break it down

Clutter.  We have it.  Gobs of it.  It’s driving me nuts.  I’m not brave enough to show you “before” pictures, but I am brave enough to tell you what I’m going to do about it.  Then, if I’m successful, maybe I’ll show some befores and afters.
My family has no clue that I’m taking this on.  This might be setting myself up for failure, stress, and breakdown, but I’m hoping not. 
One of my favorite things is when a bunch of different sources, experiences, and stories from different places and times come together from my memory in one moment as a great big idea.  So here’s my inspiration:

  • That feeling you have in January when you’re working on goals or resolutions or whatever you call them; the proverbial blank slate, new page, or turning a new leaf feeling.  I want to have that feeling before January.
  • Most recently, “The Empty Table” by Abby Quillen (yay, she back!) at New Urban Habitat was the final push I needed.  For me, she precisely captured the feeling I crave in my home.
  • By chance I stumbled across a bunch of Internet chatter about 31 Days.  I briefly considered joining, but decided 31 days wasn’t long enough for this task or season of life.  Also, I have no desire to blog about this every day—my time will be better spent de-cluttering.  My personal timeline is going to be about 3 months. 
  • Much like Abby, Meg wrote once about the need for a clean and organized workspace before beginning a project.  My frustration exactly—with my “project time” coming in fractured, unpredictable bursts, it’s very discouraging to pounce on that unanticipated window of time only to spend it cleaning, organizing, or searching for that lost something.  The other day Cowboy and I essentially tore our room apart looking for my sewing machine manual, only to find it sitting on the sewing table.  Plus, I can’t get that lovely image of those jars and knitting needles out of my head.
  • Sarah Jane’s 40 bags in 40 days.  Our town’s thrift store scene is great, but donations are complicated.  I’m counting the days until our new Goodwill opens and I’ll be able to drive a load of unwanted items into town whenever I want.  Until then, I’ll have to store items in the garage, or remember to take them with me to the Big City when I have things to dispose of.  Sarah’s challenge last year reminded me to break this humongous task into smaller ones.
  • If you’ve ever read a book by Dave Ramsey or listened to his radio show, you’re probably familiar with the “Debt Snowball”.  Earlier this year, I read The Total Money Makeover, and I’m applying the Debt Snowball principle to my clutter.  Ideally, I’ll work on the smallest, easiest areas to conquer first, gaining enthusiasm and momentum along the way, until I finally reach the most daunting area and crush it with my massive Clutter Snowball.  In case you’re wondering, the worst area is the master bedroom, and it’s always been my downfall in the past, as I start there first, and wind up defeated.  Can’t hurt to try it a different way.
  • I began reading Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert after I began my project two days ago, and couldn’t have received any better encouragement than this:

Ideally you want the environment to support all of your goals and values.  As you figure out what your goals are, take a hard look at your surroundings: are they helping you or hurting you?—pg. 23

  • My mom tells me the story of a dear lady she lived with during college whose secret to keeping her home under control was to spend 10 minutes each night before she went to bed picking up the clutter.


To get started I sat down in my living room and mentally went through each room of the house that I want to tackle and broke it down by drawers, cupboards, counters, corners, nooks and crannies.  This resulted in the two papers you see above—now taped to the wall beside my bed.  (I thought about prettying them up in Evernote, but I think I’m going to stick with simple.)
Ideally I would concentrate on one room at a time, but because the little people almost always demand my presence in a room other than the one I want to be in, my main goal is just to check areas off the list.  I’m aiming to check at least two areas off the list each day.  Two days down, and the house is already looking better.

6 thoughts on “break it down

  1. So impressive. I just started trying to organize our basement which is 1/3 craft space, 1/4 toys, 1/4 storage and the rest laundry and work bench. I look forward to your inspiring progress 🙂

  2. Way to go and good luck with your big project! I think you are SO smart to make it a 3 mo project – nothing derails me more than failing at an unreasonable timetable!

  3. I just recently spent a month doing my 20-thing-a-day purge; at first it doesn't seem like I'm making any progress AT ALL—but by the end of the month, my goodness, life was getting better! Start small—I think the key is to keep at it!!! Good luck!

  4. Trying to do this myself but with a 9 week old, a 2 year old and a 4 year old occupying my time I haven't been as good as I wanted to be. But I do post before and after pics on my blog LOL the befores with much shame. LOL

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