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Don't Be A Hoarder: Clean Your House by not Accumulating Clutter

Updated on August 25, 2015

Some of my Clutter Photos

I bought about 15of these when I got the bright idea to replace all the lightswitches in my house.
I bought about 15of these when I got the bright idea to replace all the lightswitches in my house.
This was a hideous pink trash can. I repainted it with the intention of selling it at a flea market or on ebay. It didn't sell.
This was a hideous pink trash can. I repainted it with the intention of selling it at a flea market or on ebay. It didn't sell.
This is a table I refinished. Looks nice but really useless. Also didn't sell.
This is a table I refinished. Looks nice but really useless. Also didn't sell.
Another project from my black and red period. I think this is in the crawl space under the house. I took the 2 other shelves back to thrift shop and hung one in my daughter's room.
Another project from my black and red period. I think this is in the crawl space under the house. I took the 2 other shelves back to thrift shop and hung one in my daughter's room.
Over 200 Christmas cards, I purchased on sale. Problem is I don't send more than 20-30 a year. And I have more.
Over 200 Christmas cards, I purchased on sale. Problem is I don't send more than 20-30 a year. And I have more.

I need to start out by saying, I love junk!! I think it all started when I was a kid growing up in the projects in Brooklyn, NY. We didn't have a lot of money. My parents were trying to keep us fed, clothed and save enough to move us out of the projects.

One of my favorite doll sets was second hand. I'm not complaining. To this day, I remember that set fondly. They were my favorite dolls and I even kept some and gave them to my oldest daughter. So from an early age, I learned the value of used items.

My father also loved junk. It could be scary though. I remember the time my sister and I came home to find a giant painting of a circus clown hanging on the wall. He found it in someone's garbage. He was so happy with his find so at first we pretended to like it. But it was creepy. It had eyes that followed you wherever you went in the room. We were like, what the...???!! It was hideous. It took almost a year for us to finally beg him to toss it. (To this day I hate clowns and won't turn my back on one.)

Then there was the giant mirror my dad found on the sidewalk. He brought it home and put it up on the wall above my sister's bed. One night, she got up to go to the bathroom. There was a loud crash. My parents came running in the room and found the mirror laying on her bed. My sister returned from the bathroom. Everyone just stood silently staring at the mirror, then at my dad. The thought of my sister squashed under the heavy mirror was a sobering one. He removed it and never hung it in the apartment again. (He did however donate it to the coop committee and they had it professionally hung in the hallway.) After that incident, I don't remember him bringing anymore sidewalk junk home either.

One of our favorite places to visit with my dad was the city junk yard. I think I loved going to the junk yard almost as much as going to Coney Island. If we went to Coney Island, there was only so much you could do. My parents were only going to spend but so much money on frivolities. But the junk yard, why the sky was the limit!! You never knew what you might find. I remember once we brought my mom home and huge pile of beautiful, fragrant flowers. By the time my mom got home from work, the flies (I hope that's what they were) were zipping around the living room. My mom snatched the "flowers" out of the vase we had put them in and ran down the hall to the trash compacter, fussing the entire way about bugs and weeds. I thought she was a real party pooper as she scrubbed my sister and I in the bathtub a half hour later. But then not so much, when later that night, she applied calamine lotion to the strange, itchy bites we seemed to have all over our arms and legs.

I don't go to junk yards any more (for obvious reasons, see preceding paragraph). But I have spent hours and hours are thrift stores, junk shops and flea markets. I don't go to antique shops, too hoity-toity for me.And in case you were wondering, I am not a hoarder. Yet.... that said there are some people in my family who have a tendency towards hoarding but more about that in another hub.

I live in rural Pennsylvania now. One summer, I found a flea market that opened at 7 a.m. The first time I went there, alone without my kids or husband to weigh me down, I thought I would explode from sheer joy. I stood there clutching my chest as I gazed down from a hill. There was a huge field below filled with vendors selling their treasures. By the time 11 a.m. rolled around, the sun was beating down on us and I had made three trips to my car. When all my money was spent, I walked back to my car, sipping a cool drink. I turned to look at the rows of vendors and vowed that I would soon return.

About 45 minutes later I pulled into my driveway. As I began to unpack my treasures, to my surprise they didn't seem like treasures anymore. The doll with one leg squashed flat and the other turning yellow didn't seem like such a great find anymore (even if he was anatomically correct). The eleven dusty embroidery kits no longer seemed like a steal at ten cents a piece. The 15 yellowed, vintage books were kind of smelly. My treasures suddenly looked like a huge pile of dirty smelly garbage. And where was I going to put it? The giant tin box filled with wooden checker, backgammon and Chinese checker board sets weighed a ton. Four sets of jump ropes for toddlers. My daughter is ten! Another mini ironing board. Brass pencil shapeners in the shape of cannons. What was I thinking?!? I was sweaty, tired and coming down off my buying high so fast it was all I could do to find places to stash everything before my husband saw the junk I had brought home.

Ah, but I promised to provide with some tips for decluttering your home. I just wanted to let you know that, like you, I am a clutter bug. That said, my clutter does not rule in my home anymore. It isn't easy, I have strong packrat tendencies, but the following tips have helped me to squelch gathering impulses. Well, it hasn't rulled for at least six, all right four months.

So here are a few tips, just to get you started as you organize your home. These are some of the things I did to get the decluttering started. These tips are relatively pain-free and will hopefully cause very little emotional trauma.

  • Glass vases: These seem to multiply on their own with almost no help from you. If you have more than six glass vases for flowers. Throw away the duplicates. Leave yourself the tall thin one for a single rose. (Admittedly, you will probably never put a single rose in the vase but we are trying to make this as painless as possible.) Now throw away any with chips. And last if you have two or more red ones, toss one, same with green, yellow, milk glass... you get the picture.
  • Newspapers: If you have any newspapers that are yellow and do not have birth or obituary announcements for a family member or close friend or neighbor, throw it out. If it does have announcements for a significant event in your life and you have more than five copies, toss all but the five copies. Then if you can, toss one more.
  • Miscellaneous papers: If you have bags of papers that you have not looked in for more than two years, dump them.
  • Crafts: The craft kits (this is for the craft clutter bugs) you have for crafts you have never tried, gather them into one box, okay two if you have to. Write a date on the box. Put them away. In one year, without opening the box throw it away.
  • Yarn: If you crochet or knit, you know you have some worsted weight acrylic yarn that is hideous as sin and scratchier than cheap wool. Please do yourself or everyone else a favor. Throw it away! Do not make anything out of it. No one wants that old 1970's butt ugly orange, lime green, hot pink, mud brown, etc. yarn made into ANYTHING and given to them. They will smile until you leave and then throw it away. (I had a cousin make an entire outfit for me out of kelly green, dull worsted yarn. I shudder to think my mom actually forced me to wear it one time so my cousin could see me in it. Then, mercifully, my mom tossed it in the trash compactor.
  • Go through your clothes. If you have an outfit, you know is so old fashioned as to make you look ridiculous if you wear it, toss it. If you have clothing that smells moldy, toss it.
  • Shoes, hmmm, this is a hard one. Unless my shoes are totally worn, falling apart or hurt like the dickens, I hold onto my shoes. I figure if they have clear, platforms soles, spike heels and razor sharp toes toss them. Also, if they are moldy, yuck, toss them.
  • Stuffed animals: Toss them. For some reason, this has never been a problem for me. I guess it is because my sis and I once had an old bear, name of Frosty. Frosty kept springing leaks. One day, my mom came home to find that Frosty had leaked spongy filling all over the house. Even at a young age, I could tell Frosty had a terminal case of dry rot. After a short and hurried funeral, with mom tapping her foot in the doorway, Frosty left this world via the trash compactor.
  • Linen, this is an area of weakness for me. I hate to toss towels, or sheets or basically any kind of linen. But this does help. I like to use cloth to clean my floors, bathroom, car and polish my furniture. So, I take threadbare towels and cut them up. Then I use them to wash my car, shine my leather seats with Armor all, polish furniture, you get the idea. I do the same thing with clothing made from denim, tee shirts, etc. Make sure you toss them after you use them.
  • Get someone to help you throw away repetitive photos. Or copy them and save to a usb key for storage. I don't even buy most of the school photos, nowadays. I had begun to accumulate too many. Baseball, basketball, soccer, school, when does it end!!? So after second grade I only buy the photos of graduating years and I get the smallest package. For sports, I buy one team photo and one single.
  • My mother has every greeting card anyone ever gave her. She is over seventy years old. That's a lot of cards. When she moved several states away, she packed them up and took them with her. They weighed a ton. She also keeps every funeral program, even if she didn't really know the person. I don't keep any greeting cards for more than a year unless the card is really, really cute. And so far, I only have a few funeral programs.
  • Buy an MP3 player. And learn to load songs. Eventually, throw away the CD's and use only your MP3 and computer to listen to music. This is a difficult one, but I'm slowly making my way through my CD collection.
  • If you buy Christmas decorations, you have to toss or give away the same amount of Christmas ornaments you purchase every year. Better yet, don't buy any new Christmas decorations for at least two years in a row.
  • Do not buy not one Christmas craft kit if you have one from the previous year that is unopened or unfinished.
  • Every single day, try to throw away at least one useless item. If you don't do anything else, at least at the end of one month you will have tossed thirty to thirty-one items!

The biggest tip I have used is: Don't go there! Thrift store, don't go in! Flea market, keep your pedal to the medal. Yardsale, don't even turn your head. Clearance sale, run!

Here's a great book for decluttering: Good Riddance: Showing Clutter the Door, by Susan Borax & Heather Knittel.. This book tackles some serious issues, like old food in your kids' rooms, I will be doing a book review on this book soon. A great tool to help you get rid of clutter.

When I realized we were moving into a much smaller house, I knew my thrift store days were grinding to a stop. The piece of wood furniture I would have snatched up, with the intention of refinishing it, had to stay in the store, or on the curb, wherever I happened to find it. There was literally no room for my junk. I'm slowly getting better. I know I shouldn't flirt with my junk sobriety but I do occasionally go into a thrift shop with a list and only buy what is on the list. And more often than not, I don't buy anything. But remember, I don't have space for anything. I'll know I am really better when or if we move into a larger house. Just remember, baby steps, baby steps.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6


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    • wordsmith2418 profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Lewis 

      6 years ago from Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

      Thanks so much for commenting on my hub!!

      Clutter reminds me of a child's movie my daughter watches "Mouse and Mole. They clean up the house & take all this junk to the junkyard. But Mole sees a mirror and giant wire springs he thinks he can use. He carts it all back and then is trying to figure out where all the space went. Mouse tells him, "You can have stuff. Or you can have space. But you can't have stuff and space." I looked at the pile of Christmas cards this morning and I'm going to have to donate them the Salvation Army thrift store. But if I'm honest, even thinking about doing it makes my stomach queasy. Might have to get my husband to do it for me. He will do it gladly!! I know I could probably throw everything away that we have in the crawl space and never miss it. But as I said, baby steps, baby steps...

    • freetron profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Very nice article. Clutter is like a thief. It robs you of time, money, energy, space, etc. etc. Your story makes me want to unclutter.

    • alexandra-t profile image


      6 years ago

      this is such a good article! I'm something of a junk collector myself, though not as bad i suppose, but i do have lots of paper/magazines (i like making handmade cards for people's birthday etc, but really, that only happens like less than 5 times a year when i can really find the time to make the card), second hand items, knick knacks and buttons and whatnot. i've been steadily throwing them out though, my mom is a neat freak and since we moved into our new place together she's been throwing out the useless things we moved from our old place (and making me do the same) daily lol. now our home looks so much less cluttered and clean and minimalist! i'm with you on this, no more thrift shops/flea markets for me!


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