What clutter affects an unclutterer?

When I talk about struggles with clutter, I tend to speak in generalities — messy closets, disorganized desks, etc. My assumption is that the specific ways I fight with clutter in my life are different than other folks, and using generalities can make the advice applicable to more people.

However, I know there is value in concrete examples, and I believe our Friday Ask Unclutterer column is a great way to explore specific problems readers face. I received an e-mail from a reader recently, though, asking if I would talk about actual problems I face in my daily life. She wanted to know where clutter creeps into my schedule, home, and office.

I thought about it for a week and decided I would reveal one area where I completely fail at uncluttering. I’ve hinted at some of this in the past, but now I’ll share the whole story. It is, without a doubt, my Achilles heel:

Erin’s Failure: If something I rely upon breaks, stops working, or fails to do its job any longer, I have a tendency to ignore it instead of dealing with it. Last year, our washing machine was broken for two months and I responded by ignoring the problem. Out of necessity, I had to go to the Laundromat twice — spending more than $25 and hauling five hampers of clothes with me each time. Did I once research washing machines online to learn what might be wrong with our washer? No. Did I research replacement units, prices, warranties, or reviews? No. Did I find out which stores would haul off my broken machine if I replaced the washer with a new one? Definitely not.

I told my husband that I would take care of it, yet he’s the one who called the repairman, researched reviews of new washers, and dragged me to Sears kicking and screaming to buy a replacement. Our new washing machine cost less than $500, and I had spent over $50 at the Laundromat. I wasted more than 10 percent of the cost of the new unit because I refused to act and take care of the situation.

Nine years ago, my car died. While driving it home one evening, it transformed from a Volvo sedan into a piece of steel sculpture in the shape of a car. Did I call a mechanic to check to see what was wrong with it? No. Did I call Goodwill to donate it to charity? No. Did I have it towed to a junk yard? No. Instead, I paid $200 a month for EIGHT MONTHS for it to sit in its parking space in downtown D.C. Finally, my husband (who was just my fiance at the time) picked up the phone and called a local charity that came and towed the car away on my behalf. I wasted $1,600 in parking and $950 on insurance over that time period, and I didn’t even need a car. I lived in D.C., worked in D.C., and had unlimited access to taxis and the Metro. I’m still kicking myself over my inability to act when my car died and the loss of $2,500.

Now you know where my uncluttering fails. This is my very specific thorn in my side. How about you? What uncluttering failure specifically plagues your life? Apparently Martha Stewart struggles with clutter in her clothes closet, so I know it affects everyone. Feel welcome to bare your soul in the comments.

54 Comments for “What clutter affects an unclutterer?”

  1. posted by Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists on

    Love this! I love the airing of the dirty laundry!

    My issue, strangely, is, and always has been, my pajama drawer. Every other drawer in my life is just fine, perfectly organized. My pajama drawer, though, is a monster. No matter what I do. It’s weird.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    In addition to the factors mentioned here, there’s another I want to throw in the mix. It’s a known problem in the addiction world.

    The problem is acknowledgement.

    If you’ve been doing something you don’t like, think is wrong, or has been painful to you and those around you – digging out of that hole means facing up to that fact. You have to acknowledge that you did wrong, you have to face up to your wrongdoing. It’s painful at best and can be excruciating. It can be a huge barrier when, just by doing whatever you’ve been doing for just a little longer, you can put off the pain. It’s very tempting, then, to deal with it tomorrow … or the day after … or the day after that.

    For example, dealing with a dead car would have meant acknowledging the money wasted by procrastination. It hurts. BTDT.

  3. posted by Mel on

    Oh this is so me. Our family went YEARS with a faulty water softener that was leaking salt into our ice maker and fridge water (ruining our fridge in the process). I “thought” it would be too much trouble OR money to fix. Finally, 30 minutes and $35 bucks later – problem solved. Why I didn’t take care of it sooner…I’ll never know. It’s just how I am and it’s ridiculous.

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