Decluttering’s Demise

Starting this past Sunday, I embarked on a five-day quest to rid my life of clutter.  Okay, even I knew the hook was way too shiny and easy to be for real, but I actually thought the short time span would make it more manageable and therefore, my efforts, more successful.

I had seen Jen Riday’s teaser on Facebook.  (Thank you, user activity logarithms.)  I didn’t follow her, hadn’t heard of her, but if she could give me practical, doable tips, I was in.  I needed baby bites because my house had become more than I could chew.

Sunday, the first day of the challenge, I was actually disappointed.  ‘Shut off notifications on your phone’ – that’s way too easy –  and I want to slay physical clutter!  Five days later and I’m still figuring out how to shut off those pesky Facebook and Twitter notifications.  Neither in-app or phone settings are getting it done.  I hadn’t realized how mouse/cheese I was with the stupid phone.

Monday, I had to clean out my toiletries, make-up, etc. in the bathroom (and top of the dresser if you’re me).  Make-up was easy; I have little to none.  I did finally throw away the measly remains of the tube of lipstick I wore on my wedding day.  I figure if I haven’t even purchased the lip brush to dab out the dregs in the last sixteen years, it’s a safe bet I won’t.  Plus, my pale skin just doesn’t have the dewy glow that matched the shade anymore anyway.  As always, I hit that point in organization that makes things look worse before better.  I still have three piles on my dresser of things awaiting new homes.

So while Day Two isn’t completely complete, there are at least plans.  Then, came Day Three.

Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 7.01.28 AM

from Jen Riday’s 5-Day Vibrant Happy Declutter Challenge

As soon as I read this, my heart dropped into my stomach.  Or my psyche’s shoulders slumped.  Clutter, while harbored in my bedroom, is not what’s keeping my room from being a sacred haven.  It simply cannot be a space to “collect your thoughts [that] will help you be more patient and calm with those you love.”  I cannot shut the door to the chaos whirling outside to regroup.  Even my room is not my own!

I share a room with my baby.

I know, the horror.  A first-world problem is ever there was one.  A cozy crib tucked into a recessed nook in the corner of my room.  I could have no roof over her head.  I could have all four children in my bed while my husband and I sleep on the floor.  There are worse things.

But, psychologically, sharing physical space with the lovely little parasite who feeds off me all day, all through the night, is demoralizing.  Even in the quiet, supposedly restful hours of sweet, dark night, I am not alone.  I do not get to recharge.  Hell, I don’t even get to sleep alone.  Every night, she wakes and senses our presence and will only sleep once we’ve nestled her in with us.

So a few minutes of shuttered peace in the middle of day to regroup in my bedroom oasis, ha!  “A list so you can work methodically through it in days to come”, ha!  It’s going to take major construction and socialization to make that happen.

At the baby’s 18-month appointment, the doctor asked about her sleeping habits and arrangements.  ‘Does that work for you?’ she asked.  No, doc, what would work for me would be snapping my fingers and making the uber-expensive and logistical-nightmare of a house addition appear so I could get said baby in her own encased block of darkness each night, but yes, that’s what our reality is right now.

I wish I could say that our babe is still in our room due to my deep-seated philosophical belief in supporting her best self.  But the fact that I can’t read anymore in the dim light of my bedside table kills me.  I can’t journal my swirling thoughts into a sleepy stupor.  I can’t even roll over in bed without worrying about a squeak waking her.  Hell, if it weren’t for the laundry baskets I haven’t yet put away littering the rest of the house, I wouldn’t be able to get dressed early in the morning.

Jen Riday’s Day Three Challenge totally took the wind out of my sails.  Not because she asked unreasonable things.  Because I’m not in a space where I can have them right now.

I did clean out some clothes I don’t wear anymore.  I have plans for a smart little tray to hold less items on my dresser than the big dust-collecting basket.  It crossed my mind that this should be the impetus to find an architect or follow up on that builder I’ve been meaning to call.

But it just seems so daunting.  After all, the sign on my door says it all:


Jennifer Butler Basile



Previous Post
Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. Barbara Butler

     /  January 26, 2018

    love it and feel for you. I am working like crazy this morning getting ready for the gift of cleaners I received from K and N. Cannot let them see my clutter and filthy plastic storage containers under my bed. Simplicity not obtainable even in three rooms. I keep striving . Sure hope you can call the builder soon. Love, Aunt Barbara

    On Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 8:59 AM, Chopping Potatoes wrote:

    > Jennifer Butler Basile posted: “Starting this past Sunday, I embarked on a > five-day quest to rid my life of clutter. Okay, even I knew the hook was > way too shiny and easy to be for real, but I actually thought the short > time span would make it more manageable and therefore, my efforts,” >


    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  January 26, 2018

      There always seems to be ‘stuff’ standing in the way of simplicity. We must keep trying, right?


  2. Jennifer, I love when you get a chance to write and share so much. There’s an expression my mom and I use between us when we want to express how real and true and wonderful someone is. We say, “S/he Pittsburgh.” That’s where we came from, and while I am sure there are plenty of jerks (not for nothing did the word “jagoff” enter the lexicon there), we really have pretty much always found the real and true and wonderful ones.

    You’re Pittsburgh.

    You’re honest and you’re funny – the notifications, they will never die, short of disabling those apps, I swear. You don’t make yourself out to be something you aren’t, and you still had your lipstick from your wedding! It made me tear up when you got rid of that, but I am a rank sentimentalist.

    I’m so sorry you got knocked out by the bedroom thing. But I’m going to take a wild guess that whoever wrote those tips doesn’t even have one child, let alone four. Or has at least a house with one bedroom more than it needs. And I can tell you as a former nanny who got to see the stuff not seen at parties and even afternoon coffee, no one with a child has a clutter-free house. I mean, maybe if they have a really big house with an actual live-in nanny and a cleaning woman every day, but I’m talking about actual human being families here. Which is not meant to say you’re trapped, I guess it’s all more meaning to say you’re someone I’d want to have coffee with, in my house or yours, though at mine you’d have to mind the clutter from the books and the cat.

    I wandered in what I was saying and probably didn’t help. But remember that however much it gets on top of you and you sigh, cry, or want to; or when are afraid to breathe a full breath for fear of waking your daughter (one of my girls only napped if I lay down with her, which I know isn’t the same), remember this too shall pass. And I have never found a social media list on any way to improve your life to be helpful.

    (But then I sometimes recite the Serenity Prayer until I’m lightheaded, so it’s not like I have the answers either.)

    Be well. Take care of yourself. Follow your instincts. They’ve done you pretty well this far. And the sign? Priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  January 26, 2018

      Oh, Ruby. How good it is to ‘hear’ your voice again. Thank you for your support. I’d really be setting myself up for failure if I thought I’d really get to ‘no clutter’. But knowing I’m a Pittsburgh won’t make it so consequential ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • After I posted, I thought about it and realized when my mom wanted to get away from the clutter, she went to the neighbor’s, and vice versa. Plenty of clutter, but something about it not being yours. . .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Butler Basile

         /  January 27, 2018

        Ha, that’s so true – and brilliant!


  3. Gale Wright

     /  January 30, 2018

    Nearly everyone I know is wanting to de-clutter. It seems many of us have reached critical mass at the same time!! I haven’t heard of Jen Riday, but I’m glad. It sounds kind of unrealistic to me. I need something halfway between her and the hoarders show. So, I’m doing it my way and it will be slow but it will happen because I’m really ready for it to happen. And I don’t have a time limit. You will do it your way, too. And it’s extra hard during this phase of life you’re in, so your way will be different from someone else in a different phase of life. I see you’re still a wonderful writer, though!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  January 30, 2018

      Thank you, Gale.

      Her method wasn’t bad. I think it didn’t work for me because, as always, I was expecting the magic bullet. And it reminded me of other, bigger things I need to tackle beyond clutter. Argh.

      I do need to find my own way. And it is time. Here’s to both of our successes!

      Liked by 1 person


Throw Another Potato in the Pot

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: