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How to Deal with Clutter

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How to Deal with Clutter {A Time to Clean: 30 Day Challenge} @ AVirtuousWoman.org ---- Learn how to decide what to toss, what to see, and where to donate your stuff!! #atimetoclean

A Time to Clean: Day 3

So, how are things going? Are you feeling God’s presence in your home and heart as you work to clear the clutter? I can hardly wait to get started today!

Don’t forget – on Friday we’ll be sharing our photos and stories on A Virtuous Woman’s Facebook page!

How to Deal with Clutter

You can read all of the posts in this series here.

Today I want to talk about how to deal with the clutter and get it out of your house. Sometimes it can be really hard to part with things that seem like “treasures.”

  • Maybe it’s because we paid “good money” for the item.
  • Maybe it has sentimental value.
  • Maybe it’s because we think we might need it “one day.”
  • Maybe we worry that we won’t be able to afford things in the future.
  • Maybe we just have a hard time making decisions about what to do with the stuff.
  • Maybe it’s broken and you think you can fix it, but you never get around to it.

There may be more reasons for hanging on to stuff, and if you have one, let me know in the comments below!

I love pretty things but I hate spending money. My husband hates parting with money even more than I do! So, if I shelled out money to buy something, well, it seems wasteful to throw it out.

The cure for that is not to buy so much stuff. One of the biggest problems I have had in year’s past is that since I hate spending money I’m always looking for a good {great} deal.

Sometimes a good deal isn’t as great a deal as you think. Especially if you buy it because you like it but you don’t love it – just because it seems like a bargain. Or buy more than you need just because it’s on sale.

[Tweet “Sometimes a good deal isn’t as great a deal as you think… “]

About a year ago I realized that the reason I never felt “great” when I got dressed in the morning was because most of my clothes were things I didn’t really love – but I’m a sucker for a clearance rack! Not only that, sometimes we can end up spending MORE money because we think we’re getting a good deal.

These days, I spend a little more money {I still look for sales} on quality items I love and just have less clothes. Unfortunately, I still have a good number of clothes in my closet that are in great condition that I never wear. So, I’ll be going through them all this week. Things I never wear are going to our Appalachian Community Center so someone else can use them.

 Decision Time & How to Declutter

Clutter is really just another word for “unmade decisions.” So, it’s time to make some hard decisions. Grab a trash can {or bag} and two or three boxes {or bags} Mark them as follows:

  • Donate – for items to give away
  • Relocate – for items that belong in another room
  • Yard Sale – for items you want to sell {optional}

[Tweet “Learn How to Deal with Clutter with these 3 Simple Tips: “]

1. Decide what area you want to work on. This can be any area you feel is cluttered. However, instead of saying, “I’m going to declutter the living room.” say, “I’m going to declutter this pile of books on the living room floor.” or “I’m going to declutter this pile of papers on the dining room table.”

You want to set goals for yourself that you can actually accomplish in a short amount of time without feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Your overall goal may well be to “declutter the living room” but that’s too broad of a statement. Small goals are more easily attained and at the end of the day I want you to feel good about what you’ve accomplished – however small. One drawer at a time. One pile at a time. One closet at a time. That’s how it gets done.

Change doesn’t happen over night. This process may be painful at times. It may be hard. It may bring you to your knees. That’s okay! Making hard changes is – hard! But in the end, not only will we find respite from the world in our homes, we will also find respite for our weary hearts!

2. Ask yourself some questions. As you go through your piles, closets, drawers, and other spaces as yourself these questions. Be honest with yourself!

  • Is this item still useful?
  • Do I really need this item?
  • Is this item adding to the quality of my life?
  • Do I love this item?
  • Is this item of sentimental value? Why?
  • Could someone use this item more?
  • Could I use something else in it’s place?
  • Do I have more of this item than I really need?
  • Is it broken?

3. Make a decision. If the answer to any of these questions is NO, you need to make a decision about what to do with the item – trash, donate, or yard sale. If the answer is YES, you need to make a decision about where that item’s home will be or is.

If the item is really useful – something you use on a regular basis find a permanent home for it in an area of your home that makes sense. If your closets are full and you have no idea where to stick it, you’re going to need to make room – and that may mean getting rid of other things so that the things you love and use have a place to live.

Sometimes it’s tempting to hold on to things that we really don’t need. Maybe you have an emotional attachment to the thing for one reason or another.

For instance, if you grew up really poor, it can be hard to let things go if you have a deep fear of not being able to afford things in the future. Our deep seated emotional hangups aren’t necessarily things we think about or process in our minds. But they are reflected in our behaviors.

Maybe you’re hanging on to clothing that no longer fits because you keeping hoping one day they’ll fit again. Reward yourself with new clothes when you lose the weight! Go ahead and donate those clothes to a place where someone less fortunate than you can use and enjoy them.

Maybe the item is broken, but you think you can fix it… for years I would hang on to broken things thinking, “One of these days I’ll get around to fixing that.” The truth is, it’s probably not going to get fixed. Or maybe you save broken things just because… Unless you have a better track record than mine… go ahead and throw it away.

Sometimes shopping and buying new things is a way that women {and men} make themselves feel better when they feel empty inside. Past hurts, emotional pains, failed relationships, unhappy marriages, discontentment can all cause us to look for ways to mask the pain. But the truth is, no amount of material possessions – however shiny and pretty – can fill that empty place in our hearts. There is only one Person who can fill that hole and Jesus wants you to bring all of your baggage to Him and set it at His feet.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

[Tweet “Jesus wants you to set all of your baggage at His feet.”]

He wants you to be free from the burdens of this world. Clutter never adds to your peace of mind and it doesn’t give you peace in your heart.

Some clutter in our lives – like the pile of “important” papers perpetually found on our kitchen counters or on our desks, simply need to find a new home because they are important. You need to know the schedule of your son’s soccer games! That’s where having a household notebook can come in real handy. Or you could create a file system that works for you. The important thing is to not be like the ostrich and stick your head in the sand.

Make a decision – one at a time – and you’ll see the piles of clutter reduce before you know it!

Today’s Goal

  • If you feel like you have too much stuff, write down your thoughts on WHY you have too much stuff. Do you overbuy? Do you shop to heal the pain? Do you just have a hard time letting things go?
  • Pick up a journal and write down your thoughts about what He has shown you or print my free prayer journal.
  • Choose an area in your home you want to tackle. I’ll be working in my living room today.
  • Fill at least one bag or box full of stuff to give away. You can donate to our Appalachian Community Center if you’d like.
  • Take a picture of your bag. Share it on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram – use hashtag #atimetoclean {optional}
  • Leave a comment below about what you chose to get rid of and anything else God has laid on your heart.
  • Do your best to wake up early tomorrow and spend time in prayer. Use your prayer journal. I’ll be waking up around 6:00 am.

My Problem with Books

So, I’m a lover of books. I used to think it wasn’t possible to have too many books. I remember many occasion saying that very statement out loud.

I was wrong.

As a homeschool mom – I have a lot of books. As an avid reader myself – I have a lot of books. As a wife of a man who loves books and collects antique books – I have a lot of books. As a blogger who constantly gets free books in the mail for review – I have a lot of books.

My living room is not the only place in the house that is overrun with piles of books that have no official home because all of the book shelves are completely filled. Lots of rooms in my house have piles of books. And closets… but for today I’m working in here.

Remember, one pile at a time…

So, Mondays I’m gone from home for about 14 hours. But there are still people in the house. And, on Sunday nights… well there’s no guarantee that the house was straightened up before bedtime. I mean, that’s my intention… my reality? Something different.

Here’s what my living room looks like on a typical Tuesday morning before we straighten things up. Y’all, I don’t like sharing messy house pictures. Just so you know.

You can see them morning sun shining through the windows…

My living room... Before @ AVirtuousWoman.org #atimetoclean

You can see guitars and a music stand and music books… a tent, shoes, a violin, random papers, a couple of jackets tossed, haphazard throw pillows, and piles of books in the left corner. What you don’t see is the other piles of books by the piano and the excess books on the book shelves.

So, we straightened up the living room after this picture was taken. I forgot to take a photo of the room in it’s straightened condition. Of course.

Real life happens at home… don’t expect perfection. Neat, maybe… but not perfect.

[Tweet “Real life happens at home… don’t expect perfection.”]

Here’s what the room looks like tonight:

Real life happens at home... don't expect perfection. @ AVirtuousWoman.org #atimetoclean

So, back to my piles of books. I tackled three of the four piles. I’ll get that last pile tomorrow! 

Real life happens at home... don't expect perfection. @ AVirtuousWoman.org #atimetoclean

Real life happens at home... don't expect perfection. @ AVirtuousWoman.org #atimetoclean

Real life happens at home... don't expect perfection. @ AVirtuousWoman.org #atimetoclean

So, there you have it. In the last photo, you’ll see there are still some books and binders next to the piano. The kids use that stuff for their music lessons… and right now I just don’t have a prettier way to store it. That’s real life. At least it’s neat.

Do you have a hard time letting things go?

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my favorite ways to get rid of stuff and bless others! And then on Friday we’ll be looking at how to deal with sentimental objects that you want to keep.

Follow Melissa Ringstaff {AVirtuousWoman.org}’s board How to Get Rid of Clutter on Pinterest.

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  1. Melissa, I am so much enjoying all of your posts. You speak from your heart. A heart for god. I must say I am having a bit of trouble with this de-cluttering process, for many reasons some you mentioned. I almost feel like throwing in the towel-- (so to speak). However I am not going to do that. So thank you, for your encouragement. CONSTANCE
    1. Constance, I understand how hard it can be. All you need is a moment of courage to toss that object into the trash or the donate box. A moment of courage. Then don't mentally revisit it. We'll get through this together! If you have specific questions, feel free to ask! God bless you!
  2. I joined less than a week ago and really enjoy your daily email and missions. I did get a sack of clothing & shoes together to donate. What a great idea to post a picture of it! Thank you for the encouragement you give!
  3. This is so great. Thank you for sharing "real life" I have plenty of it. Question though, what did you do with the books??? I am not overrun by books but certainly have many. I am curious as to whether you boxed them, relocated them, gave some away or all of the above. Thanks!
    1. Annie, I did box them up. I'll be talking more about that tomorrow, but just know that some of the books are headed for the Good Will, a lot of the nicer ones will go to my favorite used book store so I can get store credit, and I pulled together two stacks of books I think my step-daughter and daughter-in-law would enjoy reading. :) Great question!
      1. Thank you! What I am overrun by is magazines. I have gotten rid of several piles over the last few months but I'm going to get to the rest of them by this weekend. In fact, I'm going to tackle a pile now. You are an inspiration in "real life" Godly and practically.
  4. I've been de-cluttering all morning! Feels so good to see the box of this to donate, the list of items to sell, and the garbage bag that needs to go out! Thank you for encouraging us all to take this step and de-clutter our lives!
  5. I saw your 30 day challenge yesterday on Pinterest. First I want to thank you for being so transparent and honest. I struggle with how others will judge me on my messy, cluttered house. I've read your post and some of the other women's, and it has really touched my heart. I've also prayed about this… Have been praying for a couple of months now. I know God led me to your site. Today I started and completed cleaning out the carport, something I have been wanting to do for 10 years now! Can't wait for tomorrow. And thanking you and God for the guidance.
    1. Wow, Stephanie! Good for you! It's funny how we put off those chores we dread thinking its going to be so horrible... and then when it's done I always wonder why I hadn't done it sooner because it feels so good! :) I'm so glad you're joining in... God is working miracles!
  6. This post is so helpful! It's good to know that I'm not the only one struggling with the "clutter" issue! Love the before and after photos - they really bring it to life! Thanks for sharing :)
  7. You said to post comments below of other reasons people hold on to things and this is my reason/excuse: I have a hard time letting go of things because I think I could repurpose the item or use it for a craft project in the future. Every item I own has the potential to be useful for one of my "projects". Also my attic is full of old mirrors, chairs, windows, and bookshelves waiting for my creative juices to get going to paint them. Oh, and did I say Paint? My husband (sort of) hates that I have gob loads of half used paint and paint's I've gotten marked down. They are so useful, and cost saving, when I want to mix my homemade chalk paint. So my biggest problem is my imagination that sees a purpose for everything. Since we are now living in a smaller house I need to get a grip on this clutter. It takes my peace away to be surrounded by clutter, and I know God wants me to always be in peace.
    1. Lorre, thanks so much for sharing. Great example! So I guess the questions would then be: Is there a way you can store all of your "projects in waiting" that will add peace to your {and your husband} mind? Can you realistically expect to actually use all of you saved project ideas? If not, which ones do you think you're mostly likely to get around to making? I wish I had that much creativity! Sounds like you are an awesome crafter!
  8. I am working on de-cluttering also. My problem is that my Mom has been at 2 diff. asst. livg places and each time stuff comes to my house. She cannot see well anymore so I have to make decisions about many things. I have two younger siblings who live around also. My brother doesn't appreciate and my sister's taste is modern. Also family heirloom furniture comes to me since I like the "old stuff" It should be kept because there are memories. I have a smaller home so it is a challenge I will keep working at it. Anyone have ideas on how to make things available that should be kept so everyone has an opportunity? I know most o the stories and so would pass those on as well. I don't want anyone to take something just because they think I don't want it and then get rid of ...you know. Thoughts.
    1. Hi Ann, This is a hard season in your life for sure. My husband's mother passed away recently and for years we have been "the keepers" of many things. It's tough when there's so much and so many decisions to make. Have you asked your siblings what things mean the most to them? I would ask. When my MIL passed away we asked everyone in the family what things they wanted from the house and we divided it up. You may want to write down the stories you remember and keep them with the pieces. Things that you can't use and no one wants, you could take a lovely picture and journal about your memories. That is if you can bear to part with the stuff! Memories are precious. I talked about this a couple of days ago: http://avirtuouswoman.org/2014/11/07/sentimental-things/ Decide what pieces mean the most to you and then figure out what you need to do {or get rid of} to make space for those items. I know it's hard! I'll be praying for you. Let me know how things go!
  9. I am still working on my kitchen today, Yesterday I cleaned out the food cabinets and put everything in order. I can now tell at a glance what I am out of and what I can fix for dinner. I don't do menus because I live alone and pretty much just eat what I want, when I want. I'm sure we'll discover later in this series why that's wrong. lol. I am taking pictures as I go and really enjoying this. I love it that you remind us to consult God on even this basic issues. I like knowing that my house will only have what God considers necessary by the time I am through. It will be a true sanctuary for me and all my visitors because I am clearing out anything that I think may be unpleasing to God. That goes for my physical belongings as well as my emotional and spiritual belongings. Thanks for your help. You are a great blessing to me.
    1. Ruth, I love your enthusiasm! They last couple of days have been so hectic for me - I've gotten very little done and almost no writing! But my house is looking so much better and so close to being clutter free! God is good. We only need to trust Him. God bless you!
  10. I am not a very good house keeper. I am going through a rough patch since my separation from my husband. It is very difficult to declutter. Things are everywhere and I do not seem to have the strength to tidy. I am ashamed of the condition of my house and I cannot entertain because of the mess. Thanks for the suggestions. I pray that God will give me the strength to get up and tidy my house.
  11. Wow! My friend text me this link yesterday. And I asked myself, "Why? Did she have to send this today!" I am sick and my five children are sick, my husband just told me he doesn't feel well and his throat hurts! Not to mention tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I just felt like i had recovered from Halloween last week after i indulged in reading two wowonderful novels for 2 days straight, the week after hosting a surprise party. I felt i had cleaned throughly, but... Here i am looking around my home and seeing little piles of clutter. I felt overwhelmed, again! Aghhh! I read the 1-touch rule, hmmmm... Very good advice. I am going to put that into practice (for the things i have homes for, lol!) Today, i am going attack my coffee table and my laundry. I do my best to keep up with putting laundry away, but it is rare all the clothes are clean put away. Lol. My young children usually help a great deal with this chore now, but many times we run out of hangers. I will focus on a give away bag to free up hangers and give us some searching room in our closet space. I would love to read about your friend's laundry advice. Thanks for the encouraging words. I often have a hard time deciding where to start, and feel bad when i don't get everything accomplished. God Bless!
  12. I know this is old, but I'm just now reading it. I live alone, but my grands are over a lot. When they're not here, what's my reason for not cleaning up?? Lots of 'em. I can't seem to make the baby (almost 3) clean up, cuz what's the use?? sigh, I'm gonna keep going. After I read several of your other posts earlier, I got up and cleaned off the kitchen counter by the fridge. and that lead to going thri the cabinets above, cuz no room to put the stuff! And so I found a LOT of expirred food, and meds that had to go. That part of the counter is clear now! Thanks!
  13. I am finding that I have to take my time with these and sometimes read them several times over several days. It is a busy time of year. I work full time and I am swamped with so many people waiting on things. I am exercising for the first time in a long time, so I am finding I am more tired in the evenings. My husband is busy outside the home, so most of the housework is falling to me. I am not complaining, just stating facts. But I am giving myself the time to do this right. It is inspirational, even at a slower pace. It is a beautiful meditation for me at a time when the world is all about what do I get?

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