How to See Hidden Clutter

If you really want to know what your house smells like, you can’t stay indoors. You have to go outside and get some fresh air, and when you return you’ll know if your house smells like dinner or laundry or paint.

I’ve even witnessed someone not notice a gas leak because she was so used to it.

Clutter happens the same way. You get so used to it that you don’t see it any more.

It helps to switch up your perspective sometimes so that you can see a room the way other people will see it. One way to do this is to take a photograph.

I took the picture above of the couch in a furnished apartment we rented last year (I liked the fabric).

A different time that I snapped that picture, I was surprised by the socks that someone had left on the back of the couch. I couldn’t see them at all when I was standing right in front of them. I could only see them in the picture.

Photographs help you to notice details like extension cords dangling and piles in the corners.

Another way to change your perspective about the way you look at a room is to invite people over. This never fails to make me notice the things we left on the counters or by the back entrance that I had been so good at ignoring before I knew other people would see it.

If you need to tackle something big, something like a Monica’s closet or a back room, the best thing to do is take everything out. I don’t do this for every clean-out project, but I did it for my back room makeover, and it was the best way to see what was filling up space (and to keep things from falling on my head from shelves above). Take everything out when you can’t see to assess the area because so much stuff is in the way.

The ultimate method, and this is not for wimps, is to stage your house and pack for a move. It’s better to keep up with your stuff before you have to.

It’s easy to ignore my own stuff (I’m more likely to notice my husband’s stuff). I even successfully ignored a Wonder Woman piñata buckled in the back seat of my car for months. What method works best for you to start noticing clutter?

How to Deal With the Keepsakes You Shouldn’t Save

I like journals, but I’m a selective recorder. Some things are better left in the past.

At the end of my time here, I want my cherished keepsakes to fill a box, not a storage unit.

Doing this means letting go of the keepsakes that have a neutral or negative quality, and it’s not just so mementos can fit in a box of a certain size, but so I can enjoy them now.

It’s not automatically easy, so here is a guide to help you sort through keepsakes that you shouldn’t be keeping:

Neutral Keepsakes

Neutral keepsakes are what I call short-term keepsakes. They are appreciated now, but you don’t need to save them for all time. You certainly wouldn’t need to scrapbook them. These are usually pieces of paper such as greeting cards, a program from an event you went to or a participation certificate—a “thanks for coming” gift that’s not really too important.

The way to know for sure if something is a short-term keepsake is to see how you feel about it as time goes by. If you care about it less and less, you won’t miss it later. Go ahead and recycle it.

Be sure the things you are saving are about you and your family. You don’t need to save the program from a friend’s wedding ceremony just to prove you care about her. That belongs in her keepsake box, not yours.

Negative Keepsakes

Negative keepsakes, the things you save because they feel like part of your life story, but they make you cringe (such as bad photographs and journals about feeeeeeelings) are something you should deal with too.

“I have years worth of diaries or journals that I am not sure what to do with. I don’t want anyone else to read them, and yet some have almost a negative-sentimental value. I still keep a small calendar each year and write what happened each day – helps for medical, family events, things to remember if need be. Any advice as to letting go?” -M

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11 Tips to Host a Group of Overnight Guests

I enjoy having guests drop by without a lot of notice, and that happens often.

Surprise guests are easier because you don’t have to clean much ahead of time. They get what they get. It’s real-life living.

On Friday last week one of Doug’s work associates stopped by in the morning. (We live in a location that’s really convenient.) It was breakfast time so my kitchen was messy, but at least the kids were dressed, so I fixed him a scrambled egg and a few slices of fresh tomato, and they had a meeting at the breakfast table.

Later that afternoon my daughter invited a friend to play, and then in the evening we had some friends stop by and visit. The weekend would be busy because we planned to have a whole bunch of house guests on Saturday.

I don’t mind last-minute overnight guests either, like the time I met a traveling Chinese student and invited her to come stay with my family instead of at the youth hostel. She agreed she would like to, and it wasn’t so very unusual because this was when we lived in Florence and I met new people all the time. She got on the bus with me, pulling her wheeled suitcase behind her. I was surprised that she would be willing to stay at a stranger’s house, but I guess my two little kids made me look safe and trustworthy. Doug was not surprised when I showed up at the door with a two-night house guest. I am glad she stayed with us.

Planned guests take more work because you don’t have that excuse, “Oh, what a nice surprise to see you. Come on in.” You have to clean more ahead of time, and it’s especially hard when you have little kids who work against you to undo your cleaning efforts.

Planned overnight guests require even more planning efforts. I’ve lived in many apartments that I never had more than one or two house guests at the same time.

Last weekend was the first time we had so many people stay with us that the ratio of people to bathrooms was 12:1 and that, my friends, required careful planning.

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