Answers to a reader’s four questions

On the 14th, we asked our readers to share their biggest uncluttering hurdles and they responded. Now, we’re going through the comments to see what we can do to help.

An Unclutterer reader wrote in and talked about her four main struggles.

1. Finding pockets of time in the day to do large projects when you have small kids around. For example, I am trying to stain our wooden fence on our own, but I have two children under 3 years old. How can I approach this messy process strategically?

I’ve been in this situation before. I had two young children and my husband was deployed for six months straight with the Canadian Forces. One suggestion would be to find some teenagers you can hire. You can ask around to neighbours and friends or visit the local secondary school or community centre if you don’t know any personally. Some teens would appreciate getting paid for a few hours of work per week painting your fence or keeping your children occupied while you work on the household chores.

Another suggestion might be if you have friends with young children, you can do an exchange. One grown-up looks after all of the children and the other grown-up works on a project. The next time, you switch.

Before engaging someone to assist you, it’s always best to have a plan of what you can accomplish during the time you have. Here are some tips I’ve learned from experience:

  • Always underestimate the amount of work you’ll get done in the time that you have. If you think it will take you two hours to paint the fence, it may really take you four hours. Remember to include set-up and cleanup times in your estimate.
  • Always have a Plan B. If you’ve booked a sitter so you can paint the fence, have an alternative project to work on (e.g. sewing curtains) in case it rains that day.
  • Don’t fret if you’re not making as much progress as you’d like. Remember that slow and steady wins the race.

2. Overcoming analysis paralysis … how do I restore my decision-making confidence and JUST DO IT? For example, hanging art on the wall: it feels like a permanent choice! So I delay!

We’ve written before about improving decision-making skills and how to make the process of decision making easier. Reviewing these posts might help you get over your “analysis-paralysis.”

As someone who has moved houses eight times in 23 years, I can say that nothing is “permanent,” some things might just take a little more effort to change than others. As far as hanging art on the walls, try GeckoTech Reusable Hooks. They are made with a unique synthetic rubber technology that allows them to be used again and again. 3M picture strips are also very handy for hanging artwork without damaging walls. You may also wish to consider the STAS cliprail pro Picture Hanging System.

Apartment Therapy has great tips for hanging artwork so go ahead and make your house a home.

3. Thinking long-term about home projects, while on a budget. We plan to stay in our home a long time, but it needs some love. But our wallets are thin! What should we prioritize: remodeling the kitchen, or taking control of the landscaping? New interior paint job or pressure washing and re-glazing the pebble driveway? What house projects are most important and have lasting impact?

Home renovations can make your home more comfortable, improve your living experience, and increase the value of the home. However, shoddy workmanship or too much “unique customization” may actually decrease the value of your home.

Start with the basics by keeping the home safe and livable. Consider projects that involve your home’s structure (roof, windows, doors, etc.) or mechanical systems (furnace, air conditioning, electrics, plumbing). These upgrades make your home more energy efficient and may actually pay for themselves during the time that you live in the home. Insurance companies may also decrease premiums when you improve wiring, install secure windows, or add an alarm system.

Next, think about making you home more livable. High-end countertops may look good in magazines but more cupboard space may be what your family needs right now. Discuss your ideas with a designer and talk to a few contractors to determine prices and see what fits with your budget. You may decide to do the work yourself, but talking about it with a professional is great for brewing ideas.

Try to build the most flexibility and long-term usefulness into your designs. Remember that children grow quickly, so envision the basement toy room becoming a games room and study area in a few years. Installing the required wiring now will save you time and money later, and may also add a selling feature if you decide to move.

You might be able to do some work yourself, such as painting or installing closet systems. However, because of permits and laws/regulations/codes, most people find it best to hire professionals for tasks requiring plumbing, electrical work, specialized carpentry, and work involving altering the structure of your home (supporting walls, roofs, staircases, etc.).

4. How can we encourage others in our life to take care of their clutter before they leave this earth and give all their clutter to us? This is especially a problem when they don’t think what they have is clutter!

Unfortunately, the value of an item is in the eye of the beholder. Items you might consider clutter, might be of significant value to someone else. It would be difficult to ask someone to part with items that are valuable to him or her. You can’t control another person’s desires, wishes, and attachments to their things.

However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your family members’ items are appreciated once they pass on.

Envision what you want for your family. Are you minimalists? Do you prefer art-deco style furniture? Will you travel? What hobbies do you enjoy or do you wish to start a few new hobbies? It helps to write down the lifestyle you want to lead and then act according to these visions when the time comes.

Prepare a respectful “no thank-you” response now. Chances are you will be offered something you don’t want or you will be told that items are being kept for you. If the item will not fit into your envisioned lifestyle, you will be able to turn it down. For example:

I know [item] is very important to you and it means a lot that you want us to have it after you are gone. But [item] will never replace you or our memories of you. Let’s consider how [item] could best be used and appreciated. Perhaps we should:

  • Consider offering [item] to a [name friend or family member] who would truly appreciate it
  • Donate [item] to charity or museum, where it could be used or appreciated by even more people
  • Sell [item] and either enjoy or donate the money

Sometimes once people find they are no longer obligated to hold an item for you, they are more willing to let it go.

5 Comments for “Answers to a reader’s four questions”

  1. posted by Kate on

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answering my questions!

  2. posted by proelry on

    3. After safety and taking care of small problems before they become big problems, the next project to pick–is whatever bugs you the most. Seriously, what about your home annoys the heck out of you? Fixing that trouble spot will make life immediately better.
    4. The only technique I’ve actually seen work to influence others is setting an example. Not to wave it in anyone else’s face, either, just doing one of your own projects and, when it’s done, sharing your honest pleasure in your newly uncluttered space. My mother started gong through boxes that had been stored for decades after I started going through my book collections. Surprised the heck out of me, as I hadn’t expected that at all. She didn’t get very far–but I got my books gone through!

  3. posted by liz on

    Unless you are the executor of the estate, you really do not have to deal with the clutter.

    If you are asked to be the executor, please decline the job and let your relative find someone who cares about fulfilling their wishes. If you find out that the relative wrote your name in as the executor without asking you, please find out if the courts will allow you to decline and they may assign the task to another person. A non-family member can be the executor and arrange for companies to clean the house and conduct an estate sale.

    You could always decline to accept the items and let the executor dispose of them, but do not expect to receive the proceeds since there may be specific plans for those funds, such as donation to a charity.

    If you decline a specific bequest before the relative dies, be prepared that they may react negatively and leave you nothing. And, if you upset them, expect others in the family to be upset about how you treated the relative.

  4. posted by Ruth on

    Re: offering things to museums – please don’t do that unless it is either a very particular item that fits a museum well or you know that the museum is looking for donations. I have worked in museums for many years – they are almost always understaffed and underfunded and we inevitably spend a lot of time discussing with people why we can’t accept their “precious” donations when we already don’t have space to exhibit everything we own. For a museum to accept something doesn’t just mean we put it on a shelf somewhere. Items have to be accessioned, catalogued, potentially cleaned and repaired and then stored appropriately, all of which takes time and money.

  5. posted by Laura H on

    I do not agree with the comment above “Unless you are the executor of the estate, you really do not have to deal with the clutter.” I have experienced cleaning out grandparents homes after they have passed away and I was certainly not the executor. Cleaning out the home of family members is a monumental task and simply telling the executor to take care of it isn’t always an option – not even considering excellent or strained family situations. (That would be a whole other article!) Even if all items are willed to auction, our local auction houses do not simply come and empty houses. All items must be sorted and boxed if needed and non-valuable items must be disposed of. We also do not have local companies that clean out and prepare estates for sale. I must also note that estates may have some estimated worth but do not have liquid assets to just hire people to take care of things. Family members absorbing this task must balance life, work, children, with the task of sorting through an entire household.

Comments are closed.