Good Intentions



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 .

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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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