Let go of your clutter crutches

Regular readers of the website may have noticed that I use the words “terrific” and “wonderful” in almost every Workspace of the Week description. I didn’t realize I did this until a co-worker pointed it out to me, and now I cringe at the sight of those words in my writing. They’re stale and lack the punch of much more descriptive choices. Terrific! Wonderful! Ugh.

The more I think about these vocabulary crutches, the more I realize I have similar crutches in other areas of my life. Some of these crutches are good — like when I need a friend to listen, I turn to the same trusted people again and again — but others aren’t so positive. In fact, most of my crutches create clutter in my life.

For example, when I am really busy at work, the first thing I cut out of my day are magazine and newspaper reading. All incoming magazines are stored in a “to read” Stockholm project case and hang out with the idea that I’ll read them when things calm down. Except, when things calm down, I have that day’s reading materials to tackle and not enough time to read two week’s worth of information. I have a project case to hold my “to read” materials, but no set plan to ever empty the case. Weeks and months pass, the box becomes jammed packed, and I end up tossing the materials straight into the recycling bin without ever looking at them. My crutch is this box, and all it does is create clutter.

Each day for the next seven days, I’m going to try to eliminate one clutter crutch from my life. I’m going to look at how the problem came to be, what is wrong with the situation, and how I can change my behavior to immediately deal with the clutter. I’m also going to try not to use the words “terrific” and “wonderful” in my writing or speech.

What clutter crutches do you have in your life? If you’re game, make a seven-day commitment with me to banish these clutter creators!

(Thanks to Michelle who writes Design Evolution for inspiring me to do something about my terrific and wonderful vocabulary!)

26 Comments for “Let go of your clutter crutches”

  1. posted by michelle on

    you’re welcome erin! i was attempting to work on writing crutches last week but ended up taking the easy way out and just not writing that much at all. this week thesaurus.com is going to be my best friend 🙂

  2. posted by Lily on

    I hear you on overusing terrific and wonderful. Personally, I’m working hard to eliminate “amazing” from my vocabulary. It’s so horribly overused to the point that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. “Those shoes are amazing!” “You like pudding too? That’s amazing!” “That actor is amazing…” Gag.

    As far as clutter crutches are concerned, mine is the garage floor. I will take things out of the car and purposely leave them in the garage to keep from cluttering the house. That’s how I ended up knocking over with my car door a pyramid consisting of an industrial sized pack of paper towels, topped by a Tupperware container, topped by a book, my sunglasses case, and a bottle of glass cleaner. I need to find a home for things coming out of my car at the moment they leave the car!

  3. posted by Susan on

    Regarding unread newspapers and magazines – I found out that the best thing to do was not to subscribe to said newspapers and magazines in the first place. Now retired, I regularly purchase only the Sunday paper and read most of my news on the web. Magazines can be purchased at the grocery, but I haven’t bought any for years. I would rather read books from the library and find magazines a waste of time and money for the most part.

  4. posted by Briony on

    I unsubscribed from your email list months ago, but in the last few days have (for no apparent reason) started receiving your emails again. I have unsubscribed again but wish to alert you of a possible problem with your email delivery service.

  5. posted by Dan on

    Your description of the unread media pile brought back memories of the guilt and avoidance spiral I used to fall into before I subscribed to online magazine and newspaper services. I use Zinio for magazines and PressDisplay for newspapers. It costs less than the hardcopy subscriptions. If I don’t get around to reading an issue, there’s a little potential subscription value wasted, but no accumulated clutter and no ecological impact. Plus, my subscription fees are helping keep “print” media alive without the downsides of dealing with printed material. For one thing, I no longer have to scrub newspaper ink stains out of the light maple dining room table after breakfast on weekends! And no more hauling newspapers and magazines to the recycle dropoff, or feeling guilty for tossing them in the trash. It’s also a lot easier to save and share articles electronically than in hardcopy.

  6. posted by Daphne on

    I recently discovered your website and now I read it every day. I LOVE it! As a professional writer, editor and writing coach, I’d never noticed your vocabulary crutch (which isn’t to say you don’t have one – just that it had never bothered me!)

    But don’t feel you have to ban the words “wonderful” and “terrific” from your vocabulary. Just use them judiciously. There are a lot worse writing “crutches” to suffer from, let me tell you!

    Anyone who wants to learn more about writing better, faster is welcome to come to my website. There’s a whole pile of free articles at: http://www.publicationcoach.com/free-articles.php

    Re: clutter crutches, I’m discovering my own as we’re moving this week. Sigh….

  7. posted by Paula on

    Vocabulary crutches: I have been striving to banish the grossly overused words “absolutely” and “exactly” from my vocabulary. (that is, when used to mean “Yes”.)

  8. posted by Laura on

    I used to subscribe to at least 20 magazines, flip through them when they arrived, and put them in an attractive basket for “later”. Most magazines were for home decor, and I discovered by the time I actually got around to really reading them, I would find items I was really interested in, only to find that the accompanying website no longer carried the item. That’s what happens when a year goes by! So now, before I go to bed I read through the magazine, and if something catches my eye I’ll rip out the page and scan it into my computer, or bookmark the webpage. The next time I’m browsing the internet, it’s the first place I check out.

    Regarding the use of words, we own a sandwich shop that employs about 15 teenagers, and I kept hearing them use the word “suck.” A customer might comment that they were caught in bad traffic, and the reply would be “Hey, that sucks!”. I finally pulled a group aside and said I wanted them to think, quietly, about the REAL MEANING of the term. It took a few minutes, but it finally dawned on most of them. I respectfully requested that they refrain from using that term, if just in my shop. It took a few weeks, but now the phrase has become “That’s unfortunate!” If they slip, I clear my throat and wink at them, they wink back, and we understand the importance of language. Best of all, they are, for the most part, automatically saying “unfortunate” now instead of that OTHER word. Yay!

  9. posted by Banish the Clutter on

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  10. posted by Audi on

    Well, to present another point of view — hard copies of magazines can be nice because they’re more portable and easier to curl up with than a laptop, and it’s great to get away from the computer screen. As a working mother of two small children, the amount of time I have to read magazines fluctuates a lot. I have three rules for my magazine pile that help me cope with feeling cluttered: I remind myself to think of reading magazines as an opportunity rather than an obligation, I recycle weekly issues older than two weeks (monthly issues older than two months), and I read most recent issues first.

    Personally, I love the physical manifestation of a magazine. However, as a person who hates clutter, I have two pet peeves with respect to magazines. First, I’m really irritated by all the inserts that keep falling out, requiring extra trips to the recycle bin when I find them later. Second, the constant “invitations” to renew my subscriptions clutter my mailbox. I wish I could eliminate these things!

  11. posted by Sandy on

    I once had several magazines piling up waiting to be read. It seemed like a waste to get rid of them. Now I’m just down to one that I really enjoy – Real Simple.

    @Audi – The renewal notices are annoying but you can do somthing about them. I work for a magazine fulfillment house and if you call customer service and ask them to stop, they should. I used to start getting them 6 months before gift subscriptions expired so I contacted customer service and told them to put a “do not promote” flag on my account. And it seemed to work. This is for Time magazines – SI, EW, Real Simple, etc. I’m not sure what the other publishers do.

  12. posted by Lana on

    Container Store website says the Stockholm project case is
    “no longer available” 🙁

  13. posted by Jeannine B. on

    I am so excited to do this with you. I have no doubt about my clutter crutch – actually a few. My first one to tackle is the drawer in my kitchen which is home to my “to do” pile. My original intention was to create a space to house (out-of-sight) those things I set aside to tackle later. But, in my world, out-of-sight = out-of-mind. Many things go in the drawer and never get looked at again until deadlines have passed and it is too late. My goal is that no “to-do” pile exists in my home again. And, that I tackle these projects/tasks as they come across my workspace. Thanks for the incentive this week!

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  16. posted by mikey on

    My clutch is my electronics. Just never can seem to throw stuff away until years later. I know – never count your sunk money but every time I look at how much I spent for something I just want to cringe when I need to pitch it!

  17. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    My big words are “actually” “so” and “now”

    I don’t actually have any physical clutter clutches because I just don’t have space, but checking things on my computer is definitely a clutter clutch time-wise…

  18. posted by Fighting clutter, one clutter crutch at a time | Work It, Mom! Blog | Work It, Mom! on

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  19. posted by Perfect Slob on

    Any suggestions for someone whose “clutter crutch” is the floor?

  20. posted by Lynette on

    Clutter crutches…ugh. I have 3 cubby shelves (2’x3’x3′) in my current bedroom (in our basement as we are renovating). These spaces hold everything I can’t find a home for but want. The bottom of the 3 is shoved full of linins and other “stuff” I never access. After work today I am going to tackle one, maybe two of the cubbies. If I designate that space as a home for something, I will not use it as my catchall.

    I have a very “out of sight out of mind” mentality that is the biggest crutch, so I may have to visit all the in-room storage places, like the ottoman and cabinets, to really clean house.

  21. posted by Positively Thankful on

    I like the extra add-in’s. there is nothing wrong with stressing a point or discribing things more. I tend to like a positive upbeat and I am detailed oriented.

  22. posted by Positively Thankful on

    Be yourself and you dont have to change for others. find more people who think like you and have the same energy.

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  24. posted by Sunni on

    I, too, whittled down to one magazine subscription. But when I do have some, instead of putting them in the recycle bin, I like to leave them where I think they are needed most — hospital waiting rooms, doctor’s offices, airport gates, and senior centers.

  25. posted by WilliamB on

    I can see where having several weeks or months of magazines doesn’t work very well (unless one has a long plane flight coming up, I suppose).

    For some chores I find it more efficient to do a couple weeks’ worth all at once – anything with large “start up” costs. For example, if I pay a bunch of bills at the same time, I only have to log into my account, spread out my papers, and update my spreadsheets only once instead of 6 or 8 times.

  26. posted by Katharine on

    I’ve been reading your newsletter for 6 months now. I found the link for springit.com That site is amazing!! Now when I want something I add it to springit. Earlier today I was going to write down a url to put into springit and thought…wait a min, I’ll just copy and then paste into springit. No clutter and I can look at that site when I’m ready to again.

    Clutter Clutches!! That should be my middle name. We are going to put new floors in the house soon and I’m trying to clear stuff out, with my sister’s help. She already helped my 12 year old daughter and next its’ my room. When that is all done we’re going to paint and put in laminate floors (found a killer deal at home depot.

    Anyways, one clutter crutch is to pile all my ‘to hang’ clothes on a chair. What’s really bad is that when I’m changing I put my clothes that I don’t want to put away cause I’m going to wear them again. Omg!! between that and my bathroom floor..it’s a huge mess. I need to clear up my drawers of stuff that has holes or I don’t wear. Right now my clothes stay on the dresser cause there is no room for them. Something has to give!

    Another huge thing is talking my husband into getting me cabinets, in the garage, so that I can put my dolls (that I sell on ebay) in. Right now they are in boxes all over the garage. I have a sample of most dolls on my bookshelf in my room/office.

    Wish me luck!!

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