Let’s say your husband is the kind of big-hearted guy who takes bags of kibble with him when he travels so he can feed stray reservation dogs.

And let’s say one of those dogs swept him off his feet with its charm and excessive politeness. That she batted her eyelashes at him as she approached the kibble, daintily ate just the right amount for her and then stepped back to let her pals finish it off.

And let’s say your husband then drove off but couldn’t get her out of his mind. And so he called a shoestring rescue outfit who couldn’t get back down there for a week but when they did, they found her and brought her back to Colorado. And then let’s say your husband casually lets you know he has an appointment at 9 am on Saturday to “go see the dog”.

Game over. You (by which I mean me) now have a new dog, who turns out to be 8 months old, street savvy and as rambunctiously puppyish as you might imagine.

Now let’s say someone accidentally leaves the brand new leash you bought for her in the brand new crate you also bought with the brand-new-to-you puppy on the ride home.

If you want to hold onto the puppy who’s street smart but not at all trained, you’ll replace that leash immediately. Yes, you bought it hours ago. Yes, it feels like a huge waste of money to get rid of something you just bought. But it’s worse than useless. It’s going to get thrown out eventually, so why not do it right away? While you’re at it, get rid of those cute toys the new puppy shredded on sight too. It doesn’t matter that you bought them today – they’ve already become useless and it’s time to get them out of here.

Let’s say your partner would never do this and no puppy is making it through your front door. I’m willing to bet there’s still something you’re holding onto that’s useless but it feels too soon to say goodbye to. Instead of ageing it in the basement or the hall closet, why not cut to the chase and make it your Send it away Saturday today?

meeting the puppy

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.


Need some help letting go of recent clutter? If you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, let’s talk. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 – lucy@joyfulsurroundingsllc.com

You are as important as your stuff. It sounds obvious, but few of us live that way. When you look around, does it look like you live there or does it look like you happen to share space with a bunch of stuff?

Do you use the space within your four walls freely or do you sidle past the true occupant, your stuff? If your stuff stops you using areas of your house, it has overstepped its boundaries.

Living somewhere as opposed to being roommates with your stuff feels different. If you live in your living room, then your favorite chair is inviting and the stack of books and magazines next to it are things you’re excited to read.

When you and stuff are uneasy roommates, the chair is covered with random things that you threw on there, and if the magazines and books are anywhere near the chair they’re almost certainly things you feel like you should read.

If the basement was long ago taken over by odds and ends, broken things to fix, and boxes and boxes of perfectly good hardware supplies you haven’t used in thirty years, then your stuff owes you rent.

Like the roommate who leaves their stuff all over the house, it’s time to serve an eviction notice on your clutter. When you’re thinking in terms of decades of non-use, it’s time to feel the fear and get some space back.

If it’s more important for you to find the perfect home for everything before you can allow yourself to let anything go, then your stuff has you on the ropes. Why is it more important that the kick-knacks go to someone you know personally who vows to cherish them forever than for you to be able to decorate your house how you like it?

This Saturday, is it time to start helping your mess move on?

Longmont Times-Call column August 2019

Lucy Kelly: Send it away Saturday

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.


Need someone in your corner? If you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, let’s talk. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 – lucy@joyfulsurroundingsllc.com

Do you assume a professional organizer’s house must be perfect? Not a teaspoon out of place, everything stowed in pristine Container Store finery at all times? After last week’s blog post about living with a packrat, I heard from quite a few of you asking if I play by the same rules. And behind the question, I can feel the frustration – it’s all very well for you, you’re a professional organizer, I just know your house is perfect and your family sticks to the rules, unlike my messy house and chaotic life.

I get that we all compare ourselves with each other and most of us feel we come up short. So would it help if I pointed out that all the photos on my blog are taken in my own house? If I’m challenging you to let go of something, it’s because it was there for me to declutter myself. Would you get a delicious shiver of shadenfreude if I told you that my husband would happily keep everything sentimental he’s had since kindergarten?

Long ago, so long ago there wasn’t even a job title of professional organizer, I realized that although I’m no minimalist, I don’t want to see everything I own out on display at all times.

And yet that was my husband’s favorite decorating style.  A room that felt cozy and comforting to him felt stifling and busting at the seams to me. We’d started off his way so part of our unspoken compromise was that since I was the one who wanted to make a change, I was the one who charted the new path.

It helped that we relocated every two years or so (not a military family but we’ve moved that often) and so I kept getting a fresh start. At first, I’d try to replicate the first home each and every time, so it felt like home. And then it occurred to me that I could make some changes.

As it got further and further from our two years in Egypt, maybe we didn’t need to display every last trinket and souvenir we’d picked up there. As we got more confident in our own decorating style, it was easier to leave the passed down furniture we’d been grateful to have when we first started out.

It also helped that I’ve never, ever, not even once thrown out something behind my husband’s back. So, the trust level was there for when I started “tote-ifying” things we didn’t need on display.  He knew I wasn’t tossing his treasures, I was just storing them safely.

We didn’t have an extraordinary amount of stuff to deal with. Substantial but not out of control. And no one was demanding that I hold onto trash. He just thought everything was a vital souvenir. All the business cards a local news reporter collected over 25 years? Each one was a memory of an interview. All the leaflets from hiking trips? Precious reminders of fun times. The jacket he wore when he interviewed Gaddafi out in the Libyan desert? Impossible to separate from the act. And so those totes are packed full, with not an inch to spare and there are many of them. I know perfectly well they’ll never be opened again, but if he ever wants to go hunting for things, he’ll find them.

That’s my compromise. My husband’s compromise is that he doesn’t get to display everything he’s ever had, but he’s okay with that – he wants to have it, not necessarily see it. And over the years, he’s become more selective about what he keeps in the first place.

When I’m off duty for daily picking up and decluttering, things accumulate at astonishing speed because he doesn’t have the same level of intolerance for clutter that I do. But the big secret is I like him for so much more than his organizational skills. He’s supported our family through thick and thin for over 30 years, through the crises that all of us have had or will have. Health challenges, kid issues, you name it, we’ve weathered it. I know he’s got my back, and I’ve got his. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve both been through high level cancers makes a difference, but whether or not he holds onto his stuff isn’t really significant. He doesn’t leave clutter out to spite me, I pick up because it makes me feel better not to one-up him.

Why am I telling you all this? I want you to put clutter in its place. Literally, because I’m an organizer and I think you’ll be happier if your home is safe and you can find things. And metaphorically.  It’s really not such a big deal if things are cluttered.

I know some of you are living in situations you find intolerable. The clutter has passed beyond cute and there’s the reality of the mental issues behind the keeping.

But most of you are just dealing with a mismatch. Opposites attract and it’s no different when it comes to clutter.

There’s no one goal for how decluttered a house should be. No internationally agreed upon standard. The sooner we stop comparing ourselves to anyone else, the better. Who knows, when you stop holding onto clutter in reaction to what anyone else thinks, you may be freed up to realize you actually don’t like it very much yourself.

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.


If you’d like someone to help you find organizing solutions you can both live with and you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, let’s talk. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 – lucy@joyfulsurroundingsllc.com