Killing Plants and Accumulating Clutter

I love plants. They soften edges, conceal cords & outlets, consume carbon dioxide, and bring an affordable touch of life to any space. Needless to say, these benefits only exist if the plants are alive and well. Dead (and dying) plants, on the other hand, detract from a space’s visual appeal, litter surfaces with leaves & bugs, and give off an “uncared for” vibe. Do you have plants in your space? Are they dead or alive? If you answered, “dead,” you may also be someone who struggles with clutter. The reason is that caring for plants and keeping a space organized require similar behaviors.

First, plants need to be planted. 

Yes, this sounds obvious, but what I mean here is that they need to be set up in a container that will be their home. An appropriate container will be sized according to the plant’s needs, will offer drainage for when too much water is added, and will be “pleasantly full” of soil. This isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of thoughtful planning to ensure that the plant has what it needs to thrive.

<=> Organizing Connection <=>

If you want to be organized, you will need to invest some time in establishing high-functioning storage locations for your belongings. You may need to add bins or shelves to correlate your space to your items. It is impossible to put things away if you don’t establish where “away” is.

Second, plants need regular and repetitive care.

While specific maintenance needs vary by type of plant, all of them need watering, dusting, feeding, and rotating. Some may do well with a light watering once a week, while others need to be saturated more often. Filling a watering can and walking around to make sure each plant has what it needs takes minimal time, but it must be done faithfully. Anyone with dead plants knows that there comes a point at which no amount of water can rescue a plant that has completely dried out. Put off routine maintenance too long and you are likely to end up with a problem.

<=> Organizing Connection <=>

Being organized mostly means spending daily time walking around putting things away. It may seem trivial, but putting things away is the heart and soul of an organized life. A little bit done at regular intervals is incredibly powerful, and wards off the need for drastic action, costly replacement expenses, and/or loss of significant time.

Third, plants periodically need some tweaking.

For example, plants that are flourishing may need to be moved to bigger locations. Plants that are producing a lot of babies need to have those removed and potted up in separate containers. Plants that are overgrowing need to be pruned so they don’t overtake the space they inhabit. Some plants need to be rotated to alternative locations as the seasons change so they continue to be exposed to sufficient sunlight.

<=> Organizing Connection <=>

Organizing is one a “one time” event. All systems need periodic review and updating. A growing business may need more filing space. A mudroom that is overwhelmed may need to have some items relocated to bedroom closets. Closets and drawers may need to be purged of broken, damaged, unused our out of date supplies. Toys may need to be rotated out to provide play space for the most popular pieces. Life and its associated paraphernalia are always changing, and our systems need to be adjusted to keep them working well with the way we are living today.

Finally, plants ultimately need to be purged.

Even plants that have been loved and enjoyed will eventually die. There comes a point at which trying to keep them going becomes an exercise in futility. A straggly piece of a dying plant detracts from, rather than enhances, a space. At this point, the best course of action is to move it to the compost bin.

<=> Organizing Connection <=>

Physical belongings aren’t made to last forever. Eventually, they decay, break, or lose their relevance. While a few may be worth keeping for sentimental reasons, the majority are not. Moving items OUT is critical to maintaining an inviting and productive space. 

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Do you have a green thumb? Do you see a connection to being organized?

26 thoughts on “Killing Plants and Accumulating Clutter”

  1. Omg, I totally have a plant thumb with plants and yet somehow I am OK with organization for the most part. So go figure. But interesting correlation nonetheless here 🙂

    1. Do you keep plants around your home Janine? I know you are very organized, so I would guess your plants are thriving if you do:) Happy Earth Day!

  2. I love the connection you have created here. I also think of pets in this way. Pets required care and routines which also boost our own self care and routines. I am sadly without a single plant as I have no green thumb however I do have routines!

    1. Yes, I can see that caring for plants is very similar. Most of the time, it is simply regular attention that is required. I guess we get to pick what we want to pay attention to: our stuff, our plants, our family, or our animals!

  3. Seana, You are speaking my language. I totally relate! You talk about indoor houseplants. I make the same connection with my garden. Plants and the areas around them have to be weeded regularly if you want to keep the area weed free. There are other similarities of which I’m sure you are aware. Thanks for posting this!
    Diane N. Quintana recently posted…Feeling Overwhelmed?My Profile

    1. I have a garden too, but nowhere near as pretty as yours. Mine is mostly vegetables in a fenced in area because we have LOTS of critters who eat everything I try and grow (deer, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels…). I finally gave up on strawberries because the chipmunks were eating them green, even to the point of killing themselves. I do love beautiful gardens, though, and appreciate the photos I’ve seen of your gorgeous space! Enjoy now that the weather is warming… so much fun to come!

  4. What beautiful and on point analogies you made between plants and organizing. I love this post! I enjoy having plants and flowers in our environment. They add color and life. My husband is the green thumb, and he does a beautiful job of caring for our plants in all the ways you mentioned. I am the one that cares for the fresh flowers when we have them. So I’m also thinking that another part of the equation is that in a household, there isn’t just one person “caring” for the plants, or organizing the space. It works best when everyone is on board with doing their part to keep things alive.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Let Go of Perfect With Humor for the Greater GoodMy Profile

    1. Such an excellent point, Linda! One person doesn’t have to do everything, whether it be in caring for plants or caring for your space. In fact, it works much better if everyone feels invested. I talk with parents about this idea, and while some children “take to” organizing naturally, others need a bit more convincing. Nevertheless, learning to care for the things we have been blessed with is a valuable life skill that pays rewards throughout a lifetime!

  5. What an insightful comparison, and a great post! I’d never thought of it this way before, but it’s true that organizing is an ongoing process just like caring for plants.

  6. I see the comparison, Seana!

    I love plants! I have some plants that are over 30 years old. I like adding a recurring appointment on my digital calendar to remind me to do tasks like water the plants.

    I agree that regular, consistent focus on the organizing tasks helps to transform the space into an organized area quickly. Why not do the same thing and add a recurring appointment to one’s calendar to remind them also to do some organizing? I also agree that revisiting these areas periodically is crucial.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Easy Ways to Transform Bad Memories into Good OnesMy Profile

  7. ha, I love this. Probably because I’m terrible at remembering to keep plants alive and also terrible at organization. Working on both! Cassidy is the green thumb and the organizer but I’d like to believe I can be good at both. And probably in similar ways of just being consistent!

    1. You definitely can be good at both! But even if you never grow a green thumb, you have so many other strengths that it doesn’t matter. You and Cassidy make a great team:)

  8. I have always had a “brown thumb” when it came to plants. I’ve finally found the hardiest and most prolific spider plant. I adore this plant, but somehow I’ve now become a plant hoarder (thanks to this one prolific one). I need to start giving these offspring away. I don’t know why I haven’t already, but thank you for the nudge I need.

    1. I had the same experience with spider plants. If they are happy, they have a lot of babies:) They do make wonderful gifts, though. I’ve given many. Plants are a wonderful hobby, but they can create their own clutter. I had a whole conversation about this with one client, who had recently started with plants and was acknowledging that they were sort of taking over. Like all things, gotta keep them circulating out, right?

  9. I don’t have a green thumb, but love to try. I enjoy indoor plants, especially in the winter, but I tend to give them to much “love”. I am better with outdoor plants. Maybe because I know that there is a season and then they are gone. I guess that has something to do with organizing/decluttering. I enjoy them while they are around, since I know it’s not forever.

    1. I love this comment, Janet. They sort of “self-expire” at the end of the season. Wouldn’t it be nice if other things we owned did that? We wouldn’t need to worry about over-accumulating because when their time was up, they would just go away!

    1. Do you have plants around your space, Nancy? If so, I imagine you faithfully care for them:) Maintenance is the key to so many aspects of success.

  10. I do not have a green thumb but my husband does. I do help with watching over them, removing dead leaves-spraying etc. We do have lot of plants and the house would look empty without them. I also have a daughter who gives us plants she has rooted from her many thriving plants and that is good for replacing those that don’t make it. We are basically organized people but there’s always room for improvement!

    1. My space would look empty without plants as well. I am just getting ready to root up a few plants, and that should be my cue to let go of some that have overgrown. In with the new and out with the old!

    1. Yes, spider plants are a great option for the “plant challenged.” Traveling makes caring for plants VERY difficult. Regular maintenance is what plant care is all about, and when you are away, you simply can’t do that. It is important to know your lifestyle, what time you have to give, and then to choose your decor accordingly!

  11. I really enjoyed your content and also loved to read it. I always get confused between Killing Plants and Accumulating Clutter. But your informative article cleared my confusion.

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