the life-changing magic of cluttering up

Or: All I Really Need to Know (About Housekeeping) I learned in Kindergarten (From My Hoarding Grandmother)

This is a companion post to last week’s blog.  Based on the lovely pile of electronic advice I received both on Facebook and on my website, there are MANY of you out there basking in the glory of an uncluttered life.  Good for you.  But just in case the austerity and asceticism ever start to get you down, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you clutter right back up.

I call it Kon-Marooning.  Soon you, too, can be marooned on your island of debris, happily shoving your piles around.

My paternal grandmother was an expert clutterer.  Since apples fall close to trees, I called my dad to see if he had any advice to contribute.  Turns out he missed my call – couldn’t find his cell phone.

1)    Be the only child from parents who have many childless siblings.  You’ll be able to feed the masses with your four sets of hand-wash-only china, three sets of hand-wash-only silverplate, and too-many-to-count hand-wash-only starglass cups.

2)    Don’t ever move.  Stay thoroughly put.  Stuff your stuff into every nook and cranny of your domicile until the very idea of moving gives you flaming red blistery hives.

3)    Send multiple family members out to do the shopping but don’t let them communicate beforehand.  This is a particularly great strategy for accumulating toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, and, in our house, toothbrushes.

4)    Sort your stuff frequently and then keep all of it.  Pushing the piles around will make you feel virtuous and organized.  I call this the “clutter shuffle.”  It’s most effective when performed to music while multitasking several other household chores.

5)    Horizontal surfaces are your friend.  Tables, counters, even the floor.  All are wonderful places for piling, sorting, accumulating, strewing, and dumping.

6)    If you’re having a hard time cluttering up, start with one simple step: Stop sorting the mail.  Let it pile up in the front entry.  And be sure to stay on every single mailing list.

7)    Check social media constantly.  Facebook is a great distraction when you’re on the verge of tidying up.  Resist the temptation!

8)    Books are wonderful.  No one looks at you askance when they find out you have a wall of books.  A wall of velvet Jesus paintings might raise an eyebrow or two.  (I won’t tell you about my whisker collection.)

9)    One of the many health benefits of clutter is that it’s literally impossible to keep clean.  Dust?  Awesome!  Stimulate that immune system!

10)   If folks seem leery of your cluttering up, simply say “I’m an artist.”  “Ah,” they’ll reply.  “You must be extremely creative.”

11)   Keep all financial documents in paper form forever into perpetuity.  It’s best not to organize, either, like at all.  Banker’s boxes are okay provided you don’t stack things neatly inside.  Never ever go paperless.  Paper is your BFF.  If all else fails, you’ll have something to burn after the apocalypse of Hellfire and Trumpnation.

12)   Develop many thing-based interests.  The Big E and I went a little crazy on miniature gardening this past winter.  We turned the upstairs bathroom into our potting shed, a fabulous strategy for cluttering up.

13)   Never finish a project.  Truly.  It’s okay to start.  Just don’t get too close to completion.  And be sure to leave everything you need for the project lying about, but spread it over a couple floors of the house.  Power tools and tiny sharp hardware are a plus.

14)   Children and pets will get you further along on your path to the cluttered life than just about anything else.  Baby children require an ungodly amount of gear.  Larger children collect strange things (sticks, rocks, Nerf weaponry, cardboard swords, Pokemon & Magic cards, stuffed animals, taxidermied animals, plants, more rocks, fossils, fedora hats, Legos, books, etc.).  If you really don’t see kids or pets in your future, consider borrowing from a friend or neighbor.  Even an hour or two can really ramp up that clutter.

15)   Volunteer at a thrift store.  I cannot stress this enough.  In order to maintain and enhance the volume of clutter in your home, you need unbridled access to STUFF at irresistible prices.

16)   Leave things in unpredictable places.  Keys are a great place to start.  Next time you arrive home, leave your keys in a kitchen drawer.  Or in the refrigerator.  Infuse a little excitement into your cluttered home life!

17)   Diamonds are cute but plastic is 4-ever.  Diamonds are way too pricey and petite to be an effective cluttering tool.  Plastic, on the other hand, is cheap and readily available.  And it can be HUGE!  Clear plastic tubs (get the largest, most ungainly ones you can find) can provide that false sense of organization while keeping reassuring clutter in the sightlines.

18)   Marie Kondo suggests taking everything out of your closet and then deciding what to keep.  “Do I love it?” is her tool for making decisions.  I suggest taking everything out of your closet.  “I love all of it!” is my tool for cluttering up.  Now that everything is out of your closet, you might as well leave it out.  The cat needs a new shelf (see #14).  In fact, get rid of the closet door so you can watch Whiskers play.

19)   Attach sentimental meaning to all objects.  This enables you to keep virtually anything, from the tags off the sweater your grandma gave you the week before she died, to the Kleenex your child sneezed into during the last complete solar eclipse.

20)   See the possibility in everything.  My grandma trashed four houses.  She was locked out of her last home on Christmas Eve by the Wisconsin Department of Health.  My dad made the mistake of tossing an aluminum Jello mold in the dumpster when he was trying to help Grandma make her house livable.  She fished the Jello mold out of the trash, proclaiming, “If you put a stake in the middle of it, a dog could drink out of it.”

I hope you find these tips helpful as you renew your commitment to clutter!  Feel free to chime in with your best strategies for disorganization.


Musical Moment



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2 Responses to the life-changing magic of cluttering up

  1. Mary Gatlin Bell says:

    I’m a former patient and fellow packrat who, after countless attempts, has finally irritated her saintly current doctor. Hence I started dreaming of my former, much preferred, doctor who wisely took a temporary retirement shortly after the birth of the Big E. Being overwhelmed with my schedule, like all failed housekeepers, i decided to google you instead.
    I have fwd’ed your posting “..magic of cluttering up” and have some very positive feedback/advice which I’d like to share with you. Please comtact me at my email address. Might take me a few days to get back to you as I’m travleing.

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