Clutter Shifting


How to get out of your cleaning rut and live in a happier home!

My husband is a cleaning machine. I, unfortunately, am not. When it comes to clutter in our home, HE is the reckoning force. Not me. But even he fell prey to this misguided habit that kept us from enjoying our house.

You hear the saying “opposites attract” and in so many ways that is true. From the earliest days, I could tell that this would be a point of contention in my marriage. All you had to do was look at Zach’s side of the closet with his carefully pressed slacks and (I kid you not) color organized shirts. My side… well, it was a pile of unfolded, (mostly) clean clothes.

As years passed, things didn’t improve much on my side of the equation. The improvements on Zach’s side have been in his patience and understanding that his wife is a *GEM * with several rough edges. I honestly am always trying to improve myself in this area but success is elusive. Moments of triumph are few and far between but when I fail, I will always try something new! What can I say? Stubbornness is one of my best character traits!

So, when the house needs a pick-me-up, I enlist the help and cleaning muscle of my better cleaner half… Hubby to the rescue!

Clutter Accumulation

For the past seven years, we’ve fallen into a cleaning pattern that looks something like this… The house starts to get a little messy. Things start piling up on tables, counters, or any flat surfaces. Laundry (clean and dirty) starts amassing in chairs and floors. Dishes start smelling. Then someone texts and says they’re dropping by this afternoon! EMERGENCY BLITZ!!! Things get thrown in drawers, laundry in closets, dishes get hastily put in the dishwasher, vacuum gets run, the toilet gets scrubbed, trash is taken out, and my freshly cleaned house is topped off with a kiss of citrus aroma from my smell good candle on the table. Whew! Crisis averted! So-and-so will think we live like this and our reputation can remain intact. Sound familiar anyone? Anyone?

Bad Habits Exposed

This plan worked just fine for the longest time. I even fooled myself into feeling like we were pretty “clean” people. But all the “stuff” was just lurking under the surface, waiting to strike.

And then it happened. We had kids.

The gig was up. We continued our same pattern of cleaning and yet the house was never clean. People would arrive and my house was still in shambles. I would mumble apologies and blame my pregnancy exhaustion or the fact that I had small children but I had to own that our little mirage was no longer working. For all these years, Zach and I were guilty of a terrible, terrible habit. We had been clutter shifting.

Clutter Shifting: The art of never actually dealing with the clutter in your home but shifting it from space to space to maintain the illusion of cleanliness for your own and your guests’ comfort.


Wherever we were not is where all the extra stuff would go. I would get fed up with our messy closet so the stuff would go to the guest room. Guests were coming so the stuff would scatter back to various closets. Zach had a drawer for unfiled paperwork and when that filled up, it went to the highest shelf of our coat closet.

Time To Change

The weight of the stuff in our home was really starting to affect my desire to want to be there. Our “stuff” was no longer a blessing but a curse and, as we amassed more and more “things” with the arrival of our two children, I hit the wall. It was then that I started to understand the problems were in our actions and, ultimately, our thinking.

There were some major changes that needed to happen and things I needed to come to grips with:

  • The accumulation of “stuff” is not a blessing.

The more I held onto things, the worse it got. I’m a hoarder deep down inside if I’m completely honest. But the more “stuff” I refused to let go of, the more frustrated I became with my home, which directly affected my happiness. This ultimately directly affected my ability to be a good wife and mom. Ouch!

  • I need a plan!

The time we were cleaning was a waste because there was no direction! Even my powerhouse-cleaning hubby was just spinning his wheels and making little headway in our house. Our house needed to be a more functional home. We had no system in place to deal with the paperwork or the laundry. All too often, I’d get frustrated at him for dumping clean clothes somewhere when he thought he was “helping me do laundry.” I needed a detailed plan of attack so that the cleaning we did was intentional and making strides toward the type of home I wanted to raise my kids in.

  • I had to completely reverse my thinking.

For the last seven years or more, I’ve found contentment in the accumulation of things. Shopping was a past time I thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted to keep stuff to the extreme sense of not using food items I bought because I didn’t want to have to replace it later. Our closets were harboring items that I hadn’t used in almost a decade… (And no, I’m NOT as old as you think I am so that was a long time.) Before, I found joy in finding the deal even if I didn’t love the item or need it. SO BACKWARD! How embarrassing to even say…

Enjoy The Process

This month, I’ve challenged myself to enjoy the getting-rid-of process and the using-up process. I’ve tried to purge every chance I get and tried to cook from items that I have in my pantry that hasn’t been used because of my bad habits.

The time has come to re-evaluate my life and habits, to take back my house and make it the home I want my children and husband to enjoy. I want to put an end to the clutter shifting and dig in and make progress… even if it’s just a little bit of progress every day. I want to become a happy housekeeper!

Are you with me? Who will join me? Operation Life Change is underway!

  1. The title of your article had me! I have been trying to “de-clutter” for over a year, but I realize I have only been Clutter Shifting! From my closet to the guest room back to my closet, on and on. I also have things in my pantry that I bought for some reason and have never used (Have I EVER needed capers?). So, I am with you! I may never be a minimalist, but I’d like to become a Lessist!

    • I’m right there with you! It was a big realization for me and has changed everything! I now do a pantry purge once a month to use up things. Saves money and keeps me from holding on to random things! My husband is a minimalist and I am well on my way… But I have a ways to go still!

      • I also love your idea to be “challenged to enjoy the getting-rid-of process”. Instead of boxing up and saving the set of towels that are still good but not the ‘right color’ for my new bathroom (“just in case”), I am passing them on to someone who can use them. That gives me joy since I am not “wasting” the towels (as I used to think) but sharing my excess. #babysteps

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