Choosing the Right Person to Help You Declutter

Last week I sat on the couch while Mark and Smitty finished putting dinner on the table. And then I stood at the counter while Smitty loaded my dishwasher and made the no-bake cookies I was craving. I felt guilty . . . a little. But at nine months pregnant I’ve reached my limit of pretty much everything, and just have to face the fact that I can’t do it all. And I certainly can’t do it alone.

We all have times like that, right? When life is hard or complicated or overwhelming. For me, decluttering anything of substance is also a time like that. Probably because various parts of my house look like this way too often:

cluttered table

Or this:

Dirty Kitchen

Or, SIGH, this:

messy desk

And every year after Christmas (or, really, any kind of break or vacation or long weekend or sickness or busy season or, FINE, regular week with no excuse), it’s even worse. The clutter builds up – sometimes on my dining room table, sometimes on a piano bench or desktop, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes ALL OF THE ABOVE! – and I simply cannot DEAL WITH IT by myself.

Even this week, as I’ve been trying to cram a nursery into a tiny little office slash storage space slash cat room (I KNOW. A CAT ROOM. It’s not really. Whatever. Just go ahead and mock.), I haven’t been able to make a lick of progress without Mark or Annalyn holding my hand.

Yes. I’ve been reduced to decluttering and organizing with my six-year-old.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though she mostly spends her time asking if she wore a certain outfit and squealing over how cute Everything Baby is. Her “help” has made me laugh, really, and think about a few other people who aren’t exactly IDEAL for assisting in the decluttering process.

craft clutter

A Few People to Avoid When Decluttering:

1. The Vicarious Hoarder: You’ll recognize this person by her ability to think of a use for every little ribbon, button or paper scrap in your craft closet. “Oh, but what if you need that later?” is his mantra. STAY AWAY FROM THIS PERSON.

2. The Callous Tosser: On the other hand, this friend or family member has no connection to your stuff whatsoever and doesn’t have patience or interest in your desire to control the chaos with a system. “Just throw it away!” she’ll say, rolling her eyes at your insistence on organization. It’s true; if you haven’t missed it in all the time it’s been in that pile, you might not need it. But this is YOUR stuff, so proceed with caution.

3. The Over Organizer: “I’ve got a bin for that. Oh, and let me bring you the filing cabinet I’ve been saving. Yes, and I’ll just bring that stack of crates I found on sale in case any of them work for you.” Heard any of that before? I have. And it’s just enough to slow down any decluttering momentum I might have accumulated, as I put every single thing from one messy pile into a neat one, waiting for my friend’s miraculous organizing systems.

There’s nothing wrong with accepting help or adopting others’ ideas for organizing your things, but if you’re just swapping one mess (or system that doesn’t work for YOU) for another…well, you’re better off just lugging all that junk to the trash bin or Goodwill!

Of course, your decluttering partner needs will vary from mine. Because STUFF overwhelms me, pregnant or not, I mostly just need someone to listen to me think out loud while answering the occasional not-so-hypothetical question. My husband, my mom, my best friend – who those categories may or may not be loosely based on – are helpful despite their own organizational or decluttering challenges when they simply lend a listening ear and extra arms to carry things from one end of the house to another.

And that silly six-year-old, giggling over THE TINY BABY SOCKS, MOM! THEY’RE SO TINY!? Well, she’s actually been the perfect helper the past few days as I’ve turned our little catch-all room into a passable nursery.

Just in time, too!

I’m scheduled for a C-section this coming Monday, although I’m feeling more and more nervous that this baby won’t wait that long. Over the next few weeks, look for a few guest posts, a few written-before-the-baby-arrived posts, and – fingers crossed – baby pictures! My hope (though nothing resembling a hard and fast plan) is to be back to normal blogging in February, but we’ll just play that by ear.

Until then, I have something to help you with your own decluttering. (Because, seriously, after the Winter Break That Never Ends, you can’t tell me your house is all Everything Has a Place. Even if it is. Don’t tell me that!)

We all need a little help getting rid of clutter and then keeping it away. And UGH, let’s not even talk about actual cleaning. (No, really. Even if I could see my feet these days, I wouldn’t look down there. My beautiful hardwoods are basically covered in a snow and salt layer of grime and topped with a liberal sprinkling of crumbs. I think. I’m not looking.)

So my friend Dana – also known as Nony at A Slob Comes Clean, a blog with realistic cleaning and organizing tips for real people (like us!) – is offering you and me a special deal on her incredibly helpful and fun-to-read ebooks. (Yep. I said cleaning ebooks are fun to read. THEY ARE. Because Dana is hilarious, smart and a super fun person who manages to make even the worst chores – AHEM, cleaning – enjoyable. For real.)


28 Days to Hope for Your Home and Drowning in Clutter? are each $5, but until the end of January, the set of both books is just $5. Just use the code NY2016.

I have both these books and have read them more than once. They truly are hugely helpful when it comes to getting your STUFF under control and finding a few simple cleaning routines that aren’t too annoying and really do make a difference.

Who helps you with overwhelming decluttering projects? And, really, what’s the state of your house after the holidays?

15 Comments Choosing the Right Person to Help You Declutter

  1. Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout January 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I’ll be praying that your delivery goes smoothly! We have had a lot of snow days recently too, and the house is a total disaster. We did the whole “convert the junk room into nursery” thing earlier this year, and I did declutter a little bit, but mostly boxes got shoved into my attic and or stored in the baby’s closet. How handy that his clothes are so tiny! I guess I’ll have to deal with that eventually, but since I’m a casual tosser married to a hoarder, every decluttering session is more complicated than it should be.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 8, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks, Sarah! YES, the fact that baby stuff is [mostly] tiny is a lifesaver when you don’t have enough space! :)

  2. Lina January 8, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Mary, I find it amazing that at nine months of pregnancy you are still doing so much! And yes, my house can often look like that too. You can really tell which side of the bedroom is mine (clutter-girl) and my husband’s (mr. clean genes). Thank you for this great post. It hits dead on.

    God luck on your upcoming birth and bless you with letting it all go in the meantime as necessary.


    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 8, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Oh gosh, Lina, I’m really not doing a ton anymore – I promise! But what I’m finishing up now is only possible because I’m already on maternity leave from work and my daughter is back in school during the day. :) Thank you for your kind words and wishes!

  3. Liza January 11, 2014 at 10:14 am

    This week, I took a mini-van load of stuff to goodwill. Yes, I folded down the seats and filled the space with stuff. Then I came home and found things that I forgot to take. As the week has gone on, I’ve found more and more to add to that pile. It’s crazy how much stuff accumulates!

    Clutter usually is not too much of a problem. Except for paper. I throw out as much as possible, but my husband won’t let me throw out obvious junk mail addressed to him. I also get mail for my mom and sister. I take care of all my moms busniess stuff and my sister is a nomad so I’m her “permanent address”. So I have that extra to deal with. I have places for everything, but not always time to sort through it all and get it in the proper place. So it stacks up and creates a mess.

    I do agree -when you need help, choose the right one. I lean towards “throw it all away!” But when I help someone , I try to be sensitive to their needs. I make them really think about why they’re keeping it and if they have a good answer, then they’re allowed to keep it.

    Good luck with the baby! I hope all goes well for you!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Oh yeah, sounds like you have high potential for drowning in paper! Thank you for the good wishes! Stay tuned for pics! ;)

  4. Heather S January 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I am right where you are. I’m 38 weeks today and I have a 21 month old girl. With Christmas gone I have an insatiable desire to purge and declutter (which my husband is still shocked by) but being this pregnant EVERYTHING is ten times harder! So glad to have stumbled by. I just signed up for email subscription. Thanks for making me feel so not alone.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      You are definitely not alone, Heather! Make sure you take a few naps when you can in between chasing that toddler and purging all the things! :)

  5. Amy January 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I just found you through Nony’s site… I think we were meant for each other! haha!! will be praying for you and the new baby tomorrow! excited to check out the rest of your site. :)

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Amy – for the prayers and for visiting! Can’t wait to get to know you!

  6. Melissa C January 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    So happy for you and the new addition to the family, how wonderful! If you lived in WI, I would help you clean if I got to hold that little one :) Mine are getting so big now. #ASlobComesClean is the best, love that Nony lady! Can’t wait to look at your blog and find new inspiration as well!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect January 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      I’m with you, Melissa – I love Nony, too! Thanks for visiting and checking out my site, too!

  7. Chris January 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Mary, Thinking of you in this exciting life change. My mom always reminds me that the size of our homes used to be normal because people just did not need all the junk we have now. Then she reminds me that I don’t need all the things I have now and that I need to simplify. I then try to bite my tongue and not remind her that she has entire house, double the size of mine, for storage- lol. My boyfriend is my partner in decluttering. The frequent decluttering in my house is accompanied by lots of tears on my part with a little drama queen action thrown in. He reminds me that I never have to throw anything away. I then usually push through the tears and anger and then dump and donate. I have been known to visit my stuff at the thrift store! Glad to know that I am not the only one that struggles with decluttering and cleaning. I am really lucky to live with someone who likes to clean so that it only looks like a disaster zone about 25 percent of the time. It just looks so obvious in a small house when things are messy (or so I tell myself). Good luck tomorrow!

  8. Jenny January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    The pictures on this post made me smile and feel happy. I’ll be following for sure. :) Congratulations on your baby girl and congratulations on having such a wonderful little daughter already. Bless you!

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