Book Excerpt: “Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life” by Barbara Tako

Below is the first of two excerpt chapters from the Spring Section of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life by Barbara Tako



Clutter. Clutter. Clutter. Clutter seems to be the home issue that people who attend my seminars struggle with the most. I struggle with it to, to the point where wrestling the clutter demon and helping others wrestle with it too has become my passion.

Maybe clutter is simply a natural part of the human condition? I hope not! The pervasive feelings about clutter seem to be angst and guilt. We struggle with our clutter and we feel bad about our struggle. What is the answer?

Maybe we could just give up some of the angst. Recognize that clutter sometimes must come off in layers. It would be nice if it could all come off in a weekend in one giant purge, but because of human nature and real life, it just doesn’t work that way.

My college textbooks and paperwork are a perfect example of why clutter sometimes has to come off in layers. Since I had invested a lot of time and energy in studying, I initially felt the books and notes somehow represented who I was. I couldn’t purge this clutter at all years ago. It would have felt like throwing away my education! After a few years, however, I was able to toss the notes and textbooks for subjects that weren’t critical to my majors. Later, I recognized that I wouldn’t really go back to all the notes I’d taken, even in my professional field, so I recycled that box of paper too.

More recently, I realized the textbooks had become dated and it was time to let go of them too. All that remains are a few papers I wrote that I keep because I get a kick out of them, and I hang onto the illusion that my kids might get a kick out of them some day–as though they’re going to have time to read mom’s old papers (yeah, right).

I could beat myself up over the fact it took me years to get rid of my college clutter, or I can accept it and get on with it. I learned that I simply needed to make it a habit to regularly address clutter, just like teeth brushing or laundry. I decided to drop the angst and guilt over the fact that I often cant toss my clutter all at once. You can too.

Here are clutter fighting techniques:

Make it a habit to regularly “sweep” through a room, or even just a drawer, to cull out items that haven’t been used in a reasonable period of time. Keep in mind that our sense of time has a way of getting distorted. If I think I haven’t used that salad mold for a year or so, but that I might still use it again “someday,” chances are that I really haven’t used it in over two years and I won’t use it in the future either.
Pretend to move across the country. As I look at each item in a room, I ask myself if I would be willing to pack it up and move it across the country (this is my fantasy move to the location of my dreams). If I would not take it there, why would I let this item hang around here in my present day home?
Ask yourself what your grown children will do with an item you are reluctant to toss when they find it in the bottom of closet some day. Will they know what it is? Will they know the family history behind this treasure? Will they recognize its value*? If they will see no value in it, why hang onto it? *If it has value, make sure your kids know the value (sentimental or financial) now.
Recognize evolution. Styles, colors, and technology constantly change for almost everything. Think about stereo equipment, records, video cassettes, vacuum cleaners, microwavable dishes, and baby clothes. Ask yourself if the item you are clinging to will stand the test of time. If not, send it on its way now.
It is okay for clutter to come off in layers, especially if I am willing to make it a habit to address my clutter regularly. People constantly change. Our definition of clutter today isn’t the same as how we will define it tomorrow. Maybe clutter is kind of like an onion. We get to peel it off in layers!

Barbara Tako has been a motivational clutter clearing and home organizing speaker and author since 1998. She provides clutter clearing and home organizing tips to women’s groups, church groups, and businesses including corporate giants like 3M, Target, Medtronic, and Securian. Her book Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, Jan., 2010) is available wherever books are sold. Sign up for her FREE monthly clutter clearing tips e-mail newsletter at

On Tuesday we will run another great and helpful chapter of Barbara Tako’s book – and on Wednesday Buttoned Up will start begin a contest for a copy of the book! So be sure to stay tuned!