College-Bound Student? Send Them Off With This Advantage…

A future home office….

I heard of a family with five children who had a ” house rule” for the college-bound student. Before each scholar went off to college, they had to clean out their room. They would have to take everything with them or give it away before they left. Each child only had one large tote to store mementos in the attic. The reason the family established this rule initially was that other siblings wanted the room. The room was then painted and changed up for the next sibling. When their student came back for summer and holidays, they would not get their old room back, but instead, double up and get a suite to share with their siblings.

This family now has more rooms than students living at home, however, these rooms still get cleaned out and painted and converted into a home office, art room, etc. I love this idea of giving your young adult a jump start to life with less stuff to sort through later! Keep one tote and be done. What an opportune time to purge- during a transition! And here is a college packing list to avoid packing too much for a dorm room.

Another family I know did not have this rule and has one daughter that has lots of her stuff in her old room but doesn’t want to take the time to sort through it. She no longer calls their house her “home,” yet her stuff remains. Now she is willing to PAY her sister to sort it for her. Ugh!

This may be a tough-minded approach and I think it is helpful. I plan to do it with our daughters. This will help them have less to sort out later. Just the other night our younger daughter asked me if I would help paint her sister’s room & bedposts once her sister has left for college. Her sister is a Senior. I can’t believe it; in a year she will be off!

Another Mom said to her college-bound student, “take only items you want to keep.” Everything left would be given away. But this leaves more work to clean up! I say, please leave the room clean and show them where the give-away bin is located (if they don’t already know!)

Your mission this week is to chat with your children about this idea. Plant the seed. Starting life with less baggage will be an advantage. If you have no children at home, think about the purpose of each room/space in your home and ask yourself if you utilize the space for its purpose.

Thanks for reading and please share if you know someone that this could help! ~Ellen

Love Them But Can’t Live With Them!

Do you ever wish that something will work for you, but for one reason or another it just doesn’t? A cute corner table, but you don’t have a corner without a window that it will fit in your home, or a haircut looks good on your girlfriend, but when you try it out it doesn’t look the same on you? Well, I got these shoes recently because they are super cute. I love the neutral color since they will go with everything. I value leather and good quality. I appreciate that they make my feet look small (I am a size 11). However, all that to say and the first time I wore them I had 2 blisters by the end of the day! I could not wait to get them off! It was not worth it no matter how adorable. So into the donation bin, they went. If something tugs, straps fall, or if it just doesn’t look right, no matter how much I love them, it just won’t fly for me.

New Shoes That I Loved… and gave away!

We need to find what works for us individually. I was talking with my Aunt Dottie recently about shoes since she just released 43 pairs! Go, Auntie! I was so surprised at the amount. She didn’t want to give them to a donation center, however. She offered them to friends in her community. She wanted someone she knew to enjoy them. For me, I just want them out of the house as fast as possible. I didn’t want to be reminded of my mistake and oh, how I wish they would have worked…she, on the other hand, had the storage space and wanted to see them bring joy to another person. So she waited until the opportunity came when there was a community gathering and then offered them up. Is one way right and the other wrong? NO, they are both getting stuff out the door, just at different paces and in different ways. What way will work for you? I would love to hear about your ‘love it, but leave it’ stories.

Your challenge this week: go through all your shoes (even out of season) & tell me how many pairs are out the door. Also HOW you are getting rid of them.

Here’s to owning shoes that you love and that love you back!~ Ellen

Road Trip Inspiration: Leveling

I just got back from a road trip & listened to an audio book, The More of Less by Joshua Becker. One of the ideas I took from this audio is that you don’t have to decide right away if you want to get rid of something. Decluttering can be done in many different ways. Becker refers to removing everything to another area as leveling. One of the first things Becker did when deciding to be a minimalist is to take everything out of his car except for the license and registration. He put everything from his car into a bag to sort for later. This took only 15 minutes or so. He felt the effect immediately! It was a peaceful ride and he was clear headed, ready for his destination & in a great mood.

After Leveling

I, on the other, and have sorted and weeded things out as I go… well, this pen is good to say in the car, I want to keep this hat for cold weather emergencies, this wrapper is garbage, etc. So many decisions to make when simply clearing out the auto. If I don’t have the time or brain energy, this is a quick and easy solution: remove everything except the essentials. Then sort later in the comfort of your home.

I have heard something similar to this idea regarding decorating your home. Remove all frames, pictures, etc from your walls (or refrigerator.) Now live with blank walls for a week or two and see how you feel. Is it calming? Now return only the pictures that you love one at a time. Don’t miss the others? Leave them out.

It might be the perfectionist in me to think that I need to sort my clutter right away. But why can’t I level things? I can sort later. This is just another way of purging the clutter and the results are quick!

Another habit I picked up years ago from Flylady is every time I am at the gas station waiting for the car to fill up with gas I do a quick trash pick up & sweep in the car. There is usually a garbage can and it only takes a few minutes. When kids are with me, I make them help too! This has helped to maintain a clutter free car.

Your challenge this week; you guessed it… Level your car!

Let me know how you feel after you have finished. I am curious to know if this has an immediate effect.


My Journey to Decluttering

Guest blogger: Susan Finch

Nothing changed my idea about “stuff” more than losing both my mother and father at a relatively young age, in relatively rapid succession. After my mother passed, I learned that she had hoarding tendencies… keeping years and years (30 or more) of things like paid telephone and gas bill statements and stocking her food cupboards front to back, top to bottom so that the only things you could see were the things at the very front. She bought loads of discount clothing, stuffing her closets so no hangers could move. As I cleaned out I found several duplicate blouses, many still with tags on them. She never threw anything away… even her ratty underwear! I counted… wait for it… EIGHTY-EIGHT pairs as I cleared out her dresser, some new and still in packages, and some probably as old as I was at the time. Growing up in the 1930s, my mother was quite poor. She was lucky enough to be fed and clothed (by her tailor grandparents), but her family struggled to make ends meet. I think there was comfort for her, in her later years, in having stuff all around her.

My father was raised on the high plains of eastern Wyoming, also in the 1930s, and he too “collected” things in case he needed them. The running joke in our family was wondering how many lawnmowers my father had at any given moment. He had a habit of buying up old ones at garage sales just so he could have enough parts to keep one or two of them running! When he died, my brother lined them all up at the curb with a sign that said, “Free. Must take all!” And, ask my brother how he felt about hauling TWO TONS of metal panels to the scrap metal place! My dad thought he might need them to build a FOURTH shed on the property – to store stuff in! Many of you probably also have depression era parents and know the mentality that compelled people to save everything because you never know when you may need it! Thankfully, this is no long as prevalent of an attitude!

In my grief, as I waded through my parents’ things, I found myself unable to let go of (what now seems like) ridiculous things. I kept WAY too much, but not because I thought I needed it (in most cases). It was as if doing so would serve as a deeper connection to my missing parents. Thus, I shipped furniture, clothing, photos, boxes and boxes of books (that I would certainly read one day)… even OFFICE SUPPLIES… across the country from Colorado to Oregon, and stored most of it, unused. Over time, as I grew older myself, and as my kids fledged, I realized the obvious: you can’t take it with you. I also do not wish to leave my own children the burden of sorting through all that meaningless stuff when I die. Perhaps more importantly, as a result of cleaning out my parents’ home, and noticing my own stuff-amassing behavior, I now understand the heavy mental weight and stress that holding onto unnecessary things, or things that don’t give you joy, can cause. And the reality is that things can’t possibly replace my memories.

Enter my lovely friend, Ellen. I started my decluttering journey with her in January this year when she offered to help me clean out my closet. That’s it. She came for two hours with a clear picture of how to proceed. We piled all the clothing from the closet onto my bed, and started to go through it, piece by piece. What seemed like way too big of a chore for me to tackle alone became enjoyable and productive with a friend, especially a friend who is a decluttering expert! If you follow Marie Kondo’s advice, you can ask yourself if each item sparks joy? If so, you may choose to keep it. For things that are not useful, and do not spark joy, you may part ways, making more organized room for the things you use, or need, or that just spark joy.

It may sound a bit corny, but the process worked perfectly. I had so many things that didn’t fit, or even if they fit, I no longer liked or wore them. Ellen helped by handing me things one by one, placing them in my hands to contemplate, and very gently, and most importantly I think, very non-judgmentally nudging me along the decluttering path. We made separate piles for things that didn’t fit/giveaway, things I wasn’t sure I wanted to give away quite yet, and another for those things that were sentimental (my grandad’s plaid, wool bathrobe, for instance… WHO wears a WOOL bathrobe?). By the end of the process I was INTO it. When we finished, I had FOUR large trash bags full of clothing to donate and one large trash bag of blankets and towels to donate to a friend who runs a boxer rescue. And, best of all, I had a clean bed… and an orderly closet.

After 2 hours of decluttering this was the donation result

Later in the year, Ellen came back to help with paper and files. For this, she guided me, helping me think through whether I needed specific kinds of paper, dividing papers into like-items (financial/taxes, pet records, auto records, etc.) and how to organize my files in a useful and logical way. Mostly, she served to motivate me through a task that I… pretty much abhor… and more than likely would have abandoned 20 minutes in, had she not been there.

Perhaps, more importantly, her help ignited a decluttering flame in me. I’ve learned so much from working with Ellen and feel more confident tackling decluttering projects on my own. But for some things, such as financial files, insurance papers, taxes, and other things that make me tremble, even if I know what to do, having her there to provide guidance, and motivation, and moral support is invaluable.

Crafty? Let’s talk art projects..

In our household we have achieved a total of four different black belts. Crazy, right? This means a lot of years of Taekwondo classes with different belts of varying degrees. I have saved all the belts from all members that have participated over the years.

Taekwondo Family

However, the last time someone used one of these belts was over six years ago. These belts have been in our attic storage area ever since. Why did I save them? Well, I thought these belts could be made into place mats, bags or a rug. I did use a couple as handle straps one year for several cloth bags, but that is it. I haven’t used any of them since. This week I came to the realization that I’m never going to make any more projects with these belts. Each family member has kept their own black belt with their name on it and these other belts are going to go!

Taekwondo belts stored in our attic space

Do you save things you think might be made into a future art project? Well, here is a challenge for you:

Go through your craft supplies

Be realistic with what you are going to use. Get rid of everything else. Limit your project space to confined areas and stick to it. Then set up a time on your calendar to be crafty. Give yourself a time frame. For example, if supplies aren’t used in 6 months or a year then give them to someone else that will use them.

Happy crafting. ~Ellen

Let’s Play a Game Together

Years ago I heard about a new way of looking at your home. In this game you pretend you are a realtor. Yes, play along with me here… grab your phone and a notepad and pen. Now go to your front door and stand in the doorway. Look around the room and take photos and write notes as what you see as you open the front door. Pretend you are a realtor looking at someone else’s home and you are making suggestions to get this home ready to put on the market. Open drawers and closets. Take notes of everything you would recommend to your client. For example, there is too much furniture in the living room, the bookshelf is overflowing and there is an out of place laundry basket on the floor next to the fireplace. Snap photos around the room clockwise noting details. Then go room by room through the entire house. Remove your emotion. For these minutes this is someone else’s home. Do not stop to put things away. Spend only 10 minutes taking notes and photos of the entire home.

Now review what you would tell your client. Then you can break down these areas and focus on one shelf, one cabinet and one drawer at a time. You have photos to reference and you may want to compare before & after pictures. I did this years ago and it gave me a new way of looking at my home. Strangely looking a photo is different.

Before during my realtor game

I want (and need) to play realtor again. For example this small book shelf is next to the computer in the kitchen where I am currently writing. It doesn’t seem too bad, I tell myself when I look at it. I have decluttered this area before, but if I was a realtor and moving right now, I would clear more, pair down, condense & make this area more beautiful. As it is, it doesn’t make me happy looking at it. In fact, the green Tupperware container from the 70’s that we keep the dog food in has got to go!

Okay, I wrote this thinking I would publish as it, but now I realize that I need to add an after photo. So here goes. It is not amazing, but better. I would like to find a small plant or beautiful dish to place on top so it will not be a clutter magnet.

After looking at the photo & clearing some clutter

If you are moving in the near future you may do this with more vigor and intensity. Think how this will keep your costs & stress levels low for the move. Sometimes if we make it a game that will keep us focused and we’ll see our things in a new light. Try it and let me know how you did.

Thanks for reading. Please share with someone you think might find this this helpful.


Engaging Your Friends or Family

I came home the other day to find three teenagers in our yard trimming the bushes and spreading mulch. I was surprised. This was a chore that we had given to our youngest daughter. Well, she had convinced two friends to help her in the garden. I had inquired why the friends were helping and they said that this way our daughter would be finished sooner and therefore able to go out sooner. Oh my, Tom Sawyer! She had enlisted her friends to help. This would never have happened when I was teenager. Actually, I never would have thought to ask my friends to help me patch and asphalt the driveway!

The friends were listening to music and getting the work finished. I had to hand it to her, she was able to get the help she needed before heading out to the movies. Work before play is what my father taught me.

Working with others is always more fun, especially when it is tough work. Recently, I was able to help my friend purge papers and organize her condo association files. This was a task she dreaded. There were over 16 years worth of disorganized files, duplicate papers and general paper chaos. Together we were able to make it through these papers and got caught up in each others lives. She said she would have never took on this task if she didn’t have help.

Paper Progression

Many hands make light work. Next time you have a difficult task, ask a friend or family member for help. Or contact me and together we will get er done!

And your challenge, if you choose to accept it:

Go through a 2-inch stack of papers and file, recycle, shred or digitize!

Check with your local trash and recycle haulers because some want shredded paper to go in the garbage unless it is in a recycled bag. Good luck and let me know your results in the comments below. Thanks for reading! ~Ellen

Adventurous Lasting Memories: Sisters Fund

A friend was inspired by my recent post and suggested I elaborate more on my annual sisters weekend. So here is the back story. My parents divorced when I was in middle school. My mom passed away fairly young, when I was in my late twenties.

In my early twenties, my Dad told me there would be no more Christmas or birthday gifts from him. I remember being a bit upset by this. But what he did instead was more impactful. Instead of buying gifts throughout the year, he would take us on a family vacation. Looking back several decades later, this was much more memorable.

My Mom noted the fun we had on vacations with Dad. Why did she not take us on any vacations? Maybe she didn’t want to compete with him or maybe she thought she couldn’t afford it. Mom did take one sister and me to a very upscale spa resort for a long weekend vacation several years prior to her passing. I remember this being a very enjoyable time for her. She loved to spend time with her children. This may have been one of her reasons for working.

When a windfall came after she passed, my sisters and I didn’t need the extra money at the time. Together, we thought one thing that Mom might have regretted in life was taking more vacations with her family. One sister recommended we put the extra money in a fund to dedicate to taking vacations together and remembering our Mom. We would get together for one weekend every year with this money.

My Mom and my sisters

Thanks to wise investments, this fund has lasted us over 20 years and is budgeted out for another 4 years. Even with husbands and kids, we still make time for this very special weekend every year with just the three of us. How often do you get together with just your siblings and no spouses or kids? We know how rare this is and we are very grateful for this time together.

Over that last twenty years there were some lean years and we would not all have been able to get together if it was not for this fund from my Mom. After the fund is diminished, all sisters have agreed to add to it and continue these annual weekends together. My sister Nancy mentioned that she has had such a great experience with this that she plans to leave money in her will designated to this fund for the next generation. Perhaps they will rename it a cousins fund. These memories will expand and the cousins will have a new adventure every year! Wow! What a gift!

Enjoying the sunset after a run together with my sisters

This is what life is about– spending time with loved ones. This is the reason I want to continue to declutter: to have more time & experiences with my family. My goal is to go on vacations rather than get caught up with the cleaning & maintenance of my stuff. Now you might ask, even if I do have lots of clutter, can’t I still go on vacation and spend time with my family? Yes of course. For me it is more difficult and more time consuming to get out of a house full of clutter. I am able to leave quicker and more easily if I have less stuff in my home.

If you are up for a challenge, here it is: start planning a vacation or stay-cation today.

Do you have a recommendation for a post? I would love to hear. Please leave it in the comments below or email me at:

Thanks for reading and sharing! ~Ellen

A Twist On A Stay-cation

It was my wedding anniversary recently I and gave my husband a weekend away. I told him to pack his bags because we were going to have a weekend alone. Since my decluttering muscle has gotten stronger, I have been more conscientious about the things I buy and bring into our home. I also value time together & experiences more now than physical objects thus I thought this was a great idea for an anniversary gift.

We had a great time walking in a cute urban neighborhood and dinner by the fireplace. We had breakfast out on the veranda. We sat in the sun room and read. We enjoyed spa treatments together. With no chores to do, we were able to relax. It was low key and just what we needed to recharge our batteries, as my bonus mom would say.

Here is the kicker…we did this in the same city that we live in! My friend, Tiana and I did a house swap for the weekend. She came to our house and stayed with our teenager and dog and my husband and I stayed at her place! What a friend! This was a surprise to my husband since I didn’t tell him where we were going. He got a kick out of it and our bank account was grateful too!

My parents did a house swap with a family in Switzerland years ago and another friend is doing a house swap across the country later this year, but I had never thought about doing it in my same city. Why not explore a new part of town? As a bonus, the drive was quick. We would not have been able to do this if my home was cluttered or if my friend’s home was filled with stuff. Of course, it also takes a willing friend!

Speaking of anniversaries, last week marked one year since writing my first post in Clearing Clutter. I am proud to say I wrote one blog post every week for a year. Go me! My first post, My Decluttering Journey, stated my goal was to declutter for 30 minutes everyday for 6 months. While this did not happen, I did have at least one bag go to a donation center every week for the whole year. Over 52 bags of stuff left our house over the last year. So, I was not too far from my goal. My surprising realization: there is still more to give away.

Thanks to you– for following me and continuing to read my blog. I am grateful for my readers and appreciate your comments & feedback.

Purging clutter together,


The Irony of Bamboo: Calming Yet Destructive

Our beautiful bamboo…

We had beautiful green, lush bamboo for about 20 years in our yard. We enjoyed the shade it provided, the year-round greenery and the rustling of its leaves gave me solace. However, every year for the last 7 years I would spend several hours each spring digging up escaped shoots. Finally, it got to the point where it was causing too much damage and it had to go. It was beyond repair; we reached our tipping point. Last summer my husband and I rented an excavator and dug up our bamboo. It took a lot of work excavating, hauling away the bamboo, roots, dirt and then refilling with clean dirt. It was quite the project, taking up most of the summer. Even though the bamboo looked lovely, hidden underground was a wild mess of roots not staying contained within the barrier.

Bamboo roots, plastic barrier and dirt uncovered

Does your home look decluttered on the surface and yet if you open a drawer or storage closet, one will find a stuffed, overcrowded area? Do you close these areas & ignore them so it will look nice on the surface? I know I have done this. There might come a tipping point with these areas and then WHAM! Action is needed! A shelf will break from too much weight, stuff will get moldy from being in the basement with no air circulating or rats might find their way into your storage areas in the garage.

What is hiding in your closets, storage areas & garages? If you choose to accept it, here is your challenge for the week:

Go to one of your over filled areas in your home (a closet, drawer or storage area) and clear out one box or shelf.

Attack your hidden clutter and it just might make you smile the next time you see that area! Put it in your calendar and make time for it this week.

Thanks for reading & please share if you found helpful.