop! Flylady says, “You can’t organize clutter!” You can certainly try, but I warn you, if you did organize your clutter, you’d probably end up with a home that looks and smells like a Goodwill Store. Once you have a home for the stuff you love, use and need, then it’s time to consider pretty containers.
Savvy Insight: Containers may already exist in your home - shoe boxes to separate socks in drawers, salsa jars to hold pencils, holiday cookie tin turned into storage.
Now I’m not talking about twins here. Getting rid of duplicates, triplicates and quintuplicates is one of the easiest ways to get rid of clutter. One is enough! Why have five hairbrushes or six pairs of scissors? When you buy something new, get rid of something like it that’s old.
Savvy Insight: Now this is where we can be proud and Savvy with a little thought. Just where are those duplicates going to go to? If everything should have a place in our home, then we bet there is a better place outside of our home that doesn't include a landfill. Start here for some aha moment tips on how to get rid of clutter.
Have a Plan
Some spaces, like kitchen counters, and dining tables need daily de-cluttering. But cupboards and drawers can be decluttered monthly or even semi-annually. Whatever the frequency you decide upon, when you declutter a drawer, dump the whole thing out on the counter; wipe the drawer out with a soapy rag. Then, considering each item and put back only what you want to have in the drawer. With what’s left, put away what you want to keep in other drawers and put what you no longer want or use in a box for Goodwill.
Savvy Insight: A soapy rag or a soft cloth with water and vinegar, an idea from our print 'n save Tip Sheet for Cleaning with Vinegar.
Would You Like More From Pam?
"In my book, The Joy of Being Disorganized, I provide a simple system to help you get organized just enough to please you. It's has been a joy to share with you, I’d like to give Savvy Women's Alliance followers one of my most favorite chapters in the book entitled, There Arose Such a Clutter." ~ Pam
Pam is the inspiration and heart beat behind a "Make It Fun And It Will Get Done" outlook.
Having Pam's philosophy in my life had a great influence on the development of the Savvy Women's Alliance. Making 'toxins' fun has been a challenge but is the essence of Savvy Chapters. You can learn more about chapter-style of learning here: