why organize?

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Are your decluttering efforts consistently stymied by your need to find exactly the right home for your departing possessions?

So many people tell me that they feel guilty sending stuff to the landfill. Oftentimes they tell me this while standing between precarious walls of clutter, with whole rooms out of commission for regular use. Clutter is gaining ground daily as their house effectively functions as a branch of the landfill.

Of course, it’s important not to trash the planet but it’s equally important to value your own space enough to treat it the same way. It’s time to factor yourself in as equally valuable, of deserving to live in a clear, clutter free space.

Yes, it will feel difficult to put things in the trash, knowing where they’ll end up. If recycling is available where you live, that can help. But the most effective way to help the planet is to stop buying unnecessary things.  When you know where everything is, you don’t need to buy duplicates. When you clear out the excess, you can see what you own and come up with good ways to reuse what you have. If you keep a small rag bag full of soft worn-out t-shirts, finding a rag is going to be quick and easy. Unearthing one in multiple garbage bags stuffed full of miscellaneous discarded clothing is not.

In birthing the new you, there’ll be some pain. You’ll throw out some things you know you could use – all those rags! But remind yourself that you have a cleaning service come in monthly and they bring their own supplies. You have enough that your children and their children after them are well supplied with rags, if they’re even aware of the concept. Throwing those potential rags in the landfill seems wrong but they’re trash and that’s what we do with trash.

Can you give yourself a pass to clear the trash out of your space now and then be more mindful about where things moving forward? That’ll involve thinking carefully about what you bring into your house. Is is something you need? Or is it a want? Wants are fine, of course, but when they’re temporary or just part of an overall pattern of shopping as distraction, that has its effect on your environment. Earth Day begins at home, and living in a landfill as a penance for the way we collectively treat our planet is taking on quite a lot of responsibility for a shared global problem.

P.S. Quick health update: my latest scan continues to show no sign of cancer. Chemo did an awesome job. Thanks for all your support and good wishes ❤

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

Joyful Surroundings LLC


Everything feels better with an organized home!

There’s an idea going around that decluttering is just for the middle and upper class set who can afford to let something go that they might need to replace one day. Which begs the question, in what situation, rich or poor, will any of us need a single flip-flop, its mate left at the beach? Or a stack of newspapers from the 1990’s?

I’d argue that decluttering is an equal opportunity task, useful to all. Sure, the ultra-rich may be decluttering things they simply don’t like but if I’m living in dire straits, the last thing I need is a bunch of clutter everywhere, making it impossible for me to find the things I need. You could even argue that I’d need to declutter even more than the affluent packrat, since it may cause me hardship to have to buy a duplicate of something I already have but simply cannot find in amongst the clutter. If there’s stuff in there I could sell, I’m losing that opportunity by not being able to find it in my clutter-strewn abode.

The truth is, much of what leaves the house when you declutter is garbage. Old grocery flyers, lidless Tupperware, and torn, stained clothes.  Tons and tons of ancient, unopened mail. We all must deal with the fact that stuff wears out, stuff comes in that we don’t end up using, stuff needs to keep moving so you can use your space. Decluttering on the regular helps you do that.

Whether you’re well-off and have accumulated a bunch of unused stuff through recreational shopping, or you’re going through hard times and you’ve picked up lots of free furniture from ‘free’ signs along the road, it’s still clutter if you don’t use it. Poverty mentality tells us we really need to hold onto that broken chair with the missing leg, but if we don’t fix the chair, if we don’t use it, if our dreams of selling the chair never quite materialize, it’s just clutter. If we stock up on scores of tins of beans because we fear not having enough to eat but we never actually eat those beans, then they’re clutter. They’re ineffectively papering over our fears. Decluttering isn’t the province of the idle rich and moneyed classes, it’s something that makes everyone’s lives better.

I’ve worked with people from all walks of life who’ve told me that decluttering was changing their lives in a way that meant the money they were spending to get it done was worth it to them. Just as you find the money for car repairs when you need them, getting help with a skill you don’t have can be a life-changing investment of resources. Decluttering is a necessary life-skill and if you don’t have the skill set yourself, getting help is going to change everything.

Undoubtedly, organizing has become decluttering’s shinier sister, with an emphasis on expensive containers, Pinterest-inspired fiddly labels, and the inevitable Marie Kondo fussy folding techniques. When people talk about decluttering as something for the middle and upper class, perhaps they’re thinking of all that stuff. The outer trappings of arranging your stuff so it’s pretty. But that Google millionaire who wants four custom-designed closets will still enjoy the results so much more if they declutter first, so they can find things at a glance.

And yes, most people can’t afford to pay for that and would consider it a luxury. But being able to find your stuff? Not having to wade through mountains of crap you never use? Saving money by being able to find the things you need when you need them? Priceless. Available to all. You can do all that without dropping a fortune at The Container Store. And it all starts with decluttering.

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

Joyful Surroundings LLC


Everything feels better with an organized home!


For those of you who just joined us, I’m currently seven-twelfths of the way through chemo for fairly advanced brain cancer, having had brain surgery last August to remove as much of the tumor as was deemed safe and then six weeks of simultaneous chemo/radiation. Now with stepped up chemo dosages, I’m seven sessions down, five to go. I’ve had two scans during treatment so far and both have been encouraging, which is good news. A year ago, I would have told you that being organized while dealing with chronic illness is a great idea but this experience has taught me that in fact it’s essential. Going through cancer treatment has called on every organizational skill I possess.

Week one, I take the chemo tablets for five consecutive days. I’d naively assumed that since it’s a pill, no big deal. I’d take one before bed each evening and let my body heal while I slept. The reality is I’m completely sidelined. Nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Organizing ahead of time helps me take the right pill at the right time. Having enough clean pj’s for a week is essential and if I haven’t been able to get that sorted ahead of time, we’re in trouble since laundry is way too complicated this week.

Week two I feel exhausted. The nausea has mostly gone, but this is the week I need to be able to reach into the freezer and pull out something I can just thaw and microwave. How it gets in there is a mystery I solve during weeks three and four, and if I haven’t then things go downhill rapidly.

By weeks three and four, I have some more energy but if I don’t stay close to my planner, I miss doctor’s appointments and deadlines for ordering prescriptions. Checking it morning and evening is non-negotiable as is creating realistic daily to-do lists. I can write blog posts and chauffeur my daughter around town, but I’m still dropping off to sleep way earlier than I used to. The prime directive is to gather strength so I can do it all over again.

In other words, all that slack time I used to have to “just” pop a load of laundry in (and see it through all the way to our dresser drawers) or throw an impromptu meal together out of leftovers is gone. It’s just too hard to figure anything like that out on the spur of the moment.

It reminds me so much of the difference between life before you have a baby and life afterwards. Before, you think you’re busy. You really do. And afterwards you laugh and laugh as you try to remember the last time you got a full night’s sleep or had time to use the bathroom in peace.

This is like having a baby, except I’m the baby and the mom at the same time. So I have to pull out every organizational stop I know in order to make things work. Sometimes as I doze and let my body heal, I ponder the use of my chosen profession. Organizing seems like such a luxury, but then I think about how this whole thing could be unfolding if I were knee deep in clutter. About how the bedside table seems to become confused and chaotic within a week, and I imagine how it would look if I had never decluttered my bedroom.

Because I’ve gotten down to the baseline of needing or wanting or loving everything I have, there’s room for everything. It may get shuffled out of place when I can’t walk much to do a quick tidy, but as soon as I can, it’s back to normal levels.

If you’re lucky enough to still be living in the bubble of not having had a serious illness, and your place is cluttered and chaotic, I beg you to consider getting started with the decluttering now.  Please don’t wait until you’re dealing with so much more to realize there’s crap everywhere and you have thirteen thermometers but can’t find any of them. Twenty minutes a day may not keep the doctor away, but it’s going to make it so much easier for you to heal in comfort.

If you have upcoming surgery, plan to declutter for 20 minutes every day. If you’re fit as a fiddle but have way too much crap, plan to declutter for 20 minutes a day. If you ever plan to move, plan to declutter 20 minutes a day. Start today and keep going. Future You is enthusiastically agreeing with me, as she trips over tennis balls, slips on newspapers and digs through medicine cabinets full of outdated and unidentifiable meds.

Getting started: Hop on the Send it away Saturday train

saved furniture

This Saturday, the challenge is to let go of one piece of furniture you’re saving for a future house. You may love it to pieces, but it just doesn’t fit in your space. Unless you’re about to move into that magical house where all this furniture will fit within six months, it’s time to get real. This is where you live. The furniture you need is the furniture that works in this house, the house you actually live in.

What piece of furniture can you send on its way, to be used in a home it fits in?

© 2013 – 2018 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Joyful Surroundings LLC


Everything feels better with an organized home!