A physical manifestation

If The Picture of Dorian Gray was about my house, it might look like this shop in St. Louis, April 2008.

If The Picture of Dorian Gray was about my house, it might look like this shop in St. Louis.
April 2008

“Clutter is a physical manifestation of fear that cripples our ability to grow.”
H.G. Chissell

From scanning the magazine titles on every newsstand, I know I’m not the only one who has a problem with clutter.  I understand there are entire television shows devoted to documenting hoarders who are so much worse than the average viewer that they are weirdly reassuring to watch.  But it seems most people have at least a little trouble with throwing things away, and I have a bigger problem with it than almost anyone I know of.

Years ago I read that the tendency to hold on to things is largely a fear-based behavior, which makes a lot of sense to me.  I hold onto things because I’m afraid.  I fear that I’ll forget an interesting person or happy memory associated with a card or gift, or I’ll someday need the object I ought to toss, or I’ll forget that I got rid of it and waste time looking for it later (yes, I really do that sort of thing, even more so as I get older).

Print addict that I am, I hoard reading material most of all.  It’s a real struggle for me to throw away a newspaper or magazine I haven’t read.  Jeff is coaching me to skim more and read less, but I seldom manage to do that.  I have come to the realization that I have enough unread books, magazines and digital reading material that I could read all the time for the rest of my life and not run out.  Still, it’s hard for me to resist the urge to subscribe to a magazine at a giveaway rate, or pass up a gorgeous, like-new book at a library sale (after all, the money goes to support the library, right?)   🙂

In other words, “my name is Julia and I have a problem with clutter.”  But I’m in recovery.  I am learning to relish the act of cleaning out and freeing up space.  I get a big kick out of donating boxes full of very good, barely used things to Goodwill.  I love sending a nice book to someone who requests it through the wonderful Paperback Swap site I used for many years.  I’ve even managed to pitch my most comfortable walking shoes or t-shirts or jeans that are growing shamefully threadbare.  Okay, I’ve pitched SOME of them.  It helps that cleaning and tossing really does do wonders for my mood.  Now, if I could just keep those shelves, counters and closets EMPTY for a while…

I love blogs such as Organized at Heart and Flylady and Simplify 101, along with many others, all of which are full of tips, fun ideas, and understanding.  The only downside is that it’s tempting to spend more time reading than cleaning out!  What are your best clutter-clearing secrets?  Send me some ideas to keep me on the wagon!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Susan

    Haha, Julia, I too am guilty of enjoying reading decluttering books more than actually doing the decluttering ; ).

    I know that so much has changed in your life since you wrote this; you had no idea of the losses and the move and other changes that lay not far ahead, all of which cause upheaval and disruption. Love you, dear friend.

    • Susan, I find that reading these de-cluttering books is a form of being coached continually, which I find helpful. I do think that over time, I have managed to incorporate much of what I have read. Even if I only get one or two great ideas from each book, the authors are usually enjoyable company for me because I sense in them kindred spirits.

      I so appreciate your kindness and sensitivity to what I have experienced. One thing I’ve learned is that people are quite different from each other in their ability to understand (or even tolerate) the suffering of someone else. Some people are much more prone to impatience, or to what has been called “compassion fatigue,” and that’s understandable. But those of you who keep a tender and caring heart are especially precious to those of us who are knocked reeling by seemingly one blow after another. Recovery takes time. Thank you for being so understanding of that! ❤ I'm so happy to know you!!!

      • Susan

        ❤ ❤ ❤

  2. Lydia E Gama

    Well, Julia, as I was reading the comments from 2013, first I had to stop and laugh for a good while with the comment, ” If one of the kids tells me their jeans are too tight, into the bin they go, (the jeans, not the kid)” I love that sense of humor. Your post reminded me of an incident that happened to me when I was still teaching. Somebody, probably the PTA, organized a book sale and we were invited to donate books. I took a bag full of books from my collection. That afternoon before leaving the school I made the mistake of going to check out the sale and of course, I ended with a back full of them. When I went to pay I noticed the woman in charge looked at me in a funny way butI didn’t dwell on it. Until I got home and discovered that I had bought some of the books I had donated.

    • Lydia, as one who has (more than once) bought a book I already owned– though always secondhand 😀 — I can sympathize. I’ve done the same thing with crafts, and also even ordered a t-shirt online off Kohl’s, only to find I had that exact same one in my closet (in defense of me, the colors were not quite the same in the online photo, but still…). All these things can be viewed in either a negative or positive light. Negative, we are mindlessly wealthy and don’t know when to say when. Positive, we are amazingly blessed to 1. have so much of what we like, and 2. like so much of what we have. I prefer the second, more positive, view of things! Think of those books as being part of the great literary circle of life…what goes around comes around, sometimes literally! 😀 😀 😀

  3. Nicely penned
    Stay wealthy healthy safe and happy

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