Choosing Calm Over Clutter {Guest Post from Mary}

The pictures of Mary’s home on her blog, Atelier, always take my breath away.  So peaceful!  So calm.  So uncluttered.  I asked her to share her secrets, and here they are:

Laura was so kind to ask me to write a little something about homemaking, particularly in the area of keeping things streamlined and low on clutter.

Before I really begin, I want to preface this little post with one very important point: Your clutter doesn’t bother me. Don’t be afraid that I would be a judgy mcjudgerson if you invited me over. Only my clutter bothers me, and here’s why.  My clutter taunts me, “Did you remember to pay that bill that was due on the 21st? Or was it the 15th? Does Veronica have dress shoes for Easter? She should fit in Hanna’s old ones, but where are they?! She must need new shoes. Where is that 50% off coupon that expires on Saturday? You need to put away the laundry. Good luck getting it into that stuffed dresser.”

You get my drift. My clutter stresses me out. It darkly forebodes of important things lost or forgotten or unaccomplished. So that’s why I make an effort to keep things tidy and clutter to a minimum. I don’t succeed completely – complete success is a chimera – but any bit of effort bears rewards. So allons-y with some tips.

First, believe that a solution exists. This may be hard to swallow if you have lots of kids in a smallish space, or even just one adult in a small place. It’s easy to fall into that trap of “I just need a bigger house” or “If I only had more money…” But don’t give in; you’re a smart cookie, and you can make things better.

Second, think creatively for solutions, and realize that the best solutions are practical ones that make keeping clutter down easy. This involves knowing yourself. Do you prefer doing a bit everyday, or are you more of a once a week tidier/cleaner? Will you really hang the coats in the inconvenient closet down the hall, or does it just make sense to put some hooks up near the door? That question leads to the next suggestion.

Make a concerted effort to give everything a “place.” Picking up the day’s mess is so much easier if every toy, piece of clothing, dish has somewhere to go. I find that I fold and put away laundry with less reluctance if I know there is room for it in the drawer. The kids do better keeping their rooms tidy (still a work in progress, though) if there is a spot for the blocks, and another for books.

If you are having a hard time finding a spot, ask yourself if you maybe have more than enough of something. Some of my kitchen cupboards are bursting at the seams, and over the weekend my husband just took out some plastic cups we never use, and said, “I’m getting rid of these.” And I was so relieved. Why didn’t I do that? Because each time I did dishes I focused on the short-term task of making it work rather than finding a longer term solution. Free yourself from some of your regular tidying quandaries by asking the question, “Is keeping these extra items worth the stress they cause me?”

As a person who has lived a fairly strict budget for most of my life, I find that I sometimes balk at getting rid of stuff. What if I need it in a few months, and it’s gone?! There are a couple of ways around this issue. The first is to realize that having too much can be the same as not having enough. If you save every pair of shoes for your kids (can you tell that shoes are a thing for me and my four kids?), even the worn out ones, it can make keeping track of all of the sizes and seasons impossible.  All of a sudden it’s winter and your child’s feet have grown a whole size in a few weeks, and you think you have boots that will fit them, but you’re not really sure…. so you buy more boots. Did saving all those shoes really save money? Nope.

Another method to use if you have a difficult time letting things go is to put the items aside. Place them in a bag destined for Goodwill and put it in a closet or the basement. And wait. Not only is it super convenient to have a place (see above) for unwanted items right away, this practice lessens the finality of the decision. When the bag is full, review its contents. Odds are you will feel more detached from the items and confident that letting them go is the right call.

Keeping the clutter down is an acute and ongoing challenge for most in this age of junk mail and cheap goods.  Throw kids and budget restraints into that mix, and things get even more difficult. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, get excited! With a little elbow grease and some creative thinking, big changes are possible!


Mary is  a 31-year-old wife, mother, writer, blogger, and personal stylist. Atelier is a lifestyle and fashion blog where she writes about style and wardrobe, movies, makeup, food (and drink), books, life and love.

9 thoughts on “Choosing Calm Over Clutter {Guest Post from Mary}

  1. we are in the process of decluttering here. My goal for the summer is to decrease our stuff by half-yep, half. I am a minimalist but stuff still piles up! Paper, mail, toys, clothes. I cannot imagine if we did keep everything. I would be a mess! LOL. I completely agree that other people’s clutter does not bother me in the least. It is only my clutter that drives me crazy. Terrific post.

  2. Love it! Now why don’t you come over and organize me :). Another thing – more space can even invite the clutter problem. The thought “we have plenty of space” can lead to more disorganization…

    • Oh, Ann, I don’t think you grasp how much I want to come over! We probably wouldn’t get much done though, with talking and laughing and drinking and what have you!

      And that is an excellent point!

  3. These are really great tips, especially the “everything has a place”. I try to stick to that and when I do I find life much easier! (Even if I occasionally, ok more than occasionally forget where that place is!) At least I know it’s somewhere logical and I’ll eventually find it. 🙂

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