Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Going Cold Turkey

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


Early last year, I wrote a post about The Black Hole. You probably have one in your house. It’s the place where all clutter tends to accumulate . . . and never leave. Like the black hole in astronomy, it has such a strong gravitational force that even light cannot escape it.

I confess, I too have a Black Hole in my house: my gigantic kitchen island.

7′ of kitchen island and not a bit of junk in sight

It doesn’t look like a Black Hole, you may be thinking. You’re right. It doesn’t anymore. Anymore being the key word here. The half in the foreground seemed to always have a stray napkin, maybe a glass or two, and a book or purse (or both) from my eldest daughter. The far half had, well . . . everything that A Black Hole of the Flat Surfaces accumulates: random school papers, lone art projects, hair do-dads, some pens and pencils, the cord to the laptop (and maybe the laptop) – all sorts of random junk.

I tried to enforce the rule that the island had to be completely cleared off twice a week, but I wasn’t a very good enforcer. Besides, half the stuff was probably mine. Then I struck upon a completely different approach: We went cold turkey.

For those of you not familiar with this term, Wikipedia defines cold turkey as  “the actions of a person who abruptly gives up a habit or addiction rather than gradually easing the process through gradual reduction.” It is often used to described abruptly giving up drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.  But in my case, it meant abruptly giving up cluttering a spot that had always been a favorite clutter attractor.

We cleared everything off the island, even the useful and island-appropriate things such as the fruit bowl and the salt and pepper. It was kept completely bare, except when being used, for weeks. Seeing it completely clean, day after day, began to be the right mental picture. After a couple of weeks, we put the fruit, salt and pepper, and butter dish back on the table. I was a little nervous that this might be an invitation for these items, like crazy teenagers, to have a big party and invite all their friends over, but it wasn’t. (Probably because unlike the party in my mind, Mom was supervising.)

The island has stayed clean now for a month. When someone does leave miscellaneous this-and-that on it, it’s obvious who it belongs to, and it doesn’t stay there for long.

Do you have an area in your house that needs to go cold turkey?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a book or two.

Today’s Declutter Item

This magazine is the closest thing to a book that I have to declutter at the moment.

Rolling Stone Magazine

“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. Good post Cindy. My black hole is my desk. It seems to always have stuff on it. There are some things that are supposed to be there. But!!!! Right now I have three papers that need to go with us to various doctors when our appointments arrive. I’ve a short list of places where Mom can go to get glasses, another list of the items needed to make a card I saw, a small invitation to a baby shower, a letter from an insurance company that I need to contact, a troubleshooting list for my mobility scooter, and about 27 charms that I was planning to attach to a display box but have changed my mind about. Oh, there’s also a stack of 5 slides that I need to turn into prints and an old Medic Alert bracelet that I need to use an engraver pen on to scratch through my member number . I can pretty well keep everything else cleaned off but this is one place I seem to never succeed. I think I will try your “cold turkey” strategy.

  2. My coffee table!

  3. Hm, desk here as well 🙂 But as we are just settling in here, things will get better. I still have to keep an eye on it or it will get messy very soon.

  4. The spot of counter next to the door into the kitchen!
    And desk… but those 2 spots collect different categories of items.

  5. Hey there Cindy…. is your kitchen an IKEA one? I ask because we are getting ready to renovate. I haven’t met anyone that is living with one, and want to know how they hold up to family use? They sure look nice in the catalogue 😉

    • My kitchen is completely custom built. The cabinets are birch bodies with painted MDF fronts. I highly DO NOT recommend white cabinets. They are so hard to keep clean. In addition, these are Shaker style, and that groove where the face frame meets the flat face of the door is a real dust and dirt catcher. My mother just put in flat-front natural finish maple cabinets, and I envy them.

      • Second flat cupboard fronts! (etching looks lovely, so long as someone else is cleaning them!). And second non white fronts too!

        • That’s funny because I highly recommend white cabinets, especially glossy white, like mine, which is really easy to wipe over as they are smooth and have no grooves for stuff to get stuck in. The Kitchen I have at the moment is the easiest I have ever had to keep clean. I had wooden fronts in my last kitchen and yes they looked clean but they really weren’t because kitchen grease settles on them and is very hard to remove.

    • I have a friend who has a total IKEA kitchen as far as cabinets are concerned. It’s a great kitchen and totally white. But her cabinets are flat with no places to get the grease and stuff. Plus they wipe off so easily. To add to that she has only drawers down below and they have a no-slam feature. I would love to have all of our cabinets just like them.

      • No slam is good, but soft close on drawers seems to ‘stall’ not long after you get it. (as in, the drawer stays ajar – suppose more force is needed?).

        I’ll concede without grooves helps cleaning. I prefer my dirty cabinets ‘hidden’ (ie camouflaged), which is why I’m content with my laminate (pretend wood look) over high gloss white which really do need to be cleaned, as they are quicker to show drips/fingerprints. Let’s just say if I can avoid cabinet front cleaning, I will!

        • My friend has had these cabinets for almost a year and they still work like a cream. She just uses a damp cloth on them every couple of days or if she has cooked something spattery and they look like new.

          • Hi Creative Me,
            lots of Ikea kitchens round here (not in my flat *sob*sob* I’d go for it if I could …). My experiences: good and sturdy BUT I do not recommend the big apothecary pull out cupboard. It’s wobbly when loaded up. I recommend going to Ikea to slam doors, pull drawers all the way out and things like this. I’ve gone there once to stand on chairs. My mum was embarrased with me but as a result I got really sturdy folding (!) chairs that still go strong ten years later. Ikea makes some good stuff – and some cheap crap. You get what you pay for, as everywhere. But sometimes you actually get a bit more if you chose wisely, which is worth the consideration, I think.

  6. Oh – if only…. lol
    I moved, as you may recall – in with a neighbor, me and most of my stuff.
    During the move I sprained my ankle – but at least it was not by tripping over my own stuff in the place, although that happened when I left my Ex – anyhow – this morning – guess what – I tripped over more stuff – which is now in my tiny bedroom and fell and got a nice bruised forearm… and the hand hurts, too.
    This is not acceptable – so tonite I simply MUST clean out the car (of returnable bottles and get the $$ deposit back) to make room to load it up for several trips to Goodwill.
    I wanted to share with you all about 3 weeks ago that I did donate about 6 car-loads of stuff – I had considered selling it all, but the accident nixed that (and it is too tempting to keep stuff after all, if not disposed off right away) – I gave away 50%+ of my shoes, 2 huge boxes of clothes I thought I might shrink into one day (who am I kidding?!)
    I was fortunate to have dear friends (all new ones!) that came and helped – the entire moving ordeal took a combined 2.5 weeks – from a 1-bedroom apartment! Walking distance to new place. Room-mate getting antsy about having to live surrounded by whatever belongings I salvaged from the ‘ax’… lol
    I am far from done – but am relieved of having lessened my stuff – a couple of regrets – items I was actually using were given away – but I make do and remember that someone else is now enjoying them.
    So, no, if I only had to deal with a 7’ long table – I would be thrilled – Congrats on your success though – every little thing we declutter counts. I am learning – and all of you here are a great inspiration.
    Oh, one more thing – I met a man – and obviously in the early stages we want to see each other as often as we can (I am still like a teen, I guess? lol) – I am proud of myself that I confessed to him about my issue with collecting things – and he accepts that I must stay in every other day to devote myself to this task – knowing full well that I will be a much happier person once that stress is in the past.
    Thanks for listening xx

    • Hi Ingrid – it sounds like your life is on the up. Am sorry to hear about all your injuries. Well done with so much going to goodwill – good things will come your way soon from your generosity.

    • Keep at it Ingrid and I am sure you will find the right balance in the end. I am glad you have a new love in your life and that he is supportive of you. Make sure to let him know to also be firm with you should you need a little encouragement to stay on track. I hope your injuries all heal and you stop tripping over things or better still stop having things to trip over.

      • If you’re falling over things and hurting yourself Ingrid, it’s definitely time for it to go! Glad you took care of it and are taking care of yourself in other ways too.

  7. I’m having problems with my desk as well. I do notice that now I’ve thrown a lot of clutter away, the desk is getting less flooded than before.

    Ah well, that does give some hope for the future. 😉

  8. My biggest issue are the kitchen surfaces (countertops and kitchen table) – the kitchen is small, I love to cook and to eat and there is no dishwasher… These surfaces get cluttered due to working there so often and if there’s a lazy day or two, it’s a huge mess. I think, my kitchen surfaces have about 7 feet all together… I think, I should try to get that under control again. Starting off with the kitchen table, when that is working, the counter tops follow.

    • Like Cindy has done you need to train your mind to a different way of doing things. What you need is to accept that you can’t have fun in the kitchen without dealing with the clean up immediately. Once the enjoyment of the cooking and eating is done the clean up must commence so you have a clean work area for the next adventure. As they say nothing in life is free, there is always a price to pay for the good times and sometimes that is just simply having to clean up after them.

      • You’re right, of course, Colleen. It’s not that it never works. But of course, if it doesn’t work, it stands out immediately. Will have to put that on top of my priority list again.

  9. Hi, I have been reading your blog for a while but have never left any comment as I have been a bit shy:) I find your blog very useful and informative. I live in a small (tiny?) flat with minimal possessions. However, I have one drawer in my kitchen with which I’m not very happy! I seem to put everything that I cannot classify in it. I do inspect it every weekend though to get rid of the unnecessary items and tidy it nicely. Afterwards I feel really great!
    I would like to inform you that I have nominated your inspiring blog for One Lovely Blog Award. All the best.

    • Thank you so much for the nomination Hulya and welcome to 365 Less Things. You have narrowed you clutter down to one small drawer and even that you tidy every weekend. I wouldn’t be too hard in myself about it if I were you it sounds to me like you have it all worked out. I now people who live in tiny little flats that are packed to the gunwales with stuff are messy and none too clean as well so you have nothing to concern yourself about. You could probably teach me a thing or too.

  10. Hi Cindy – my black hole is in my kitchen on the counter. It is technically a corner as it is where the breakfast bar meets the counter that runs along a wall. And I hate this black hole with a passion. The phone sits there, unfortunately I can’t get around that. In this area is a container holding pens and what not, a fruit bowl, drink bottles lined up, two (still in the box) smoke detectors waiting to be put up (we do have other ones in the house), odds and ends that migrate back and for some reason my hubby always throws a bundled up wet tea towel into this corner too.

    Have decided the fruit bowl could possibly live in the pantry now it is looking nice and clutter free these days. Will give hubby a deadline of this weekend to put the smoke detectors up or I will a handy man to come and do it (that will put a rocket under him as that would be the ultimate insult).

    I am also thinking that my office desk is in the small lounge that comes off the kitchen area, my desk would be say, 3 or 4 steps from this black hole and there is another container holding pens there too. Maybe I should take away the one by the phone, because we don’t even have a note pad next to it. Modern age, most messages arrive by text or e-mail. If someone does ring and I do need to take a message I’m sure I could manage 3 or 4 steps to get a pen.

    This is great! This is a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees!

  11. I’d love to say I don’t have one, but it’d be lying to myself!

    I have a bit of a black hole near my ‘landing strip’/’launch pad’ – Mainly cause things await their rehoming (library returns, back to my parents, returns to stores, etc etc). It’s untidy when there’s lots of stuff on the top of my buffet, but out of site, out of mind, so this means I try to clear it. This morning there’s nothing left there, I have my ‘baggie’ with me of library books & one store return and that’s it (for now)

    I also have a black hole in front of my little drawers in my pantry/linen closet. It’s papers with destination unknown (ie one letter for ex tenants who I am planning to invite around, the schedule of fees for an upcoming dental issue, an ikea catalogue for products released in aug etc etc.) This BH annoys me the most – despite it usually being behind cupboard doors, it looks messy. I need to use the phone to take more photos, and store in the E world, rather than the paper world. Or put data in gdocs spreadsheets. Sigh – just talking about this now (I almost posted about it last night) has helped me plan how to clear the most recent pile.

    • Awareness = action. Good job Snosie.

      • Went home (I always read this at work) and I DID IT! There’s only one undirected mail there (the other one I received yest, was a delivered, so I took it to the right home this morn). The ikea inspirations were snapshotted, as were artists I liked from a recent exhibition (so both those catalogues were recycled). I have one red cross brochure to read with a meal some time (cause I like to read when I eat alone). I put the receipt details in spreadsheets, then filed them. Thank you!

  12. For someone who considers herself a Master Declutterer (or should that be Mistress?) I have a LOT of black holes! Bedside table, computer table, front entrance table, kitchen bench, dining table. Oh dear…

  13. I wouldn’t say that I really have a black hole. Like Snosie said I have a few areas that are more like landing and take-off points. They are places where things are put that need to be dealt with immediately or very soon, that if tucked away somewhere might get over looked. I am too much of a neat freak to leave anything lying around for too long before rehousing it or dealing with it and moving it along. There are never more than one or two things hovering around these areas at any given time and I like them to be prominent so I don’t forget to deal with them. Were these areas to get too cluttered things would get buried and forgotten defeating the whole purpose of putting them there.

  14. Mine is the washer & dryer which we pass by in order to get in & out of our garage. It’s such an irresistable landing spot for everything coming in the house. I find myself constantly relocating items that landed atop the washer/dryer to their proper location or I should say any location other than there. The only time we don’t use that area for a catch-all is when I have the folded white clothing atop the w/d.
    The good news is that I don’t let things languish there for long – but hate that things find their way there to begin with.

  15. I had gotten my upper counter (like a kitchen bar) cleared but slowly it has returned into the Black Hole. I’m just as much at fault as my hubs in cluttering it up. I think I need a complete reboot on this.

  16. Psychic Cindy!
    Just the morning before I read this post I got so fed up with the clutter attracting kitchen counter that I cleared it of everything to not invite anything stray there. I had to rehome some items (cutting boards, bread bin, fruit bowl, tea pot in use) to the hutch or the sink area so they are potential new black holes but unfortunately there is no way to clear every surface 🙁 At least there is no black whole in the tiny hallway as it has no horizontal surfaces and I have no coffee table either. I guess going cold turkey by removing the whole piece of clutter magnet furniture works well, too 😉

  17. it’s said to say but i think my entire house is one big black hole!! 🙁 I honestly, am trying to solve this situation because quite frankly, it stresses me out beyond belief!! It is hot as h*** where i live this weekend and you know what? I am going COLD TURKEY with ALL of my particular black holes (kitchen being the MAIN one!) and my mini holes (top of dryer, my desk, my bedroom dresser AND my hubby’s, etc.!) I am taking everything OFF the surfaces and dealing with it ONCE and for ALL!!!! god give me strength cause I’m gonna need it! As a side note, I love what Colleen said about the kitchen – as someone with a SUPER SMALL work space…(seriously I bet I have 4 feet of counterspace) and with four family members and no dishwasher you can imagine that my counterspace is EXTREMELY limited and I must program MYSELF and my family that it is ESSENTIAL for immediate clean up because all it takes is ONE meal and no clean up and it’s a DISASTER ZONE!!

    • Good for you Cindy B! Let us know how this turns out for you – I for pne do some of my “best work” out of sheer frustration & fed-up-ness!

  18. I purchased a 3 drawer cabinet for my kitchen to hold snacks and chips/cookies for our lunches. It is now a black hole. All the chips and cookies are on top of it in a large bowl as well as on the kitchen table and in the drawers are my baking supplies – choc and white choc chips, marshmallows, nuts, etc. Some of the items have been in there a long time. This weekend, I plan to toss the old things (just can’t think about how much they cost), and repurpose it for it’s original intent. One drawer could stash the baked goods but the other two should hold all the stuff sitting on the kitchen table because there is no room in the drawers. How does this happen? Last Christmas I had a bad shoulder and did not bake as much as I usually would so am guessing that’s why they are so full. Wish me luck!
    This is not my only black hole but it is the most annoying one today.