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Conquering Clutter

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” Peter Walsh, Clutter Organizer

No one knows how long clutter has been a problem for humanity, but it’s likely that ancient people looked around their caves and thought, “We have GOT to get rid of some of this stuff!” 

Clutter issues may feel eternal, but during the COVID pandemic, when we spent considerably more time in our homes, decluttering became trendy. Marie Kondo, with her bestselling books and her Netflix shows about decluttering our lives, became so popular that her name is synonymous with getting rid of the things in your life that no longer “spark joy” in you. 


Kondo’s method of decluttering, known as KonMari™, encourages tidying by category. Start with clothes. Conduct an inventory of your closets– if you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go. Next, move to your bookshelf. Many of us pride ourselves on our extensive libraries, but they also take up considerable space. Keep the books that you really love, and will read multiple times. Those beach-read bestsellers and thrilling whodunits? Once you get to the end, you don’t need them anymore. 

After the closet and the bookshelf, go through papers and sentimental items. Remember, the idea is to keep only the things that are most meaningful. If you’re having a hard time deciding if something is worth keeping, try the “out of sight, out of mind” technique: hide the questionable item away for a few months. When you go back to look at it, consider how much you missed it while it was hidden, and base your decision accordingly. 

“We often suggest to someone trying to declutter or downsize to work with 3 empty boxes at a time: 1. Family (keep), 2. Donate, 3. Sell,” said a representative of Caring Transitions in Toledo. 

“For someone older or who lacks the energy or stamina to do the work of packing items into boxes, instead, as they have time and feel up to it, use a color coded system to put stickers on individual items around the house: family/keep blue sticker, donate yellow sticker, sell red sticker / then a family member (or Caring Transitions) could do the work of boxing and transporting items.”

Start Small

Though the KonMari method dictates working through your cutter by type, many find this method overwhelming. Instead, consider starting with one area of the house. The decluttering effort doesn’t have to encompass the entire house, or even an entire room. Starting with just one single drawer is a step on your decluttering journey. 

Setting a time limit is another helpful strategy. Give yourself 15 minutes, and see how much you can get done in one particular area.  Of course, a single 15 minute session is unlikely to get the entire job done. Making a regular habit out of your decluttering sessions is the surest way to make progress. Completing these small goals will add up to big changes if you keep at it. 

You can also use the “one in, one out” rule. If you want another book, or throw pillow, or pair of jeans, that’s ok, but dispose of a comparable item to keep the balance. And remember, “dispose of” does not mean “shove into the back of the closet no one looks in.” Clutter doesn’t disappear just because you don’t have to look at it. 

Not Just the House

Clutter accumulates not only in our homes, but also infiltrates our digital lives. Take a look at your phone. How many of those apps do you really use?  It’s a good bet that there are at least a few that are eating up storage space. Group the apps by type to take up less visual space on the screen, but deleting what you don’t need makes a bigger impact. 


Decluttering can feel like an enormously daunting task. As you make strides to vanquish your clutter, take time to appreciate your hard work.  Take before and after pictures, so that you can see the dramatic difference. Pat yourself on the back for taking charge of your environment, and revel in your newly well-ordered space!

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