Clear out the Clutter! [A Challenge to Your Space and Your Mind]

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That title sounds like the beginning to a bad joke. Here’s the punchline – it’s not pretty.

Background – Josh is one of the cleanest people I’ve ever met. His whole family is like that and it’s awesome. He has a place for everything, and doesn’t ever lose a thing. Enter me. I don’t know how much you know about teachers, but we’re almost always hoarders. 90% of the time. I also come from a longggg line of “well I’ll just keep this because you never know when you might need it.”
I’m looking at you, Grandma. And Mom. And Dad. You are the reason that I can’t get rid of a cardboard box. You really do just never know.

Real conversation that sparked this post:

Josh: “There’s so much clutter in this house… do we really need this many pen and pencil options??”
Jess: begins quietly collecting all her random piles of notebooks.

Exhibit A – The item in question:

So I moved it to the ever-growing “take to school” pile, thinking about how glad I am that he doesn’t know about my secret drawer of pens and pencils in the bedroom closet or the 8 packages of pens currently in my Amazon cart.

It’s sad knowing that I’ll have to move out after showing this picture, but you all deserve to see it:

(fun fact: after taking this picture, I counted TWENTY pens from a job that I quit 9 years ago).


I try to make myself feel better with Einstein’s quote: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” However, there is a lot to be said about lack of clutter. 

The Clutter Effect

Psychology Today talks about the “clutter effect” and how having a messy space causes actual interruptions in our brain.  We cannot think and process as clearly. The article states that “…clutter compromises an individual’s perception of home, and ultimately feelings of satisfaction with life.”  

It’s interesting because I have noticed this in a few spaces:
My classroom – I keep my classroom rather clean because I want to make sure that my students are able to focus without distraction.  A classroom full of stuff causes internal stress for both the teacher and the students, even if that’s not necessarily the obvious culprit.  So my walls are much clearer than a lot of teachers’.  I don’t have posters plastered all over the walls, bright colors, and craziness happening.  I want them to be able to focus on what they need to without any unnecessary interruptions of their processing.

Josh – Josh is visibly distracted when he feels that the house is cluttered. He cannot focus on the task at hand until the house is cleaned up.  What’s interesting to me is that how many of us do actually struggle with this too, but perhaps don’t realize it?  Just feeling off or not being able to focus, but not specifically knowing the reason.  I appreciate so much his self-awareness and being able to identify exactly why he feels unproductive in those moments.  (It also lights a fire under me because I immediately want to clean up… knowing that 9 times out of 10, I am the one responsible for said clutter, therefore responsible for undue stress on him).

I don’t notice it as much with myself, but there are definitely moments where I just can’t completely focus and I’m starting to realize that I feel better with a clean environment. While our house (and my classroom) are super clean, I’m a secret clutter person. I have certain spaces, a drawer near my bed, secret compartments in the closet, and a cabinet at school – that are a total MESS. Stuff just shoved in there in case of emergency.  Note: the emergency is almost always “I know it’s in this drawer somewhere!” while I empty every content out in a semi-panic until I find the missing item.  This is obviously not a healthy pattern.

I believe that hoarding probably stems from a feeling of not having enough. A sense of “I need to keep this just in case there is not an abundance.” Perhaps this is where my pattern comes from… we grew up without a lot, so maybe my brain automatically wants to hang on to things just in case – obviously not as extreme, but it reminds me of the same kind of subconscious thought processes that children of the depression have when not being willing to give things up.

It’s clear how this could translate into finances. A belief that there will not be enough can lead to exactly that.  There is so much to be said for mindset and its affect on things like your finances – more on that later.  But belief in scarcity leads to scarcity. 

Allowing ourselves to clear the spaces around us lead to a clearer head space, which in turn allows us to focus on what is truly important.  Especially when it comes to finances – a lot goes into keeping track of our budget, reserves (what we call it, but “sinking funds” for you dave ramsey-ers), keeping track of our travel points, cards, payments, etc. With a clear space to do so and a clear mind to do it, these items on the checklists go a lot more smoothly!

I’ve also found that decluttering is a great money maker! There are so many things that we all have that we simply do not need.  I have been selling so many items that have been sitting in a closet/drawer/under the bed for who knows how long… and it’s been great!

Clear your space, clear your mind.

I challenge you to get rid of just a few items – and see the difference.
We will also partake in this challenge. (Let’s be honest, Josh doesn’t need to but I most definitely will empty out my junk drawer…. maybe even get rid of some pens… if I can stomach it).

This can look like:

*Cleaning out your closest – donate items that you don’t wear. Think about when the last time you wore an item was and if you can’t remember, let it go.
*Selling items you don’t need – poshmark is a great app for this, but I’ve also been super fond of Facebook Marketplace lately.  It’s easier than Craigslist and seems to reach more people.
*Clean out random subscriptions.

We decided to make it more fun with an Instagram Challenge.

2 Weeks of Decluttering!

Follow the hashtag #MMHdeclutter on instagram for daily prompts and to interact with others in the community committed to cleaning up their lives.

Go to to register for the challenge and to keep up to date with the happenings!

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