Landscape Clutter

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

What is landscape clutter? Well, I’m a big gardener, but I’m not referring to anything you might see in the yard. No, landscape clutter is clutter that you are so accustom to seeing out-of-place that you no longer recognize that it’s out of place. It’s become a part of the landscape of your home.

Here are some examples of things that have been landscape clutter in my house:

  • A cocktail dress that hung in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room for 3 or 4 months
  • A piece of furniture that we moved out of Clara’s room with the intention of moving it into the attic. It got as far as the hallway, where we left it. It’s not where it belongs, but it’s not in anyone’s way, and there it sits. (At least it hasn’t become a black hole as well as being landscape clutter. Don’t know what a clutter black hole is? Check it out here.)
  • The laundry basket and empty 5 gallon paint bucket that the girls used outside in their playhouse and then dumped on the ground. (Ok, this landscape clutter might actually qualify as being part of the landscape.)
  • Countless number of things that I put by the front door with the intention of taking to a friend’s house, the thrift store, or work that seemed to grow roots once they were left there.
  • A can in the back of my pantry that had only been there “a little while.” When I decided yesterday that it was time to eat those canned plums, I discovered that the “best if used by date” was 2007!

The trouble with landscape clutter is that you’re so used to overlooking it, that it’s hard to notice.

I’ve written about this topic before. (As I was writing, I knew some of it sounded familiar to me), but the solutions haven’t changed. If you can’t see it, you can’t recognize it, and you need some other way of noticing the clutter. You can become aware of misplaced items by touching each thing and saying the name aloud, asking a friend what they see that’s out of place, developing a need for the item, creating a new strategy for dealing with a category of clutter, or by taking a picture or video and examining the photograph. I’m always stunned by what I see on my counters and such when I look at a photo that I somehow can’t see when I am looking right at them.

Here’s how I got rid of the clutter I mentioned:

  • A friend said to me, “You know this dress has been here a while. I thought you might not be seeing it any more.” Well, of course I knew it was there, but that motivated me to actually do something with it.
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that the furniture is still sitting right there in the hallway. It’s made of solid wood and is remarkably heavy. I vow to get Dan to help me move it to the attic this weekend, so my strategy is that by admitting publicly that something’s out of place, I am motivated to deal with it.
  • The bucket and laundry basket were put away when I needed a laundry basket. While thinking, “What can I use to contain these items?” I noticed the basket sitting on the ground outside, and when I fetched it, I put away the bucket too.
  • Items by the front door that get stuck get “unstuck” in a variety of ways but in general, I think the best solution for me is to put things directly into the van, rather than letting them rest by the door. That way, they’re with me when I drive past the thrift store or when I stop by a friend’s house.
  • The old canned plums, which went into the compost pile, were spotted when I was a little desperate for lunch ideas on Sunday.  I have a can riser, like stair steps to keep the cans organized and visible. The plums were on the top shelf, far corner. Since they’d worked their way from a lower position to the far back corner (just like clothes you never wear!), that’s a reliable indication that they’d been there a while.

These bits of clutter came to my attention for a variety of reasons, but the key is that because they’d become part of the landscape of my home, I had to have some other stimulus to bring them to my attention. I was so used to just scanning over them with my eyes that just a quick glance around was not going to being them to my attention.

What are you seeing today that you’d been overlooking?

Today’s Declutter Item

A sweater once worn by Liam but has reached the unused in the back of the closet stage. Off to the thrift store with you.

Things that made me happy, made me laugh, made me feel grateful, fascinated me or I thought were just plain awesome.

  • Having a lovely morning-tea with my neighbours.
  • I thought I was so behind time getting everything ready for the morning tea this morning but then I was finished with ten minutes to spare.
  • Finding out by accident that I can actually buy milk at a reasonable price at my local paper shop (Newagency).~ Usually I would choose to go without rather than pay the price the local grocery store charges so this is good to know for future reference.
  • Mini caramel tarts ~ I should share this recipe with you all, they are delicious.
  • My mum and dad are coming to visit tomorrow.

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

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  1. This is another one that pictures help with for me. I have been taking pictures of different areas of the house and kind of doing a Wheres Waldo?/What’s Wrong With This Image? type of thing. I don’t even have to get it off of the camera usually – if it’s something that showed up in the picture that I’d be embarrassed to have posted to FB or have a stranger walk in and see, I know it’s probably been landscape clutter (though I never called it that).

  2. Indeed Lynn. Whenever I take a picture to see something on Ebay, I’m always surprised (horrified!) by what else I see in the view finder!

  3. Taking a picture is such a great idea! It’s truly amazing how clear clutter becomes.

    I have an old crate with 2 old pairs of boots in it just outside my front door. Also a space heater on wheels in this funny little alcove in my hallway…but that, I truly don’t know where else it could live!

    • Hi Liina,
      your “landscape clutter” sounds more like a necessary evil to me rather than things lying around because you have neglected to put them away. Sometimes we have little choice but the store things in the open when there is limited space.

  4. Another way to “see” the clutter is to imagine having visitors drop in unannounced. I also find the picture-taking method works wonders.

    Right now I have a pile of ironing on a chair nearby. The bottom layer, archeologically speaking, has been there far too long, but I just don’t see this pile unless I want to use this room for its intended purpose (dining room). Thanks for the reminder!

    • Archeologically speaking! That’s amusing. My suggestion is to put these things into your closet. Might as well store them out of sight until you’re ready to use them than to leave them to meld with the chair.

  5. I needed this post today…now that i’m fully moved in to the new house I’ve lost enthusiasm for putting things away…keep walking past half a dozen boxes in the living room and working around boxes in my wool room…

    Some things need to go back to the garage for donating and some need to hit the trash can! Too funny about taking photos…I’ve avoided doing so because of the boxes…

    • Maybe you could remind yourself that if there are still boxes sitting around, you are NOT “fully moved in.”

      This is so common, though. I don’t know how long we’d lived here when Dan said, “Can we please unpack that last box in the closet?” At least a year!

  6. I’ve noticed I find it much easier to see my OH’s landscape clutter (yes very old and out of date computer in the hall, I’m talking about you for starters) than my own. So every time I feel a tad impatient with the plethora of his stuff, I use that energy to try and see my stuff with someone else’s eyes and find I still have plenty of my own to still be dealing with.

    I’ve just removed a very large 1950’s wooden train (3ft+) from the top of our shelves; aspirational clutter of mine that has just melted in the landscape clutter for the last 4 years since I bought it to do up for a child who is now at school,lol. It’s going.

    • Absolutely Katharine. Other’s people’s stuff in annoying, in the way, left because they’re lazy, etc. Our stuff, on the other hand, is out of place because of some logical and completely sensible reason. At least that’s how it is with my stuff vs. my kids’ and husband’s stuff. Ha ha!

      Sounds like you’ve done well recently though. I think it can be espcially hard to get rid of aspirational clutter, because it’s easy to keep aspiring. Good job!

  7. Oh, I like the picture idea, Lynn. Cindy, landscape clutter is a big problem for me. I just looked around and saw some things that have been in their place way too long. I am disabled, have little energy, and have little money. There are some things we have that are landscape clutter because we either can’t move them ourselves so have to find someone to do it or, in many cases, they are things we have to pay someone to do. I have gotten so used to them that I forget they are there when I have someone here who can help. Rats. I need to work on that.

    How many of you find that you just plain run out of time? I seem to go from morning to night and yet can never get it all done. I’m thinking I need to declutter my life too.

    • I ran out of time today Deb. This could just be the way I handle things, but I truly don’t have too much going on, what I have is a lack of sticking to my plan. This morning, I intended to get up, go to an appointment, come home and watch a TV program, take a shower, and work in the shed and yard. I did the first few things, put on my crappy clothes, but before I went outside, I got sidetracked by the computer. Pretty much the rest of my day was shot, and I still haven’t worked in the yard. I really wanted to but allowed myself to be distracted. (Hate it when that happens!)

    • Hi Deb J,
      I do in reality have a lot of spare time and would have no excuse for having things out in my house. The problem I have is being on the computer half the day writing my blog posts, answering my comments and scouring other blogs for Friday’s Favourite Five. Because my house is so decluttered (although not fully) there is little to take care of for the most part. I use tidy/declutter time as exercise time when I have been sitting too long. I still never seem to have enough hours in the day sometimes though but I know I could rectify that if I chose to.

  8. Cindy, when I saw the headline for the post I thought you were going to talk about actual “landscape” clutter and instantly thought of a house I pass on the way to work everyday. It has a half dozen or more crappy aluminum chairs and easily 30 or more empty plastic pots strewn haphazardly around the yard. Everyday I ride by thinking “For the love of God, clean that mess up!” So, food for thought for a future post…

    Anyway, photos do expose our clutter crimes don’t they? Recently I took some photos of my daughter sitting in a chair in my bedroom sporting pigtails (she rarely lets me put her hair up that way). They were cute as can be until I noticed what was in the background of the pictures. In the window seat behind her were several empty hangers removed from the closet, a throw pillow with no real home, a pair of jeans (husbands) and a blouse (mine) that need mending. The hangers tend to rotate on and off the window seat, but we won’t even get into how long the other stuff had been there. Depressing.

    • Hi Donna,
      it is lovely to hear from you, I hope you are doing well. I must admit I had a similar experience to you when I saw this title. The is a house on the way to the home of a friend of mine that is an absolute eyesore, so much so that it probably lessens the value of the home around it. I have been tempted to take a photo of it and write a post about it ever since I started my blog. These people ought to take a little consideration for those living around them.

      • I was once looking at a house that was for sale in a nice neighborhood, and it was such a deal! I admired it then turned around to survey the street and my mouth literally fell open: the house across the street could not have been a worse pig sty. No wonder this one was such a good deal. I’m sure it was bringing down the values of the other homes in the vicinity.

  9. Haven’t recognised the problem yet – I’m far too busy this week (already). I’m lucky that I can see the mess.

    Thinking of it, I have still two boxes that I have to put away, they are there since sunday. Perhaps tomorrow, hehe. I’ll see. 🙂

  10. I totally get this one. My husband’s mantra is ‘If it’s been there for three days, it has always been there and belongs there’. I tested that once by placing a box in the middle of the living room. It was true! He just started stepping over it. But I’m guilty of that lost in the landscape lack of focus too. I think most of us are.

  11. My car clutter! The trunk is littered with items that the boys freaked out about me giving away to Goodwill. Funny how not one of them has gone out to the car to retrieve these beloved keepsakes. That will teach me not to take them along with me on my de-clutter runs… Never again!

    • Depending on their ages and personalities, decluttering with your children can be a losing proposition. It certainly seems that you’re right in thinking that they should not be with you for “the final good-bye” at the thrift store. But you’re also right that if no one has tried to retrieve the items from the car, they’re not THAT beloved.

  12. When I take a photo I have to take it against a door as at least that is clear. I’m such a procrastinator that I identify with the above – there’s always something sitting around for days, weeks, months… It’s so true that seeing it in a photo makes it visible (in much in the same way that printing something on printer paper shows up errors that you can’t see on the computer screen.) It also applies to things pinned or hung on the wall.