Linda Lewis Griffith

Sick of clutter? Here’s what to do with all that extra stuff

Sick of clutter? San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith has some tips on how to get rid of extra stuff.
Sick of clutter? San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith has some tips on how to get rid of extra stuff. Chicago Tribune/MCT

I recently rummaged through a small storage area in my home and was shocked at what I found: bags of fabric, old pillows, a missing blanket.

I threw nearly everything away.

Then I got to thinking: If I don’t know what’s in every closet in my home, I definitely have too much junk. I’ve decided to pare down my belongings to items I use on a regular basis. Everything else will go.

I’m certainly not alone. We all store way too much stuff, and we have excuses for why we do it. We think someday we’ll use it, or it’s too special to give away. Perhaps we’re saving it for the kids.

Professional organizer Claudia Smith, left, helps Alan Miller sort through, organize and pare down a storage unit that contains memorabilia once owned by his parents in Davis. Enlisting outside help is one way to deal with clutter, San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. Jose Luis Villegas Sacramento Bee/MCT

The result is jam-packed closets, drawers and attics. We can’t possibly keep track of our possessions. We may tell ourselves we’re saving money, but when we consider the cost of renting storage space, there’s no way we’re coming out ahead.

Physical clutter extends into the mental arena, as well. Our cabinets are an extension of our thoughts. When they’re crammed with junk, our minds are too.

Sorting through clutter wastes time and energy.

Excess stuff is also a psychic encumbrance. Packing our environment with relics from the past prevents us from living in the present moment and being who we fully are today.

The answer?

Get rid of everything you don’t use on a regular basis. If you haven’t touched something in a year, and don’t have a very good reason to keep it, you don’t need it. Either use it up, donate it, recycle it or throw it away.

Start in your bathroom. Toss old lotion bottles, hair care products, vitamin supplements and health aids. If you need those things again, you can buy new ones.

Then go to your bedroom closet. Donate those cute shoes that hurt your feet. Pitch the pants that are way out of style. Get rid of the shirt with the grease stain that’s never good enough to wear.

Now try the refrigerator, starting way back on the top shelf. That’s where you’ve collected weird jars of sauce, mustard and other products that are long expired. Perhaps there is cheese with fuzzy growth or greens that are saggy and soft.

Toss. Toss. Toss. Get down to the food you actually eat every day, and repurchase it when you need more.

Notice if you’re saving stuff for future generations. It’s a good bet they won’t want it.

They’ll probably want a shoe box full of memorabilia. But your high school yearbooks probably won’t be on that list.

Decluttering isn’t easy, but once you get started, you’ll notice a shift. You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll feel cleaner. And you’ll enjoy living in your space.

How to declutter your life

• Stay away from garage sales and discount stores. Cheap prices entice you to buy more; it’s far smarter to avoid temptation in the first place.

• Buy only the amount that you need. If you haven’t exhausted an expendable item within six months, you’ve purchased too much. Adjust your shopping habits appropriately.

• Avoid storage units. You’re likely wasting money and harboring too much stuff. Clean your storage unit out ASAP.

• Practice a “one in, one out” strategy. Before you buy one new item, get rid of something first. That ensures you’ll have space to put it.

• Can’t get rid of your stuff? Ask a friend to do it for you. They won’t be attached to your possessions and can make decluttering headway.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

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