Episode 24: 10 Tips for Conquering Clutter

When we talk about physical clutter we are talking about two kinds – paper and objects. Paper and objects both come into your life for different reasons and hold different meaning. These are the stacks of papers that don’t ever seem to be filed or the influx of children’s artwork that you can’t stand to throw away, but also can’t stand to have stacked on the dining room table. This is the lack of systems that make you miss paying a bill. These are the gifts that you received / inherited that you did not like but feel the need to keep. We are talking about the paper and objects that make you feel weighed down when you see them. This is what we mean when we refer to clutter. 

Here is what you can expect in this episode:

  1. How many hours you lose to lost things and what it means for your physical health and wallet.
  2. Real life examples and how all dimensions of Sustainable Productivity are impacted.
  3. Practical suggestions to slowly but surely address the clutter.

Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links to Learn More

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to Susan@SustainableSue.com or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2023-07-17T08:12:49-04:00July 17th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments


Remember when I said the only thing I wanted to get done during Christmas break was to clear the clutter in my Tupperware drawer? Then I took 6 months off from writing and still did not clear it out?

Welp, the day of reckoning came last weekend. Our Tupperware situation became unsustainable and unproductive. As with all behavior change, when the pain became too great, change happened. 

Unproductive / Unsustainable

Unproductive / unsustainable is a state that has a clear, distinct look depending on what the root cause is. For ContainerGate it was 2 drawers that would not open reliably (the Tupperware had spread from 1 drawer to the drawer below), covering containers with foil or plastic wrap because we could not find lids, and considerations to just buy new and start over. 

My name is Susan, and I am powerless over plasticware and my drawers have become unmanageable.

I know plasticware might not be your issue though so I want to share what is below the surface of ContainerGate:

  • Frustration when the drawers stick, and we can’t get to non-Tupperware pans
  • Misdirected anger because lids are missing (I am sure no one is pranking me, but damn it feels like it sometimes)
  • Shame that my kitchen does not look like The Home Edit reveal with everything perfectly aligned in rainbow order or uniform plastic bins

Wait – are we still talking about Tupperware? Well, yes and no. It is never just about the containers, is it? It is about the feeling that you want to chuck it all and run away. Dumping the whole drawer in the trash and shelling out money for new is the equivalent of avoiding hard discussions, drowning emotions in alcohol, and numbing feelings with food or busyness. None of this is getting a desired result of smoothly opening the drawer, speaking your truth to a friend or matching your insides to your outsides. 

And friend – avoiding what got us to the messy drawer (or its equivalent) is not sustainable. The mess will come back. It is like brushing a tooth with a cavity and wondering why it still hurts. 

So I did the work one Saturday morning first thing (eat the frog first), and it literally took 30 minutes. Here is how the results broke down in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness

We do need lots of containers even though it is just the two of us. We often freeze parts of meals for leftovers, make big batches of soup or chili, and make stock from leftover veggies and carcasses. This helps us eat healthier and save on groceries. 

Mental Well-being

I admit to having an overall hard time parting with the take out containers. However, some of that comes from the fact that when the kids come for dinner, we pack up leftovers in these take out tubs. This way they can keep them if they want, but if they get tossed out or recycled it is ok too. Keeping these disposable items indirectly helps me take care of my people.

Lucille says she is a people and would like to be take care of. Pro bonus tip: if you are testing lids (taking them off and on tubs to check for mates) the dog in your house will think leftovers are being divvied up and come running for her share. Please plan accordingly.

Environmental Surroundings

I am convinced the mismatched lids and tubs are hiding somewhere else in the house. See above about issues parting with take out tubs. I am the same way with socks – its a whole thing. But having the oddballs “in play” in the drawer is just physical clutter waiting to piss me off. Until I am able to part with them, the oddballs get sequestered in a seldom used / out of sight space in the laundry room. Occasionally they come in handy for projects like when my daughter painted her room and needed a small container to climb the ladder to trim. Boom – Sustainable Sue to the rescue. 

I know, I know! But it is about progress, not perfection. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Wrap Up

I want to bring this essay home with a few points.

  1. The clutter is never just about the clutter. It is about postponed decisions, avoided feelings, and ignored issues. 
  2. What seems insurmountable is doable if broken into small chunks or tackled when your energy is at its peak. I avoided this chore for FOURTEEN MONTHS and it took 30 minutes. 
  3. The results will reap more rewards than you can imagine – in all areas of your life.

Now it is your turn to get to work.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. What project, task or idea have you been putting off?
  2. Decide what pain it is really causing you or what it means underneath – it is not about the containers. 
  3. Observe when your energy is highest and make a plan to take the first step on this project in the next 7 days.

I can’t wait to hear about your results. Send me your stories or photos to Susan@SustainableSue.com or find me on Instagram or Facebook. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-02-07T08:52:42-05:00February 21st, 2023|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Closet Clutter

I cannot even with this closet clutter. 

There are 54,879 tennis balls in this closet and no one that currently lives in our home is playing tennis these days. For nine months of the year I don’t even care about this clutter cave. But the other 3 months of the year I need to get a coat and gloves. It sucks my will a little bit every time I go in there. It is not nice to look at nor functional. This is the opposite of Sustainable Productivity.

Until recently. 

Remember the time lapse habit tip from a few weeks ago about writing? Check out the time lapse video of my declutter session – it kept me accountable to not being distracted by all those dumb tennis balls! You can watch the time lapse declutter session at this link. If you like what you see, I would greatly appreciate it if you would subscribe to the YouTube channel while you are there and share with a friend.

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What decluttering project is taunting you?
  2. What day in the next week can you set a timer for 15 minutes to do a small step forward on this project?

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find podcasts. 

By |2022-10-18T09:04:38-04:00October 25th, 2022|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Eating Sustainably

On the surface eating sustainably could be viewed as for the environment only, but what about your personal environment – your health, home and happiness? 

On the podcast we talked about eating sustainably in a traditional sense – supporting local agencies and those with humane practices. I encourage you to listen to that episode here. I have had additional thoughts since we recorded about what sustainable eating means for each dimension of Sustainable Productivity (SusPro). That is what I want to explore more with you today. 

Click on the photo to go to the podcast episode page.

Health and Fitness: Nutrition

Nutrition is a component of the Health and Fitness SusPro dimension. The quality of nutrition has a direct impact on your health. It is probably the most intuitive connection to eating sustainably. 

Maybe you choose to eat meat – or not. Maybe you are gluten intolerant – or not. Regardless of what healthy eating means to you, the common theme is to make changes that are sustainable. As you make small adjustments to your nutrition, ask yourself the SusPro questions:

1. Am I getting the outcome I want?

2. Can I continue to do this lifelong if I want to?

If you eliminate a food group because you are trying to be healthy, but don’t have enough energy to be physically active are you really getting the outcome you want?

If you restrict calories thinking it is healthy, but you are hungry and irritated all the time is this something you can continue to do lifelong?

Eating sustainably is as much about habits as the food itself.

Mental Well-being: Relationships

Relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being SusPro dimension. Since food tends to be a natural gathering point, eating sustainably can have a direct impact here. What if you incorporate the idea of eating sustainably into your relationships?

Case Study 1.

Eating sustainably means making adjustments for the season of life you are in. Maybe fall means an especially busy couple months for your family. In order to eat healthy in a way that sustains your sanity, this fall means brown bags in the van or picnics at the ball field with your people. Instead of eating in shifts around games and practices, what if you gathered for 15 minutes in a park in between everyone’s destination to eat a cooler dinner. Young kids especially might be delighted by an al fresco dinner party.

Case study 2.

It is not too early to think about eating sustainably over the holidays. My husband’s family has a few football coaches in it. In order to give them (and their families) some breathing room these holidays, we are moving our gathering to January or February. What is important is gathering in a low stress time to eat together. One of the things I cherish most about these folks is that they are flexible and know what is important to them. I know so many families who implode if Christmas is not celebrated on December 25. Not my in laws. Sustainable relationships are gathering at a time when we can be focused on each other, not on the clock and having to rush off to the next thing.

Case study 3.

What if eating sustainably encompassed experiences with those you are in relationship with? My teenage niece had a slumber part this summer where they made pasta from scratch for their dinner. The idea of pulling these teens away from phones to interact with each other in the kitchen is what eating sustainably means to me. Then bonus when my niece went to visit my dad and she discovered Papa had a Kitchen Aid mixer too! I cried when my sister sent pictures of Sydney cooking for her grandpa. I am sure it is a core memory for him too.

Source: Disney Tumblr

Environmental Surroundings: Physical Clutter

Physical clutter is a component of the Environmental Surroundings SusPro dimension and certainly impacts eating sustainably. Although this has changed over the years, for us it has to do with how we meal plan – we are working on doing a better job at eating what we have. Setting up our physical space to support this is important. Here are a few ways we reduce our physical clutter to support eating sustainably.

1. Clear expired pantry food a couple times each year. I am always stunned to find out spices and hot sauce expire, but they do. Before I met Bixby I thought I was a bad cook. Turns out my spices expired in the 1990s. 

2. Pare down appliances. My husband does the cooking and is the gatekeeper to what tools come into his kitchen. He has a rule to not clutter the kitchen with one trick ponies. Garlic press can only press garlic. He has wicked knife skills so it takes less time for him to dice garlic than it does for me to clean the garlic press so out it went. 

3. Make things easier to find. We moved seldom used tools to a separate space. There is no need to move the cake decorating tools out of the way every time we need the pasta pot or immersion blender. The once or twice a year we need to decorate a cake, we can pull that box down from the higher shelf. 

Sustainable You Questions

1. Can you identify what eating sustainably means to you today, in this season of life?

2. How can you get more of that or reduce the barrier to getting more?

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-13T13:42:51-04:00September 20th, 2022|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments
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