Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ From the Archives Cindy’s Story

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


I’ve been short of both time and inspiration this week, so I dug up a post from the archives. This one was written in early 2011, eight months after I began daily decluttering.

Perhaps if you’re like my mother – always organized, always together, the focused Energizer Bunny – you won’t understand this post, this post about why my house fell into complete disarray and stayed there for about 8 years. Well, perhaps not why it fell into disarray, but why it stayed that way, year after hateful year.

Our house was almost literally always under construction, with my husband and I as the main worker bees. I had two young children. I find housework boring. All those reasons are true. But plenty of people offered to dig me out of my hole, and I had a housekeeper every other week for several years. It would take me hours to “clean” before Ellie came to clean – mostly I was stacking things and tucking them away before her arrival so she could find the floor and the counters.

My reason, in part, why nothing stayed clean was anxiety, unease, discomfort. When I cleaned, I knew without a doubt, that the mess would come right back, right away. I felt uncomfortable and almost unhappy when the house surfaces were clean and the junk was piled up tidily. It was like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I knew, as sure as I know that water rolls downhill, that all that stuff was going to re-emerge, and sooner rather than later. It felt useless and hopeless to bother to tidy up – so why bother at all? I wasn’t working then, and once both of the kids were in school, I carried a secret fear that my husband might “fire” me as a homemaker and send me back to work because I was doing such a lousy job. Truth be told, I would have fired myself!

Besides my defeatist attitude, another thing that kept the house from being clean and staying clean was that I never organized or decluttered all the way. I would load the dishwasher but not wipe the counter. I would pay the bills but leave the stamps and envelopes out. We joked that no one in our house understood the word “away” as in “I’ll put that away.” 90% of the job done was 100% good enough for me. Why did I only go part of the way – laziness, habit, the feeling of wasted time I got from completing the job?

How did I overcome my cleaning anxiety? The kids getting older and the remodelling finally being finished both helped, that’s for sure. I became determined to know where everything was supposed to go. I decided that I wanted to be extremely familiar with the word “away.” And if I didn’t know where something’s “away” was, I would figure it out.

Although I was already on my way toward cleanliness and organization, I really started my decluttering on June 1, which is when I found 365lessthings. Since then, I have decluttered over 1,600 things. I could really see a difference after a couple of months, and so could the rest of the family. My husband, who had been secretly and not-so-secretly longing for a lovely home was praising. When one child’s room would look great, the other girl would ask for help with her room too. The ease of decluttering – and the reward – became exponential. Now when I look at the island (my black hole) and think, “That looks awful,” I know that it will take me 10 minutes to completely tidy it, and I remember that every surface in the house, plus half the furniture, used to look that way.

So remember there is hope for all of us no matter how deep in the quagmire of clutter we have sunk. You can claw your way out one item at a time, one day at a time one area at a time no matter how you got there. If I can do it so can you, you just have to get started. Good luck and happy decluttering.

Today’s Mini Mission

Choose and begin to use up an item that you have more than enough varieties of. This could be something in your pantry, your bathroom cabinet, your store of cleaning products…

Today’s Declutter Item

Here are some items that I discovered while doing a mini mission of clearing out items in my laundry cupboard. These leather care product were too dry to be useful and in the case of the shoe nugget already replaced by new product. How have I managed to miss this over the last 2+ years of decluttering.

Leather Care Products

Eco Tip of The Day,

Investigate product reviews before making purchases in an attempt to get it right the first time and not find yourself back at the store buying a similar but hopefully better alternative soon after. This isn’t foolproof of course but the more armed with information you are the better choice you are likely to make.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy, I remember your post from before but am glad to see it again. It reminds me to be thankful for how far we have come. I think there are times when even with all our successes we see what still needs to be done and get disheartened. Your post reminds us that we have come a long way and we can give thanks and be proud of what we have accomplished.

  2. Ugh, I cut my finger last night and decided to go through my medicine cabinet, knowing this mini-mission was happening this week. I found at least six expired meds (from TUMS to cough syrup to allergy meds) that are over-the-counter medicines, not presciption.

    I went online to figure out where to drop off these guys for recycing or disposal (I live in NYC), and read that I could pick up a bag at CVS or Rite-Aid to mail in my expired medicine. Imagine my surprise at being charged $3.99 per bag (about six inches by eight inches)! I have to pay for the medicine a second time?!?!!

    I noticed about an hour ago that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is having a takeback day on Sept. 29th. I called and they said they take in over-the-counter and prescription medicines. I looked up my closest site using the link “search for a collection site near you” on this webpage….My collection site is about four blocks from my apartment, at my local police station.

    So spread the word, Americans! Get rid of your old things safely (and free).

    Going back to CVS later today to get my $8 back!

    • Laura, I know how you are feeling. I have had the problem with expired meds. I was told to put them all in an old medicine bottle with water and seal them shut. Then I was told to leave them like that and put them in the trash. I don’t like that idea. I’m glad to hear about the route you found. I will have to check around some more.

      I have another problem. I take insulin and I have my syringes and needles to dispose of. So they have these containers you can purchase at places that have pharmacies. BUT, I learned that there is no place where you can turn them in. Again I was told to put them in a container and seal them and put them in with the regular trash. I’m looking for a better way to handle them. I know that places pick them up for hospitals and doctors so whay can’t I find a place? It gets really frustrating. No wonder we have such a mess in our landfills and such.

      • Deb, We put the caps back on our lancets throw them in the trash. We only use one needle every couple of days to fill Clara’s pump, and that gets capped and goes into the trash too. In Austin, you’re supposed to put your sharps into a sturdy container (bleach bottle, detergent bottle, specially purchased plastic bottle – why?) then duct tape the top so it can’t fall open and throw it into the trash. No special pick up for sharps. Our trash is never handled by a person besides us. It is picked up by a lifting machine and dumped into the truck and at the landfill it is dumped and immediately covered. If someone goes digging in the landfill, there are going to be a lot of sharp things, and a capped needle probably isn’t the worst of the lot. In addition, the needle was never used to puncture the skin, just to transfer the insulin from one vessel to another.

        • Our landfill doesn’t cover things right away. My needles do go into my skin as I don’t have a pump. I think it just gets me because they tell you to contain them a certain way and then don’t provide the way to actually dump the container. I just put them in a plastic container and when it gets full I tape it shut and into the regular trash it goes. I’ve given up on trying to find another way to dispose of them.

          • I hear you about the sharps! I just googled “NYC Sharps Disposal” and then downloaded a PDF for my county (Kings county=Brooklyn) and I can see that many hospitals take sharps, some even 24/7!

            Check out this website
            (Cindy, Texas doesn’t have a program, nor does my native Oklahoma). Or maybe even call your local hospital and ask! You’ll only lose a few minutes asking. Or try the blood bank maybe!

            At least you’ll have tried to find a program, you know?

          • Laura, I’ve tried all sorts of medical places and they will not help with sharps. But I went to that link you gave and it does talk about a destruction device you can buy. I may look into that. Thanks.

          • Seems one upside of living in a ‘druggie’ neighbourhood (upside to everything!) is that there are TWO sharps disposal sites within an easy walk from my place. I can only assume they are further disposed in the same way as other commercial programs.

        • Lovely article, Cindy.

          Very encouraging for anyone at the beginning of the decluttering journey. Yes, no matter how deep the quagmire, just start and try to be consistent. (You’ll likely get sidetracked, of course, but when you remember, just get back at it. ;-))

          >You can claw your way out one item at a time, one day at a time one area at a time no matter how you got there.<

          So true. I remember when I decided my next project would be to declutter the long bureau in my bedroom. It served at that time as primary dumping ground for all the objects of my indecision, including papers I needed to keep for ?important? reasons, plus a lesser amount of lazy-clutter. I think it took *weeks* to finally get down to bare wood (because most of that clutter represented decisions I had to make and actions to follow-up), but it did happen eventually.

          On the day I hit ground zero, my husband was impressed and commented, "wow, you must have really been working hard today." No, I really hadn't; I had just taken the usual 10 minutes or so to chip away at the project.

          The look of all that beautiful, uncovered wood was so lovely and the feeling so luxurious that it gave me great motivation to keep on decluttering.

          • Those big projects! Arg! I still have a couple of constant areas of trouble – my desk has turned into one and the kids’ art closet is a challenge. One day at a time!

  3. Hi Cindy, I am like your mother – always organized, always together (well not so much this one), the focused Energizer Bunny ~ but I still understand how you got to the stage you did. During your reno period it must have felt impossible at times to keep your home in order so you just gave up. There is nothing more frustrating than felling like you are working tireless at something but feel like you are getting nowhere. This is how I felt in the last job I had. Luckily for me it was easy to just quit. After such a long renovation period it is difficult to readjust your mindset back to I can do this after feeling so defeated for so long.

    I am just glad you happened upon 365 Less Things because not only did it help you out of the rut but you have been a great help to me also. You have a beautiful home and a beautiful family enjoy them to the fullest my friend.

  4. I had not read this post before since I am relatively new to this site (a few months ago I discovered it). I have read many of the archives for inspiration and this post was just as inspirational for me today. After many years of working long days at a job that I gave my all to, it left me with very little time for my family, my house, or for myself. Now that I am no longer at that job, and have had time to breathe a little, I realize what is important in life. That is motive enough to go on this journey of de-cluttering, knowing that there are more important things in life than dealing with my stuff (yes, I will admit that most of it is my junk). I would rather spend time doing other things. I know the impact that it began to have on my family and that it is critical for all family members to feel at home in their house. Having more time to do fun things with my family and less time devoted to cleaning because of less items to deal with, makes it so worth it.

    • Welcome Jen, I’m glad it inspired you. When you don’t give your home and possessions the attention they need, it can really get out of hand, and at some point, it’s out of control. Glad your devoting yourself to the things that are important to you now.

  5. Sometimes it seems like you clean a surface and, like bees to honey, someone comes to clutter it up. The family loves it when it is clean. They are attracted to clean surfaces and that is where they want to be to work. So, I relish in my few hours of having it clear before someone comes. Luckily, they usually clean up after themselves when they are done… even if it isn’t until the next morning. I guess as long as I am careful about keeping my own personal spaces clean, I always have a clean area in the house to go to.

    • What’s I’ve found is that a space that gets cluttered in a day or two or even just an evening doesn’t scare or intimidate me any more. I just call the guilty parties together, and we can get it done in 5 minutes or so. I love knowing that cleanliness is literally just minutes away for any given surface (if it isn’t already clear, that is).

  6. Hi Cindy – I do remember this article but I really enjoyed it and glad to see it again because I want to save it as ‘favourites’, its a good link to send to friends etc who are starting out and feel overwhelmed by the task.

    I had so many boxes and baskets of stuff and cupboards over full and the ceiling storage was so full and on and on. We booked a cleaner to come weekly the last quarter of last year as I sew costumes for a ballet school and every spare minute gets taken up with that. And I too found myself spending several hours the night before tidying up.

    I wish I’d taken photos before I started decluttering but I was just too embarressed and I wish I’d kept an outgoing log or weighed stuff just to see if I could make it to the tonne mark or something crazy like that.

    • I don’t have many “before” photos – they only ones are the photos I took of the children, etc. and you can see house in the background. I did keep a list of everything I got rid of, where it went, and all the money I made for the first two years, and posted it every day on Facebook with a monthly, yearly, and then two year total. Then I was sick of tracking it and stopped.

      • Hi Cindy – I think because I see my house on a daily basis I don’t get a bigger picture view of progress. My bro-in-law walked in on Saturday and was all “wow” and “are you one of those minimalists?” whereas I’m wishing I had a magic wand to make things disappear into thin air so this could be done quicker.

        • I feel exactly the same. I didn’t take photos either, so I sometimes wonder whether there is any difference at all. But then I remember that there was a time when boxes were a fixed part of the “furniture” – not any more.
          I’m not anywhere near minimal, but also not “cluttered” anymore.