Good Intentions

Clutter . “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I would say this holds true for cluttered spaces as well.

An old phrase says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I would say this holds true for cluttered spaces as well. People regularly tell me about plans (or dreams) for accomplishing something with the items that are crowding their space. Unfortunately, most people lack either the time or the determination to carry through with non-urgent and unnecessary projects. The result? Congested spaces and vague feelings of guilt and/or incompetence.

Here are a few illustrations….

“I’ll use this someday.”

A woman has a bedroom filled with hobby supplies. She has fabric scraps which she hopes to make into quilts, yarns for knitting sweaters for her nephew, scrapbooking supplies she bought at a home party years ago, spools of thread for her broken sewing machine, and stacks of magazines she is holding onto because they contain “many good ideas.”

⇒ Reality check:

Most of these supplies are old, faded or mismatched. The woman hasn’t actually worked on any projects for more than 5 years. She spends most of her spare time today helping out at a woman’s shelter, which gives her great joy. Her supplies for this activity are stashed in an overflowing bag behind her bedroom door. It’s time to donate or trash the unused items and free the room to accommodate her shelter materials.

“I’m going to give this to __________.”

An older widow is downsizing to a smaller home. Her attic is full of items that she has been holding onto with plans to give them to her family members. These include a dark, wooden bedroom set, a television cabinet, a sofa with broken springs, and a set of china.

⇒ Reality check:

The reason she has not yet passed these items on is that her family members have resisted her efforts to do so. Her children are already established and her grandchildren have “different tastes.” In addition, no one lives close enough to come and get the furniture and take it away, and the sofa will require expensive repairs to get it into usable shape. The best course is to see if there is a local charity who will carry these items out of her home, and if not, to hire a junk hauling service.

“I’m going to get these fixed.”

A man has a basement table covered in broken items: old computers, a lamp, a blender, a cell phone that fell into water, and a snow shovel with a broken handle, among other things. Fixing things was a job he was assigned by his wife, whose father had been very handy. This man frankly doesn’t know how to go about repairing these items, and isn’t even sure if they are fixable. Every time he looks at the table, he feels like a loser.

⇒ Reality check:

We all have different gifts. It’s time for this man to “come clean” with his wife, tell her he has no idea how to fix these items, and either hire someone else to tackle the repairs, or move them to the proper disposal/recycling location. In the future, when items break, he needs to be honest about his ability to mend them, and make a decision in the moment about whether to try to hire a repairman or buy a replacement.

“I’m going to wear these when I lose weight.”

A mother of small children has a closet that is stuffed beyond usefulness. Her body has changed since she had her children, but she doesn’t want to let go of her old clothing because she feels that is admitting failure in her quest to look “good” again.

⇒ Reality check:

Most people’s weight fluctuates a bit, and it is fine to keep a couple of clothing items in the closet to wear when such a shift happens. However, pieces that haven’t fit for years or are more than a size away from what you are wearing are not worth keeping. This mom needs to embrace her body as it is today, and prioritize closet and drawer space for the items that fit now. If and when a significant change in body size happens, that will be the time to reconsider her needs and shop accordingly .

*     *     *     *     *

Organizing is not about getting rid of stuff, it is about prioritizing.

What have you been keeping with good intentions? Are you ready to let it go?

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32 thoughts on “Good Intentions”

  1. My grandfather was always saying this expression as we were growing up. So reading your article today, I couldn’t help, but be reminded of him. But do agree that good intentions aside with organizing and straightening up, it is very much about prioritizing. I know here unless I make it a priority, quite often it just won’t get done. So thanks for the gentle reminder here today.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Lighten Your Load and Get Organized with Back to School TipsMy Profile

    1. So glad I could be a part of remembering your grandfather today, Janine. It is moments like these that I remember again the great wisdom of those who’ve gone before me!

  2. So reminds me of Cassidy! He would say that. And also, I got a ton of scrapbooking stuff for a wedding, which I have good intentions to use because it was a gift. You know I’ve never touched it in almost 8 years? He will so readily get rid of it from our basement!
    Tamara recently posted…Keeping It Real For School Lunch.My Profile

    1. Well, I guess I’m with Cassidy. We get a lot of stuff as gifts, and sometimes, it just isn’t something we would have selected on our own. Letting a gift go can be a positive thing, because no one gives a gift hoping that the recipient will experience a wave of guilt every time they look at it!

  3. We all need these reality checks from time to time. Another example are the book/newspaper/magazine lovers. They swear they will read them someday. Reality check is that they’ll never have enough time to read all that material!

    1. Totally agree with this one… so much so that this was the topic of my most recent “Polly” cartoon. Sort of like saying “my eyes are bigger than my stomach,” right?

    1. I love what you are saying, Nacho. It keeps us from taking charge of the situation, which is what we need to do if we want to change the way things are. I tell clients that they have more power than they think, we just need to channel it into action. Thanks for reading!

    1. I think many of us see the same situations over and over, so we are used to them. But many clients think they are the only ones having these struggles, so hopefully these posts and conversations help people to see they are perfectly “normal” and that these problems are fixable:)

  4. Confession time: I totally use those excuses for some of the things in my closet. I’ve had this little drawer/organizer thing that someone gave me. My husband keeps making fun of me because I haven’t given it away or donated it yet. I keep thinking I could give it to someone or find a use for it.
    Nina recently posted…How to Change Bad Habits EffectivelyMy Profile

    1. I guess I’m giving you permission to donate that. You are right, someone can use it, but you don’t need to hold onto it while waiting to identify the perfect person. Donate it, and the ideal recipient will find it and be so happy to have it:)

  5. I used to hold onto so many clothes, but now in a small apartment I feel it’s just easier to throw it all out. If I need to buy something I will, but I am tired of holding onto to old clothes and items.
    karen recently posted…This Week I Read…My Profile

    1. And the truth is, even if the “old” styles come back, there is typically enough of a difference that you can’t wear the old ones anyway. Clear it out.. .let it go!

  6. This is a great positive spin on “Someday, Maybe”. With all the good reasons we have to keep clutter, we know in our hearts that it’s time for some items to leave. It’s a powerful way to reframe our stuff and a reality check to let it go.

    Your posts always give me new awareness and perspectives!

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Ellen. We all help each other by experiencing similar situations and bringing our own perspective on how to tackle them. Have a great day!

    1. You’ve got it, Ericka. We all hear the same things, don’t we? I always tell my clients that selling takes work. You either have to put some work into it, or pay someone else to do the work… and the returns are typically disappointing!

  7. Love this list, Seana! I hear these reasons frequently. I keep a list of ways to help my clients either get money back for their belongings (although never full value) or to donate things out (also to local charities which may pull at their heart strings) so they can follow through on their own. The only other comment I hear is “I’ll get to it later”. Later, I tell my clients, is not a day or a specific time!

    1. Ah yes, Diane, “I’ll get to it later.” I agree that later/tomorrow/soon never seem to come around! Offering options to donate or sell is a great way to help people let go.

    1. I’m glad you said that, Janet. Reviewing our belongings is an ongoing process, as we are constantly bringing new items in. Frequently I find that items which had great significance in the past lose their allure a couple of years later. Letting go can be so freeing, not only for our spaces but for our minds!

  8. Great list, Seana! I have heard this myself several times from clients and even family and friends. I hear “I will put it here for now.” For now, is just another way of saying, “I don’t want to make a decision on what to do with it, so I am going to just do nothing with it.” This one along with the other ones you mentioned above can really clutter up the home. =) Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone in dealing the good intentions with clients.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Create A Fall WreathMy Profile

    1. I think we all deal with similar issues, which is why we can learn so much from each other:) Putting things down “for now” is definitely a delay tactic that often ends up in a frustrating pile!

  9. Awareness is the first step. I’m always surprised how many of my clients don’t know if their kids are interested in the stuff they are saving for them because they never ask. Then by their resistance to the answer they get when they do.

    1. I run into that a lot as well. Most of my senior clients grew up in a time when each and every piece of furniture or houseful supply was desperately wanted and needed. But times have change,d, and it can be hurtful and disappointing to find out that items they have saved are not wanted. I try to point out that there are people who would cherish these items, even if they are not part of the family, and then to help them find a charity to match the item with the need!

  10. I have a quote on my Pinterest board that says – “I am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”. Boy is that me. I’ve got a whole room full of stuff like this. I gave up my stamping business about three years ago and I haven’t stamped one single thing since, but I still have a whole room crammed with all my supplies from it. It does have a lot of great memories and it’s all there if I ever want to take up the hobby again, but I’m realistic enough to know that I probably won’t except for a birthday card or two. It just hasn’t seemed like it would be worth the effort to haul it all out of there and list it on Craigslist or Ebay and get rid of it. There’s probably more than $1,000 worth of stuff in there, but it would take considerable time to deal with it and since I don’t need the room for anything else, it’s definitely on a back burner.
    adrian recently posted…Gorgeous Fall Fashions From Jane.comMy Profile

    1. Yes, when you don’t need the space, it is easier to let it sit there. Maybe a project for a rainy day (or cold winter week!) I would put money on you getting rid of it, though, when the time comes that you need the space for something else:)

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