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.


Why Do You Want A Clutter-Free Home?

After reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker, the question beckons: WHY do you want a decluttered home? What is your motivation to do all this work? Becker says he decluttered his home so that he could have more time with his family. He later received other unexpected benefits, but at first his loved ones were his motivation.

Playroom Before

The other month I was helping a mother & her elementary school aged son declutter their playroom. The boy wanted to keep most things. He was attached to most of his toys, papers and memorabilia. He had seen some of Marie Kondo’s, Tidying Up Netflix series and was familiar with the question, “Does this spark joy?” Well, he answered yes to almost everything. A piece of wrinkled paper with a circle the size of a quarter written in pen sparked joy because his friend drew it and he wanted to finish the picture. I struggled to motivate him to donate or throw away much of anything.

Hmm…I had jumped in too soon and I had to take a step back and ask him why he wanted a clear space. What did he want from his playroom? Space to play with his friends? I asked him what his ideal playroom looked like and he drew this picture. I recommended he post this picture somewhere he will see everyday to keep him motivated. This is his end goal. How will he feel in his new space? What will it be like?

Ideal Playroom

Just like Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggestions, start with the end in mind. What is your goal? What will your life & home look like with less stuff?

This is what my end will look like:

  • I showed my daughters life is about experiences not things: ie) we took significant vacations once a year for over 30 years

Why do you want a decluttered home? Decluttering your entire home can be daunting and overwhelming. It is tough. It can take months or years to complete. There are so many decisions to make. How do you get through this? Keep your eyes on the prize! We can do this together. Please share your why below. Let me know if I can help keep you accountable.

Thanks for reading and sharing,


Double Trouble!

After reading and listening to The Minimalist Home By Joshua Becker, one of his recommendations and an easy way to start to declutter your home is to get rid of duplicates.  This sounds easy enough.  My home is mostly decluttered; I’ll try it.  Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

The first thing I thought of was scissors. How many pairs of scissors do we, a family of four, own? Maybe 5 or 6 pairs. Why? When my girls were younger they used scissors for school and art projects and then would never return them to their drawer. Often when I needed a pair, they were not in their drawer. I got frustrated that I didn’t have the tool I needed when I needed it. Several years ago my thoughtful hubby bought a 6 pack of scissors so we could always have a pair handy (one for each drawer he said). Well, to this day, I have my own pair of scissors in my bedroom so that I know where to find a pair when I need them. I don’t know where all of the other scissors are hiding, but there are more in the house. Maybe this means our family is still learning to put things back where they belong. So, for now, all scissors remain in the house. Not a good start to the duplicate challenge.

I was in the garden most of this past weekend and noticed that we have 2 lawn mowers. My husband bought an electric lawn mover a year ago and we had a push mover before that. He doesn’t have the one-in-one-out rule down yet. He is in charge of the grass and I didn’t notice the duplicate mower with all the other stuff in the garage. Yes, the garage still needs to be cleared out (see photo)! I mentioned to him that since we haven’t used the push mover in over a year, can we get rid of it? Immediately came the answer:

  • No
  • It still works
  • What if the girls don’t want to get out the electric one when they mow the grass?
  • What if the other one breaks?
  • It can hang on the wall and be out of the way

Ugh! I tried to answer his objections over the next 24 hours and then asked again. Finally, I got an okay. Boy, that was harder than I thought!

Duplicates found in my home that are now in the donation pile

Another duplicate is a large picture frame. An artist friend of mine helped me frame a piece of artwork years ago. She said it is more pleasing to have pairs of matching items when designing & decorating your home and encouraged me to buy a second exact same frame for a future picture. So I bought two of the same frames, only having artwork for one of the frames. I intended to find a 2nd piece of artwork for the 2nd frame so that they both would be hung and the home would look well designed. I like the look of a matching pair of nightstands in the bedroom; two similar candles looks nicer to me than a solo candle. So I kept this matching frame in my basement for over 10 years! I had good intentions. I WANTED to have matching frames in my home and the reality was another thing. I never took the time to find or create art that would fit the 2nd frame. I finally gave this 2nd frame away last week.

The next duplicate I found was coffee presses. We have a press in the kitchen and one stored with our camping gear. I didn’t take note of the duplicate at first because both weren’t in the kitchen together. I haven’t used a coffee press for camping for the last few years. When camping, I like simple and easy and that means instant coffee. Besides, one less thing to pack. So out it goes. How long have we had both of these coffee presses you ask. Oh, I would guess almost 20 years!

Are you up for another challenge? What items are duplicates in your home that you can spare? I would love to hear and see photos. Or, if you want a partner to assist you in clearing your duplicate clutter, I would love to help.


How To Keep Moving Costs & Stress Levels Low So You Have More Time to PLAY!

It is that time of year when many people sell their houses and haul all their belongings to a new home.  Talk about an urgency to get rid of clutter!  This is the biggest reason to declutter.   This is it; NOW is your time to shred the pounds to see and feel the impact immediately!garagemoving

Last summer I helped my sister declutter her house prior to her move from Alaska.  Did you know that the average cost to move is $1.00 per pound.  The further you travel the more expensive.  So my sister’s moving cost was over $2 per pound from Alaska!  With the average hardback book weighing between 2 and 7 pounds, that equates to $2 – $7 per book!  Thinking about it this way, it would be easier to buy new items once you arrive in your new home than ship them.  How much is your stuff worth?

Some people move in a hurry and don’t have the time to weed out their stuff and end up filling boxes without sorting them first.  After moving, one family ended up with several boxes still packed & then found themselves moving these same boxes again to a new home a few years later.  This repeated several times over the years!  The time it takes to store, the energy to lift, the guilt of moving them again. Is our stuff worth it?


  Even if you aren’t moving this summer, might you move sometime in the near future? Check out this moving check list to get a head start. Or do you have boxes from your last move that are still stacked safely in the garage?  What about preparing now so that you will be ready and not have to be rushed and stressed for the next time you have to relocate?  You can do this.  One box at a time.

I recommend removing one box (from your storage area or garage) and take it to an empty spot (Overwhelmed? Take clutter to a cleared space to sort), pour yourself a cup of tea, put on some fun music and go for it!  Take your time and go through your things one box at a time.  

Thanks for reading and if you haven’t already, please sign up for my weekly inspirational blog posts. 

Sincerely, Ellen

What is Your Passion? What Makes You Feel Alive?

I spoke about my decluttering passion at an elementary school the other week. I was at a career fair encouraging the students to think about doing something they love. I find peace of mind in a simple uncluttered home attractive and relaxing. I want to help others feel this love in their homes too.

How do you feel when you open the closet on the right? …and on the left?

I showed them a picture of a jammed filled closet and then of one that had about half the stuff in the same closet. I asked them how they felt looking at these two different photos. Everyone felt better when looking at the closet with less stuff. It will start you off in a better mood looking in your closet every morning with less in it. I had a homework assignment for the kids:

Get rid of 10 things from their bedroom

This could be from their closet, drawers or toy boxes. Maybe a shirt with a stain, shoes that no longer fit, or a toy that they no longer play with. One girl turned to me and had a puzzled look on her face & asked why? You will be able to find your favorite toys & clothes more easily. It will take less time getting dressed, less time to clean your room and thus you will have more time to play. I am not she will do the homework. I am hopeful that some students will.

What makes you smile?

Do I love sorting through old boxes, clearing junk drawers or cleaning out jammed packed garages? I would rather sit here and drink my latte and lounge in a recliner, thank you very much! But do I love the feeling of being able to easily find my things and see cleared space in my home on a daily basis? YES, I love the feeling of having space to just be. A bit of work (okay, A LOT of work) to get the clutter out of my home in exchange for peace of mind and tranquility. Do I still need motivation & accountability? Yes! Are my garage and basement still in need of being cleared out? Yes, and I can do this!

It is like most things in life: it takes focus. My father taught me to work hard & my old college roommate taught me to play hard!

Will you take the homework challenge I proposed to these students and do this with me? Find ten things in your bedroom to give away or throw away tonight. If you are inspired continue this every night for a week and see if you notice a difference by the end of the week. Just 10 things– we can do this together!

Counterculture in the kitchen!

One of the biggest areas that attracts clutter is my kitchen. My kitchen counters used to have a toaster oven, crock of utensils, knife block, and more! Some people recommend to only keep out on your counter what you use 2-3 times a week. Others say only keep out those things used daily! Well, I wanted more counter space, so thought I would tackle the kitchen again!

Recently, I read The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker and read a list of recommended kitchen tools that he sourced from this article written by a professional chef. This might be fine for a cook that cleans as he/she cooks. My husband, however, can use up to 4 or 5 bowls at the same time, making several dishes for a large party. So this list is taken with a grain of salt (pun intended) in our household. It is a good goal to work toward though.

In order to gain counter space in my kitchen, I looked around to see what we didn’t use or what could be put in a drawer/cabinet. I gave away the knife block that sat on the counter and after decluttering more gadgets, we had an empty drawer. We bought a knife holder insert for the drawer and voilà …extra counter space! We have a large toaster oven that sits on the counter but doesn’t get used every day. After clearing more clutter, a empty cabinet became available that is close to an outlet. It is a bit awkward to take out and put away the toaster oven, but not too bad. When my teenagers want to use the toaster oven, they will take it out and most of the time I end up putting it away, but I am okay with that.

before and after photos…although new tiles and countertops are definitely in order!

My husband and I love coffee (who doesn’t, right?) We have a drip coffee maker and an espresso machine. We use the drip coffee maker on a daily basis and the espresso machine mostly just on the weekends. Setting up the coffee maker every night is one of our daughter’s contributions to the family, so it didn’t make sense to take that off the counter. I asked my husband if we could put the espresso machine in a cabinet. It is large and very heavy. He said if we put it in a cabinet he would not use it because it was too much of a pain to get out. He would go to Starbucks instead. I tend to agree with him. Okay, out it stays even though it only gets used a couple of times a week at the most. To me this space looks cluttered next to the microwave and coffee maker, but I am trying to be flexible.

the majority of our countertop property holders are in one corner of the kitchen

I also thought about putting the hand & dish soap under the sink to keep things clear around the sink. We tried it out for a few days. My husband, daughters and I all take turns washing the dishes and our daughters didn’t like getting the soap out from under the sink. Since I want to make it easy for our girls to do the dishes, the soap stays! Maybe a couple of cute bottles would work for the soaps. Gotta make it work for our family so we are all happy and feel loved in our home!

Enjoy Reading How To Declutter But Not Taking Action?

Since writing this blog I have been researching decluttering: reading books & blogs, watching Netflix series, etc. Recently, I heard someone say that they enjoy researching clutter and different ways to get rid of it, but when it comes to doing it, they have a hard time. I know this feeling.

My office area off the master bedroom has had an extra dresser from when my daughters had The Urge to Purge! their rooms (several months ago). The dresser has sat empty & the area has been too crowded. Why have I not taken action?  This is what I told myself:

  •  It isn’t too bad
  • I don’t spend much time here, so why bother?
  • It has been so nice lately & I want to spend my free time outdoors
  • I am too busy (reading about clutter, working, being a mom, chofer, etc)
dresser full

Does any of this sound familiar?  Well, I spent the majority of last Saturday outdoors, so I told myself that on Sunday I would declutter this area.  One of my friends calls it the “If-Then” (Challenge).  If I do this, then I will reward myself with this.  Except I did it backward!  In Gretchen Rubin’s, Better than Before, she talks about habits in and of themselves being their own reward.  For example, the reward for decluttering is my pleasure seeing and appreciating this space with less clutter. Do you reward yourself when you want to get something finished or start a new habit?

Let’s not let our perfectionism get in the way of clearing clutter and jump right in where we are.  Rather than read another post, set your timer for 5 minutes and see how many things you can give away or throw away!  Ready, set, GO! Please share what you decluttered below. 

Smash It (Shame)!

I was fortunate to be able to get away for a girls trip to the coast this past weekend. It was with my book club and we had our annual book selection gathering. The sun was shining and the laughter was contagious! It was a great time.

Over the weekend, the topic of the state of our homes came up a couple of times. There was a sense of embarrassment & shame if someone mentioned that they had a cluttered home. I told them it was okay and we can all relate. We have been there and it will be okay. Why are we like this?

One client that I have been helping clear clutter told me that she feels she needs to clean up before I come over. It was stressing her out & she was embarrassed by the mess so we ended up postponing our appointment. However, this is the reason I was coming over- to help with the clutter. It is the reason that my husband didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym for years: he thought he was too fat to go to the gym to work out! This is CRAZY!

If you need help, ask for it. If you are too embarrassed, then find someone you trust. Ask someone you feel comfortable with: a family member, a good friend, a neighbor, etc. This is the first step if you aren’t able to declutter on your own. This way you can have spontaneous dance parties with all the space in your home (and invite me over to dance with you!)

This article gives practical ways to free yourself of the emotional baggage some of us carry & how to smash it! Let’s rid those feelings of shame and take ACTION! Be alive and live your adventure!

I Feel My Mom’s Love (Even 20 Years After Her Passing!)

I recently finished listening to The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson.

This got me to thinking about my Mom and her passing over 20 years ago. She had all her financials, will, trust and executor of her estate organized. I was grateful for this at the time. What I just realized recently is she had done her own death cleaning.  She left our 5 bedroom family home that she had lived in over 25 years cleared out and ready to sell. She had given the player piano to the local museum where she had volunteered, she gave away her car to a good friend that had no vehicle, & she had written notes regarding valuable & meaningful items of what they were and whom she wished to have them. She saved antiques she thought her daughters would want & we did.  Everything else was tossed or donated.

My Beautiful Mother

I was so sadden by her passing that I hadn’t given thought to all the stuff she sorted out on her own. It would have taken my sisters and me days, if not weeks or months to go through her stuff if she had not taken the time and energy to clear her items in advance. What a gift she had given us and I didn’t even value it until I listened to this audio book!

She told me that she loved me always and no matter what. Now I know that it is true. She continued to show her love for me (& my sisters) after she passed by not leaving us with all her clutter. Her love is still with me!  Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. Thank you Mom!

This is how I want to leave my family: with no extra clutter or stuff for them to sort and not know what to do with after I am gone.

Although the title of this book sounds morbid, it had some great points:

  • Take care of your things so your family won’t have to for you
  • Leave instructions for what to do with things, ie) where to donate, give this to this friend
  • Ask your family what they want now, to help avoid conflict later
  • Start giving things away while you are able so that you can see the smiles and gratitude in others

This book wasn’t written while my Mom was alive, however she didn’t need it. I love you Mom! Thank you for all that you did for me and our family.

Inspiration at the Dentist

The other day I was getting my teeth cleaned and the dental hygienist explained plaque and why my gums were swollen in one area in simplistic terms. “The tooth is angry because there is junk that is irritating it,” she said. So she scraped and removed the plaque and a smooth tooth was left. “Now the tooth will feel better and the swelling will reduce,” she went on.  All because the junk had been removed!  Hmm.. I saw the correlation with my home.  I sometimes get irritated when I can’t find what I need or when I have extra stuff in my home. I feel happy when surfaces are smooth and clean!

My teeth get a deep clean every 6 months. This is also a good time frame to do a deep clean and clearing clutter of my home. By going to the dentist every 6 months it helps prevent problems in my mouth. Doing a deep clearing of clutter in my home helps prevent bigger problems and frustration finding items, cost of storage & maintenance of things.

I brush and floss my teeth daily (see these additional whiting tips).  My home needs my attention daily too. Mail arrives almost daily & needs to be sorted and tossed. And although going to the dentist isn’t usually fun, I like the feeling of clean, smooth teeth afterward.  Decluttering usually isn’t all that exciting (although sometimes can be with girlfriends/sisters and fun dance music!) but I like a clutter free home.  Daily maintenance in the home is just as important as daily maintenance for our teeth & bodies.

Here are a few tips to get the junk out:

  • Find a good time /day and put it on your calendar
  • Pair decluttering with something else you already do ie) listening to a favorite podcast, talking on the phone, watching shows, etc.
  • Ask a friend or sister to help you
  • Get accountable with others doing the same thing
  • Schedule a donation pick up at your home

Get the junk out so that you have a happier home and occupants that can find their stuff.  And watch what goes into your home AND your mouth!

Thanks for reading and please share if you found helpful!