Is Clutter Destroying Us From The Inside Out?

"One’s own self or material goods, which has more worth?"


The American Dream

Our American culture has many great aspects to it, like we're known for being outgoing, friendly and optimistic but on the flip side we are also known for working too many hours, eating too much food and possessing too many things with none of these habits yielding very positive results. In fact, if we're really honest with ourselves, are those long hours spent at work leaving us feeling happy and fulfilled or stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted? Are the amounts of food we're eating making us healthy and strong or making us obese, unhealthy and largely dependent upon medication and what about all those possessions we've been collecting for so many years? Do we treasure what we own or have we just been collecting stuff that has little meaning and even less value to us? Do we feel energized in our own homes or has it become just another place where there's too much to do, too much stuff and no time or desire to go through any of it? Are we as a nation truly succeeding at achieving the American dream or do we seriously need to push the Do Over button?

Too Tired to Function


What I have seen in my experience is that the clutter we're accumulating is taking an extreme toll on our physical, mental and spiritual health. In the majority of homes, our physical clutter is made up of a bunch of things we've collected over the years and often don't even remember we own or where to find it. While the loss of time and frustration is mounting, what's more alarming is that we aren't understanding yet or have become aware of is that the physical clutter doesn't just come by itself. It drags along emotional and spiritual clutter as well, in fact, the spiritual and emotional clutter was probably there before the physical clutter appeared because physical clutter is usually the manifestation of the emotional and spiritual clutter. For every item in our home we keep for no reason, there are physical, emotional and spiritual ramifications that are hiding amongst the clutter as fear, shame and guilt that lives in our space, minds and bodies. While we may look happy and together to the outside world, the truth is many of us are slowly feeling like we've lost all control and the cracks in our foundations are beginning to show.

Chaotic Clutter


So, how do we start to sort through all of this clutter, especially for those of us who have spent so many years spiraling down into the chaos that we can't remember what having control or feeling happy feels like anymore? We start by remembering that our true mission in life is to love ourselves. So we choose to make decisions based on small acts of self love. It can begin with your physical clutter because it's easier to start practicing our self love based decision making by using tangible items and the more we can see, feel and sometimes hear, taste or smell an item, the more information we have to make a decision. Do we like it? Do we like how it looks and feels? Do we use it? Do we need it? Once it's gone, we'll also notice the difference immediately. With the clutter gone there is suddenly space where we can breathe easier, where we can find what we need and use sooner, where our minds can feel more expansive and our ability to focus improves.

Choose Joy.jpg

When we choose to only surround ourselves with what we like, need and use, it changes our perspective. Suddenly our homes, what we see every single day, what we wear and present to the world, is showing only what we like. We chose that. We chose only things we like to see, need and use in our lives and we are starting to see that every day. It affects us as we are visual beings and it causes us to internally feel better about ourselves. The more in control we feel, the more we are choosing to only surround ourselves with what we like, use and need – the more space we choose to have and the more we choose what happens to us, rather than choosing indecision and wondering what just happened, the happier and more in control we feel. The more space we have in our lives, our homes and our heads, the more clearly we can think and the more productive we can become. The choice is ours – do we sit back and just allow anything to show up while we accept it or do we make a choice, once and for all because we love ourselves and we're worth it?

Happiness and Joy

3 Reasons Why Hiring an Organizer is Ineffective

In most cases, hiring an organizer can be life changing. However, there are some common misconceptions about what an organizer can and can't accomplish that I wanted to address to help some people save time and money.

  1. An Organizer Can Do It All For You So I Don't Even Need to Be Home!

Nope. At least not with this organizer. Why? Because this is YOUR stuff! Over the years you've chosen to bring all that stuff into your home and you've chosen to keep that stuff there for all this time so this is about YOU. It's also about why you've chosen to keep stuff in your life that you don't like, want or need. There is clearly an underlying issue going on. I'm not saying there's something wrong with you or that you're bad or messy or screwed up (you're not!), but I am saying it's about time you open up to taking a look at what and why you have stuff and being open to letting go of what no longer serves you. This is like going to a nutritionist for a cleansing. If you spend the whole time eating McDonald's, you won't lose the weight or feel better and it's not like the nutritionist can do the cleanse for you. Change comes from within and shows up on the outside, whether it's about losing weight or losing clutter.

Organizing is about YOU taking the time to take stock and become aware of what you are keeping in your home and why. You need to make that choice so that you claim responsibility for what you keep in your home. I want this experience for you because it can be life changing. Suddenly, if you make decisions in your life based on what YOU truly want, love and need, life becomes much better and easier for you. When you start with the items in your home, you have a tangible way to learn an amazingly beneficial life skill that will literally make life better for you. If, however, you choose to hire someone to do it all for you then you run the risk of having important items thrown out or donated, not being able to find anything because you don't know where they put it or, because you haven't addressed what caused the clutter in the first place, you'll wind up with the exact same amount of clutter (or worse!) in a short amount of time with you scratching your head wondering why it didn't work. If you're really serious about getting organized and STAYING organized, this has to be about you and you need to be ready to take a look at your stuff and make the decisions. An organizer should be hired to be your guide and your coach – not your Mommy.


Does coming home and seeing this every night make you feel relaxed? Is clutter in your castle bringing you down?

Does coming home and seeing this every night make you feel relaxed? Is clutter in your castle bringing you down?

 2. It's just Clutter...what's the Big Deal?

It's never just clutter. This is about you not making decisions that directly affect your life and the effects it's now having on you. Time lost, money lost, confusion, exhaustion, frustration and overwhelm. Do you enjoy those feelings? Or could taking a few hours to start to just take stock in what you own and making the simple decisions of: “do I like this, need this or use this” change your life for the positive? That exhausted feeling you have when you think of starting to get organized? That's a direct response to what you have sitting around in your home. Your stuff is literally exhausting you so wouldn't spending a few hours to purge that exhaustion from your home be worth it to you?


3. I Can't Deal With Your Stuff So I'm Hiring Someone to Deal with It Instead:

Sorry couples! Many of you have spoken to me about how you'd love to hire me and make your partner completely change how they live while you either hide out somewhere or do the work for them but that's not how it works (at least not with any degree of success). In my experience, your spouse or partner will feel like you've hired someone to gang up on them and they will feel judged. They are also being forced to confront their “stuff” both literally and figuratively without being given room to accept the possibility of change. Imagine if you took them to a therapist without consulting them first. How would they feel when they found out? Probably like a dog does when you take them to the vet- they just want to get the heck out of there ASAP. They are also going to feel embarrassed and angry and will push back, run away or some really interesting passive/aggressive behavior will show up. They most likely will become unwilling and unable to get the help they may need because of the judgmental or pushy way the change been thrust upon them. If you're looking for help to create positive change in your partner, try to introduce the idea of hiring an organizer to them in a calm, loving manner and allowing them time to make their own decisions. It's like if your partner had a drug problem and you put them into rehab without their consent. Would you really surprised when they relapsed?

Just like you living with them every day hasn't helped them conquer their issues, my consulting with them or going into their home or office to work with them won't help make much changes either....unless they themselves are open to working with me. Their being "willing" doesn't mean you've badgered them into booking a session with me because you feel you know what's best or because you're tired of looking at (and living with) their mess, this means they themselves are willing to show up and work with me. I can't promise miracles, especially if I meet with resistance but the more willingly they show up, the more able I am to effect change into their (and your) lives. I also will flatly turn down working with any unwilling client so trying to slide one past me doesn't work. Try hiring someone else but as I've seen unwilling clients literally walk away from me and out of their own offices, don't be surprised if it doesn't work.

Organizing can be fun and life changing but as with everything, it's about being willing to make some changes in your life. If you're not ready for change, that's okay. If you are willing to create some changes, start by just allowing yourself to imagine a home where you can find everything easily and there's no clutter. Allowing just that space into your life can be an important first step.


Hopelessly Devoted to Your Stuff

Is chronic disorganization something you struggle with on a daily basis? Perhaps you're feeling as though there might be something fundamentally wrong with you because you just can't seem to get or stay organized despite your repeated attempts. Have you felt like giving up? Does merely reading this make you feel heavy, hopeless, depressed and overwhelmed? Good! That means you're ready for some positive, lasting change!

First off, let it be known forever more that you are NOT broken nor is there anything wrong with you at all. Organizing can become a learned skill and over time, with daily practice, you CAN get and stay organized even if you've tried a million times before. Also, organization is about perception - some people love spaces filled with only a few possessions and are content while others feel happiest in spaces filled with their many possessions - so find your sweet spot of organizational happiness and stick with it! If you live with others, find a happy medium you can all agree to and stick with it. The first thing we can do to create some change is to go over the reasons why disorganization occurs and then I'll provide some solutions to help you realize your goals.


1. Ahhh! Life Won't Stop Happening!  Some of us have taken on so much in our lives that we are no longer living our lives, but merely reacting to what happens. Most people in this category are exhausted, overwhelmed and don't feel they have the time or energy to do more than just put out the immediate fires while their "some day" projects, dreams and goals get pile up and begin to feel unobtainable . They are merely getting through the moment and are hoping something will change soon before they break.

Solution - Things Won't Change Until You Do: When life becomes constantly overwhelming it's often because you've taken on too many responsibilities at that moment making you feel stuck and unable to make good and effective decisions. When you feel like this, THAT is the moment to stop, take a breath and start making a list of your real priorities that make you happy and healthy rather than your never-ending list of "should do's" which are exactly what's exhausting you in the first place. The truth is that you have too much going on and unless something changes, the things you value most usually suffer the worst like your health, happiness, friends and family. A good way to start is by purposely scheduling time each day just for yourself to exercise, meditate, take a bath, get a massage or whatever makes you happy, it doesn't matter. The point is that when you have some space to think and breathe, you'll be able to figure out what is truly important and what is merely extra clutter you no longer need or want in your life.

Some children are never taught organizational skills by their parents making it difficult for them to organize themselves as adults. Luckily organizing is an easy-to-learn skill!

Some children are never taught organizational skills by their parents making it difficult for them to organize themselves as adults. Luckily organizing is an easy-to-learn skill!

2. Blame Your Parents! It is possible you simply were never taught organizational skills from your parents and if you never learned it, how would you know how to do it? That's like never learning to use tools and then being asked to build a perfect birdhouse with no instructions. You cannot be successful at anything unless you learn the proper way to use the tools and know and understand the steps you need to take in order to be successful. The same goes with organizing, there are specific steps to take that ensure you'll create the perfect organizing system for you; one that works and lasts.

Solution - Learn the Skills! It's important to remember that most of us don't pick up new skills and master them in one day. It takes time to rid yourself of your old habits and to create new one's. The first step is to make time in your schedule to go through everything you own and purge everything you no longer like, use or need. Hire an organizer, buy a book or MP3 if you feel you'd like some additional support and guidance while learning these new skills. Remember that organizing is going to be a lifelong habit you need to incorporate into your daily schedule but the great part is that even doing a little bit each day will create a huge difference in your life so keep going! 

If you don't know how you feel about what you own, how can you create a happy home?

If you don't know how you feel about what you own, how can you create a happy home?

3. Excuse Me, but Your Inner Chaos is Showing: Clutter comes from indecision, a lack of skills and unexpressed emotional turmoil. Often we hang onto objects for much longer than we should because of guilt, shame, hurt, anger, or feelings of unworthiness. Sometimes we hang onto items because it gives us a false feeling of safety to be surrounded by our stuff when we feel lonely and separated from other humans and are just looking for a connection to anything. When left unchecked, what we secretly feel on the inside can show up loudly on the outside looking like clutter and chaos in every aspect of our lives. When it builds up too much, it can lead to isolation and/or hoarding. 

Solution - Face Your Feelings!  Eww! Face my feelings!? Yes - they are building up on you and will lead to a whole host of problems that can affect your life, work, health and relationships so face these sooner rather than later! One nice thing about purging your stuff is that it can end up feeling like an amazing therapy session if you allow yourself to let go of what you no longer need. For example, if you have a sweatshirt from an ex who didn't treat you nicely or for whatever reason you haven't gotten over the relationship yet (and since you've still have their sweatshirt, it's a signal that you, in fact, have not let the relationship go), you can get actually get some closure just by holding the sweatshirt for a few moments. Go on! Hold that sweatshirt in your hands and allow the emotions to bubble up. Happy times, sad times, anger, laughter and whatever else comes up - just let it flow. If you feel compelled, tell that sweatshirt how you feel! The sweatshirt is safe because it can't talk back so cry, yell, kiss it, whatever. No one can see you anyway, so heck, rip it up if it makes you feel better, who cares? Just don't keep the emotions or the sweatshirt anymore. You deserve a better and happier life and getting rid of physical and emotional baggage is one of the first and most important steps you can make.

4. Rebel Without a Cause: While some of us never learned organizational skills from our parents, some of us are reacting in the exact opposite way our parents showed us. Say you grew up in a very controlling household and everything always had to be perfect and in its exact place. You disliked how rigid it felt so now you live with piles of clutter, most often don't know where anything is and tend to lose items. Or perhaps your parents were extremely disorganized and in response you felt a need for more stability in your life and therefore developed hyper organizational skills where you feel almost uncomfortable if everything is not in their exact place but you also find your perfectionism can get in the way of achieving goals because now nothing seems good enough. 

Solutions - Awareness! In this situation therapy can help but sometimes just becoming aware of it is enough to start changing things. Once you realize that you're keeping something because you're emotionally attached to it for some reason or that you keep chosing to say 'yes' to projects and taks you don't want to do, or that you have a habit of shopping even though you never wear half of what you buy ... if you're willing to take a look inward and observe which habits you have that aren't effective, making you happy and/or are exhausting you, you'll find that it's easier to become unstuck, ditch the bad habit and form new, lasting and positive changes in your life. 

What emotions, relationships, goals and belongings are you choosing to surround yourself with?

What emotions, relationships, goals and belongings are you choosing to surround yourself with?

4. Know Why: What's your motivation or reason for getting organized? Is it because you think you "should"? Or is it that you're worried what others might think? Neither reasons are great incentives for anyone to want to make a change in their lives. So think for a minute. Envision your space as you wish it could be. What does it look like? And more importantly, how does it make you feel? 

Solution - Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings: Feelings are the only reason we do anything. Why do you marry your spouse? Hopefully it's because you have warm, happy, loving feelings towards them. Everything we buy is based on our feelings. We love the Yankees so we buy their logo'd t-shirts because we feel pride in supporting our local team and we feel like kids again when we watch them play. They make us happy when they win. Wearing our favorite outfit might make us feel powerful or beautiful or happy. So what feelings do you want to experience in your space? Spaciousness? Happiness? Serenity? Joy? That's your real motivation - to experience those feelings in your own space. Once you've identified how you want to feel in your space and your life, the motivation to live in a well organized space becomes easier than just, "I should," it then becomes a life changing, "because I want to".

Lastly, Give Yourself a Break! Forgiving yourself for the clutter you currently have is a great step towards letting it all go and achieving lasting organization. 


6 Tiny Closet Solutions for Storage by June Brockmeyer

ACK Organizing was recently featured on the SelfStorageFinders blog for an article on solving tiny closet storage challenges. Please click on the link to read the article. Thank you to SelfStorageFinders for including my ideas in your article! 

Fall Into Easy Organization

Welcome to Fall! This means pumpkins and cider and cooler weather. With the cooler weather coming, we're all going to be looking to put away our shorts and tank tops and pulling out our sweaters and long pants. So how do you make this process so easy and effective that you always know where everything is AND know everything will look great on you, too? These simple steps can help you get and stay organized and ensure your wardrobe is always looking its best!

Take all your clothing out to categorize each item. A simple step towards a lifetime of great organization!

Take all your clothing out to categorize each item. A simple step towards a lifetime of great organization!

Take It All Out: If you really want to create a simple system for your clothing, do it right the first time. Take every item you own out - this means your coats, hats, gloves, shoes, scarves, bathing suits, golf wear, hand bags, pants, shirts and sweaters out so you can see them all. What will this one simple step allow you to accomplish? You'll find out what you really have, create an easy but effective organizational system, clear out clutter and figure out what you actually need to get through the rest of the season thus preventing overbuying. Sound good? Great, read on for more simple steps.

These shirts are sorted by color and then categorized again by being arranged from lightest color to darkest. See how easy it is to find each shirt?

These shirts are sorted by color and then categorized again by being arranged from lightest color to darkest. See how easy it is to find each shirt?

 Categorize Everything: It's so much easier to find everything when you've adopted an easy organizational system. Categorizing your clothing is just that, an easy organizational system. So keep sweaters together, pants together, shorts together and so on... Create as many categories as you can, so if you have several black sweaters, see if you can categorize them by black wool sweaters vs. black cotton sweaters, etc. The more you categorize your clothing, the more quickly you'll remember where they're stored, because they're always together! You'll always be able to quickly see what you have when you're ready to go shopping. Why buy another black turtleneck when you already own 5 you still like? Save your money for something you really want and/or really need. 

You deserve to look your best in everything you own - whether it's your sweats or your dress shirt. Get rid of stained, ripped or tattered items and just keep what you love!

You deserve to look your best in everything you own - whether it's your sweats or your dress shirt. Get rid of stained, ripped or tattered items and just keep what you love!

 Do I Really Love it?!  This is by far the most important question to ask yourself in this process. If you have a shirt that you kept all summer long and never wore, the chances are is that you don't like it for some reason. Here are the reasons I got rid of 3 shirts from this summer: 1 shirt was too big on me, another I'd worn so many times over the 8 years I owned it that I just was bored with it and the last one was beginning to fall apart and I believe I deserve to only wear items that are in good condition. In the end, your real questions are: you excited to wear it? Which one's did you find a hole in or a stain or some other kind of unfixable mark on it? Which one's no longer fit and don't look good on you? You deserve to love what you wear and how you look in your outfit so do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself, and your wardrobe and let what you don't love and don't look great in go find a new home!

By storing your lighter items above and heavier items below, you can always easily grab what you need and then store it back where it came from...without fear of a head injury.

By storing your lighter items above and heavier items below, you can always easily grab what you need and then store it back where it came from...without fear of a head injury.

 Easily Reachable Storage: Clutter isn't just about having too much stuff, it's about not finding it easy to put it away again once used. Think about it - if you keep something at the back top of a shelf, how often would you actually use it? How often would you feel motivated to put it back where you got it, especially if it's heavy and hard to put away? Store light items in higher places. Store electronics and heavy items near the bottom. Store items you use most often close by. Use the vertical storage method for clothing you keep in drawers to keep everything neat, easy to find, easy to store and to increase storage by nearly 50%. If possible, use clear plastic storage bins and label them to easily find everything quickly.

Use these tips and you'll find you can always find everything easily and when summer rolls around again, can you imagine how exciting it will be knowing that all you own are the items you can't wait to put back on! How does it get any better than that?!