Creeping Clutter – Tips for the Overwhelmed Mom

I read today that the third week of March is officially deemed “Clutter Awareness Week.” I have no idea who names these observances, nor how the public is informed of these illustrious events.

Most of my clients suffer from clutter, and no matter how aware they become of it, they still don’t know what to do about it.

In homes and offices, you know how to recognize clutter. It comes in the form of nomadic hair clips on the kitchen counter, mysterious socks on the desk, accumulating outdated coupons, or multiplying ghastly gifts you’ve been given but feel guilty tossing.

Clutter, as I define it, is an assortment of “unknowns.” These “unknowns” are undefined because they either a) have no “home”, b) are incomplete tasks, or c) require a decision.

The reasons why people have difficulty clearing clutter are the very reasons the items have become clutter in the first place! Clutter collectors may have never defined “homes” for the items to live, or are dodging the discipline of returning items to their appropriate homes.

Sometimes, paper or items must be assembled from different locations to complete a project (like tax documents or scattered craft supplies).

Other times, physical clutter and paper clutter develops because of procrastination. We tend to put off unsavory tasks, or those that force us to render a decision.


Quite simply, if we don’t know what to do with something, we often just set it aside.

From time to time, the clutter bug must pay the piper for the nasty little clutter habit. Usually, this comes in the form of missed deadlines from that mounting paper pile or fruitless searching for an item of value amidst the sea of creeping clutter.

At this time, the clutter bug has reached what I call “the point of pain.” A decision to face the “unknowns” is made. It would be more painful, the collector determines, to stay buried in clutter, than to dig out from the chaos. After reaching the “point of pain,” I’ve seen many clients tackle their clutter successfully.

The first step is to define a “home” for every type of item within the household. Once we know that all hair products live in bathrooms, we must devise a system for returning nomadic hair clips and sprays and combs to those locations.

Once we’ve determined that all sports equipment will live in the garage, we must commit to steering all such equipment in that direction.

Paper tends to morph throughout the house, so we settle on one or two processing areas for different kinds of paper, usually a receiving area, and a final destination. To assign a home to every item in the home is not as overwhelming as it seems.

Determining what kinds of activities should happen in each room can aid in this process, because the items that serve those activities will automatically be assigned a nearby location.

Then, the process of deduction and common sense can be used to resolve the remaining “unknown” items without homes. This is where many clients find the expert help of Restoring OrderĀ® ! to be an invaluable service.

The second step is to list the projects or tasks that are represented by the creeping clutter and schedule them.

If craft and hobby supplies keep popping up in a clutter pile, it is reasonable to conclude that either they don’t have a home, they are not being returned to their proper home, or they are not being used. Perhaps it is time to retire that craft, or schedule a time to work on it.

If advertisements are consistently laying around the house, they may be representing our good intentions to redeem a coupon, attend a sale, or purchase an item. Whatever the case, we should schedule that task, or let ourselves off the hook in the future.

The last, and most challenging step, is to make a decision about the individual items we find forming our clutter.

This is a psychological obstacle for some. Letting go may mean staring down our guilt about not having used a gift we were given, or a size that no longer fits.

Giving ourselves permission to clear out that which is no longer important makes room in our life for what IS important to us — family time! And that is what organizing is all about.

Vicki Norris is a dynamic entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and author who helps people live out their priorities. The founder and president of Restoring OrderĀ®, an organizing services and products company, Norris teaches others how to identify priorities and create sustainable change in personal organizational habits. Visit her web site at

Like these tips? You might also like these ideas for organizing your clothes closet.

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Quick organizing tips to help the overwhelmed mom get the clutter in her home under control.


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