Sunday, September 27, 2009

What’s your clutter style? (subtitled: clutter confessions of a professional organizer)

Welcome to Fall y’all!  With the change of seasons I always get the bug to clear out more clutter.  (Gasp!  A professional Organizer admits to having clutter!  Stay with me here.)  This Fall, however, that bug is compounded by the fact that much of the summer was spent on home renovations.  It feels like we’ve packed up and moved a few times to endure new paint and TWO separate installations of flooring. 

Before we go any further, I must first familiarize you with some terms that I came to know through organizing pal, Aby Garvey of Simplify 101.  Aby has enlightened me to see clutter as a spectrum with several CLUTTER STYLES. 

  • Clutter Style One: Clutter that keeps us from living our best lives by getting in our way.  Be it physical stuff or emotional baggage, it is heavy duty clutter all the same.  In this case, Aby describes the clutter as “homeless” and titles it “backlog clutter”.  I agree!  If you have more stuff than you have places to stuff your stuff, this is your clutter style.  This is the type of clutter that leaves us saying “It was on that table right there, I think.  It could be under that stack of papers.  Or it might have moved to the counter top to make room for the thing-a-ma-bob.  Pretty sure I saw it a day or two ago in this general area somewhere.”
  • Clutter Style Two:  Clutter that randomly accumulates on flat surfaces.  This we call “surface clutter”.  The clutter items have a home, but they are not in their homes.  Often these seem to be nomadic pieces of clutter that never truly ever find their way back home.  Throughout the day most of us tend to have surface clutter – as we cook, do art projects, work, study, etc – you have to take items out of their homes at some point and USE them.  Also we live with others who may not be as aware of the surface clutter, so even while we try to help our belongings find their way home, they sometimes escape us and remain surface bound.  (Or maybe you’re the one who leaves them surface bound while a family member or roommate is constantly chasing after these items for you!) This is the type of clutter that leaves us saying “Has anyone seen my scissors?  They aren’t in their spot in the drawer.”
  • Clutter Style Three:  Your stuff is sorted, grouped, containerized, possibly even labeled.  (How can this be a clutter style???)  Just because it appears organized, doesn’t mean that these items still have a use.  If you are holding onto things that you no longer have a need for, it is just taking up space.  These things serve no purpose in your life and you’ve probably forgotten that they are even still lurking about!  This is “organized clutter”.  This is the type of clutter that leaves us feeling righteous about not having any clutter. 

Friends, I confess to you today, that I have been hanging onto my organized clutter.  We had to unearth all of that organized clutter, previously stored in labeled boxes in out of the way places (like the rear of closets and shelves too high to conveniently reach).  And since this organized clutter has been unearthed (and thus moved into the garage where my precious car used to live) we now have to DEAL with it.  I seriously had no idea that there were three Rubbermaid bins of old dolls of mine and my mother’s in my office closet.  And why are we holding onto huge suitcases, that in 8.5 years of marriage we have yet to use?  As a matter of fact, I had not used my huge suitcase since going abroad in 1996 -- except when moving from one residence to another!  Not small items, right?  The fact that they were out of the way and “not bothering anything” was ok for awhile.  I do NOT want to have to move these things again.  It is time to let go.

Is this just a grey area of organizing that I’m introducing?  I hope not.  The clutter is there and it is real.  I hope that this spectrum definition of clutter helps you to unearth you inner clutter bug and identify your clutter style.  What’s your clutter style?  If you’re an organized clutter bug like me, what is your nemesis?  Is it childhood memorabilia or stuff from a former stage in adult life? 

Note:  Before you all accuse me of being a non-sentimental snob, I will confess that do not hold sentiment for items, that is true.  However, if YOU have a favorite old blankie or bear of sentiment to you, that is serving a purpose.  I do not begrudge you a single sentimental item (or even two).  It is comforting you to still have it; I understand that.  Even I have kept anything given to my son that was handmade.  So for those of you who knitted and quilted and sewed cute things for him, Thank you!  They are in a single memory box keeping each other company.  Having one item (or a box of items) of this sentimental nature, however, is different from suffocating yourself in memories (like a closet or attic or houseful) to the point that you can not make new memories.  We need to be able to keep moving forward and not get stuck in the past with our sentiment… or get stuck in the present with our stuff.  Friend, yes, keep Mr. Bear and love him well. 

If you are in the Jacksonville/St. Johns area and would like your home better organized, and would like the assistance of a professional organizer, e-mail  You can also find me on Facebook by clicking HERE or searching for Organize With Julie.  Want to follow me on twitter? Find me @juliebavi.


We’re counting down the days ‘til Christmas with
89 Days to Christmas.  “Reap the Harvest” today.


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