Cut the Clutter

Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

If there weren’t so darned much paper, it would be much easier to be organized.

I have files and I know how to use them, but the constant onslaught of paper dropped into my life on a daily basis makes me feel like I’m in some sort of hellish ticker-tape parade.

I have spent much of the past week trying to clear the top of my desk. I’ve paid bills and sent off thank you notes. I’ve shredded enough paper to fill a hamster high rise and every day, the postman brings more.

So I keep putting it away and putting it away and it fills boxes and bins and eventually I move those boxes to the garage and start on new boxes and bins in the house.

It needs to stop.

But how? How many millions of hours am I willing to spend poring over ancient ATM receipts?

I need a fierce strategy. I’m already using “paperless” systems for most of our bills, but what of the gathering ephemera that is part and parcel of parenthood?

I am driven crazy by sheets of school photos that I have yet to cut out and send. I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse to find similarly uncut sheets of wallet-size photos of me that my mother never cut and sent…

My daughter is a prolific artist. She is just driven by an urge to create and create and create. I applaud this urge, but also am frightened by our need for a dedicated home gallery. I try to hang the best ones up on clips in the hallway and then rotate them into envelopes for grandparents or the recycling bin. I occasionally scan my favorites, but much of the charm of kid art is texture and that gets lost in the digital age.

My husband has come up with a blunt, yet incredibly effective system for organizing all the tiny, weird plastic objects that ebb and flow around the children. At the end of the day, he wanders through the house and eventually deposits everything he finds in the drawer under my daughter’s bed. I have to say that when he first started this system, it freaked me out. Knowing that somewhere in the house, there is a jumble of marbles, craft projects, marker caps, plastic animals, bits of string, broken toys, etc… is unnerving. Eventually, I realized that it is less unnerving than having those bits and bobs turn up on every flat surface in my home.

Inspired by his general organizational plan, I am trying to establish a place for everything. Shoes in a bin, coats on a hook, crayons in the cupboard. If I know where it goes, it is easier to put away. This works in reverse, too. If you’ve put it where it goes, it is easy to find when you need it.

This kind of organization is sloppy, but helpful because it leads to a clean table, a clutter-free kitchen counter and that kind of serene space helps me feel organized on a deeper level. Tossing stuff in the drawer under the bed leaves me with more time to read or take a walk or write. Creative expression, exercise, and sleep are all things I need in regular doses in order to maintain my equilibrium.

I’m realizing that when I cut the clutter there is room for more life.

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