Decluttering is one of the simplest ways to boost your mental and emotional well-being. In this episode, Krista Lockwood gives simple practices and tips that can positively impact your life. She is the Founder of Motherhood Simplified and host of the podcast with the same name. Krista joins Whitney Lauritsen to share that decluttering doesn’t have to mean embracing a minimalist lifestyle. Instead, it’s about removing what overwhelms and overstimulates to create the life and home you want, no matter what that looks like. Krista explains that our habits are ingrained deep within. It takes being honest with yourself to let go of what isn’t serving you. Join as she shares empowering and encouraging solutions, plus bite-sized quick wins that everyone can do!
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Organizing Without Overwhelm: Simple Decluttering Practices For Well-Being
There’s one thing that I have found myself struggling with and I’m hyper-aware of it. I don’t know if it’s a thing but I have noticed it and it feels like a weight on my shoulders and heart almost every day. It is clutter. I don’t know if I have become someone who does not tidy up as often. I’m not quite sure. This is something that I’m hoping to better understand about myself and help you understand about yourself too with our guest Krista, who specializes in helping people especially mothers declutter.
I’m so curious to find out from you, Krista, why clutter is something important to you? How did this become your passion interest specialty? Is this something new? Is this something that’s always been part of your life? Have you always been good at decluttering? Did you become passionate about helping others because you had to learn it yourself?
I hear this from moms all the time whether they say it explicitly but you said that you are not sure if you like stopped tidying up as much or are more sensitive to it. The thing about clutter is that oftentimes it makes us think or believe things about us that are not true like, “I’m lazy, unorganized, chaotic, distracted, ADD or ADHD,” which you might have that diagnosis but our clutter makes us think those things about ourselves. We internalize these messages about us. A lot of times, it’s not you. It’s our stuff. I like to tell moms especially like that, “There’s nothing wrong with you. You are not a bad mom, bad housekeeper, bad adult or anything like that. You probably just have too much stuff.” Did that ring true at all for you?
Yes. I love that in general because I feel like it is so common for people to say things about themselves based on the external. My big passion is letting go of the external as much as possible and focusing on our internal. I’m so glad that you do that too. I’m not a mom. Maybe sometimes that makes it feel worse because I feel like I have so much flexibility in my life.
I work for myself. I create my schedule. I don’t have children or a lot of obligations. Maybe in a way on some level, without even realizing it, I have felt worse about clutter because I think, “I have no excuse. What’s getting in the way?” I do fall on the ADHD spectrum. I have learned about myself. It feels like part of the reason I struggle with it is that it gets overwhelming.
For anyone who’s not watching the video, I will organize and declutter the area that my camera covers while I’m recording the show but so many people who make videos outside of the camera, it’s a different story and not that bad. I get anxious about things being on the floor and being not put away. It creates this tension within me, feeling like I’m frustrated with myself.
It’s like beating myself up, maybe these old stories of, “You are lazy. Why can’t you get your act together? It should be easy for you.” These are the messages that people have told me throughout my whole life verbally and especially my mom. For her, she’s into tidying. This is something I’m curious about too from a parenting perspective because I feel like there’s this cliche.Clutter makes us think or believe things that aren't true. Click To Tweet
I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing but for my mom and a lot of people around my age, it’s like being shamed for not making your bed, not tidying your room and having mothers that pride themselves in the house being clean. You would think maybe that would teach you to not be cluttered and be molded by that.
There are a lot of people like myself who feel relief that I don’t live with my mom after many years later. I don’t know if I’m rebelling sometimes like, “I don’t have to make my bed and tidy up.” I’m going to rebel against how I was raised and leave things flung around but I still have that inner voice of shame feeling I should be tidying. Is that something common that you hear?
It’s almost 50/50 of people who grew up with a parent or parents. It could be one or both or maybe a step-parent or something who put that pressure or expectation. Maybe was a little obsessive or overbearing about it. They grow up to be adults who either run themselves into the ground because they are trying to keep up with that expectation because it’s so ingrained in them and they want to please, get the approval of their parents or go the opposite direction.
They are like, “I’m not doing this. I don’t have to do this.” The goal for all of us is to find a way to make peace with that and realize that at the end of the day, we love our parents and we came from our parents but we are also our people and we don’t owe them anything
including however it is that we choose to live.
On my end, I grew up in a very messy, chaotic and cluttered house. I fell into the same pattern where I was like, “That’s how I grew up and what we are going to do. We are going to buy the kids all the things because that’s how we show love and keep it all because what if we need it? We don’t have enough money to not keep it.” I did that for a long time and have come to a place where I feel good about it for myself. It’s like, “I know that’s how I grew up and not saying it’s perfect by any means but I can acknowledge it.”
I can recognize the patterns that I fell into that were harmful and hurtful to myself and my kids and corrected them but it’s taken a long time. It’s been years since I decluttered our house. It’s been a long time of working through it and trying to understand it. Helping other moms has helped me understand my experience better too.
As a kid, I do think that it was always in me. I am into astrology. I’m a Virgo. Part of it, I have that in me. I’m also the oldest child. I probably have that responsibility ingrained in me as well. Growing up in a cluttered, messy house, I remember the days that I would be babysitting my younger siblings, looking around at the house and knowing that my mom was going to come home and she was going to be upset about the messy house and how nobody ever helps clean up. She’s the last to do everything. Everything’s always a mess.
I would take on the responsibility of getting the house clean before she gets home. I did not have full ownership of the house or the stuff in it. I don’t think I knew the skillset of decluttering or organizing but I did what I could. To make the house feel good is what I was trying to do so that when my mom came home, she was like, “The house is nice. We can play and go somewhere.” At the bare minimum, she’s not going to be in a bad mood.
I did that a lot when I was younger. It affected me however it affected me whether it’s who I am inside because I don’t think my other siblings took it on themselves to do those kinds of things but I did. As I grew up and started having my kids, I fell into the same patterns. Having a house that was full of a lot of stuff is overwhelming. As we had more kids, we would accumulate more stuff. I would go to work, come home and be in that same cycle that I grew up in where my mom would come home from work and be like, “I have to clean the house. I worked all day. The last thing I want to do is clean the house but nobody ever helps me. Everything’s always a mess.”
That’s the cycle I was in and I did not realize it. It’s a very exhausting cycle to be in whether you have kids or not because I was in that cycle before I had kids too where my weekends were like, “It’s time to catch up.” Especially if I was going to have friends over, I get the house cleaned up before people come over and then after they leave, you don’t have to spend all the time recovering because I shoved everything into the closets, under the beds and wherever else I could.
It’s an exhausting cycle to be in and I did not realize I was in it until 2013. At that point, my husband and I had three kids and we were living in Alaska. My husband is an entrepreneur. There’s only so much you can do and he was like, “What do you think if we moved to a big city somewhere and I grew the business?” I was like, “Nobody does that.”
The next week he had an interview in Florida and he accepted it on the spot. Long story short, he had to be there the very following week so then we were like, “You have to be in Florida. We have three kids and a house full of stuff.” I owned a preschool. I had a whole other 1,000-square-foot building of school stuff that I had to get rid of.
When we started doing the math of what it would cost to ship stuff from Alaska to Florida and all the different kinds of ways through the moving company, shipping company, pallets like the math did not add up, it was more affordable to start over. We did not want to spend a whole lot of time apart as a family so we were like, “We are going to buy plane tickets and in a month, we are all going to be living in Florida.”Our house became a place that is supportive of us, instead of a place that became more work. Click To Tweet
I stayed back and got rid of all of our stuff other than what fit into our suitcases, which were some clothes and toys. I did leave behind 6 or 7 boxes of our sentimental things like photos and baby books. My husband likes letterman jackets that he cares about and things like that to ship later but we got rid of pretty much everything. We rented a furnished house in Florida so we did not have to rush to get beds or couches. What happened when we got to Florida was life got easy for me. I thought of it because going to Alaska, it’s cold, dark winter all the time to living five minutes from the beach.
I had to work two jobs. I was working more in Florida away from my family. I left my entire support system. My kids left all of their friends. I left all of my friends, live in a brand new place and have culture shock because Alaska to Florida felt different. We even lived in a neighborhood where most of the kids spoke Spanish. Even from that point it was like, “Where are we?”
On paper, I should have been struggling even more than I was in Alaska. What happened was we would go to work and come home at the end of the day. It was easy to be home, keep up on the dishes, make dinner, play with my kids and easy to relax and reconnect at the end of the day. Our weekends were even better because we could go to the beach and come back. Things in the house were taken care of.
The best way to describe it is that our house became a place that supported us and our family instead of being a place that was more work because I used to joke at my work that going to work was the easy part of my day and going home was hard because I was working so hard all day. I go home, want to relax and I can’t because I have laundry, dishes and piles of stuff everywhere that I needed to get organized. The kids’ toys are a mess and all over the place. I could not catch a break.
I did not realize what we were doing. I don’t even think that decluttering, minimalism or simplifying was in my vocabulary. I did not do it on purpose and it took me several years to realize what had changed for us. It was not that we lived at the beach or the sun. It was because our house became that place that we could relax and retreat.
The only way I figured it out was I got pregnant again. I joined a Due Date group. For anybody reading who does not know what that is, it’s a Facebook group for people who are pregnant at the same time. We got to know each other. After we had the babies, the conversations started happening like, “Is anybody else feeling overwhelmed in their house? Does anybody else feel like the walls are closing in on them?” They can’t catch up.
We started doing this thing called House Tours where we would go live and show each other our houses. The point of it was to be like, “You are not alone. We all have messy houses.” The point of decluttering and everything is not to have a perfectly clean house. When it got to be my turn and I showed them my house, they were like, “We all agreed that we would show her houses as-is. We feel like you cleaned up before this. Where are all your messes? Where is all your stuff?”
I showed them and was like, “This is all of our stuff.” That was when I started to put the pieces together like, “With my first three kids, that’s exactly how I felt. I’m laying down at the end of the day on a couch or a bed with a pile of clothes on it. I have to decide, ‘Do I want to sleep next to these clothes or get up and put them away?’” I started to understand like, “This changed when we got rid of our stuff.”
Over those years, we have accumulated a lot more stuff. I’m in my basement where we have a literal gym full of gym equipment and my kids have toys. I don’t recommend having a suitcase of stuff but I did have a unique experience of starting over, living that way and never reaccumulating the clutter. I don’t know exactly why we did not reaccumulate our clutter because a lot of people will start over and then reaccumulated all but we did not.
It might be that we were broke or my subconscious mind loved that space. My friends were like, “You did not trick us. This is how you live. Can you show us how to do it please?” That’s how I started. I’m like, “Of course, I will.” I asked them, “What spaces do you want help with? I will teach you how to declutter your dishes, clothes or toys and piles on your kitchen counter. What do you want?” That’s how it started. It’s been years of me doing that on a repeat of, “What do you need help with? I can help you,” and then showing them how.
I have this whole vision of you traveling from Alaska to Florida. It’s so fascinating on so many levels. I find myself wanting to know exactly what you teach each person, which you share through your work but maybe you could give us a little light overview of some of the tips because to me, it can’t be that easy.
Similar to you, I declutter when I feel like I have to or somebody’s coming over and I want to impress them. I’m embarrassed. I declutter when I feel a lot of shame and the shame is so overpowering that it feels like the only way to get rid of it is to declutter. I will declutter when I feel group accountability like what you are describing.
I’m one of the groups that I lead called Beyond Measure. We have a monthly accountability session where everybody works on the projects that they have been procrastinating and usually, my project is decluttering. That helps me but other than that, I struggle so much. It feels simple and yet hard at the same time. I’m curious how you help people overcome that.
Before we get to that, there’s one question on my mind. Is there a difference between being clean and tidy? Do they play a role? If there is a difference? Do they complement each other? Are they mutually exclusive? Do you need to be clean and tidy? Is there value to being one over the other? For some reason, I would love to know how you view the two.It's not you. It's your stuff. Click To Tweet
They are related. I’m going to include a third because one of the core things that I do teach often is basic definitions. Once you can understand what exactly these are and the differences then you can start to understand who you are and how you live and then you can figure out things that might help you individually. There is decluttering, organizing and cleaning.
Decluttering is the literal act of getting things out of your house for good. It’s getting rid of the excess, duplicates, things you don’t need, don’t use, broken or things that don’t fit in the space that you have, which we have lived in an RV as well. When people are like, “Your house is tiny,” I get it. We lived in an RV with three kids. Whatever the space that you have is the space that you have. That’s decluttering.
Organizing is shifting things inside of your house. It’s often confused with decluttering saying, “It’s on the kitchen counter and it needs to go in a cabinet or closet. It needs better bins. I need some better storage to put over the door.” That’s organizing. It’s shifting things to fit better or to look more arranged or cohesive. It has a purpose but if you have too much stuff in your house, to begin with, the organizing is never sustainable and is a never-ending quest. It can become very exhausting if it’s too much for you to manage because it’s never going to end. You are going to do it and it’s going to come and be done. You are going to feel like something’s wrong with you and that’s when we start telling ourselves things like, “I’m too unorganized, messy or lazy.” It’s not you. It’s your stuff.
Cleaning and cleanliness to me are wiping down your counters, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming or scrubbing your toilets, those kinds of things. For me, I also am on the ADHD spectrum so I’m explosively messy. I tell people, “I am explosive.” If you are on the spectrum, we have this very quirky and slightly annoying thing where if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. I need my stuff insight. I need stuff on the counters or where I can see it or I’m going to forget about it. This means that I’m going to buy it again or I’m going to be like, “I lost it and I can’t find it. I need another one.”
It’s this unique thing of having to set myself up to have things out unavailable. It can feel like it’s cluttered especially if you have a lot of stuff. I’m naturally explosive and messy. I leave a trail of destruction around me daily but because I have decluttered, the key is that I can recover quickly. At the end of the day, before I go to bed, I can go around the house and put it back where it goes and reset, which is what we call in our group is the nightly reset. I go behind myself and clean up after myself because things got messy and crazy.
Not everybody is like that. Some people are more naturally organized. I don’t think I’m very naturally good at an organization like labels, bins and those kinds of things. It’s overwhelming to me even when I have a small amount of stuff but the key is to find your threshold of what you can manage on a day-to-day basis and what fits in your space.
If you live with other people, kids especially, staying within their threshold too because if it’s overwhelming for you to try and keep up on it and to keep it clean organize and know where things go, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s also overwhelming for the people that you live with. Everybody’s got different thresholds. It is a balancing act of finding that but those are the key definitions.
To be clear, did you cover what cleaning was and I missed it?
I briefly covered it because it’s my least favorite. It’s doing things like wiping down your counters, sweeping, mopping and cleaning your toilets. Cleaning has a purpose. Organizing sodas, decluttering but cleaning and organizing become easier to do regularly when you have decluttered. For example, for me, it used to be like, “Before I could vacuum or sweep, I had to spend fifteen minutes picking up the floor.”
If you have less clutter, those piles of stuff are still going to happen because you are a person with stuff. The key is that instead of it taking 15 to 20 minutes, you can get the floor picked up in 3 to 5 minutes and then you can vacuum, mop or clear the counters off. Another one for us in the kitchen was like, “It takes us 15 to 20 minutes to put the stuff on the kitchen counters away so that I can wipe the kitchen counters down. Same with the bathroom. I have got to move everything off of the sink before I can clean the sink.” That’s cleaning. Even organizing will make cleaning easier but sometimes we put the cart before the horse and think that we have to be cleaner people or get a better cleaning schedule. If you would do the other parts first, cleaning gets naturally easier. Not that it’s enjoyable.
I find my brain feeling motivated to do some of these things knowing that. It’s when I can focus on the pleasure I get from these things or the function of what you are talking about in the kitchen. I know a lot of people who feel so overwhelmed with doing dishes. I’m one of them too but I waver between times where I will wash the dishes as I use it, even though there’s a dishwasher, which to me feels so much easier to put stuff in the dishwasher but then you have to take things out of the dishwasher. I get overwhelmed with that sometimes. It’s like a constant battle of where am I going to have the least amount of overwhelm? I fluctuate a lot.
One of the things that I have noticed about myself that’s frustrating but I’m learning to work with it more is that I am always shifting. This is important to discuss for others because until I started to embrace my neurodiversity and let go of the shame for being different, it’s helped me versus in the past whether it was through my mother society, education or all of these different messages we get throughout our life that might make us feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed. For me, that was feeling like I always had to do things the same way but I recognize that I fluctuate so much with my energy and overwhelm levels so what I’m able to do at this moment may be very different later. I might be able to clean a dish and a spoon off after I use it and immediately it’s done but later, I might feel too overwhelmed to do that and I will leave it in the sink.
If it starts to accumulate, that adds more overwhelming to me and I procrastinate even further. It’s this constant battle of managing how I feel now and anticipating how I’m going to feel later. I’m like, “If I do it now even though I’m overwhelmed, that might prevent me from feeling more overwhelmed later.” There’s also a chance that I might feel less overwhelmed than I do now. Maybe I will save it for later in case it’s easier for me later.
I don’t know if this makes sense but I have embraced this about me and that’s been a big part of my experience with cleaning, for sure organizing and decluttering. I love that you defined the three because I had not thought about them as three separate things. A lot of people say cleaning when they mean organizing. Some people say decluttering when they mean organizing and maybe vice versa too so it’s helpful.The key is to find your own threshold of what you can manage on a daily basis. Click To Tweet
I am recognizing through this conversation too that what I struggle with is organizing. Even I’m very good at it. You touched upon the natural thing. A lot of people will say to me, “You are a very organized person,” but they had only seen me in my organized state. They are not seeing me in the disorganized state that I shared.
It’s important to disclose, “Now I do not feel organized. I have papers on my desk that are giving me anxiety because they are there to remind me to do them.” Like what you are sharing, “If they are out of sight, they are out of mind.” I purposely put them on my desk but they also give me anxiety sitting there because I have not been in the mental state to handle them like I have stuff cluttered on this other side of the room.
Looking at it every day gives me anxiety but I have not had the mental bandwidth to deal with it and organize it. I’m curious if, A) You can relate to those emotions and B) How does someone like me move through life? Do I have to accept that I’m going to constantly be in these fluctuations of disorganized and unclean organized and clean? Is it always going to be those ups and downs? Is there a way that I can hack my brain to be more consistent?
To a large degree, it’s always going to be somewhat cyclical. There is like a revolving door of clutter, which is sometimes people get things out of their house but they are bringing stuff in justice quickly. That’s fast if you think of a revolving door like that door is spinning fast. You are on this constant cycle of going and not getting anywhere. One of the keys is to slow that down so that you can get access out of your house and bring less stuff in. You slow that door down but I do think that it is largely cyclical.
I have a menstrual cycle and I notice that very specifically, there’s a short cycle every month. Sometimes I’m on it and I’m way ahead of schedule like I can stay up late and go wake up early for a few days. That’s not all the time but there are a few days where I have got all this energy. I can do all of the things.
There is another time when I have to go to bed early, struggled to wake up and doing the dishes feels impossible. For those of us with those kinds of a cycle, that happens. That’s a good thing to remember whether you have that cycle if you have a menstrual or not. In general, humans are going to do that. We can’t possibly sustain a baseline flat level. I’m always going to be right here and it’s going to change. There are going to be certain factors in your life that will change that and that’s okay.
The other thing that you said was that you felt like you are in a season of disorganization. I do think that there’s a seasonality to it. We were coming off of the tail end of winter, where generally speaking, even though you live in LA, the weather is still beautiful. Generally speaking, we are slowing down in these kinds of ways. That’s why we have spring cleaning because everybody’s coming off of winter where we slowed down, not doing as much, let things and our routines slide.
We also got a lot of people who had a lot of gifts coming in for the holiday season so your house has more stuff in it. I have noticed it because the last few years, I have been trying to tune in to my cycles like how do they land? How do I feel during them? I have noticed specifically that around springtime is when I want to start doing those things again. I want to start getting my house in order again, revise my systems, go through my closets or cabinets and take out the things that we are not going to wear, outgrown or don’t like anymore.
I do think it’s partly seasonal and cyclical. Whether it’s lining up with the literal seasons for you or not, you are going to have some cycle where you are feeling like, “I am nailing this and rocking it. I have got my house in control,” and then it’s going to change naturally organically or you might have a life event. You might have something come up for work, health things, family events or something going on in your relationships that are going to take away from that.
The thing that I have noticed for me is that decluttering has allowed me to give myself grace and space with that. When I’m talking about my menstrual cycle specifically, I can let the dishes or messes slide for a few days and know it does not last forever. I can still recover pretty easily. Whereas before when we had a ton of stuff, it was like if I let up off the guests even a little bit, I would fall further behind and then it would get overwhelming.
I’m at a point where it’s been years of me doing this. Don’t feel bad if you are not there yet but you can get there. I have had a lot of experience figuring out what my threshold is like, “What can I manage?” Even with that, my threshold changes like the more kids I have, the less stuff I can manage, which sounds counterintuitive.
The more kids you have, the more stuff you have but for me, it’s the opposite. I’m spending more time and energy pouring into the people in my house that I don’t have the time and energy to manage more stuff. Yes, the answer is going to change and shift. You are not destined to feel overwhelmed forever. You can get to a place where it feels easier and that’s going to change based on a lot of different things.
It’s inspired me to do more tracking of my menstrual cycle because it’s something that I have done only lightly. Thinking about it in the way that you described, I’m sure there are key parts of the month where I do feel a little bit more energized versus tired. I have started tracking the days where I feel physical pain from my cycle because those are the days that I need to do barely anything.
My brain does not feel like it’s functioning as well. My body’s not. If I’m in pain, I don’t want to be recording a show for example or be having meetings on those days. I have blocked them off or my schedule for the month but what I have not done is the opposite whereas finding the times where my cycle has made things maybe feel easier. Maybe I feel more energized or I can get certain things done with more ease than others.Decluttering has allowed me to have grace and space. Click To Tweet
I’m so glad that you brought that up because I had not even thought to add those days to my calendar and I’m sure they are there. Without the awareness and tuning into our bodies, it’s easy to disregard. I also think you bring up such an important thing about the difference between our physical bodies as somebody that has a cycle versus somebody who does not and how I’m learning more and more how many systems are set up for people that don’t have those cycles. We have many patriarchal systems that were designed with men in mind or people that don’t have the menstrual cycle. Maybe some of the shame is related to that.
Maybe it’s not taking in the inclusivity of our different bodies and there are so many factors with our bodies too. For me, a lot of it is a mental thing. Especially those of us who are neurodivergent, we are also set up in a system that is designed for someone neuro-typical. There’s a lot of shame if your brain works differently. That’s been freeing to recognize that it’s okay if your brain works differently. It’s not something that you should feel ashamed about but also what if your body works differently?
Keep in mind that all the different factors go into not just our biological gender but our age. Some of us don’t even realize how much the system is set up for abled body people. People that don’t have a physical limitation, disability or challenge whether that’s permanent or temporary. I imagine things like cleaning are tough.
How many systems are set up for somebody who is in a wheelchair, smaller or taller somebody who has an injury or somebody who is sick and unable to do some of these things? I’m sure there is so much frustration and shame around that. I’m curious. Does that come up in your work? How do you support people who don’t fit into the current cultural status quo?
It does come up. I am blessed to be physically healthy and active and I have that. I’m not comparing this to disabilities or anything like that but I have had board babies. There is a huge period where I am in full recovery mode. I can’t sleep. I don’t eat well. My body is recovering from a huge internal wound from having these babies. I’m breastfeeding. The hormones are overwhelming and while that is temporary, it’s hard. The biggest hurdle that I come up with because I serve mostly mothers is them feeling bad because they are pregnant, had a baby, don’t have the energy, dealing with physical pain or had a C-section, which is major abdominal surgery.
We are in a society that does not support mothers in the postpartum phase. They are like, “In six weeks, get back to work.” I’m like, “I still have stitches.” I had to do it after my first baby. I’m not comparing that experience to a disability or a chronic illness but it is similar. We are exhausted and we don’t have basic access to information about how to deal with our energy levels or hormones. The accessibility of care for anybody is not here in the United States. I’m sure you have readers outside of the United States so I’m jealous of you.
Chronic illness also does come up. My suggestion is to always stick within your means and don’t feel bad about it. Acceptance is huge. If you can accept where you are, that is powerful because by doing that, you give yourself grace and understanding. You put yourself into a problem-solving mindset where you can find creative solutions and be more willing. For me, if I accept where I’m at, which is hard for me, I’m more willing to ask for help or creatively seek help.
I have to ask family and friends to do something awkward for me like, “Come help me with my dishes or laundry because I have got two babies on me and a mastitis.” Everything hurts. Get creative in funding and financing things like saving up money to pay for things whether it’s a lawn, cleaning or laundry service.
It’s a sensitive subject because it’s not easy. I try to acknowledge that it is an uphill battle and also empower and encourage people that there are solutions. Even if they are slow or small, there’s always something that you can do. I try to be mindful of that in the things that I teach. I do think that it’s something that I have improved on a lot because I have seen so many scenarios like this where I have taken for granted my physical health.
Teeny tiny bite-sized pieces are how I teach everything. Not Marie Kondo style where she’s like, “Take it all out and put it on your bed.” You are like, “I don’t have eight days to do that at once. That’s not going to work.” I do teach bite-sized pieces that are easily done by moms who are very busy with tiny pockets of time but also work better for people who have varying degrees of health and abilities.
That’s helpful too because I had a conversation with somebody about how the Marie Kondo style sounds great in theory. I have done it myself. I enjoyed it. I find that structure and instructions helped me a lot at times when I’m in a space where I can do that without getting overwhelmed. I found that taking everything out like all my clothes and putting them on the bed forced me to get it done before bedtime because otherwise, I would be sleeping on clothes to your point.
There are times when I would probably push the clothes off the bed and sleep not putting them back yet because I was too overwhelmed to finish it. This is what came up in this conversation. It’s like, “What if you have so many clothes that taking them all out at once is incredibly overwhelming and super time-consuming? Not everybody is going to have the energy or the time to do those things.”
I would love to hear more about the bite-size tips that you have and some starting points for people before they dig into more of your work through your website and podcast. I would love a little sneak peek of some of these bite-size teachable moments and steps that you can take, where do you begin and especially for someone who feels overwhelmed by decluttering, organizing and cleaning.
There are two spots of the house that I recommend like teeny tiny projects that pretty much anybody can do that feel like a quick win when you see quick success, you get excited. It feels doable and that is number one, under the sink. Whether it’s your kitchen or bathroom sink, it does not matter. Under the sink is generally full of things that are fairly easy to decide on. You don’t have sentimental photos, special clothes or something like that under your sink. It’s typically old cleaners, sponges, rags, duplicate products that you forgot that you had. Generally, things that you can get rid of easily.You are not destined to feel overwhelmed forever. Click To Tweet
What ends up happening is that you do that, get rid of a lot of stuff, see how clean and clear it looks out under there and you realize, “That was not so hard. I was able to do that. It feels great.” A lot of times it builds enough momentum for you to move on to the next thing. Maybe you are doing under the sink and then you decide all of a sudden, “I have room to put all of the stuff that’s on the sink into the cabinet,” and then your cabinet is clear. You can wipe it down and things fit better. It’s momentum and trickles into the other areas so that you can keep going.
Another area like this is a spice cabinet in your kitchen because you can do that pretty easily while you are cooking. For whatever reason, I tend to gravitate to the kitchen. I’m in there a lot maybe because I have a lot of kids who are always hungry. You would open up the cabinet, pull your spices out and get rid of the ones that are expired.
A lot of times we don’t even realize that we have expired spices, packets or food. You can clear that out pretty easily. Similar to under the sink, it’s not a lot of sentimental things. Pretty easy stuff that happens a lot in the Motherhood Simplified group is there. I had three cinnamons so they consolidate it into 1 cinnamon thing. It clears the space, gets you back in touch with what you have and gets you a little bit more excited about cooking. I don’t know if I will ever get excited about cooking but it’s less dreadful.
It’s the momentum effect too like, “I did my spice cabinet and drinking things,” where they have coffee cups and mugs that also need to be done. You can do that real quick. It’s a simple way to get started and not feel overwhelmed by the process. It’s not so daunting. Some spaces will have somewhat of an impact on your day to where you will be like, “I did it. I feel good about that and it was not that hard.” You start to realize that you can make a lot of progress in 5 to 10-minute increments. Sometimes under your sink might take you 15 to 20 minutes, maybe more but the point is that you started and decided, “I’m going to start with one thing.”
Something that we talk about a lot in the Motherhood Simplified space too is just one thing. If you can get 1 thing out, you can get 2 and then 3. That’s how small sometimes we have to start, that piece of paper on the counter or whatever it might be. The other thing that you said that I wanted to touch on was clothes because those are typically a very big project for a lot of people.
It’s big in volume because we have a lot of clothes and they tend to hold a lot of emotional weight for us too especially for moms. Like me, I double on size and then shrink back down. There are a lot of feelings behind that. It’s hard to go through clothing. It’s emotionally charged. There are also a lot of them. It can feel overwhelming to do Marie Kondo style like pull it off and make the decisions on it.
When it comes to clothing, you can do the same concept of one thing. There’s probably something in your closet that you never wear. Maybe several things that you don’t wear and you are like, “Maybe I will wear it one day,” but you never have and you can’t get rid of it. Maybe you have clothing that you are like, “I will fix that zipper or that button,” and you never do. You have things that are worn out and so you don’t even want to wear them anymore but you keep them because you are invested in them. You have had it for a long time. Why would you get rid of it?
Getting rid of those things that have lived their life and it’s time to let them go. Things that don’t fit anymore or maybe it’s for your old season of life. Maybe you are a working professional and now you work from home so you don’t need those business suits anymore. You can get rid of most of them. Especially for moms, we don’t wear heels like we used to so we don’t need all of them. When it comes to clothing, you can find those little things that are the easiest decisions. Find the things that are the easiest to decide on. The things that don’t fit, worn out or broken. Get rid of those and start to clear some space.
You don’t have to rush it and do it all in a day. You can fill up a bag. Let it go and do it again. That goes back to the revolving door of clutter that we were talking about. If you are going to get rid of these things, it’s important to be mindful of what you are also bringing in because you can fall into that cycle of a fast revolving door of stuff goes in, stuff goes out and then you won’t get ahead. If you are going to consciously and intentionally choose to declutter, as much as possible make sure to also be conscious and intentional about the other end of it of things coming in and what you are bringing in.
That leads me to something I wanted to touch upon too, which has minimalism. In one of your descriptions you wrote, “How to declutter without becoming a full-blown minimalist.” I love that because I’m very curious about your thoughts on minimalism. You touched upon ideas around that such as moving across the country. You had to minimize everything and leave things behind. It got you to focus.
I’m not sure if that would fully fall into the minimalism category but it put you in that place at least temporarily where you had to think about what was necessary and important. Also living in an RV, I’m sure it was a very similar experience there. It reminded me of when I have done my multi-month cross-country road trips and how each time I have done it, I have had to think about the basics like, “What are the items that I have to have? How few of them can I take with me because my car is small and I need space in there?”
The camping trips and all that changes the way you think about eating and the clothes that you are going to wear. Suddenly you realize you don’t need very much and it’s very freeing. Every time I do one of those trips, I come home and think, “I’m going to declutter everything and live more of this minimalism mindset but then I don’t.” The reality of having to strip away things is I found myself envying you in that position of having to do to move because for me, a lot of times I will procrastinate until I have to do something.
I’m an eleventh-hour type of person. That’s one of the classic ADHD symptoms of waiting until you have to do it because then suddenly I have the energy to accomplish it. Every moment leading up to it, I’m like, “How far can I push this back? How much longer can I wait?” Maybe that’s why trips feel easier for me because it’s like, “I’m going to leave for this trip. I have to do this. If I’m going to move, I have to do this.” If those circumstances are not happening, I’m not in that minimalist mindset as much as I find joy in it. I’m curious where you fall on this. What do you define as a full-blown minimalist? Why do you feel that is hard to achieve for most people? Is there more of a balance that you can find that still brings in the benefits of minimalism without doing that all the way?
Thank you for being honest about being in the position where we had to get rid of everything and go. I tell people all the time that that was a unique experience. I truly don’t know that if I did not have that experience if I ever would have done it or figured it out. It was such a unique experience but I learned so much from it that I’m like, “Let me show you how to do it without going so extreme.” The problem with minimalism or the word minimalism is that it makes people feel like it has to be extreme, has to be all or nothing, has to look a certain way or you can only have a certain amount of things.The whole purpose of decluttering is to make your house work for you. Click To Tweet
It ends up becoming more of a bunch of rules and status symbols almost of like, “I’m a minimalist so this is what we do. This is how we do it. This is what we have and we don’t have.” It’s pretty common for moms to be like, “I only have these kinds of toys. We only buy these kinds of clothes.” That defeats the whole purpose because the whole purpose of decluttering and simplifying, in my opinion, and beliefs is that you should make your housework for yourself.
Make your house work for you instead of it becoming a source of work for you. That’s going to look different for everybody because we have all got different abilities, thresholds of what we can manage, values, size of the house, amounts of people living with us and family dynamics whether you are step-parent or not or you don’t have any kids at all. It’s way too restrictive. The stereotypical minimalism term is that it has to look a certain way and has to look like these extremes.
What we did when we moved from Alaska to Florida was extreme. That’s why I tell people like, “Don’t do that.” Declutter without doing that, going extreme and thinking that it has to be some set of rules that somebody else made up that they probably did not even makeup anyway. You probably have it in your head because you look at Pinterest and Instagram and see these people doing these things. It’s not attainable and sustainable.
You should not be trying to do minimalism so that you can have the illusion of some kind of life. That’s easy. You should be doing it so that you can live that way and feel that relief. Through your decluttering process, it’s going to come in layers where you are like, “I did under the sink and I felt better. I need to do something else.”
It’s going to happen in layers and eventually, you will get to a stage where you are like, “This feels good.” We were talking about the cycles. Stuff is going to come back in again. You are going to hit a hard season of life, have a health thing come up or a relationship issue. It’s going to feel a little bit harder again. You then can start to gauge like, “Is the way that I’m feeling because of something that’s going on in my life? Is it the clutter that’s telling me things like, ‘You are too unorganized and messy.’”
I’m not immune to those feelings. It has helped me separate it like, “Am I feeling disconnected from my spouse, work, kids or myself? Is my house overwhelming me?” At the end of the day, we interpret things through our senses. Looking at piles of stuff and a sink full of dishes affects our minds and emotions.
I appreciate the approach that you take to this. The biggest takeaway I have is that there’s no one size fits all approach and that’s so helpful. One of the big themes of my experience with all of this is feeling like I need to do things in a way that does not work for me. That is something that I’m noticing more and more. There are many messages that we have about things like how our houses should look that cause people to feel much shame.It didn't matter the circumstances; I was judging myself unfairly. Click To Tweet
It’s so common for someone to feel embarrassed when somebody comes over. It’s like that fear of, “What if somebody shows up unexpectedly and they see my house for what it looks like?” When we started doing more Zoom sessions with people during the pandemic, there are a lot of apologies that we make for our backgrounds or the need like I do, set things up to look a certain way so that’s what the camera sees but the reality is that outside of the camera lens, it looks different and it’s not reflective of what I want people to think about me.
That’s at the core too. It’s not about how we feel about ourselves but it’s all these fears that we have about other people judging us. That’s tough. There’s pressure but the problem with that pressure is it’s not always good pressure, I suppose. I don’t want to carry around shame, embarrassment or guilt for what my place looks like because, at the end of the day, it’s my place. Yes, it reflects the state of who I am in that moment but that’s okay. Maybe embracing more of it and not feeling all these fears around how other people perceive me is part of the key too.
Women especially culturally carry a lot of that burden of feeling like they have to constantly keep up with the appearance of it all when deep down inside, it’s the last thing that they want to do. They would rather spend more time with their families and passions. They would rather use that time to rest and take care of their bodies.
I love that you have this big message of figuring out what works well for you. That is such an amazing takeaway. Krista, you have such a wonderful way about you that feels so accepting. You are there for us and help figure this out. You have created all these systems. I would love to know what is the next step for someone after reading this? If they are curious about the work that you do, what do you offer through your wonderful website? Where did they begin with you?
I love what you were talking about feeling that shame and pressure around our houses. I had that before. I decluttered to where I was like, “People come over to my house. They are going to judge me because it’s messy. They are going to be like, ‘She’s a hot mess.’” I don’t think anybody ever did that and if they did, that’s their problem. That’s not a reflection of me.
What I found after I decluttered was I still had those feelings of shame where people would come over and my house is clean. I would find myself saying things like, “I spent all day cleaning.” I was lying through my teeth because I did not but I did not want people to think like I’m lazy or I’m not like them. That’s one thing that happens a lot of times. We share these things with our friends. I’m like, “My house is such a mess.” Especially in mom circles of commiserating and not commiserating to be like, “I feel bad for me,” but it’s hard. Those are the things that we talk about. All of a sudden, when I did not have that anymore, I also felt feelings of shame.
I thought that was an interesting experience because what I discovered is that it did not matter what the circumstances are. I was judging myself unfairly no matter what my circumstances were. That was a powerful realization for me like, “Most days, I’m at a point where it does not matter if my house is a mess or if I cleaned over the weekend and it looks amazing. If you come into my house, I’m excited that you are there.” That’s it.Decluttering helps you unpack things you didn't realize about yourself. Click To Tweet
I’m not going to apologize for it and throw it at anybody’s face that my house is so clean. I’m not going to take a picture and be like, “Look at my house. I got my house clean.” I’m not going to do that. It is what it is. I understand that sometimes it’s a mess. Seven people live here. That’s what happens.
Sometimes I am great and I have got it all put together but it’s not a reflection of me as a person at all no matter what end it’s on. I thought that was an interesting thing that I learned. I do see other moms who I help having that same experience of them being like, “I feel bad. My husband came home from work and he’s like, ‘The house looks amazing.’ I feel bad telling him that I took a nap. I did not even do anything.” They are feeling like they are still judging themselves. Decluttering helps you unpack those kinds of things that you probably did not realize about yourself and how hard you are in yourself.
For the next step, I do have a little checklist that’s full of tiny little projects that you can do in 10 to 15 minutes. It’s got 22 little projects that you can do that are 5 to 15 minutes, depending on your energy levels and the space of how much you have. It also has inside of it a little bonus in case workshop is what I call. Taking you through the process of it if you struggle with it like, “I feel that I need to keep this because what if I need it? I could use it for this,” which is one of the top things that moms or anybody gets hung up on. It’s like, “Just in case. What if I need it or have to replace it?”
It’s a fifteen-minute workshop with a little sheet to go through and help you work through that process and questions to ask yourself. It’s got some other little bonus things in there that I can’t remember off the top of my head because I’m always adding to it, to be honest. As things come up, I’m like, “I should add that.” That’s the best place to start.
I do monthly challenges. I don’t do them all the time but I’m in a season of life where I can do those monthly where there are week-long challenges like next, we are doing paper clutter. Every month is a different area of the house based on what everybody wants to do. I have got a Toy Decluttering Course, Clothes Decluttering Course, Declutter Your Whole House Course. I have a podcast and it’s all at MotherhoodSimplified.com as well as social media.
You offer so many amazing resources. I’m so grateful for it because someone like you that feels so loving, accepting, taking the approach to all of this and the way that you do is so appealing to me. The first step is not feeling like I have to change myself. I have fit a mold. That’s something that I have associated with a lot of the cleaning mentality or it’s like, “I have to buy all of these things.”
We see this a lot on social media. Buying the new organizational products or the new cleaning products. That all sounds great but the budget’s a concern too. I love that you take these simple steps that you could probably start doing right away and shift to your way of wanting to do things and thriving. I want to show my gratitude for all of that, Krista. It’s lovely. You are a wonderful human being that’s given me so much joy and inspiration.
I feel like after I leave this episode, I’m probably going to want to do some decluttering and cleaning because I feel good around you. The greatest part of your work is helping people feel good first so that they want to do these things. Thank you for doing that for me. I imagine the reader may feel similarly. Thank you so much for being here, Krista.
Thank you so much. That was an amazing compliment. I appreciate it because how I hope to come across is like, “Nothing’s wrong with you. Let’s get rid of your stuff.”
I love that. That’s a great note to end on.
- Krista Lockwood
- Beyond Measure
- Toy Decluttering Course
- Clothes Decluttering Course
- Declutter Your Whole House Course
- Marie Kondo
About Krista Lockwood
Krista teaches decluttering for moms who don’t want to be a full blown minimalist. She teaches you how to get honest with yourself so you can have enough stuff to meet your needs and desires, but not so much it’s overwhelming. The balance of enough but not too much so you have time and energy to pour into the life you want most.
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