Life Out Loud:Banish clutter? Banish the thought


OK, so I’m spring cleaning and it’s the last week of August. This alone should tell you everything you need to know about my commitment, or lack thereof.

War. Cleaning gurus are always nattering on wanting us to “declare war on clutter,” but to be honest all I really want is to beat it into submission for a few days.

“Make sure everything has its place” is the mantra of the uber-organized. The theory being that if everything has its place, you don’t have to think about clutter because it abates naturally, leaving cleanliness and order in its wake. A sort of evolution of the junk mail, beach toys, and scattered shoes. Yeah, whatever.

My stuff has a place. It’s just that the place may be by the back door, stacked on the dining room table, or buried under a pile of laundry. Do other families really have a “place” for lone socks, free key chains, used golf score cards, and 4 feet of twine?

I ask because all of these things fluttered into my life this week and I’d hate to think I’m the only one without a twine and key chain closet.

These purveyors of clutter-free perfection are all about paring what we have, and then stacking it neatly into little boxes and baskets. Preferably labeled with coordinating pictures of the contents for cross-referencing.

Yet here I am, sadly lacking in any desire to have a neatly labeled stack of boxes containing half-dead batteries, old pay stubs, and Happy Meal toys.

Extreme. Nonetheless, some clutter control ideas seemed a bit extreme: Instead of saving an heirloom, experts suggest taking a picture and then discarding the actual item. I know nothing would warm my heart more than receiving a snapshot of my great-great-grandmother’s antique tea service and quilts.

Then, there is the toy rule. Namely, if a child leaves a toy out, said toy automatically becomes parental property for one week. This presumably teaches the child not to leave out any more toys. Either that, or soon there won’t be any toys left. Thus leaving the children free for more imaginative pursuits such as whining, slapping at each other, and opening the refrigerator door incessantly. Who needs sanity when you can have a clean floor?

The flaw in this plan is that family-wide clutter control requires that the same rules be applied toward the parents. Can my husband really go a week without his wallet, car keys, shoes, hat, and golf bag? Would VISA understand that I’d love to pay them, but the bill was in time-out?

Resistance. My rule is more straightforward. Don’t have anything in your home that requires effort on your part to maintain. White is for movie stars – not people like us (so unless you are J-Lo or one of the Gabor sisters – skip the white leather sofa, babe). Brown is a perfectly good color – learn it, live it.

Glossy white flooring is also the work of the devil. I learned that one the hard way. In my next kitchen I installed floor tile the color of dirt, dog fur, and sand.

I suggest that you avoid horizontal surfaces at all costs. Tables, counters, ledges, even unattended benches – are natural clutter attractants. I recommend you simply forego sitting, and stand all the time, and set your small kitchen appliances, telephone, and computer directly onto the floor. Like drugs to an addict, flat surfaces are far too risky for the likes of you and me.

Artful camouflage. Finally, if you simply cannot control your clutter, it is said that leafy foliage and flower arrangements can artfully camouflage clutter concerns.

I’m fairly certain that guests won’t think to question your housekeeping when confronted with a stand of 10-foot blue spruce in the kitchen.

Better yet, if necessary, I can point you in the direction of some fabulous dirt-colored tile to complete your look.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt has just gone ahead and succumbed to clutter. She welcomes comments c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 or


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.