Stay Connected

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When there is clutter, you cannot see the beauty of what you love

Editing out the clutter

A landscape architect friend of mine kept telling me that I needed to "edit" my flower garden. This is just a very polite way of saying, "girl, you need to WEED!"

Well, I have also come to note that my interior needs editing as well. The weeds inside the house come in the form of clutter. If the definition of a weed is something that pops up where you didn't intend it to be, well, I have many "weeds" in the house.

I am admittedly a clutter-bug. I have so many "things". A good share of my problem is lack of organization. But the other part is not taking the time to "edit" my surroundings.

I have taken on the challenge to edit out what is just so-so, and leave what I truly appreciate.

Case in point, this is my dresser. Ugh! I am so totally embarrassed to even show you. I debated whether or not to just show the "finished" version. But I figured a blog is an excellent place to expose things about myself. I can show you my weaknesses, then either work to improve them, or decide I'll accept myself exactly as I am. A blog gives me the opportunity to stop, and decide how I want to view my life and the people and things within. So, here's the ugly. Hopefully there will be a good as well, and perhaps not a bad at all.

I've been keeping all my nutritional supps on the dresser, to make sure that I take them. The television, I only watch on Sunday evenings, so I could probably find an alternate place to keep it. I have numerous "things" waiting for me to do something with, like a return to a shop, a recipe to go back in files, receipts to log, and general clutter to be put away. Thank goodness I don't have a stale cup of coffee sitting there. Now that would be embarrassing, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Focusing on one small space at a time

I asked myself. . .

What is the purpose of this space?
Which of these things bring me the most joy?
Do my things have space around them, a visual frame, of sorts? How much space is needed for this visual frame?
How have I been displaying items? Are they grouped? Which items should have front and center designation?
What is out that doesn't need to be out? Can I find a place to keep these items, such that will remain functional to me? 

Next, I removed everything from this small space I was working on (my dresser for this one), and laid it all aside. One by one, I selected items, and put them back in an order of importance to me. I didn't follow some interior decorator's advice of placement. I placed items exactly how I liked.

I cleared about 2/3 of the "stuff" from the dresser's top.

What did I leave? A collection of perfume bottles given to me by special people in my life, sitting on a tray that my great aunt gave to me when I became engaged. (I know, she envisioned I'd be serving canapes on that tray, but this works better for my perfume bottle collection.) A comb and mirror that my mom gave to me just before she passed away. Two small paintings done by my grandmother. A crystal tray filled with some bracelets that I wear often, and a couple of hair accessories. My cross. A covered china box that my grandmother and grandfather were given on their marriage. Some silk flowers. A framed poem that my daughter wrote for me. And a small stack of books that I like to refer to for inspiration. In listing it all out, that's actually quite a lot. And it tells me something about myself. I'm a very sentimental person.

That was the easy part, putting back what I love. The hard part was finding homes for the stuff that I still want, but don't wish to have on display.

Gone are the stacks of magazines, papers, supplement bottles, items that had homes but had been left out, coins, a shop bag containing an item to be returned, and miscellaneous other items.

When I had everything that I wanted to have on the dresser, I was left with a large pile of items to sort through. I discovered something, not placing something on the dresser did not mean I didn't want it at all. It simply meant that there are some things best left in a drawer, cabinet or closet. I live by this in my kitchen, so why was this such a difficult task to undertake in the bedroom. It would be silly if I felt I had to have everything on the counter in the kitchen. Shouldn't a dresser top function similarly to a kitchen counter? There's a place for a few select items to be left out while still leaving work space.

It not only looks tidy, now, but the gleam of the wood is visible, which I think is so very pretty.

Over the last month, I have been going around the house, editing our possessions, and finding the right balance of beauty and use.

Editing my life

Editing my life follows a similar format. It's an exercise in thought, deciding where my focus should be. And just like my dresser, there are areas in my life that I want to have center stage. There are areas and commitments that I still have use for, but just don't wish to pursue them as often. And then there are the things, groups, and activities that once had meaning to my life, but I find irrelevant today.

What is the purpose of my life?
Am I living out my purpose?
What events, work, commitments and activities bring me the most joy?
Am I giving these activities some space around them? The down time between events serves not only to rejuvenate, but also to provide a "frame", setting each activity apart from the next.
Which commitments and goals from years past no longer feel relevant to my life today?
If I were to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, which events, work, commitments and activities would I choose to put back, and which would I part with?

I've come to understand that it's okay to let go of what no longer has purpose and meaning. As I get older, my perspective shifts. I no longer value youth and beauty over function and comfort. I don't dress in the hot trends any more. My shoes are comfortable flats most of the time. Who cares is my waistline is no longer smooth.

What is important to me, now, is relationships. I'm afraid that I was careless with a few relationships in my youth. Now, I give my relationships as much of my time as I can.

I continue editing my life, as my needs and desires change. One thing is for certain in life and in belongings, too much clutter keeps me from seeing the true beauty of the people and things that I love.


  1. Lot's of things to think about and I like the term of editing things. For me I have found that I sometimes (most of time) over think things and that hinders me from making progress. That's how it would be if I considered all of the things you did before you cleaned off your dresser. I basically say do I need this and if it doesn't belong here, where does it go? After I have edited my things, overtime, I figure out how I want the new space to function.

    By the way, the dresser is filled with very beautiful things and I'm guessing that it makes you smile when you see it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      what I left does really make me smile, as they remind of of special people.

      For me, posing questions to myself was a starting point. I am usually stumped on what to do, when I face a mess, and no progress is made. But this worked for me.

  2. Great blog, and probably relevant to everyone! Thanks for posting the questions too, so we can all consider what's important, what's not, etc.

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Thanks. The questions not only helped me clear the space of clutter, but have also helped be to be more mindful of what I set down in these spots. Not just to keep it clean, but to think, "is this really the best place for this, right now?" Just hoping to keep things clutter-free.

  3. My dresser equivalent is in the same state as your 'before'...and I've been walking past it for days thinking I must clean up! You've inspired me! I agree with your idea of balance, and that is different for all of us.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I noticed something in my own mental state of the before and after. Before cleaning up, I felt like such a slob every time I'd see my disorganization. And after, I just felt peaceful and thankful for beautiful things to look at, and some order to my belongings. If for no other reason, cleaning up for a change in my mood and self-perception made it worthwhile.

      Good luck with yours. Clearing a space is not as time-consuming as we tend to let ourselves believe.

  4. I think this is a good idea--decluttering your physical space and your life. It's too easy to get caught up in a lot of unnecessary stuff that drains us.

    One reason why I try to keep stuff to a minimum is so that I don't have to keep track of it. (I'm terrible at keeping track of stuff.) But clutter creeps up on us all.

    1. Hi Pamela,
      "Decluttering" my life makes me so much more effective at the things that I leave in it. Really, no one wants help from someone who is only half there, or burned out. But I do find it difficult to break off a long-standing commitment, because I'm afraid others will feel offense or just not understand.

      As you've just recently moved, how important not having too much stuff was probably really apparent. When I stay in the same house for a long time, I accumulate a lot of stuff. It's been 18 years now in this house. I'm not looking forward to moving from here, any time soon!

  5. Did you ever read Anne of Green Gables? I think you may be a kindred spirit! :) I find I have to edit my surroundings AND my life several times a year. It's even tougher when you consider that you are doing this not just for yourself, but your family as well. I find that I can think more calmly and clearly when my physical environment and my life activities are decluttered.

    I have the funniest item on top of my dresser. My daughter made me a "friend"--it's a gallon milk jug (yes, the milk is gone!) with a face drawn on it and crafty items glued to it. Truth to tell, it looks a little creepy ... but ... she was so proud of it that I haven't had the heart to get rid of it. However, enough time has passed that perhaps she won't notice? All to say ... sometimes I have to make sure my urge to declutter is in tune with the heartstrings of my family ...

    1. Hi Kris,
      I used to watch the TV show with my daughters. But no I never read those books, sadly. I'm sure I would have enjoyed them.

      It's such a peaceful, calm feeling when life is not so hectic. And even true when my things look orderly. But you're right, doing this for ourselves and our families makes it a job in itself.

      The milk jug friend sounds really sweet, even if it is a bit creepy-looking. Our kids make some of the sweetest things for us. Their intentions are always perfectly placed. Perhaps the "friend" could take a place of honor, on a top shelf in a dark closet. Our you could tell your daughter that you just didn't feel right, hogging him all to yourself. Maybe she'd like to babysit him for a little while. But sometimes we just have to keep some things around because someone else still has attachments. (You should see the stuff we have in the attic, because some of the kids couldn't give them up!)

    2. I think you'd enjoy the Anne books...I'm going to keep my eyes open in the charity shops over here!

    3. I thought I'd check our library, as well.

  6. I love the look of something when I've been busy decluttering and love the feeling of accomplishment after I've finished. It leaves me with a very good feeling. The first time I had a huge yard sale, I felt terrible afterwards, like I'd given away all my stuff. Thankfully the feeling went away though. I've never forgotten it though, but now it's easier to get rid of stuff without feeling like that.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      That must have been hard, that first yard sale. I can understand the feeling.

      When I was a girl, my mom organized a garage sale, and encouraged my brother, sister and I to contribute things. My sister and I often had matching playthings. And she always kept hers immaculate. So at the garage sale, her things fetched a much higher price than mine. And I just couldn't understand that, because obviously, my things were much more loved than hers. I do remember wondering if these strangers were going to love my things as much as I had. And if they'd treat them nicely, or if it would just become "junk" in their house.

      But after the decluttering, it's so nice and tidy, and easy to keep that way, for while at least. Then more stuff manages to creep back in.

  7. I always liked Peter Walsh's advice that flat surfaces are not for storage. While I can't be that strict, my goal is to keep some clean, usable work space on every flat surface!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      That's really wise. Up until recently, I'd never given it much thought. Obviously this is a problem many of us deal with.

      I've begun thinking about why I place things on these flat surfaces. Part of it is for temporary storage, the stuff that I need to do something with, eventually. Well, I'm trying to now think of it as stuff that I need to do something with "soon", instead of "eventually". So maybe my problem isn't so much too much stuff, as lack of discipline in getting through the processing of these items, taking care of whatever business I have with them to get them where they belong.


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post