Top ten reasons to free yourself from clutter

Joy Overstreet, clutter clearing, downsizing and feng shui expert, Portland/Vancouver. Creatingjoyfulspaces.comWhen Less is More!

Every time I teach my clutter-clearing class at Clark College I hear the same sob stories (aka excuses) about why we keep so much Stuff. Could this be yours?

  1. But I might need it some day
  2. My ___ gave it to me
  3. It reminds me of when I ___
  4. I’m storing it for my kids
  5. It cost $$$ back then and I’d lose money if I sell
  6. It’s part of my ___ collection
  7. I don’t even know where to begin

A wise man I know once said, “You either have the results you wanted, or you have your reasons.” Perhaps you’re now ready to get results like ones shared by my Clutter Class students:

  • I can’t believe how much less stressed I feel
  • With all this open space my favorite things are out where I can appreciate them
  • Cleaning is so much easier
  • I feel like I’ve regained control of my life
  • I no longer feel guilty about all the stuff I never use
  • I have time and energy to focus on what’s actually important to me
  • I can breathe when I drive into our garage and see bare floor
  • A downsized wardrobe makes dressing a cinch
  • My kids are grateful they won’t have to wade through a lifetime of our crap
  • It makes me happy to know my donated stuff will help others
  • I’m saving $100 every month ($1,200/yr) by emptying our storage unit, enough for us to take a nice vacation this year.

The easiest way to regain your sanity is to simplify, simplify, simplify. The good news is I teach a two-session class at Clark College in Vancouver every quarter that will give you the motivation, tools and kick in the butt to get you going. More info here. Next class is Tuesday evenings Feb. 27 – March 6.

From former student Patsy C:

Since taking your class I have gone thru every drawer and closet in our house.  We had a yard sale, I’ve sold things on Craig’s List, and donated many items.  I tossed a lot of my parents’ papers and photos and distributed the rest to family members. My husband got rid of 300 record albums.  We are now ready to put our house up for sale so we can move to a smaller one level. One of the things that you said that has really stuck with me is “how many things of your  Grandmother’s do you need to remember her?”  Turns out, just a few. I am also happy to report that as of last week I have lost 21 pounds!





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Refreshing a tired exterior

This cute bungalow was in need of woodwork repair, new front steps, and fresh paint. The owners liked the original colors but thought it was time for a slightly more sophisticated version of them. The white was a little harsh in the Pacific Northwest landscape and the green a bit too pastel.

Additionally, the front steps were a danger for people exiting the house because we always expect to step out at the same level as the floor inside. A lower first step is a feng shui no-no, so they replaced them, adding that crucial step at the top.

The body is now sand-colored, the aqua has become teal, and the door is slightly less orange. Subtle changes, but so much better.

Does your home need a paint refresher or total overhaul? I’d love to help: call me at 360-903-3659




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Fresh paint brings home into 21st century

Colorful homes are my signature. But sometimes it’s just too much, as in this case of my client Leslie’s home in Bend. Time for a change!

The first thing you noticed was how dark the house felt, despite the high ceilings and Bend’s eternal sunshine. The dated valences in the living room added to the gloom and needed to go away. Intense color on the walls was overkill because Leslie has a lot of vibrant art. We decided on a much lighter neutral – a warm taupe for most of the walls to bring out tones in the marble kitchen countertops and the stone on the fireplace. (The ceilings are a lighter shade of taupe, though it’s hard to tell in the photos.)
Paint makeover. Joy Overstreet, color consultant, Portland,

The white mantelpiece was a problem. It seemed to float above the fireplace area without any connection to what was below it or to much else in the room. Time to pull out “Paint Magic!” We needed to pretend it was grounded with the traditional wood surround (legs), and in a color that blended with the stone facing. Fakery accomplished by painting the mantel and the wall below it the same dark taupe that was in the stone. The TV stand is also much less obvious now that it’s no longer white.Paint makeover. Joy Overstreet, Portland color consultant,

We painted the inset above the fireplace a deep espresso and repeated the color on the opposite wall behind her dining table.
Leslie's DR

The red-green (complementary) color scheme is very difficult to pull off in an open plan house where the living room and kitchen are part of the same space, unless at least one of the colors is in a pastel version. Also the art was blocking the light from windows. Paint makeover. Joy Overstreet, color consultant, Portland,

Next to the kitchen is Leslie’s office, now more calm in the taupe. She’s thrilled with the new look.Paint makeover, Joy Overstreet, color consultant Portland.
If you’re interested in a paint makeover to bring your home into the 21st century, and you live in the Portland metro area, please call me (Joy) at 360-903-3659. I’d love to help.

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A minimalist’s holiday decorations

I know some of you get your kicks from decorating every nook and cranny of your homes with Christmas decorations: you have every kind of Santa; you have nativity scenes and train sets wending thru winter wonderlands; your roof is draped with icicle lights; you have bells and baubles and angels and fake snow; you may even have blow-up reindeer on your lawn. And in your garage (basement/attic) you have boxes and boxes of decorations you simply don’t have places to display.

christmas overkillI’m exhausted just thinking about it.

I’m a holiday minimalist. Even in the old days, when we had a big house and kids at home, our decorations consisted of The Tree, which was carefully thinned out so our ornaments could have space to breathe, the ornaments (most of which were made by us or in some other way special), and The Tree Thinnings, which were arranged on the dinner table and mantel with a few special decorations and candles among them. The stairway always had a tinsel strand winding up the banister. That was IT.

It still was a fair amount of work to assemble and dissemble, but it was very much US.

decorations. Tiny tree, home-made decorations. Joy Overstreet, Color and down-sizing consultant, Portland, OR. I live alone in a small urban condo. I have a 30″ tall twig tree with LED lights (and decorated by my grandson with tiny pompoms) that collapses to almost nothing after New Year’s. I get my tree thinnings from walking around the neighborhood after a windstorm, and from a friend’s yard. Some nandina berry clippings from another friend, lilies and clementines from the grocery store, and a handful of ornaments I have in a little box under my bed. That’s it.

Home-made holiday decorations. Joy Overstreet, Color and down-sizing consultant, Portland, OR.

But. The papier maché snowman my older son made for me in kindergarten 40 years ago has his place. Heimg_4949‘s fallen off the mantel to knock off his hat more than once, and yet he lives to lord it over another holiday. The two table reindeer were a gift from a dear friend at about the same time, and my children think they’re ridiculous, which makes me love them even more. All these things give me enormous pleasure and they travel with me to wherever we celebrate the holidays. Last year, they went to Oakland; this year they’re going to LA. I think next year they’re going to France.

What this means is I can focus on what’s most important to me: the people I hold dear. What about you?


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How to create an unfriendly home

You can take minimalism too far. Way too far. I experienced this on a visit to Amsterdam.

My friend and I stayed with an AirBnB host in the newer IJ waterfront area east of Central Station. Many modern multi-story apartment buildings have sprouted along this attractive waterfront, most quite boxy and simple. The entrance to ours foreshadowed the prison-like atmosphere within:

Amsterdam apartment entrance (from inside)

Amsterdam apartment entrance (from inside)

Once inside, we found ourselves in an imposing many leveled atrium, ringed by identical unmarked (but for tiny numbers) apartment doors at each level.

Apartment building atrium - more like a prison block

Amsterdam apartment building atrium – or a prison block?

Entering the front door of the apartment, you could choose the narrow white corridor to the right or the narrow white corridor straight ahead. Both were lined with lots of shut doors. The one with the red bag in front was the owner’s room – so marked to indicate it was not for us:

One of two white corridors

One of two white corridors

Once you entered the main living space it was open and airy. But furnishings were super spare. No color, no art. Because the couches faced into the empty room (rather than to each other) they were not conducive to friendly conversation.

Minimalist living room

Minimalist living room

In fact the only piece of art in the entire apartment was the depressing Edward Hopper print of a tired woman, slumped alone at the edge of her hotel bed. (Depressing or violent art in the home is a big feng shui no-no.)

Edward Hopper's Hotel Room

Edward Hopper’s Hotel Room

The bathroom was CLEAN and tiled from floor to ceiling with shiny white tile. It could have been the staff bathroom in a hospital. Our host didn’t even keep her shampoo or toothbrush in here. Did I say it was CLEAN?

Stark bathroom

Stark bathroom

This is the home of a single career woman with not a lot of observable fun in her life. And, no, she didn’t just move in. With this sort of cold unfriendly home environment, do you think her life will perk up any time soon?

What would you do to enliven the space?


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Portland Craftsman before and after

It makes me very happy when my clients are very happy. Here’s what they said when they sent the “after” photos:

We did all the changes and LOVE the outcome. We couldn’t be happier with the new “feel” of our home.
 – Jill W.

This young couple wanted to make their new (old) home more warm and welcoming without spending much money. Paint to the rescue! (Plus a few other minor purchases.)

Living room before and after

Living room before and after

Before: rug too small, corner light distracting, wall color dull, art behind chairs is lost and on other wall it fights with the cabinet which crowds the armoire.

After: gray taupe wall color brings out the color in the handsome chairs, rug brings together colors in living and dining room, art scale and placement much improved, mirrored table widens room and plays well with the armoire, folks on couch now have a coffee table.

Portland Craftsman dining room before and after

Portland Craftsman dining room before and after

Before: Wall color is blah and cold, draperies way too short and busy, chairs too light-weight and “country” for a Craftsman.

After: All those things are fixed. So warm and welcoming!

Not shown well in either photo – kitchen color is now a warm tan to work better with the linoleum floor color.

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Throw a “come and get it” party! Offloading for charity

De-cluttering party for charityHow do you make disposing of your treasures easy and fun, while also benefiting  a favorite charity?

When I was preparing to downsize to a smaller home, I sold what I could on Craigslist, but still had way too much stuff that I didn’t want to take with me. I also did not want the distressing hassle of doing a yard sale — been there and done that! Pricing every little item, haggling with strangers, hearing their snarky remarks about my dear possessions — no thanks! Nor did I want to haul it all off to Goodwill.

The stuff had to go: was there a better way?

YES! I decided to throw a “name-your-price” downsizing party. I invited friends via email and Facebook, and suggested they invite their friends as well. I also requested they bring food or drink to share as well, since I had packed my kitchenware.

My cleverest idea was to let everyone know that half of the proceeds from the moving sale would go to a local educational foundation we all believed in, “I Have a Dream”. Guests were asked to donate into a basket what they thought was a reasonable price for their take-home treasures.

On several tables I arranged all the stuff I wanted to free myself from, and set up another table for food and drink (wine always helps boost sales!).

Everyone had a great time, especially me. My treasures ended up in friendly homes, and because a good cause was involved my guests probably paid twice as much as they otherwise would have.  “I Have a Dream” got $220, I got $220, and my tables were cleared.

A win-win-win.

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This is “my” house

Joy Overstreet, color and down-sizing consultant, Portland OROr at least it was a few years ago when I wrote this post for my blog, Getting to Less, to consider some philosophical questions about ownership.

We speak so possessively of our homes and our things. “This is my house.” “This is my couch.” “Fritz is my cat.”  As if the house, couch or cat were really ours to own.

Even if you built the house yourself stick by stick, if you built it well it will live long after you’ve moved on. Someone else will call it “my house.”  It was also built on land that was here millions of years before you were born, and belonged to ???  The couch belonged to someone else before you bought it and you hope will be useful to a new owner after you’re done with it.  And think about it:  is your cat really yours? He may feel attached to you, but he’s certainly his own self.

As I try to loosen my attachment to “my” house and “my” things, it seems helpful to step back from the whole possessive pronoun description of it all.  Many languages describe our relationship to stuff quite differently – “the house of me” – which is more like “the house I’m in relationship with” than something that I have dominion over and is part of me.

Before I came to live in the house of me, which was built in 1972, three other families lived here. After I move out, other families will consider it theirs. And I hope they treat it with the reverence I feel for it.

Thinking of myself as just one in a line of people who live here for awhile, (slightly) eases the pain I feel knowing I must relinquish the house sooner than later.  And I can even rejoice that the “books of me” will soon be the books of new readers.

After all, in the grand scheme of the universe and over an infinite period of time, me, my house and my stuff are barely specks.

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French kitchen color makeover

My French friend Christine is a color lover, like me. When she remodeled the upper flat of her home in southwest France, she went all out with color. The kitchen is at the far end of what will be the living-dining area.

Here is the blah “before”:

And the “after”…

A friend brought us an enormous flat of tomatoes and peppers from his garden. I had to style a photo before I turned them into a big kettle of sauce.

Flat of tomatoes

It’s much more fun cooking in a colorful kitchen! Here’s the sauce:


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A Down-Sizer’s Blessing

ripplesA friend of mine and her husband are in the process of getting rid of a lot of Stuff in preparation for a move to a much smaller home. Down-sizing necessitates a great deal of reflection about what is and isn’t important, and about what our Stuff means in the grand scheme of things. Even if you’re not trying to get to less, such reflection is always good for us.

This is what she wrote:

Blessed are they for whom downsizing has no meaning;
For they have been downsized since they were born.
Blessed are they who carry all their worldly possessions
on their backs;
For they are denigrating Mother Earth far less than we.
Blessed are they who suffer transitions they do not choose;
For surrendering to whatever is change is in their DNA.
Blessed are they who cultivate whatever soil is available;
For they must grow what they eat.
Blessed are they who travel dangerous roads and seas;
For they are desperate for freedom and safety from violence.
May we live in profound gratitude for the abundance
in which we live.
May we cherish and sustain our freedoms.
May we preserve and heal our Mother Earth.
– Gretchen Meyer  © 2015

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