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Repost: Interview with Kathryn Porter

Well it’s my second chance to host an interview for another wonderful writer I met on the Muse Conference Online last Oct. For anyone interested, registration for the 2007 conference is going on now. You can get there by visiting my website and clicking on the logo. Now to today’s topic of the interview: de-cluttering. Kathryn Porter, author of Too Much Stuff: De-cluttering your heart and home. So come on in and join me in welcoming Kathryn Porter.

Good morning Kathryn and welcome to Gloria’s Corner.

The question most people should ask when facing the “getting rid of all my junk” stage as I usually refer to it is the following:

Gloria: What is considered clutter? Are there different types of clutter? If yes, are there different systems to de-clutter the clutter?

Kathryn: Here’s my simple definition of clutter: anything that does not enhance our homes or enrich our lives. I get into details about the many different types of clutter in my book, but here are a few examples. There is “sentimental clutter” (things we keep due to emotional attachments), “inherited clutter” (items people leave to us when they pass away), and “samaritan clutter” (things we keep in case others might need them so we can be good neighbors).

Gloria: Kathryn, we all like to keep stuff. How does one know when it’s too much?

Kathryn: Sometimes it’s hard to recognize that we have too much stuff. Before I started de-cluttering, I thought I had too little. The problem was my organizing skills or that I didn’t have enough storage space. I was just trying to get my house clean because I was having a baby. I didn’t realize I had too much stuff until I started de-cluttering and discovered how much better life became without all the material possessions I once thought I needed. Getting to that point of acknowleding we have too much stuff is different for all of us.

Gloria: What would be the first step in de-cluttering one’s home?

Kathryn: I tell people to start with the easy stuff first. Get a box for trash and a box for charity items. If you can’t make a quick yes or no decision, move on to the next item. Here, all you want to do is get rid of the stuff you know that you don’t want.

Gloria: Can you explain in brief the additional steps that need to happen?

Kathryn: I don’t like the term steps because when an individual de-clutters, several things happen at one time. It’s easier to understand in the context of setting boundaries, a defense, and an offense.

Boundaries are the backbone to staying organized. They are the choices that give us structure in our battle for a clutter-free home. Set boundaries such as no more storing other people’s stuff in your home. Make it a house rule to never purchase anything from a telemarketer. Set guidelines on how many magazine subscriptions are okay for your home.

A good defense stops the clutter before it enters your home. Create a defense by getting your name off of mailing lists, telemarketers lists, and credit card lists.

An offense is a plan of action to deal with the clutter in the home. Create an offense by actively de-cluttering every day. Set organizing goals with specific objectives to achieve them. As you de-clutter each room, group like things together so you can assess exactly how much you have. When determining whether to keep something, ask yourself:

  • Do I really love this?
  • Is this item in good condition?
  • Is this difficult to clean and maintain?
  • Do I have a similar item that performs the same function?
  • Do I really need this?

Gloria: What is the most common reason for the creation of clutter in a home?

Kathryn: There are several reasons for cluttered homes. The most common are using material possessions to heal a hurting heart, emotional attachments to stuff, and love of shopping. Sometimes, we may go through seasons in our lives where our homes are not as neat as we’d like. Parenting young children, taking care of a terminally ill loved one, or having a temporary disability such as a broken arm or sprained ankle can all affect the condition of the home. I encourage people to do the best they can with what they have. Minimizing clutter will make keeping a clean house easier no matter what circumstances come our way.

Gloria: How can parents teach children to avoid clutter in their rooms?

Kathryn: I use the the acronym TEAM work when speaking on how parents can instill good housekeeping habits in their children: Teach, Encourage, Assist, and Model. Teach by showing kids your standard of clean and setting specific expectations. Don’t just say clean your room. Tell your kids what a clean room looks like. Encourage your children by catching them in the act of performing their chores and praising them for their efforts. Assist your kids by coming alongside them when they clean. Now and then, stand next to your son and rinse off the dishes before he puts them in the dishwasher. When your daughter vacuums, move the furniture with her on occasion. This is bonding time and shows that you support them. And model. Practice what you preach. Let your children catch you in the act of de-cluttering. Show them that the house is not cleaned by a fairy housekeeper, but by real people who live there. I wrote a detailed article on this topic. Check it out at http://www.focusonyourchild.com/learning/art1/A0001873.html.

Gloria: How does one prevent further clutter after de-cluttering?

Kathryn: Start preventing the clutter while you are de-cluttering. Don’t wait until after. This goes back to the previous question where I talk about creating a defensive plan for your home and setting boundaries.

Gloria: What is the most efficient method of overcoming clutter?

Kathryn: It’s similar to weight loss. To truly overcome clutter, we need a lifestyle change. Anyone can get de-clutter a room, but maintaining it is the key. In order to do that, we need to change the attitudes and behaviors that keep inviting the clutter back. I call this a “renewing of the mind.” For instance, one reason why we keep things is because they are given to us as gifts. We need to transform the way we think. Instead of thinking, “I can’t part with this because it’s rude to throw away a gift,” we need to embrace an attitude of “I appreciate the thoughtfulness, but I don’t have to keep this.”

Gloria: What is the most efficient way to store important papers? I find that a two drawer file cabinet is hard to handle after a few months accumulation to the individual files.

Kathryn: The problem here may not be with the filing cabinet itself. It could be with the way the folders are organized. If the folder categories are too general, you risk putting so many items in the file that you can’t find anything. If the file is too specific, the danger is in creating such an elaborate file system that it becomes too complicated. There needs to be a balance.

If you are constantly referring to certain files for writing, you may want to consider allocating one drawer only for papers related to writing and using the second one for vital documents, tax information, and household statements.

I also wonder how many papers you are collecting that would fill a two drawer cabinet in only a few months time. If you collect papers for work, ask yourself:

  • Is this something I could file on my computer instead?
  • Is this duplicate information?
  • How likely am I to refer to this again?

Gloria: When doing research for writing it’s almost impossible not to accumulate bits and pieces of noted information that one finds in different sources, what is your advice for an aspiring writer in dealing with this?

Kathryn: Do the same thing as you would when organizing any other part of your home. Group like things together. Try not to keep information you know you won’t use. “I might refer to it someday” is not always a good enough reason to keep something. Ask yourself:

  • What is the likelihood I will use this information in my writing?
  • Will it be outdated by the time I am ready to use it?
  • Is it information I can easily find on the Internet or in a reference book that I own?

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to organizing. Do the best you can given your time, energy level, finances, available resources, and unique cirumstances. When I do research, I prefer to use a notebook and write longhand. It’s easier for me because we don’t have a laptop and I can take the notebook with me when I travel or when I’m watching my son.

Gloria: What about clutter on one’s computer? What is the most efficient way to save things without cluttering up the available space?

Kathryn: There is a piece of hardware called a USB flash drive. These are small devices that connect to the USB port. Like a regular hard drive, its capacity comes in different sizes. They fit much more information than a floppy or CD.

Gloria: Kathryn thanks for the very helpful information. I understand that you are offering a chance to win a free copy of your book, Too Much Stuff. How can my visitors participate for a chance to win this helpful resource in overcoming clutter? Just so everyone knows I am still waiting to receive the copy of the book I will be forwarding to the winner per instructions from Kathryn and hope to have it this week. Don’t let that stop you from participating.

Kathryn: Comment to this article. One person will be randomly selected and announced as the winner.

Gloria: I’d just like to add a reminder here, please don’t forget to include your email address so we can contact you, if you are the winner.

Kathryn, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kathryn: I just want to say thank you for hosting me on your site. You asked a lot of great questions that I think your readers will appreciate.

If anyone wants to learn more about me or my book, please visit my Web site at www.clutterwise.com. For anyone in the Farmington, NM area, I would like to invite you to a free workshop sponsored by the Farmington Public Library on Saturday, February 17 from 10-11:30 AM. For more information, contact the library at (505) 599-1270.

Gloria: Thanks for joining us today and sharing all the fabulous information. I hope to get a review of your book posted as soon as possible, but it may be a while, especially if I decide to try it out on my home and include the results.

1 comment to Repost: Interview with Kathryn Porter

  • Gloria Oren

    On 1/10/2007 Donna J. Shepherd said:Wow! What an indepth interview. As I’m cleaning out my basement, and attempting to find a home for all my Christmas decorations, this is timely information for me. Thank you! – Donna

    On 1/10/2007 Cyndia said: I really enjoyed the interview with Kathryn Porter. She has some great ideas on de-cluttering. I especially liked the part about letting kids see that a real person does the cleaning and de-cluttering at the house.

    On 1/11/2007 Anonymous said: Kathryn’s advice is spot on. When I cleared out the family room to make space for the Christmas tree, I vowed that after the holidays, when the tree was gone, nothing else was coming back in that room. It works! The entire family recognized the difference and enjoys the new space and light. This was a terrific interview. Thanks! – Debbie (mbotham@comcast.net)

    On 1/11/2007 Anonymous said: You’re singing my song, Kathryn!

    As a military wife and mom, I make us go through the house every 3-6 months clearing out stuff we’ve outgrown, broken, or just don’t care about anymore. The kids participate, usually giving up one thing in five. It’s the only way to sanely move every 1-4 years.

    For birthdays and Christmas, I always ask for stuff I can use–this year, I want bookmarks to advertise my new book, Infinite Space, Infinite God.

    On 1/12/2007 Anonymous said: I’ve read Kathryn’s book and I was so impressed with it that I’ve recommended it to several friends who are being held captive by their clutter, just as I am. Thanks to Kathryn encouragement I’m not so overwhelmed by my possessions any more.

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