With my wife working extra hours on our jobs and putting some time into our company, taking up a client and bringing our kids around for dance/sports, we've ended up doing less in the house and found ourselves leaving out the chores we normally do. Now, we're drowning in it and left to put a day or more aside to tidy things up. As days go by, things get lost in the shuffle. Conversations go from "how's work" to "where's my -----".
It's not only a time killer but a demoralizing pointless battle over something that should not be an issue.
It sucks changing gears when you're on a roll. You have piles of laundry to do, dishes to clear in the sink, half a garage full of crap you wonder why you keep, toys everywhere and stepping over random stuff just to navigate to your shoes.
Hilariously, we still have a Christmas tree up as of this writing because my wife has left that decision to my 4-year-old daughter - who basically wants to keep it up forever. I can deal with that. It's always a game with the little one.
It's a bit sad but we believe we're not alone in this problem.
Some will say it's laziness but sometimes there is usually a deeper problem at play. Clutter is really the symptom of a misdirected mindset. It's stuff that was impulsively bought over the years, half of which was shamefully bought on credit. Longtime decluttering and organization expert Elizabeth Larkin writes that there are six types of common clutter that take up space in many homes - and, sadly, we cover all of them.
So what do we do now?
1. Accept That There Is A Deeper Issue At Hand
Both of us grew up as neat freaks while one may have lost its way by "organizing" things in piles. It can be a challenge but not impossible. "Clutter stops us from living in the present" writes Peter Walsh, a celebrity organizer whose book "It's All Too Much" flew off the shelves the moment he sat next to Oprah during her ABC days.
If you're constantly finding yourself buying things based on sales or shopping to fill a void, you're going to need some serious internalizing to do. If it's really bad, you're going to need a therapist.
For the last couple of years, our values have changed and it has been an ongoing investigation at the differences of those values. We are clashing over what's considered clutter versus what is worth keeping. This is especially challenging when we both have extremely differing viewpoints. As we've continued to talk things over, we're realizing that the cause of our battles comes from our own personal upbringings and history. We read an article on The Simple Life that addresses our problem in particular and found it insightful - minus hiding things from each other. We don't agree with that. Additionally, we also have opposing views to how money is managed - a huge portion of how the clutter came about. That's a much deeper discussion that we feel deserves its own post.
2. Stick To A Set Of Values You And Your Partner Agree On
Out battles got to the point where we yelled in front of the kids and when that happened, everything changed. We still have our issues, like most couples do, but we've learned to steer clear of personal attacks. So we came up with three rules we could never break:
1. Stay Within Budget - If it isn't obvious enough. The budget tells how often we should go out, the kind of stuff we can afford, etc. etc. It also sets us up for #4 - which we'll go into shortly.
2. Don't Let The Kids Make Purchasing Decisions - If the parent feels that the family does not need it, we don't need it. Again, look at budget.
2. Mostly Essential Stuff - Buy what is absolutely essential, if you can't decide, go back to #1.
3. Have Financial Goals - Why are we saving the money? For us, it was education, home improvements, investments and eventually vacations. Again go to #1.
4. Commit - Commit to the goals. When committing, we've signed off on it on paper and a pinky swear.
3. Follow Some Kind Of Method
Once the mindset is in place, you work on the method(s). While we never spoke with a family face-to-face on this one, we read several books on it. With Marie Kondo, Peter Walsh and a number of YouTubers who've made it work, we've found many ways to get rid of clutter. Although My wife and I found the KonMari method to be the most efficient and cleverly methodical in many ways we also used some tips from Peter Walsh's book as well since it had us look into the deeper meanings behind our clutter. Mix and match if you must. We highly recommend any of their publications - specifically Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh. On top of that, if you have stuff to sell, even better.
4. Designate A Day Or Time And Maintain The Mindset
If you can do everything in a weekend, go for it. But if you find yourself not completing the entire task (which could be a huge undertaking), make sure you have a backup plan to keep the momentum. Have an hour or so every other day or even minutes a day where you're trying to tackle the clutter. Whether you're on the Peter's Box Method or donating a ton of clothes through the KonMari method, keep at it. Eventually you'll get to the goal. As of this writing, we're halfway there. The downstairs is manageable. When it's all done, I'll have pictures to show.
5. Don't Forget To Take Time Off To Hang With The Family
In the middle of the mess, try to get the rest of the family involved. Get the kids to understand the importance of space. If you have time and opportunity to do so, visit a model home near your area. This will provide the kids a vision of how they want their room to look like. You will notice right away how much more fun they have with just open space alone and you'll realize that the stuff in the house is NOT what makes them happy - it's the positive experiences.