Go Big or Go Home

So, you’ve got your “Why.” You’ve decided this is your year-you are going to get uncluttered in 2021!  You’ve blocked off your time, rented a steam shovel and a backhoe, and you mean business. The kids sense change is in the air and are getting twitchy. You even caught your partner finding a new hidey hole for his beer bottle cap collection.

Before you order a dumpster, let’s slow down your wheels a bit.  Oh, trust me, few get more enthusiastic than I do with giving clutter the heave ho. But my years of experience have taught me that this “Go big or go home” approach might gratify initially, but it rarely brings sustainable change.

“Going big” is overrated.  We’re going to start small. You chose what room you wish to start in.  Pick a drawer, any drawer.  Maybe it’s your underwear drawer that has turned into a clutter cache of sundry doodads. I know I’m not alone in this tendency because I’ve seen enough underwear drawers and the secrets they hold–and I’m not talking about overpriced panties from the mall.  True story–when I was growing up with my six siblings, mom would hide the “good” cereal in her underwear drawer so my older brother wouldn’t eat the entire box.  It would be right there, underneath mom’s sensible cotton undies.

It wasn’t until I wasn’t until I had children that I learned cereal belongs in the pantry.

Forgive my digression. Maybe you want to start in the junk drawer.  You know which one.  If that’s too overwhelming, start with the glove box in the car.  Or the trunk.

Another area that can build confidence in your decluttering is underneath the kitchen sink or wherever you store cleaning supplies.  Toss any bottle that’s been sitting there for the past 2 years and only has a few drops left in it.  Donate the microwave oven cleaner to a thrift store and promise me you’ll never buy another single item cleaner again.  Toss the ratty rags.  Be brave.

You may wish to set a timer for 10 minutes if you have a tendency to get lost in the weeds. (Hello, beloved ADDers!)  The idea is to start small and build success.  Empty the drawer. Clear off the pantry shelf.  And then sift and sort.  Depending on how much stuff you’ve got spilled out onto the counter, you may wish to label your piles with some painter’s tape.  (Painter’s tape is one of my favorite organizing tools because it’s easy to label piles without damaging any surface.)

The categories: Pitch, donate, think about, relocate.  Easy peasy right?

Still with me?  Are your fingers getting itchy yet?  If so, my work here is done.  Just kidding.  Please remember a few important organizing commandments.

Thou shalt not practice non-consensual organizing. Organize your own stuff and lead by example.

Thou shalt be exceedingly kind to yourself if you are overwhelmed by clutter.  (And again, this is why it’s important to start small.)

Thou shalt remember your Why.  Did you write it out and post it where you will see it several times during the day?

Finally, come and share your victories over on my Facebook page, “Unclutter Your Life with the Zany Sage.”  It’s inspiring to see the progress others are making.  You are also welcome to bring me your toughest organizing questions as I love a challenge!

In the next column, we’re going to address the kitchen.

Theresa Winn Lode loves strong coffee and cheap wine and thanks to COVID, sometimes confuses when is the right time to drink which.  She no longer keeps cereal in her underwear drawer.  Find her at

Scroll to Top