Day 321 Overlooked Clutter

A Guest Post by Cindy Bogard

Recently, we were carving pumpkins on the screen porch, and during a lull in the action, I thought I would be efficient and put away the clothes on the little drying rack I keep out there. Now, if you knew what was on that rack and how long it had been there, you’d be laughing like a crazy person at my use of the word “efficient.” That’s because the things on the rack, swimsuits and swim shirts for all four of us plus three towels, had been there since the last time we went swimming, at least 2 months ago. Um, yeah. I think they’re dry.

Once clutter becomes familiar to us, it’s easy to overlook. Right now, I am sitting at my kitchen island. Looking around with a slow and critical eye, but without getting up from my chair, I can see the following things that aren’t where they should be, but have been there for at least (at least) a week: a book on the kitchen bar, a standing fan that needs to be put away until next summer, several “important” and now yellowed notices on the fridge, a large box of packing materials in the living room, quite a few pieces of framed art and a bolt of fabric partially tucked behind a chair. (Same chair. I guess its role is to hide clutter, although it’s doing a poor job!)  Sure, I can rationalize why these things are out of place, but that doesn’t stop them from being clutter.

How does this happen? Why does it happen? I don’t have the answer to either of these questions, but I do have some ideas as how to overcome this phenomena.

  • First, and most efficient: When you get it out, put it away. (Sometimes easier said than done, I know.)
  • After shopping, put things away promptly. If you don’t know where it belongs or can’t bother to take it out of the wrapping, should you really have purchased it in the first place?
  • As you’re cleaning, especially in an area that holds misplaced objects, put them all in one corner while you clean. Know that putting these items away is part of the cleaning process, but do not put them away as you go. That’s a trap that leads to meandering around and losing focus (see day 306).
  • If you have trouble seeing out-of-place items, look at or even touch everything on the coffee table or counters. Say the name of the object in your head or out loud. Experiencing your clutter through one of your senses besides visual will help you to notice what does not belong.
  • Take a picture of your room or just look at the room through the view finder of the camera. A new way of seeing things will help you see through to the clutter.
  • Ask someone you know, preferably someone who does not live with you and can offer a fresh and honest perspective, about your clutter.

As for me, I put away the swimwear and sat down to type this blog. I managed to continue to overlook the other items, but not for much longer. What did you see in a new light today?


A couple more books that are either out of date or no longer wanted.


5 Things I am grateful for today

  1. Sunshine after the rain – just the right ratio of both is nice.
  2. Self check out at the supermarket – Always much faster than waiting at a normal register.
  3. When you wake up and realise you were just dreaming – This is only in the case of bad dreams of course.
  4. Summer fruit – Big fat juicy mangoes, yellow and white peaches, strawberries, watermelon and all those other yummy delights are starting to hit the shelves of the grocery stores.
  5. Liam had his interview for the brain injury unit today – Hopefully he will be able to do outpatient therapy and be home from hospital very soon.
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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Cleaning is hard work There is no miracle cleaner the will make cleaning your home anything but work. Just like miracle diet pills can't replace healthy eating and regular exercise to maintain healthy weight. […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I love your idea to look at everything through the lens of a camera. Hot tip!

  2. Thank Jana. I notice when I take photos of the kids or of items to sell on Ebay that there’s always a remarkable amount of rubbish around the edges of the photos, but I confess that I first got the idea of looking through the lens specifically for decluttering from some previous day on my favorite blog – this one!

  3. Colleen, I HATE self-check at the grocery store. I always end up using bad words! -Cindy

    • Hi Cindy,
      Self check-out at the supermarket is like everything else, practice makes perfect. My problem is that I hate that voice that never shuts up giving you instruction even when you know what to do. I try to go as fast as I can so it doesn’t get a chance to chime in. I must admit I have told the person attending to this area that I wish the nagging b***h what shut up. They usually just laugh and agree.

  4. I made 2-minute cards for most areas of my house and yard. I randomly select 10 to 15 of them to work on each day. It’s amazing how much you can do in a room in 2 minutes. It’s also amazing how long stuff will stay in place waiting for its 2-minute turn to be picked up.

  5. Interesting. A card that says “This card is good for 2 minutes of cleaning in the XX room”?

  6. Just a card that has the room name (or rather, two-letter code). A stack of 60-odd cards with different chores (e.g., I hate cleaning the refrigerator; I clean it thoroughly once a month, but in between, if I pull the KT Frig card, I spend 2 minutes on it). I randomly grab 10 cards (on a busy day) or 15 or so (on a lazy day) and do the chore on that card for 2 minutes (with the timer set). I have two teenage sons, old enough to clean their own rooms, but they don’t always get around to it. I don’t clean their rooms for them, but I figure that it’s okay to occasionally put in 2 minutes. If the cards labeled JR (Joe’s Room) or CR (Casey’s room) come up, I clean for 2 minutes. They notice. They sometimes feel inspired enough by the 2-minute improvement that they clean themselves. So far I’ve never managed to encounter a room that didn’t need at least 2 minutes of work.

    • Hi Jude,
      I like this idea even better now that you have explained how you execute this system. Maybe you should make a set of two minute cards especially for your 2 teenage sons and before they leave the house have them pick one to take care of. Two minutes isn’t going to have a big impact on their day either. Mind you I can imagine the reaction from my teenage son but you never know he may comply if he realises it is only two minutes out of his day. My boy is going to be so grateful to be home from hospital that I may be able to con him into 5 minutes. 😆

  7. Be careful what you tell about your clutter on here. I got an email suggesting I needed some type of help. Not sure if they meant with the decluttering my home or my mind. That’s a little scary.

    • Hi Sawn61,
      that was me who sent you the email. I am so sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just suggesting that quite often it can be more of a problem communicating our needs when it comes to how we would like our homes to be organised than actual compliance by the third party. I know from experience that it can be quite difficult to make family members understand we are not being pedantic about our homes but just have a level we can tolerate and would like them to make an effort to comply for our own piece of mind. It can be a fine line between communicating our request and having it sound like an unreasonable demand.

      Clearly my communication techniques could do with improving if I have managed to offend you with my good intentions so once again I am sorry and I hope you will stick with me as I really only ever aim to help. Regards Colleen

  8. So true about familiar clutter being easy to overlook. I will tidy up before visitors arrive, be happy with how things look, but as soon as the visitors walk in the door, suddenly there is cr*p everywhere. Must try the camera trick in future.

    • Hi Isabella,
      when you look through the lens of the camera imagine you are going to send the photo to me to put on my blog for all my readers to see. This photo is meant to represent a perfect example of tidiness and decluttering. Now have another look. This is what I did when I posted the picture of my kitchen a while back. I thought the room look perfect until I looked through the camera lens and discovered there were a few things I wasn’t so satisfied with. Mind you I can be a bit of a perfectionist.

  9. So true. Just from where I am sitting now I can see:-

    paper dolls across the floor
    schoolbag abandoned in the middle of the rug instead of hung up
    lens cap from my camera – my husband will go mad if he sees that not on the camera
    Plastic animals in odd places dotted on furniture by kids (but these make me smile so I’m inclined to leave)
    Lego box on the fireplace (seems to have been there weeks!)
    My make up box on the dining room table – I use it in morning so I can get ready with kids but it rarely finds its way home.
    Kids coat on floor
    Doorstop next to sofa rather than propping open door
    Washing ‘drying’ on radiator.

    Do you know I’m going to see if I can sort it all in 5 mins. Will report back if I manage it!

    • Hi Anna,
      having children in the home adds a certain degree of difficulty when it comes to trying to keep the house tide. I’d like to see a photo of those plastic animals dotted around the furniture I think that would make me smile as well. Maybe you should feature them on your blog just for fun.

      • Yes – I think you may have a good post idea there.

        I am pleased to report I sorted all of the above in my 5 min slot and got so carried away I sorted out a lot of stuff that had been bugging me all over the house. In fact it probably took longer for me to leave that comment than for me to sort all those items out! Feels good – sometimes you just need to crack on with it all rather than procrastinate!

  10. I remember reading on someone’s blog that they really saw all the invisible clutter when they did one of those “video the house and drawer contents for insurance inventory ” videos. It was shocking to them to see all the piles. I think the photo idea is a good one so then you have a before picture!

    • Hi Jessiejack,
      It is funny how this” looking through the lens of a camera” idea resurfaced today taking into account what tomorrows post is going to be. My before and after garage photos tell quit a story. I was even tempted to put captions on the after shot just to show the areas I am still working on. The idea of video is even scarier.

  11. Unnoticed clutter – a big bugaboo for me, I have to admit. I become blind to it all too quickly. Thanks for the nudge 🙂


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