How to Reclaim Your Life from Clutter


istock000005553756largesmallFor years my family and I have traveled to Vermont to work at our camp.  We leave behind the large NJ home and live in a 1100 square foot cottage with our two kids and our dog.

Our strategy for packing is straightforward:  Minimal clothing, furnishings, and stuff.  Everything fits in the back of our car (mind you, our house in VT is modestly furnished already).  The move is always very easy.

Every time we stay in Vermont, we fall in love with the simplicity of life there.  We don’t miss the stuff back home — clutter accumulated over years — leaving it all behind has been liberating.  Every time we come back to NJ we declutter just a bit more.  I am about to get rid of a big stuffed horse that whinnies, for freak’s sake!  We are getting there…slowly.

As a nation we are overwhelmed with “stuff” and drowning in clutter.  In many cases, it is overwhelming.  For some time, I did not have the ability to deal rationally with what I owned.  I kept things left and right for no reason whatsoever.

I doesn’t need to be that way.  It shouldn’t be that way.

My wife and I are on a journey to ensure that our home(s) are a metaphor for our life.  Our homes represent what we are and what we value.  After all, why should we have anything in our home that is not beautiful or functional?  With kids this can seem almost impossible, but take away the toys and the school papers and we are getting closer every day.

Not only do most of Americans’ homes have more things in them that we could possibly use, storage facilities are also a billion dollar industry!  Many people I know are searching for larger homes just to house their stuff.  It is truly out of control.

Our homes should be the place where we live simply, relax, and create.  How can we do these things if we feel like we are buried under a mess of stuff?

I have found myself in my home or my office feeling suffocated.  In the past, the massive piles of paper on my desk have literally done the following:

  • Given me a headache
  • Caused me to lose sleep thinking about “the pile”
  • Made me moody
  • Caused me to lose motivation
  • Made me extremely tired

Some other good reasons for us to address clutter:

  1. Clutter takes up head space.  We are liable to forget our priorities.  Do we really need the pile of old magazines?  How about the boxes of trinkets in our basement or garage?
  2. Our personal relationships suffer.  Have you ever decided to not have guests over because you were embarrassed at the state of your home?  I know that my wife is way more cognizant of cleanliness that I am.  Imagine not arguing about clutter and cleaning?
  3. Clutter drains our finances.  Yes, we already paid a lot of money for it, so call it “stupid tax” when you get rid of it.  We are paying to store it, insure it, etc.  So donate it, sell it, or give it away.
  4. Clutter invades our personal space.  Try decluttering one area just for yourself and you will see what I mean.  A clear, open space gives us piece of mind.
  5. Clutter prevents us from being in the present.  Think of all the things you keep because you “might need them someday”.  Holding on to the past prevents us from living in the “now”.

It’s Spring, so there is no better time than now to start reclaiming your life from clutter.  Imagine your ideal space in your home.  Start with one small room.  Can you visualize what your room looks like without clutter?  Start creating the atmosphere you want to live in, one trinket at a time.

I remember being around clutter for so long I barely even saw it.  Humble yourself by bringing someone you are close to into your home to help see what is really there.  However, no one can fix the mess except us, ultimately.

Start decluttering today.  Reclaim your life.

Or you can go look for a bigger house, instead…your choice.




  1. Having moved repeatedly, it was easy to get rid of clutter each time. It is so easy to get comfortable and let it accumulate. I still have a few boxed back “home” in France and each time I try to cut down and throw lots away.
    Pauline recently posted…Why I upgraded to a paid bank accountMy Profile

  2. Tony – good post, I’m a 365 Less Things reader and I love the idea of “stupid tax” you should tell Colleen that one!
    I don’t know if you caught the comments the other day but one of the other 365’ers put me onto a book called “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston a while back and it is an excellent read as she doesn’t into great depth with Feng Shui but if definately made me think a lot more about what I keep and where we keep it in the house.

    It was interesting comparing an ideal Feng Shui house grid with my actual house too, especially on how to retain money chii in a house.

    I also learnt something that was a light bulb moment for me, she said that keeping stuff “just in case” indicated a lack of faith in your own future. So although I sometimes still struggle with ‘just in case’ I remind myself of that.

  3. We really aren’t clutter people. I don’t even really like nick-nacks all that much, so we keep it pretty tidy. My downfall is clothing, and Js is papers (he doesn’t have a proper filing system). It’s good for the mental health to keep clutter to a minimum.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…Commercial Or Organic Food – What’s On Your Plate?My Profile

    • Hi Daisy – I had the same wardrobe problem and then someone else asked me to do Project 333 challenge with her. Keep 33 items to use for 3 months, box up everything else. Sounds hard? I gave myself so many ‘out clauses’ and early off-ramps but 12 months later I am still going – at one point I actually got down to 9 items and still never had nothing to wear (it was an end of season on top of drastic weight loss situation). Another friend recently wanted to get her wardrobe under control and but felt too wary of doing 33 items so I suggested doing 60 items. Its an interesting exercise even if someone does it just for one month. I absolutely love having a small wardrobe, its so easy to maintain and as clothes wear out quicker, new items still come in but no more discovering clothes with price tags still attached any more (bought years earlier) or donating to charity clothes that have been hardly worn.

    • Clothing can be sold on eBay for quite a bit of money! Start the process one article at a time and see where it goes!

  4. We piled the crap up in closets, on shelves, under the stairs for years. Now we are in the throws of a major purging and it feels tremendous. Our home is getting lighter, healthier and once again navigable.

    Vermont was our favorite get away when I was a child. We lived in Saratoga Springs, NY and it was not a long trip to Burlington to get the finest apples and cheddar.
    cj recently posted…Handle Minor Setbacks Like a PigMy Profile

  5. It always seems like a big step when you’re going through the process, but becoming uncluttered is extremely liberating. When you learn to live simply, you can’t imagine how you ever did anything else. Not letting things that really don’t matter consume your time and energy are so important. Great post and good luck on your personal journey.

  6. Great post! Clearning up is just so important – no matter how big a house you have, if it’s messy, it’ll seem small.
    And plus it’s just so much more comfortable to live in a clean environment.
    Troy recently posted…Different Types of Stop LossMy Profile

  7. I don’t think we’re terrible about clutter, but we could definitely be a lot better. I really like your point about your home reflecting your values. Without our son, I feel like we’re constantly accumulating and it takes real effort to scale back. Thanks for the reminder on an important topic that we’d really like to work on.
    Matt Becker recently posted…Changing One Habit at a TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for the comment, Matt. Our homes reflect our values for sure…it’s a no-brainer. My work day is filled with clutter of all types (mental, physical). I need to come home to peace and solitude.

  8. Turning clutter into cash is one of my favorite pasttimes, but where in the heck does all this “stuff” come from? I swear it just multiplies on its own without my doing anything!
    Pretired Nick recently posted…Pretirement is punk rockMy Profile

  9. Clutter is the worst – especially when you reach that “my room has exploded” moment. I managed to fit all of my work clothes in one carry-on suitcase for my summer internship… so I guess I don’t need anything more than that.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted…Apartment Therapy Small Cool Contest: You Could Win $3KMy Profile

  10. I go through a declutter routine every weeks, months or years. Weekly, I clean up my desk and may empty a drawer or two. Monthly, I may pick one thing to clean out. Every couple of years, I clean out clothes or maybe the garage.
    krantcents recently posted…How to Become Minimum Wage MillionaireMy Profile

    • Excellent that you are on it. MY desk gets the most attention (weekly), followed by the house (although I seem to declutter daily right now!).

  11. I’m clearing out the clutter all week! Donated a few bags of clothes and toys and just clearing all the shelf space to the minimum with things i love – photos, books, just keeping it simple. It’s hard to think with so much stuff around.
    Denise recently posted…A Study in Creative AdaptationsMy Profile

  12. I’m a bit nomadic, which has helped me deal with clutter. Every time I move, I’ve gotten rid of a bit more stuff. And now, we live in a teeny 500 sq ft condo – each purchase that adds to the amount of stuff we have is VERY noticeable! We have to consider whether our purchases are worth losing a bit more space, and often, it isn’t worth it unless we are specifically replacing something.
    CF recently posted…Updates: May 5 – 11My Profile

  13. After 40 years of marriage and 22 years in the same house, I know that defending against clutter is the same as defending liberty – you need eternal vigilance!
    Marie at Family Money Values recently posted…How to Write a Multi-generation Family Values Statement – Step OneMy Profile


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