How do you feel when your home is clean? You walk in and everything is in its place. There’s no secret stash anywhere, no piles that are loading up, the closets can actually close.
It feels amazing.
In today’s episode I am bringing back The Organized Mama, Jessica Litman to talk about how we can simplify the process of decluttering our homes. Because something that I firmly believe is that in order to stay organized, you can’t have too much stuff! There is a level where I don’t care how hard you try, you’re not going to be organized until you let some of this go because there’s just not enough space.
So jump in with us today as we talk all about getting rid of things, decluttering, and more.
Oh, and if you missed Part One on organizing from last week you can find it here!
Okay, let’s jump in!
This episode will help:
👉 you embrace letting go without the guilt
👉 you actually honor and use the sentimental items in your home
👉 you make decisions and clear the clutter fast!
What is Clutter
I read this quote once and it just absolutely nails it what clutter is. It’s from Barbara Hemphill, and she said: Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.
Wow. Isn’t that so true?
I mean, that’s what I do. I’ll look at something and think oh I’m gonna get to that later. I am gonna run that downstairs or upstairs or wherever it goes…….later. And all of a sudden I’ve got all of these postponed decisions that start to pile up and then make me feel kinda icky if I’m being honest.
Really, clutter is anything that doesn’t belong in a space. It’s all the stuff that is located somewhere it shouldn’t be. It’s the piles of things you stack on the stairs for your family to take and put away, it’s the paper clutter from kids school papers, permission slips, and junk mail, and sometimes it’s things around your house that you’re just holding on to. And sometimes that clutter is no longer meant to be with you and it’s time to let it go.
Let it Go
Oof, letting things go. We have a tough time with this don’t we? I mean, it’s fairly easy to throw out junk mail, dishes and appliances that are broken, or clothing that is stained or has holes in it. But other times it’s really hard to let things go!
There are lots of reasons why. We might feel like, but what if I need it again? But I spent money on this, I can’t just throw it out! This was a gift! Or one of the biggest reasons why we have a hard time letting things go is because of sentimental reasons. Which is why I just loved that Jessica says when it comes to the sentimental stuff we should ask ourselves:
Is this sentimental to me or is this sentimental to somebody else?
And if the answer is that it’s sentimental to someone else then you are just holding on to it out of guilt. Oof again, that’s a tough realization, but the reality is that type of energy in our homes is definitely not what we are going for! I’m not saying you need to get rid of all your sentimental items, but to find reasons for keeping it. Storing something in a box in your basement because it’s “special” isn’t really honoring the thing, person, or the memory.
Ask yourself if you aren’t displaying it or using it, what is the point of it?
If you’re keeping it, then do something with it. Turn it into something, actually display it. Your China from your wedding, or from your grandparents….USE IT! Turn your China into your everyday dishware, like my guest Jessica did!
Swedish Death Cleaning
If you need another nudge to get you aboard the let it go and declutter train, there is a really great book that got brought up in our interview called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s a really great way to look at things when deciding what to keep and what do get rid of. It basically asks the question: when I die, who is going to have to go through and get rid of all my stuff?
Okay, so that sounds kind of morbid, but it’s something to really think about! Are you delaying making decisions (because remember, clutter is just unmade decisions) and putting it off to your family to deal with when you’re gone?
Are your kids really going to want your high school graduation gown? Probably not. When we hold on to everything, nothing becomes special. So let the things go.
Kids Memory Boxes
Okay, this is probably my favorite takeaway from the whole episode. Because I’m gonna be super honest, I remember being handed boxes and boxes and boxes of my childhood stuff.
I didn’t want any of it.
I glanced at it, but I was like, what am I supposed to do with this? Where am I going to put this finger painting from when I was five? I don’t need my report card from 7th grade…..etc….
So for my kids, I’m just keeping a few absolute favorite things that really have meaning and I’m adding stories to them. I often take a little piece of paper and tell the story of what it is. But I’m keeping it to ONE box.
I also loved the idea that Jessica had of letting THEM create a box of memories and things that THEY want to keep. They decide what goes in there, but the box lid has to close. So at the end of every school year, they go through and they decide what they wanna keep, what they don’t. It’s not our memory bin as parents, it’s the kids. And wow, I just love that idea.
Whew! I am feeling so inspired to declutter, to organize, to just open up more space. How about you?
I hope that you will carve out some time in the next 24 hours. 24 hours, and just take one space, one space and declutter, put it where it belongs, and if there isn’t a space where it belongs, maybe that means it’s time to let it go and let it move on.
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[00:00:00] Leah: How do you feel when your home is clean? You walk in and everything is in its place. There’s no secret STEs, no piles that are loading up. It feels amazing. We feel more calm, more zen, more in control of our lives. Today’s episode, we are talking about how we can do a better job.
[00:00:21] And simplify the process of just decluttering. I read this quote and I just, it nails it. It’s from Barbara Hemphill, and she said Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions. Isn’t that so true? I mean, that’s what I do. I’m like, I’m gonna get to that later. I am gonna run that downstairs or upstairs or wherever it goes later, and it’s just all of these postponed decisions that pile up and then, Make me feel kinda icky if I’m being honest.
[00:00:53] There’s this other quote by Albert Einstein. He said, out of clutter, find simplicity from discord. Find harmony, and in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. So it is not easy to go through the process of decluttering and organizing, but at the same time, we know exactly how good it feels. When it’s done, we know how much more creative, open, peaceful, all of these feelings.
[00:01:20] So we’re jumping into part two with the organized Mama. Jessica Lipman and I are gonna continue the conversation from last week, and we’re shifting from organization, which was part one last week to decluttering right now. Let’s jump in.
[00:01:36] Okay. I’m dying to know your take on, , are you a minimalist or what is your take on letting go?
[00:01:43] I firmly believe that in order to stay. You just can’t have too much stuff. There is a level where it’s like, I don’t care how hard you try, you’re not going to be organized until you let some of this go because there’s just not enough space. So do you find yourself, are you like super minimalist?
[00:02:01] Are you somewhere in the middle? Are you like, no, actually there can be a place for everything. You just add square footage or something? I dunno.
[00:02:08] Jessica: How does, how does that work for you? I personally feel everything in my house should either be used, displayed, or functional for something.
[00:02:19] So if it doesn’t serve one of those three purposes, it’s not in our house. Um, we recently moved from Chicago to Minnesota. Um, so our. Size increased quite a bit. We were living in like, I mean it was like roughly like 2000 square feet in Chicago and then moved to a much bigger house in Minneapolis and found that the amount of stuff we had in that Chicago house easily fit along with like so much more into this house without us like really having to do much.
[00:02:53] And I think it’s just because of the way in which we use the space. I like showing off things. I have like my grandmother’s China, only the teac cups though I don’t have like the plates and so I have those on display. So I am sentimental cuz I’ve gotten told I’m not sentimental but I am cuz I have like those things, but I don’t keep like the full set.
[00:03:15] So I don’t, I don’t know what box I fit into and I think that’s,
[00:03:20] Leah: I, I think it’s okay too. Okay. What do you say to people who have a really hard time letting go? Whether it is the kids’ art and creations? Mm-hmm. It’s the, sentimental things where you’re like, yeah, I genuinely know I’m never gonna use this, but I feel horrible to get rid of it.
[00:03:39] Or it’s just general stuff because there is this fear of, but what if I. . I mean, I am sure you, you get to answer this, especially when you are working with private clients all the time. Mm-hmm. So how do you coach somebody through that?
[00:03:53] Jessica: I think the biggest thing is one, ask yourself like, is this sentimental to me or is this sentimental to somebody else?
[00:04:02] And then if it’s sentimental to somebody else, you’re holding onto it for guilt. And then that’s like a whole other. There’s a whole psychology behind you feeling guilty about that. And I’ve, I’ve found a lot of times that is generational. We have family who, you know, maybe they, you know, immigrated here, maybe, you know, hardship, whatever it may be.
[00:04:26] There are stories attached to these items that sometimes don’t need to be there. And. I’m not always the one to be like, get rid of it. Just get, you know, I, I don’t believe that’s the case because sometimes it is a journey to kind of like go through that. But if you’re finding that like, okay, you know, you need to get rid of things, you know, those things aren’t serving a purpose.
[00:04:52] You don’t look at them like one of the biggest things, Christmas orna. I’ve had, um, a lot of in-home clients that have these ornaments too special to put on the tree. So they just sit in a box and I’m like, then what’s the point? Like, ask yourself if you aren’t displaying it or using it, like what is the point of it?
[00:05:12] What like, oh, it’s a special memory. Then do something with it. Turn it into something, actually display it. Your China from your wedding, from your grandparents. Whatever it is, use it. That’s, to me, that makes things so much more sentimental after covid. I think everyone kind of like learned, you gotta take advantage of the time you have right now, so turn your China into your everyday like dishware.
[00:05:39] That’s what we did and I love it every day. It’s like we had pretty plates for every meal and it just makes it feel fancy. So. Stop putting specific emotions to a particular item and instead try and separate the two. And if you can’t find a place to display it, show it, use it, even if it’s for, you know, a holiday or something, then maybe see if you can find an organization that can actually benefit from that particular item.
[00:06:08] Leah: And then at some point you’re gonna have to also let a lot of stuff go.
[00:06:12] Jessica: Agree. Yes, you are. And there is a book I love, I think it’s The Danish Death Declutter, the Swedish. Oh, uh,
[00:06:22] Leah: okay. I know, I know what you are talking about. I too am not mm-hmm. Recalling the name, but I know what you’re talking about.
[00:06:30] Jessica: So the entire process is really asking yourself who, like, when I die, who’s gonna be responsible for getting rid of all of my stuff?
[00:06:41] Because. Who, who’s gonna want my high school yearbook? My kids aren’t like, they don’t want that. My husband’s not gonna want my high school yearbook. Like he didn’t go to high school with me, so why am I holding onto this? Like, what is the point? So really looking at that as well, like our life on earth is not as long as, you know, forever.
[00:07:02] So some of. Items might not ne be necessary in your life right now, and that’s okay. We can part with them. You can find a new home for those items. There are so many local donation centers that would love to take, you know, China. Uh, furniture, like well used furniture, all of that stuff like could really benefit others in need.
[00:07:30] And your furniture, your sentimental item, that antique heirloom that you don’t find special, but somebody else in your family does, but they won’t take it. That’s, that’s the thing I’ve seen a lot. You have family members that are like, you can’t get rid of that. And you’re like, well, then you take it, but they won’t take it.
[00:07:47] So that’s what you know. Is this really necessary? Like, do I really need to keep this or are they just saying that because it’s just been in the family for so long, I could donate it to a local organization that might house, you know, like it could be a women’s shelter that like creates apartments for, um, people that might need them and then that furniture is going to good use instead of sitting in your basement feeling like that weight and that burden on you.
[00:08:17] Leah: Yes. I love that so much. Okay, so the book we’re thinking of is The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, right? That’s Yes. Yes. That’s the one, yes. Yeah, that’s the book. Um, how to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. And I do agree because we’ve all seen this, someone who has held onto so much and when they pass, the family is now responsible for it, and it becomes daunting and overwhelming and we don’t want that, right?
[00:08:39] That that’s not what any of us want. And so we do need to be able to let go. I find myself, I’m a little bit. Um, I’m a little different maybe than most women with how I do. Ha. I am sort of, it’s funny, I am either accused of being way too sentimental or not sentimental enough. Mm-hmm. Yes. So I don’t make a lot of sense in that realm, but I was raised by my dad and um, My dad is a massive minimalist.
[00:09:07] In fact, for my junior high years, we lived on a boat. I mean, talk about minimalism. Wow. Yeah. You have basically nothing. Um, and so I was raised very much minimalistic. I, I, I actually like getting rid of things. I love the feeling of like, yes, like I get a thrill when like the box is getting really big. I always, there is a box in our garage at.
[00:09:33] Mm-hmm. So that anyone can throw anything at any time. Once it’s full, I go donate it. But that way it’s just really, really easy. Yes, yes. To like, you know, to just, anyone can throw things into it. I constantly tell the kids they, I noticed kids, generally children have a harder time letting go of things. Yes.
[00:09:50] Probably because they don’t have their own money yet. They don’t, they don’t have that ability to replace themselves. And so it’s like, huh. Right. And so I’m constantly trying to encourage. You can let it go. I, I support anything you wanna get rid of, you just throw in the box. It’s fine. Um, so I definitely love letting go of things, but I have seen and watched so many friends struggle so much to let go of stuff.
[00:10:14] But then I also have watched them, you know, our entire friendship have this frustration, this guilt, this struggle with the, the state of their home. Yeah. And it’s like they’ve literally been trying to quote, organize their. For a decade. Mm-hmm. Because they can’t let go of the stuff where I’m guilty of like the kids are like, mom, is that my art project in the garbage can?
[00:10:36] I’m like, how did that get there?
[00:10:38] Jessica: Yes. Oh my God.
[00:10:40] Leah: I’m like pulling it out, trying to
[00:10:41] Jessica: like totally lie and pretend I did not try to throw it away.
[00:10:46] Leah: So, I mean, it’s maybe somewhere in the middle. Yes. But I do think we need to recognize there’s so many creative solutions now, right? Like mm-hmm. You can take pictures of the art and then put it into a.
[00:10:56] Mm-hmm. If, if you really love the idea of keeping things, I’m gonna be honest, I remember being handed boxes and boxes Yes. And boxes of my childhood stuff. I didn’t want any of it. Same like I glanced at it and everything, but I was like, what am I supposed to do with this? Mm-hmm. And my sister felt the same way.
[00:11:13] And so I’m like, I’m just keeping a few absolute favorite things that, you know, really have meaning I’m, I’m adding stories to them. So I often take a little piece of paper and tell the story. Yes, what it is. And then there’s just gonna be, you know, it’s, it’s gonna be a singular box Yes. Not boxes that I’m, I’m handing off.
[00:11:34] So I’ve kind of looked at it that way. And then I think another thing that I really started saying to myself a long time ago was recognizing when I am having that fear of letting something go, because I’m like, what if I need it? Mm-hmm. And I understand this isn’t the case for everyone, but just saying to myself, then you can buy it.
[00:11:51] Mm-hmm. It’s okay. Mm-hmm. To buy it again and Yes. Like, you know, then the, the inner voice is like, but that’s so wasteful. You’ve already had it. And I’m like, but holding onto something for a, maybe for years Yes. Where it’s taking up, like mental space. Mm-hmm. Physical space. It’s just not worth it to me. Do you have any other tips for like the person who’s just like, I know I should let go because I understand that mentally this is, Serving me well.
[00:12:19] Mm-hmm. But I just, they’re having such a hard time actually
[00:12:21] Jessica: doing. Okay. Totally. So the, okay, I can just rebuy it again. Like, I like using like a monetary amount, so like let’s say $20. Okay. Like you’re comfortable with like, okay, if I need it again, I can buy it again for less, for $20 or less. And that’s a good way just to kind of visually see, okay, well this pineapple.
[00:12:44] We don’t use it, but we might cuz we might have a party. You can also ask yourself like, do I have a neighbor friend, family member who might have it? Could I borrow it from them? Yeah. Um, because then again, you still, you still have a lifeline if in case you need that thing. Like maybe the, you know, potato masher, if you don’t eat a lot of potatoes, Could be something you could easily do.
[00:13:10] Do I have another item in my house that could serve this same purpose? That’s another easy one. You know, a lot of times we have the vegetable peeler, we have the spiralizer, we have all these things that could pretty much be done basically with like a knife. So maybe you donate, you sell all of those things, you invest that money into a good knife skills class, and then now you don’t need any of those things, and now you learned a new.
[00:13:37] So, oh, that’s fun. Really kinda like flipping it so that instead of like, oh, I have to get rid of all of this stuff. Okay, well I can earn enough money from selling these things to then teach myself a new skill, and it, it relieves the guilt and the pressure that we have around getting rid of. So that, and if you’re having a hard time with like letting go of things, give yourself a designated box, like you know, one of the big Tupperware type of box things, and then that’s your only space to save items.
[00:14:14] It’s going to help you immensely determine what is truly important and what did I feel like I needed to keep because. We as humans, whatever we have, we’re going to fill. So if you give yourself any size box, basket, bin, whatever, that’s all you get, then that’s all you get. And your brain is now able to process that information because it has a designated space versus your entire house right now is that box.
[00:14:44] So give it the space and then with kids, give them a box. And let them decide what they want to keep because it, I have had the same thing. My mom just keeps giving me stuff. She’s like, oh look, it’s your report card from first grade. I’m like, I don’t care. Like I don’t need this. So my kids now have their own boxes.
[00:15:05] They decide what goes in there, but the box lid has to close. So every couple, I mean really about every, at the end of every year, like school year, we go through and they decide what they wanna keep, what they don’t. You know, like my daughter loves taking out her old baby clothes and using them for dolls and stuff.
[00:15:23] And I was like, okay, but it might not make its way back into the box. And she’s like, okay. So I’m like, it’s not my memory Ben. It’s hers. And the stuff that I want to keep and remember go in mine from her. So, Ooh. Way to kind of like,
[00:15:37] Leah: I love that idea. Idea of having like one that is yours of them. Mm-hmm.
[00:15:42] And then one that is hers. Ooh, that’s so good. Yes. That is so good. Yes. . I could just talk with you about this. Forever.
[00:15:49] So thank you so, so much for being here and um, it has been so amazing. Any final words you wanna leave us?
[00:15:58] Jessica: I will do a shameless plug, if you don’t mind.
[00:16:00] Do it. Um, if you are into organizing podcasts by organizing podcasts called Organizing Tuneups is where we break down big organizing concepts into five to 15 minutes, where you can do in your home every day. And they’re really actionable, really tangible, and they’re less than 15 minute episodes. I keep it short because I want you to take.
[00:16:23] Leah: love that. And I’m going to also plug for you your book. It’s called Home Sweet Organized Home Declutter and Organize Your Busy Family by Jessica Litman. You can get it on Amazon. That’s where I grabbed it from. Yeah, it’s, it’s awesome. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna plug that for you too. Okay. Thank you so much.
[00:16:40] wasn’t that so good? I am feeling so inspired to declutter, to organize, to just open up more space. Literally. I love this concept that clutter is really anything that doesn’t belong in a space. It’s located somewhere where it shouldn’t be. And sometimes that even means.
[00:17:06] It’s no longer meant to be with you, so let’s embrace letting go, holding on to the things that we love that matter that bring us joy. Letting go of the things that don’t, without guilt, without feeling like we need to apologize to anybody. This idea that Jessica talked about with those things that we’re holding onto, That we feel guilty to let go of, even though they’re not really us.
[00:17:37] It just gave me permission to say, yeah, you know what? I can let go of a couple of those things. So I hope that you will carve out some time in the next 24 hours. 24 hours, and just take one space, one space and declutter, put it where it belongs, and if there isn’t a space where it belongs. Maybe that means it’s time to let it go and let it move on.
[00:18:01] This is the Balancing Busy podcast. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. I will be here next week to help you do less but better.Hide Transcript