MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Give Thanks, Honor History, Get Out of the House

There are exactly three things to do today:

Be thankful.  Make it a habit.

Honor History.  Think about what really happened when the pilgrims came here.  Don’t look it up or surf the web.  Just think about it.

Get out of the house. If you have absolutely no invitations, make a few phone-calls to friends and relatives (keep them short), volunteer, or go out in nature.  No staying home!  Remember you are not shopping today, tomorrow, or possibly never again!

Spend some time with friends or family.  Call ahead and see if it would be helpful to come early.  You can help cut vegetables or set the table.  If not, go for a walk near the person’s house and be on time!

Here is the list for quick jobs before leaving the house.  Remember “Good Enough is Good Enough.”:

  • Pick up every towel or cloth in your kitchen.  Keep three kitchen towels.  Put the rest in the trash, in the recycle bag, the give away pile (they make up rag bags), or, if new, with tags, take to the thanksgiving fest as a gift.
  • Take everything out of your kitchen sink. Take out rare heirlooms or valued dishes, wash and put away.  Can’t find a place?  Make room by throwing out things.  Anything rusted or rotted or cracked goes out!   Throw it all in the trash (ceramic cannot be recycled with single stream).  Do not try to recycle.  Get that sink empty NOW.  Take the trash out.  Scrub the sink with soap and water.  Leave a good sudsy layer on for a few minutes and then scrub off.  I like these purple scrubbers because they stay clean.
  • Sweep the floor that is visible.
  • Throw out the trash and put all recycling out.  Take it to the curb or ask for help.
  • Put furniture out on the curb now (someone might take it over the holiday weekend!)

Now get outta here!  Take a book with you and leave it for someone else to read when you finish it!  Take the dogs to the dog park.  Donate towels and newspapers to the pet shelter.  Call a friend and go for a long walk.  Do not stay home!


MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: How not to drown. Total Immersion = Deep Knowledge

im·mer·sion iˈmərZHən,iˈmərSHən.   Immersion is a technique used to quickly bring a students knowledge level up by living in the unknown until you absorb it.  Seems counterintuitive for people who live in messy houses and become apparently clutter-blind, but how about we give it a try and see if it works.  I speak more than three languages thanks to living and immersing myself in the language and cultures of other places.  The process of really seeing stuff in the home has started, right?   So lets go full immersion!

immersion:  a method of teaching by the exclusive contact with the subject (a language or skill)  as an apprentice or volunteer, intern or placement, in a special guild, school, or in a foreign country.  So for clutter-blindness = constant exposure to your clutter.  People who live in clutter (O.K. I will use the H-word) or Hoarding, will do anything to avoid CLEANING UP AFTER THEMSELVES.  Then the people around them don’t feel like cleaning up either, since it is pointless.   The person who identifies as the Clutter-bug can try this method:

IMMERSION:  Stay in your clutter 24/7, except for work or school, parental duties, health appointments. This is a one week process.   No movies, TV, reading, computer (other than reading this).  No going out for coffee or a quick meal, bowling, fishing, or shopping (especially shopping).  You may be clutter-blind, but you won’t be after this!  This is cold turkey.  Ask for help from classmates, work-mates, family, friends, or spiritual colleagues.

Most clutterers, messies, and even self-acknowledged hoarders (yuck, how I hate that word), are now familiar with the work of Randy O. Frost. If you are not, check out his Clutter Image Ratings by clicking here.  I diagrammed one of the Living Room Image Rating photographs.   Just pick up a piece of scrap paper and a marker and draw a similar diagram of the room-project.

This is a drawing of a living room from Randy O. Frost’s website science.smith.edu

For the next week we are going to do an experiment.  Call your friends or relatives that have been begging to help you buy getting supplies and making sure that you are eating well.  Don’t let them come in and help you just yet.  Here is a list of things they can do for you.

Shopping for you (don’t you dare go out!)

  • Large Marker (Black is Best)
  • Kraft paper Lawn and Leaf bags (like giant grocery bags) (pack of five is under $5 and these are reusable, 5 for $1.99).
  • Fruit and Vegetable tray-like boxes
  • Trash Bags (strong and leak proof)
  • Gloves and masks (if needed)
  • Shovel
  • Broom (industrial and household)
  • Zip-close bags of various sizes
  • Small nails (copper is best)

Maybe others can help by:

  • Bringing you food for 3 nutritious cold or hot meals a day.

The Immersion in Stuff

Here is how it goes.  If something is really important treat with care; no matter if going to storage (avoid), display, donate, or sold.

Pick up one thing, if you don’t already have a place for this, make one using the markers and the bags.


  • Important papers:  make sure that you have a very clear place for recent bills, tax information, library books checks, etc.  Unless you are in the middle of a tax audit, divorce, or small claims court, you do not need to keep past bills, old routine checks, …)
  • Newspaper (all of goes in one bag, sorting happens later)
  • Photographs (all go in one box to sort later, keep these safe)


  • Books you KNOW you want to give away (leaf bag)
  • Books you have read and probably could give away (once you see how many you have) (leaf bag)
  • Books you definitely want to keep (put on shelves or if you don’t have shelves, leaf bag)
  • Fragile books that could be worth something (carefully put them in a box, well labeled)
  • Furniture and Lamps:


  • You love
  • You hate
  • Needs painting
  • Needs major work
  • Needs minor work
  • Was a gift or an heirloom so you feel like you can’t get rid of it.

Each time you uncover furniture you have to put it on the right or left.  One side is keep and one side is fix.  All the other furniture goes outside on the curb for others to find and treasure.  Hopefully you can have someone come in and help you get this out a week before trash pick up so that it will be gone by trash day and you won’t have to pay extra!


  • You can sort or not sort.  If you sort keep the labels general:
  • Barbie
  • Stuffed animals
  • Sports equipment
  • Playskool
  • Polly Pockets
  • Random toy bits that could really only be used in arts and crafts


  • Children’s
  • Adult
  • Classics
  • Musicals
  • Empty cases for DVDs and Videos (they each get their own bag if we are talking about many)
  • Orphaned tapes
  • Orphaned DVDs and CDs (put in zip lock to protect and put in a box)


  • Empty frames go in a box large enough to stand them up
  • Frames with art or photos:  Put all of them on the wall with the nails.  This keeps them safe and you can decide about them or replace the art/photo later

Art work:  Best to lay flat, if you have a fruit box or an “under the bed bin” or a large portfolio with handles, this is perfect.  Otherwise find a place to safely lay flat artwork that is unframed (and fragile)

  • size
  • color
  • subject
  • which child made it

Trash:  goes in recycling or in a plastic bag if not recyclable.  When in doubt call it garbage.

Garbage:  Goes in plastic bags and out on the curb in your big bin (your friends can take this away as soon as they show up on the curb to avoid pests and critters)


IMMERSION:  Just keep going along, making new bags as needed.  The goal is to avoid feeling like you have to sort into “Keep, Give Away, or Recycle” .  That advice “Touch each thing only once” is bun·kum or nonsense.  Just ignore that advice for now.  People who have difficulty making decisions can’t do this touch it once thing.

Clutterers have trouble making these decisions.  For now we are going to just sort away with no intention of giving away or getting rid of our stuff.   Sort as completely as you can. Every time you have something that doesn’t have a place, make a new bag!

This sounds crazy.  We are immersing ourselves in our stuff.  We are sorting it and touching it and NOT giving it or throwing it away.

Here is an example.  Say you have a lot of books.  You may feel like sorting by hardcover or paperback, by size, color, or topic.  Whatever makes sense to YOU.  Go to it.  Sort!  Use the bags.  Sort anyway you want but don’t think about giving away (unless it is in bad shape or you know you don’t want it (have your book give away bag ready!)

Schedule time for someone to help take the bags that you have labeled “out” of your house and schedule a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Hospice pick up. Ask for friends to take to the curb, to the dump, to recycling (usually there is a drop off), or if you have bins, to the curb and back again empty.  If there is no one to help and you can’t do it, call around or have a friend call, or call a senior center to discuss availability of volunteers.

RECYCLE for you: Remember, you don’t have to recycle, but if you have friends who are willing to help you, this is the only way you can do it:  The friends recycle for you.  They take cans and bottles to recycling center for money (one full leaf bag = about $7 so really consider if it is worth it.  You can also call volunteer agencies or have your friends do this.  Some animal shelters will pick up towels, blankets, and recycling (and you donate the money to them).  Some bike recycling places pick up bikes in any condition to use to repair and teach children about bike safety or to place free bikes around town for transportation.



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: What style of junk artist are you?… heaped vs. spread, churned vs. sorted, dirty vs. clean, wet vs. dry, stinky vs. fresh, dark vs. light, closed vs. open, ugly vs. lovely, needs fixing vs. all fixed up!

Immersion leads to intimacy leads to seeing.   What is clutter style?  Take this quick quiz first to find out.

  • Is the mess heaped up or spread?
  • Any areas of floor visible?
  • Is the floor covered in ruined carpet that needs to be pulled up?
  • Is it grimy?
  • Large areas of damaged walls, cupboards or flooring, wallpaper damaged by watery “stuff”, termites, dry-rot?
  • Is the clutter sorted into neat boxes and bins or churned (all different types of stuff mixed in together)?
  • Does it smell like lemons and flowers, fresh air and lollipops?  or does it smell like animals, mold, must, and worse?
  • Are things dry and clean or slimy and grimy?
  • Windows closed and covered? Lightbulbs burned out or not working?  Is your place dingy and dark or are the windows clear and sunlight pouring into your home?
  • Do you have lots of beautiful objects laying about.  Click here to see.
  • Lots of stuff needs repair, refinishing and repainting?
  • Fire or flood happened or at risk?

Dealing with a churned, dark, stinky, broken mess?

If so, call in reinforcements now and “suit up!” a la Barney in HIMYM.

face masks


protective suits

lots of heavy-duty plastic garbage bags


cleaning supplies

Now give them instructions on what you want saved (if salvageable) and instructions to photograph damaged items and send them for approval before disposing.

Then run!  Take a communication device (tablet, phone, computer) and get out of their and let them clear it.  Overwhelmed, dangerous, gross, dirty, grimy, filthy…get out and come back when it is time to scrub and clean.