junk drawer 2

The door unlocks, and I walk into my kitchen.  My eyes scan for that place.  The empty spot.  The place that’s clutter-free.

Some days I find it easily.  On those days it’s large and beautiful.  Most days it’s harder to find.  There’s just enough room for my purse–even though its designated landing spot is not anywhere I’m looking.  Too often there’s stuff everywhere.

Clutter threatens to overwhelm me.  If it were confined to a drawer or even a room where I could shut the door, life would be better. I could breathe with more ease.  It’s not.  It’s in each room.  It follows me to the office–and sometimes hangs out in my car.

I know it zaps the life from me.  It kills motivation.  It rebukes attempts at reform and revitalization. It mocks and shames.

I hate it.

You’d never know.  It looks like I love it.  In a glance you’d think I embrace it. I don’t.

Part of the problem is I have the organizational skills of a new born. My personality type doesn’t help either.  INFPs–we pile things.  As long as nobody messes with a pile, we’re pretty good.

I live with organizational fear, too.  “What if I file that?  How will I find it again?  What if I get rid of it?  I don’t have the funds to replace it if I need it?”  These are the thoughts that run through my head when I attempt to clear the clutter.  Those and, “Oh!  I remember when/where/with whom I got this.  I haven’t thought of that in ages!”  I’m afraid not only of not having the right thing at the right time but also of losing the memory attached with the thing.

I love the idea that everything should have its own place and be in it when it’s not being used.  It’s a fantastic thought.  I just have a really, really, really hard time discovering what that right place is.  I’ve found it for my keys and my purse–and they make it to their designated spots 98% of the time.  My shoes almost all have their own place, too.  After that, it’s a guessing game.

This year I decided to hang up more of my sweaters–but not all of them.  It causes a little confusion and consternation when I try to put something away.  The same principle works with almost anything else I have in my house.  I found a pair of kitchen scissors in the silverware drawer last night and thought, “Oh!  I remember thinking this was a good place for them a few months ago.  That’s why I haven’t been able to find them.”

I could regale you with many more examples like that, but I know you get the idea.

I know part of the problem is that I simply have too much stuff.  I’m working on it.  I started with clothes this weekend.  I’d like to continue with other things over the next few weekends.  It just gets depressing.

And paper?  It kills me.  Not in the paper cut kind of way, but in the does-it-breed-when-I’m-not-looking?!?!! kind of way.  Papers to file.  Papers to respond to.  Papers for the shredder.  Paper for the recycling bin.  It may just suffocate me.

While too much stuff makes for more clutter, I know that’s not the only problem.  Clutter and disorder are also reflections of my inner life.  If I haven’t had time to stop, rest, and enjoy, the clutter grows to unimagined proportions.  Taming a small corner can take more emotional energy than I have left at the end of the day.

If you’ve got brilliant ideas of how to organize my life and calm my fears, please give them to me.  If you’ve got a chunk of time and want to help me figure it out, I’ll clean off the bed in the guest room for you.  If you just want to commiserate, I’ll welcome that, too.

What are your thoughts on clutter?  Are you naturally a declutterer or do you attract the stuff?  How do you deal with it?



11 responses to “Drowning”

  1. I hate clutter! If it doesn’t have a use, I don’t want it. At the same time I attract stuff. I like to bargain hunt, I like to decorate, I have a husband and two kids – they need stuff! I like to make a big mess crafting and cooking. And I like to organize so I can hide my messes. That’s not a good thing.

    So, I fight my own internal battle.

    I definitely have a place for everything. There are spaces for my clutter so it hides and doesn’t taunt.

    Some things I do consistently:
    When the mail comes it, it goes in a slot on the wall. I only look at it once a week. When I do sort it, I shread right then, file right then and deal with what needs dealing with right then. But only once a week so I don’t feel like I am doing this all the time. It takes maybe 20 min.

    I empty my kitchen sink every night (not every meal). The kitchen counters are clear and dishwasher loaded (but not run until it’s full) every night.

    The main level is off limits to clutter. Basement and bedrooms are fair game (for the most part) but I have spaces that are calm and clear always. If I need to sit and read a book and pretend like my entire house is clutter free, there is always a space for that.

    With few exceptions I don’t keep clothes older than five years. Sure it costs money to replace them, but even on a tight budget it’s worth the splurge. You live in clothes and you’re worth new ones.

    The fridge gets cleared out once a week. I only go grocery shopping once a week. The day before I throw out anything that is expired, or leftovers from the week before.

    As for items that you want to hold on to for the story – I completely get that! Mike teases me that everything has a story. For me it’s enough to take a picture and write a caption for it on Picassa or my blog. I also have one box for such things. When it gets full I reevaluate.

    You know I’m excited to come help you in March. Sorry it can’t be sooner : (

  2. Sheryl, I’m an INFP too and your words rang so true for me. One of the things I’ve started doing is keeping a bag in an out of the way place and trying to see how quickly I can fill it with things I don’t need. Once it’s full, I donate it and I feel such a sense of relief. I’m trying to really pray and consider before I buy anything new to bring into our house. The less clutter I have, the more I love the feeling of spaciousness and simplicity. Blessings to you.

  3. Tirzah–thanks for the book recommendtion and the practical ideas. I’ll definitely consider putting some of these into practice. I’ve thought of the picture thing, but for some things I need the tactile. Like I said–I’m working on it and will figure out how to make some of your ideas fit my life.

    Sandee–thanks for stopping by! It’s nice to meet another INFP. I like your fill up the bag idea! That feels do-able.

  4. I can so relate to this, although James attracts more clutter than I do. The thing is what we get used to. It becomes so much the norm for us that we don’t realize how bad it looks until we have someone over. Just this morning, James threw a pile into a box, and it’s still sitting upstairs on our bed as I type. We had guests at lunch.
    Unfortunately, I’m reading the comments with as much interest as you are, since I haven’t yet found any fabulous solutions for our house either. My best advice is a little bit at a time. That’s what I try to go by… And not let it get any worse–that’s the hard part. When you’ve already got a lot of clutter it’s easy to let it completely take over. It’s part of the spiritual battle against chaos, as one of the bloggers I read (http://www.conversiondiary.com/2011/07/how-i-learned-to-love-housework.html) says…
    Be of good courage. ‘ugs.

  5. Wow! Great resources, Soul and Jennifer! Thank you. I read the blog post and I’ve got the 15 day de-clutter challenge feeding into my reader. I’m not sure I’m up to 15 daya of anything right now–too much being out of the house for 12-16 hours each day right now, but it will be in the reader for the end of this big conference. Thank you, ladies! You’re such an encouragement!

  6. Ha Ha! You know I relate. I file with piles and when they go in a filing cabinet I never find them again.

    But moving every year for the past ten years has helped immensely. Decluttering through necessity. Simplicity! But I still have a room for clutter and it makes me happy. A little ‘out of order’ makes my world go round. Too much order and I wilt.

    I like the bag idea too. Will try that one.

    Your happy ‘out of order’ friend…

  7. Hi Sheryl, as a sometimes enfp/infp (depending on the day) I have a problem with clutter… My husband (thankfully) is very organized, and kind… he won’t throw out my messes, but it does irritate him. I think part of my problem is that I start to organize something and get hung up on the sentimentality of it or get side-tracked otherwise like reading stuff that I should just toss. I do have a hook by the front door for my keys. And I try to always put my purse in the same place. In the dorm I keep good order in the public places… our apartment is something else… I keep hauling boxes all over the place, for example when I cleaned out my closet I found boxes that I had packed in Cote d’Ivoire in 2001! ooops and then I think, if I have kept it this long I can’t toss it on a whim! Then the flood hit our stuff in Niger, so we are back to square one, and it is kind of freeing that it was out of my control, you know? We (and when I say we I mean Tim) just packed 14 boxes for Niger to put on the container. While most of it is for the dorm and tools for Tim I am also a bit anxious thinking about where everything is going to be put. And I am in “quilt mode” right now and have fabric everywhere… so maybe you just need someone else clear it all out for you, like on Hoarders!! Ha Ha, I love that show because I feel so much better about myself after watching them! Love you!

  8. NANSIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh! How I miss you!!! I totally relate to needing a little stuff around. I look at homes that don’t have a spec of clutter and I think, “Do they really live here?! How do you not have stuff?!?!” I’m glad we’re alike in this way, too.

  9. Janice!!! It’s been encouraging to know that I’m “surrounded” by people I love with the same problem. You’re so right about trying to go through stuff. I start reading and remembering . . . then I don’t want to get rid of it. Sigh. You’ll find a place for everything when you get back to Niger. I haven’t watched Hoarders–it scares me. I have friends who are helping me get through the whole process.

    Miss you!

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