Not clearing clutter will lead to 'day of reckoning'


POSTED: Monday, May 25, 2009

Something I'm realizing is that in life there's always a price to pay. In my last column I encouraged readers to make time to control home and office clutter. When we accumulate too much and clutter is out of control, we pay a price in quality of life and peace of mind. I've noticed there is a future price to pay, too.

All those postponed decisions about whether to keep or not to keep, and postponed actions of not getting rid of the excess will eventually lead to a “;day of reckoning”; when it must be dealt with, by you or someone else.

I've been hearing from friends whose last surviving parent has died, leaving them with the task of clearing out the house. It can take weeks.

I've heard tales of having to rent dumpsters and even having to fly back and forth to the mainland to complete this task.

I experienced this firsthand when I had to move my then 80-year-old mother from her home in Seattle to live with my family in Hawaii. It took my brother and me two weeks, working from sunup to past sundown, to clear out her home.

To this day I'm wondering where all the stuff came from. My mother was very organized and not a clutterholic. Her home was tidy.

All I can surmise is that it was the size of the home—a two-story house with a full basement and three bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet. I think she kept things just because she had the space to do so.

My observation is that space available, multiplied by the number of years in a residence, can be a dangerous combination when it comes to the day of reckoning!

It might not involve a move or a death, but perhaps the need to clear things out to renovate, re-carpet, prepare for termite treatment or make room for a house guest. When that day comes, it could be a project of nightmarish proportions. And the timing could be at a stressful, inconvenient time for you.

IF YOU'RE MOVED enough to do something, I want to encourage you with a story from “;Living Organized,”; by Sandra Felton, about a “;rock castle”; in Florida built by rocks of coral that covered the ground and made yardwork and farming difficult.

One man instructed his family members to come home from working in a lime grove by carrying a rock in each hand. Each day, rocks accumulated until they formed the castle that stands today.

When I read that, I immediately pictured a “;clutter castle”; and made a reverse application—that just as the castle was built by rocks (clutter) accumulated one by one, it could be dismantled the same way.

Our excess can be reversed bit by bit. By making decisions one item at a time, day by day, week by week, the pile can be undone. It can be as simple as removing three items at a time or dedicating 15 minutes daily. Consistency over time will lead to visible results.

Meanwhile, it's important to stay current and not let daily paperwork and clutter accumulate. By staying current and consistently working on the accumulated backlog, we can face a less daunting day of reckoning. To me that's a worthwhile endeavor!

See you in two weeks!