Clutter Clearing: 4 Days And 15 Minutes

For four days, I’ve watched patiently while my children’s bedroom deteriorated into something resembling the tornado-ravaged communities you see on the news. Dishes began collecting on one table, the trash bin went from occupied to overwhelmed, and the backpacks and soccer equipment piled up in the middle of the room making it look like a whole team lives in there. And while the two laundry baskets full of wrinkled-but-at-least-clean clothes tried hard to be the new closet, their dirty clothes piles (next to the baskets) expanded with each passing day.

Mothering has always had a distinct science experiment air about it for me. Now, fourteen years into it, I regularly opt to simply observe the creatures in their natural environment, watching to see what happens when I’m not directing their every move. I may “let things go” for a bit because I want to see what they choose without my intervention. Most importantly, I value the space that this gives them to explore and learn about themselves.

My own life experience has shown me that I am far more driven to take action because it makes me feel good to do so than I am to take action because the rules declare it so. It would be absolutely fabulous (at least in the short term) if I, somehow, created two children who were passionate about doing what I tell them to do, but… well, you know me, and seriously, what are the odds of that actually happening?

If I want them to be empowered to take action, then I need to allow them to learn that if feels better to take action, than it feels to be stuck in the overwhelm. Chasing them around with a bullwhip can’t cultivate the healthy relationships they need to have with themselves in order to be functional adults.

(Yes, I just said that we can’t be functional adults if we don’t have healthy relationships with ourselves. Resist as you might, but would you ever talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself? Would you treat your partner’s body the way you treat yours? Don’t hate. You know it’s true.)

I know that I can’t force myself to act right because of some outside motivation, the desire has to come from within.

Finally, I mentioned that the room was getting sort of unwieldy and they agreed to tidy up. After school, as promised, they went straight to their room. When they came tearing down the stairs fifteen minutes later, declaring the room was clean, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at them. They’d spent four days of their lives living in a space that felt bad, allowing it to get worse, and losing oodles of precious mental and physical energy dreading the clean-up.

You had all that drama over fifteen minutes of action?

Yes, it seems they did, and guess what? We allow messes just like theirs to overwhelm our grown up lives, too. Confession: About once a week, I find myself at the intersection of somebody-empty-the-dishwasher-because-dirty-dishes-are-taking-over-the-kitchen and I-can-wash-them-and-dry-them-and-even-fold-them-but-dear-god-why-can’t-I-get-this-laundry-put-away. And there are millions of other things — pulling weeds, recycling, paying bills, eating well, working out, doing taxes, and what else? Oh yes, writing newsletters. We feel resistance, just like the young people, and we let it keep us stuck!

If nothing else comes of you reading this thing, remember that… it doesn’t have to be this way.

Action Invitation: Whether you are at work or at home, find a mess that you’ve been dreading — processing a stack of papers, emptying the refrigerator, putting away laundry, or clearing your inbox. Now, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and go crazy. (This is the spirit of the Sick of Being Stuck program, in case you haven’t tried it yet.)

You’ll probably find that music makes you much more effective, or at least more fun, during this experiment. Or you can listen to half of this 27 minute interview while you dig in. (The conversation is a fun exploration of the connection between your inner state and your outer physical environment.) Ask for support from another human being, if you need it, but then… JUST DO IT!

After you finish, report back — either by replying in the comments below or on the Sick of Being Stuck page on Facebook — about what you finally finished, and how long it actually took you to get it done. (Mostly, I’m just the celebration coordinator here at Seeds & Weeds Coaching. If you’ve been around even a little while, you probably already picked up on that, right?)

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Silas Garrett
Silas Garrett3 years ago

I do tend to find that I feel this dread for certain tasks (not all of them, just the ones I find most onerous), but once I start doing them, they aren't so bad.

Samantha Hodder
Sam Hodder3 years ago


Laura M.
Past Member 3 years ago

This is so true! Today I was dreading working out, but I got lucky when I had the house to myself for a while. What I thought would takes forever only took about 30 minutes, plus I had fun because i turned the music up loud and danced like a dork between sets. =) i also got to walk around the room and look at stuff while i was doing the boring arms-lifting-weights(books) part, because no one was there to judge me.

Kelly B.
Kelly B.3 years ago

Heidi A. ... I find it is SO liberating to give away old stuff that is just weighing me down, and I get a smile thinking about someone coming across this or that at the thrift store or Goodwill. I have even given away books and games and stuff on Craigslist and not only do people come and take away your clutter, but they are happy to do it!

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

I have a very large and expensive collection of just about everything women consider valuable when they are young(clothes,shoes, perfume, jewelry, fashionable coats and even umbrellas). Now that I am older all of these items are in labled boxes (except for the jewelry) and I simply can't bear to part with them, even though they(mostly-I still wear jewelry when I go out-I keep my very expensive perfume in the refridgerator) are unused, and in boxes.

Edith B.
Edith B.3 years ago

Thanks, I plan to spend 15 minutes a day on all the paper I have in folders and eliminate as much as possible. Surely I can do that!

Deborah D.
Deborah D.3 years ago

I found 6 unnecessary cooking spoons, 4 unneeded spatulas, a pressure cooker I have not used in at least 12 years, a couple old pitchers, plant markers and some other crap in the kitchen.

I have a few other things that may be going to Goodwill, but I need to see what else I have on the other two counter sections first. So far 2 bags....I am happy with that progress.

Harsha Vardhana R

It is great to make a start however small it is. But we need to start loving the action too! Otherwise under false reasons, we would just start giving reasons for not doing

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon3 years ago

Music definitely helps :)

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago