“Mindfulness comes from the state of your psyche, not your closet.”
~Raina Kelley, “The Zen of Cleaning,” Newsweek, March 2009

Last month, I began a mission to declutter my house under the misguided notion that decluttering would be a good thing. I was promised a clean house, wealth, a thin butt, and a cathartic experience resulting in a Zen state of mind. Now that I have a little decluttering experience and a fatter butt under my belt, I will debunk these myths and tell you the truth about what can happen to you if you choose to declutter your house.

Decluttering Causes Clutter

Decluttering an area in your house is like tilling soil an area of your garden. It merely creates a fresh, clear space for new piles of junk to spring forth and grow.

Decluttering Costs Money

Once you’ve decluttered, you will no longer be able to find your stuff because someone (namely you) has moved the piles and your stuff was in those piles. Then you’ll have to go buy new stuff.

Decluttering Makes You Fat

In the process of decluttering, you might notice that a bag of chocolate chips leftover from holiday baking is cluttering one of the shelves in the pantry. You might make the bag smaller to declutter the shelf. Similarly, you might free up needed space in the freezer that an entire box of Thin Mints is cluttering. Note that the Zen feeling after decluttering chocolate chips and/or Thin Mints is temporary.

Decluttering Causes Mental Illness

Speaking only from personal experience, it turns out that the time time spent decluttering, and money spent on garbage bags and plastic bins from Target, probably would have been better spent in my therapist’s office. Most experts who aren’t on the Oprah Winfrey Show agree (if you’re published in Newsweek, you must be an expert, right?), see, e.g., The Zen of Cleaning.

So, while I did declutter my desk (and the inside of a box of Samoas) today, I’m going to stop for now and start working on decluttering something that really matters: My Google Reader.


(No, it isn’t.) (Yes, it is.) (No, it isn’t.)

Actual After:

This post has been a public service announcement.

(Pictures of the Pottery Barn desk that real people don’t own and Samoas crack are courtesy of Google Images.)

39 comments on “Friends Don’t Let Friends Declutter”

  1. Check. Check. Check.

    Since I just basically moved out and moved back in in order to paint my place, I SO GET THIS!

    It also costs a lot of money to paint because then you need a new rug, new art for your walls, new sheets and bedding, new shower curtain — new freakin’ everything cuz when you paint all that old stuff now looks too grungy to stay!

  2. I’m proud of you for decluttering! I’m sorry your ass got fat (although I doubt it’s THAT fat).

    You bring up some excellent truths about decluttering, and I think Oprah should be made aware of the realities… or maybe Geraldo. (I think he’s still busy working on the Jonbenet case though.)

    Was that before picture for reals? Not judging, just curious.

    Thank you for the PSA.

  3. Timely post – for me. One of my kids just finished university and has moved back home. I feel like I have the contents of a bachelor apartment spread throughout the house. Today we made some (barely visible) progress. Tomorrow is another day…

  4. When decluttering, you also run the risk of breaking items. Perhaps sentimental, irreplaceable items. My vote goes with the “no to decluttering” and I’ll stand by my cupboard door which won’t shut because there’s too much crap falling out of it.

  5. wow – impressive “after” photo (the real one and not the fake pottery barn one).

    thanks for the PSA…I consider myself warned and promise never to declutter unless absolutely necessary.

  6. The Real After? I am in Awe.

    I agree on the decluttering thing. It messes you up more than it cleans you up. and when you do the “no it isn’t. yes it is. no it isn’t” that is so your trademark It gets me every time!

  7. decluttering definitely stirs up a lot of crap in this house. i tackled “the junk drawer” yesterday and turned it into “the junk now on the counter.” love your blog!

  8. I’m with smalltownmom. My house is now pristine, but our garage? Yeah, good luck parking a motorcycle in there, much less a CAR. (It’s a two car garage, FFS.) I keep saying I’ll deal with it, and I keep not doing so. I figure it’s just not that important.

  9. (Picture me bowing very deeply in your direction as you read this, okay? okay.)

    Thank you. thankyouthankyouthankyou. Yeah! Finally….a list totally worthwhile to actually print out and put on the fridge…if I can find the space!!

    It also causes confusion…if you de-clutter one room/space/square foot, then you realize that there are so many other rooms/spaces/square feet that need to be done and then…where do you go from there?!?!

    and i must say…you do clean up quite nicely!

  10. Thanks for making me feel better about not completing my de-cluttering mission. I also did a whole post on my yucky toe and my lack of hot toe doctors-again thanks to you. 🙂 (not the lack of hot just the visuals)

  11. your wife would be happy to come help you declutter the following areas of your home:

    your purse shelf
    the ice cream shelf
    your ipod boyfiend shelf
    your volvo shelf

    i’m nice like that.

  12. I have also discovered those decluttering problems. But if I don’t at least do a “dash and stash” soon, my husband will declutter for me, and that is a very scary thing indeed.

    Your desk puts me to shame. I might just have to post mine and link to you.

  13. Wow! You did a great job.
    I can’t stand clutter on counter tops and such, so I shove everything into drawers. Don’t tell anyone.

  14. I have such a need to declutter but get so nervous about doing it…what if I get rid of something that I need???

    It was so great meeting you all last night. I am adding you to my blogroll RIGHT NOW!

  15. Every point? Spot on. Also? I think decluttering might increase the risk of divorce. And of one putting one’s children up for adoption. And possibly elder abuse.

  16. There is now a theory out that decluttering pretty much ruins your life!

    On the other hand, I got through it and it’s a hell of a lot easier to live. Although I also got a cleaning lady at the same time that I decluttered… you be the judge!!

  17. Oh my gosh! So funny : ). I saw that you got to meet the FAMOUS Jason the other day and I thought your meeting looked so fun! I came over to say hi : ). I can see why he likes you. You are hilarious! Happy Friday!

  18. It also causes you to have TEN bags of stuff lying around the bonus room, waiting for an upcoming organization yard sale. Then certain kids go into said TEN bags and make a mess and see all the things that “accidentally” “fell” into the bags, etc., etc. You know where this is going.

  19. Decluttering my home was the easy bit but when it comes to the garage it’s a whole different story. To declutter really makes you feel better but to begin with it feels overwhelming. I will get to the garage!

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