Cut the Clutter: The Key to Being Simple and Organized

Cut the Clutter: The Key to Being Simple and Organized

More is Not More

So many people go through life thinking more is more. The more I have the happier I will be. First and foremost, more is not more. Learn to cut the clutter.

How our lives become full of clutter

I went through a phase like this many years ago. Our business started becoming successful and we had more money than we ever had. We weren’t rolling in the dough, far from it, but it was significant for us. We were finally at a point where we didn’t have to count every penny and stick to a tight budget. Hubs and I used to have a deal that we needed to confide in each other if we wanted to make a purchase over $100. But now we were at the point that we didn’t have to do that. Because of this  “comfort zone” we created for ourselves we had enough funds to make purchases without worrying so much. 

As a result I started buying more stuff. I began to “stock up” on things like body lotion or paper towels. Likewise, I would buy more shoes and purses. In addition, I would find things on “sale” and decide it was sensible to buy a dozen of them because we would use them eventually so why not. For instance I would buy a shirt I maybe only “liked” because I could. After about a year of this, I was miserable. My life had become about getting the next best thing and the “stuff” I had accumulated was making me miserable. The problem is I didn’t even realize that was happening. I thought I was just unhappy in other parts of my life. Instead I thought I was in a “rut”. In reality, I needed to cut the clutter.

Start to cut the clutter with self-reflection

One day I did some self-reflection. I asked myself “Is it everyone around me making me miserable or is something wrong with me?” I had everything I wanted or needed so why was I so unhappy?  Indeed it took some deep digging but what eventually I realized is this: my life became all about the “stuff”. I thought more was better. Besides I thought a new purse would make me happy or a new pair of boots would make a difference in my life. What I realized is I wasn’t unhappy after all. In addition I was really was happy on the inside; I loved to sing and dance and definitely love spending time laughing with friends. Nevertheless I was still really miserable was when I had to deal with all the “things” I had. I had so many things to de-clutter and needed to get started.

1.) I had a great family.

2.) I had a successful business.

3.) I had a wonderful home.

Being a minimalist

Before I went through this “phase” I didn’t even truly realize what an actual minimalist I was. Honestly I was made this way…it was and part of my genes and I didn’t realize it. I am a naturally organized and simple person and this way of living makes me the happiest. Alternatively was my eighties phase in high school. There was nothing simple about 30 pairs of giant foam earrings from Claire’s or fluorescent mini skirts and the biggest bangs I could topple on my head.  Those were that days and while not not my simpler times I think every teenager goes through it hey? I realized I needed to get back to the mantra “ less is more”. I truly live my life in that way without a doubt. And undoubtedly I am much happier because of it.

Where to start de-cluttering

My life today is driven by the simplicity of things. And one place I like simplicity is in decision making. I don’t have a problem making decisions and I am also decisive in every aspect of my life. I have finally allowed myself that luxury because of the way I choose to live. 

People are unhappy partly because of the numerous decisions they have to make each day. It starts when we wake up and continues to be an ongoing process throughout the day. First, what should I wear? Second, what should I eat? Third, what should I do? 

Decisions, decisions, decisions

We need to cut the clutter in our decision-making. I have learned that the more difficult and decisions I must make, the more miserable I am. However, I hate making decisions only when there are too many options. And that is how life has become hasn’t it? There are numerous options for what type of coffee shop to visit each day, what color nail polish to use, which outfit to wear, what movie to see, or which restaurant to try. Decisions surround us every second of the day. Overall decisions can cause us to become overwhelmed and stressed.

One of my favorite little kids books is called “The Monster Who Couldn’t Decide”. It is about a monster that becomes so overwhelmed with what muffin to choose or which hat to buy and how he finally overcomes the panic that ensues inside of him. I bet we all feel like that monster sometimes. Consequently instead of making another decision I’d rather go snuggle up in my bed and hide for the day. We have so many things to de-clutter in our minds.

The Monster Who Couldn’t Decide is a book by Andi Green. The book is about an adorable monster who has way too many decisions to make in a single day that it leaves him confused and exhausted and downright frustrated. Fond out what makes him find his way into easier decision making.

I think a lot of our stress comes from making those decisions and we don’t even realize how much it wears on us. I have found a way to simplify and organize my decision-making. This is something that will take some practice for most of you and it isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Let me help you cut the clutter.

Decision-making is one of the biggest causes of stress in our lives. We all can make those decisions easier by compartmentalizing and simplifying them. There are dozens of decisions to make each day. Some of them you just can’t avoid and you have to do your best. Start small by making decision making easier in some aspects of your life, and soon it will flow into other areas. 

I am going to start you off with one very important way to make your decision making easier. You will realize through this exercise just how much the “stuff” in your life and the clutter and dis-organization of it all is causing you stress. 

Your Wardrobe ~ Things to de-clutter

We make the biggest decision before the day even starts: “What should I wear?” This decision can cause a lot of stress. But why does something that should be so simple cause us so much time and stress? Because we want to look good that’s why. No one wakes up and says “I want to look super sloppy for my meeting today. What can I wear that will really help me pull off that look?” Even if we don’t want to admit it, we care what other people think. It matters to us. And if you don’t care about that, maybe you care about how you feel. Most importantly certain clothing makes us feel good. When we feel good we have already begun to cut the clutter.

We know the importance of the decision of what to wear each day but it can become unorganized in our brain. Here’s how you can make it simple. 

I always ask myself each day is what can I wear that will be extremely comfortable, but still look polished and pretty. Remember I coach gymnastics as my day job, and gymnastics coaches wear “active wear”.  It is so important to me that I feel comfortable and have excellent temperature control. I am a freeze-baby 100% of the time. I love to be warm and my temperature regulates my mood. Everyone knows this about me. Above all, knowing this is how I want to feel each day helps me make the decision on what to wear.  

First, I set my goal to being comfortable, and second to be temperature regulated (which means possible layers), and to look nice. I’m not going to lie, some days depending on what’s on the agenda in the gym I am all out sweat suit set. But I always make sure it’s coordinated and fun.

Differing from that I also LOVE the disheveled look and appreciate that it is a look within in itself actually. I love when I see people completely not matching and their look it so unorganized that it is actually organized. These people probably took hours to choose that outfit for the day but it looks like they quickly grabbed whatever. I love it. Which is weird that I love it but I do but not always, just sometimes. That look would make me crazy more than twice a year. I can get so side-tracked. Where was I?

Let’s get started and cut the clutter.  First, set your goal for the day. What do you want your outfit to make you feel & look? This is literally a 2 second decision, no more. Done. Next.

Second, you stare. And stare. And stare. Into the abyss of your closet. Into the black hole. You check your watch and 15 minutes have passed and still here you are. Naked and cold, with only a watch on. And here is what is going through your mind:

Words that scroll through our minds…..

I hate that shirt

That’s ugly

That makes me look fat

I wore that last week

I hate that shirt

That jacket is so 1990

That one is dirty

That shirt doesn’t go with those pants

I hate that shirt

Hmmm, should I wear a Hawaiian shirt in winter?

Blue with black? (I’ll look like a bruise!)

Those are too tight

I don’t feel like wearing that

Ugly

Uglier

Ugliest

I hate that shirt

This is without a doubt what happens.  Done yet? You haven’t even chosen shoes!

Here is why it is so difficult. You have too many choices to make because you have too many clothes to choose from.  Choices, choices, choices. 

In order to make it easier, you have to simplify and let some (no, probably a lot) of things go. Remember, I don’t throw things away. Every item in your home should have an after life with another owner. So donate your things to others. But I call it “tossing”. So when I say “I toss it”, I mean “I donate it”. Just because you are de-cluttering things does not mean they get thrown in the trash.

How & Where to start De-cluttering in Your Closet

I organize and de-clutter my wardrobe by only keeping things that I have worn within that three-month season. Period, no exceptions. If I have not worn it, I toss it. Seriously? Yes. Seriously.  If I have not found that a shirt gives me enough joy to put it on and wear it outside my home within 3 months, than it has no home in my closet. This can be a really hard process for some people. Some people get very attached to “things” and you have to learn to let that go. I find people do that especially with more expensive things. But it doesn’t really matter how much an items costs. If you don’t use it, toss it. Alternatively those more expensive items are moneymakers for you. You should sell things online or at a consignment shop if you have know how. 

I live in Minnesota and we have all four seasons here: winter, spring, summer and fall (although some say we only have 2; winter and summer). 

I evaluate my wardrobe once a season has passed.

Make piles and purge to help cut the clutter

First I look through clothing and make a pile of things I did not wear at all. If I am having trouble letting go of something, which can happen, I ask myself this question: “Does it make me happy (feel good)?” If my answer is yes, then it most likely wouldn’t have been in that pile to being with.  I love a good purge. I don’t have too much to purge in my home anymore so I love to go into client’s homes and help them with that process. Purging is such a freeing process. I love it and you will too in time. It is the best way to cut the clutter from your life. Then move onto jackets, shoes, boots, purses, bags, socks, undies, etc.

1.) Move Clothing From Each Season into Storage

Second I move everything form one season out of my closet and into storage. Do not keep all seasons of clothing in a closet all year long. I only keep items in there for the season we are in. I do not keep an entire year of clothing in my closet at one time because that would be overwhelming. Not only are you deciding between pants or skirt but you have to shuffle through tanks and shorts to make your decision.  Simplify it and only have in your closet what you need for that season. This is where you will start to see the de-cluttering process making a difference.

2.) Move new seasonal items from storage and cut the clutter again

Third, I get the new items from out of storage for next season and re-organize the space. This is my favorite part! It’s like I’m getting all new things! I have likely forgotten what was in my spring box from a year ago, and I get so excited seeing all my clothes. It’s like they are new again and it gives me a sense of renewal and starting fresh. It’s the same feeling you would get buying a new item at a store. It really is. 

3.) Finally I go through another purge process when I open the box from storage.

There are always things to de-clutter when you pull items from storage. I may have worn something many times last spring that I loved, but looking at it now I say “what was I thinking???” and would not possible wear it even if you paid me.  summarize you should purge, store things, renew, organize, purge again. 

Cutting the clutter reduces stress and takes less time

Deciding what things to de-clutter may seem like quite a task to many of you, but after some practice you will start to respect the reason for it and then start loving it. I promise it will be freeing and it will become natural to you. You will also start to “purge as you go”, and we will talk about that process later.

I used to lay my outfit out every day before school, and it even got to the point of weekly outfit selections hung in my closet neatly in order (soooo satisfying!).  This process allowed me more time to sleep and less stress when I woke up.  I had made the decision when I wasn’t under a time constraint. Teenager living was so much fun. I loved the organization of it and the thoughtfulness it took.  Likewise I loved the process of picking out each item, making sure it wasn’t being laundered, and how it all coordinated down to the earrings. 

As an adult I live very close to that process, but not to the extreme meaning I don’t organize weekly outfits (usually). I know that each day for me a different meeting could pop up last minute that changes what I wear that day. So I can’t quite organize my outfits a week in advance (although if I know we have a fun date coming up that weekend I might get excited and create an outfit and have it all hung up ready to go). But I am very strict about lying out what I will wear the night before. This allows me to fall asleep better knowing I have less stress in the morning.  

If you walked into my closet you may think I never have things to de-clutter.  My closet is organized by color, and type of clothing (shirt, skirt, sweaters, etc).  Then I have sub-categories: My shirts are organized by length of sleeve. I organize my pants are organized by dressy, active wear and casual. My shoes by temperature control and work or play. By being this organized, it allows me to very easily choose what to wear each day. It is not overwhelming. It is simple and easy and almost done for me. 

I also have an area in my closet that I put my outfit out for the next day and I smile every time I walk into my closet. I feel so peaceful when I see the  simplicity of it all.

Things to De-clutter in your Dresser drawers

I have so much respect and love for others lovers of organization and their teachings. We are all trying our best to make your lives easier through cutting the clutter and organization. We all have things that work for us, and love to help make those things work for you too. But I do respect that my way isn’t for everyone. You may love so much of what I have taught you, but then you might find one of my ideas outlandish and hey, I’m ok with that. As long as I have taught you something I am pleased. That being said, I don’t necessarily adopt everything others do either.

My goal is not only to make you organized, but also give you something you can continue doing that allows for ease in your life. I do not agree with going so far in your organization that you have to fold clothes into tiny little portions and make them fit tightly and neatly into a drawer divider. I do like drawer dividers, but I like them because they allow for some “messiness” in your space. “Did she just say “messiness”? I did, I know. But sometimes messy is good. 

As a sample test, I adopted a certain “style” of organizing my dresser drawers for one week. I folded and creased and snuck them all into their neat little areas. I did fit a lot of stuff into the drawer, this is true. (insert picture) And it looked gorgeous!!!  Don’t you agree…it’s a thing of beauty! Now all this tight fitting clothing I guess is a benefit if you are low on space. But are you? Low on space that is? The truth of the matter is you probably have plenty of space, you just have TOO MUCH STUFF! 

Along with that here is what else happened: I spent more time every day getting ready because taking those socks out of that tidy perfectly neat little space without disrupting the other 8 pairs of socks was nearly impossible! I would pull out a pair of socks and eight other pairs would get messy in the process. So I would spend 5 minutes re-organizing the drawer so it all looked perfectly pretty again. This happened again with my undies, and my t-shirts. So I spent 15 minutes re-organizing a single drawer just to put my under clothes on…I hadn’t even made it into my closet yet!

Point being, as pretty and organized as it looks, it isn’t very practical. And “practical’ is my middle name (along with organized and simple. I have 3 middle names, don’t you?).

I want for you to be organized and stress free. But I want to give you tools that you can maintain and that make your life simpler. I am not about creating more work and stress for you. 

Where to start de-cluttering your dresser drawers

First, I use organizers for sure, because otherwise it will end up looking like this (insert photo). Second, I don’t fold everything. My undies don’t get folded. Sorry, not sorry. I throw them in there because I found that is quicker for me. But since they have their own compartment, they don’t get mixed up with bras and socks so that’s ok.  I pair my socks together but I don’t find it necessary to fold them into tiny rolls. If that makes you happy and you have extra time for that then have at it! I just find certain things are easier for me than others.

I separate dress/casual socks with workout socks so that helps. Bras get “hugged” together. T-shirts get folded like a normal regular not crazy person would fold them (I do like to fold so there is no crease down the middle). I stack t-shirts front to back. This does take time initially but it helps you to not have to dig through the entire drawer looking for a certain shirt. 

One main point to think about with drawers is don’t over-stuff them. You need to purge through them with the same system I taught you for the closet. In doing so, you will find it is much easier to keep them neat and organized and cut the clutter.

My method is simple, but it allows for some flexibility. I know your life is not just like mine. You have a different time allotment for things than I do. You may want to be organized but maybe not to the extreme that I follow. Or maybe you need some serious guidance for every single part of your life. No matter what type of help you are looking for, I am here.

To sum it all up, I cut the clutter in the drawers as much as anywhere else. However, since they are closet all the time I find you can be a little less picky with how detailed you get organizing them. I make it easy so you can maintain it. I make it simple and less time consuming. 

Purging as you go will help cut the clutter every day

How do you maintain an organized system throughout my closet in between seasons? Depending on how much you purchase, you may need to cut the clutter on an ongoing basis. If you only purge every season months, you could have a mess on your hands and accumulate too much stuff. This will cause you to stress out and lose precious time.

Golden rule to cut the clutter

I have a golden rule for myself: if I buy something new, I go home and immediately choose an item to replace it with, and then toss that item. For example, if I buy a new tank top I go home and find a current tank top in my drawer replace it with. I add that tank to my bag donate to Good Will. Don’t continue to accumulate more and more things as months pass. I do this will all clothing and most household decorative items. If I purchase a new set frame, then I toss an old frame away. Some people have so much of everything, but is it really making them happier? I’m happy when the donation truck pulls up to the curb and someone, somewhere will be getting some new digs. 

Always have a donation bag ready to go in your mudroom closet and when it fills up make a trip. 

Sheets, shoes and more sheets

A friend of mine has 12 sets of sheets for her bed and as many comforter sets. She is constantly changing them out and buying new ones as soon as one catches her eye. She does not have the budget to be doing so, mind you. Additionally, she is constantly complaining about money and having to pay her minimum on her credit cards. Nor does she have the room in her house for all this stuff! Comforters take up space, in your house and your mind. They make her crazy in so many ways. 

I have 2 sets of sheets for my bed: flannel for winter and a spring/summer set. I also have 2 comforters. That’s it. But it can be hard because darnit Magnolia came into Target and their things are soooo cute, so much my style. So simple, so organized. 

I hope I have not misrepresented myself. Despite the fact that you should cut the clutter I do not mean for you to stop shopping. I love shopping and seeing as the new things designers have created for us to purchase. And I LOVE getting shiny new things. Geez I’m not an animal! All I ask is that you replace the old with the new. 

I get it some people have their “thing” that they like to have many of. Any I am ok with that. For me it is bags, not purses but bags. The place I carry my laptop in to work, or a bag to bring to the beach, etc. I am lucky and bags can be stored quite easily. Now you may be thinking….”you are kidding me! LORI….has a lot of bags? She says she hates too much “stuff”.”  Let me ease your mind….. I have 4 bags currently (there is another I have my eye on but I have to be willing to let go of one of my others). I will only allow myself 4 bags total. 3 of my bags were under $20 and one was a splurge. But to me 4 is enough. I do not and should not need more.

I have a guy friend that has 200+ pairs of shoes. When you walk into his mudroom, they are piled about 2 feet high and spilling all over the place. I get both anxiety and excited at the same time with the possibility he will let me organize them. One day he said yes! He had about 50 pairs hidden under the pile that he didn’t even know he had anymore. He had found a space in his sons closet for the overwhelming amount of shoes he had accumulated. It was out of control. We narrowed him down to 52 pairs that day. He now appreciates what he has so much more and looks forward to doing so in more areas of his life. 

In order to purge successfully and cut the clutter in your life you have to do it ongoing. It is a daily practice. You must be firm with yourself and be willing to let some things go if you want new things in your life. Otherwise it accumulates and accumulates and accumulates and accumulates until it has taken over your entire existence (hello…are you in there anywhere? I can’t find you through all this stuff).  

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