Monday, February 26, 2007

Too Much Stuff: De-cluttering Your Heart and Home by Kathryn Porter - Review/Interview

Too Much Stuff: De-Cluttering Your Heart and Home by Kathryn Porter
softcover, 2006, Beacon Hill Press
ISBN 0834122561
168 pgs.

Too Much Stuff is stuffed from cover to cover with techniques on how to de-clutter both your heart and your home. This advice is given in a clear, easy-to-read manner which has us eager to decontaminate our homes of unwanted, unneeded, and unused items. Not only does Mrs. Porter help us make our homes cleaner and our space more effective, but she also gently encourages us to de-clutter our hearts - which is where the clutter really begins.

Kathryn begins the saga of de-cluttering by sharing her own heartfelt story of growing up in a cluttered home and how she brought those habits with her after she’d married and moved out on her own.

Each chapter brings us deeper into our clutter and gives prudent advice on how to start shoveling our way to a neater home. Topics range from defining clutter, planning how to de-clutter in an orderly way, working in the main rooms such as kitchens to less seen rooms like bathrooms and bedrooms. She also tackles the dirty job of paper work and bills - those seldom touched piles on our desks.

But Mrs. Porter doesn’t stop there. How does clutter begin? Why do we ‘need’ to keep things? Are we so cluttered in home and mind that we push our time with God aside? Do we go to God with real needs for ‘food and raiment’ or for those sale items we can’t seem to pass up?

When I finished reading Too Much Stuff I was taking a second look at my home and my heart.

Questions and Answers with Kathryn Porter

Paula: What inspired you to write a book about de-cluttering?

Kathryn: I’ve always had a tough time of keeping a clean house. When I discovered that the key to maintaining a presentable home is getting rid of the clutter, I realized that there were others like me who needed to hear that message. While I always heard the term clutter before, I never applied it to my stuff. I thought I just needed better organizing skills or more discipline.

After struggling with clutter for so many years, I found the answer when a friend told me, “You can’t keep everything and keep a clean house.” What I really needed was to learn the definition of clutter and how owning too much stuff prevented me from having the kind of home I wanted. I didn’t know how to determine what to keep and what to throw away. I didn’t know how many sets of bed sheets was enough or how many pots and pans were sufficient. As I was learning this myself, I realized this was a message that others were waiting to hear.

Paula: Did your family help you in your quest to de-clutter your home?

Kathryn: Initially, my husband was supportive from a distance. He thought it was great that I was getting rid of all my stuff and encouraged me in my de-cluttering efforts, but it took a while for him to join the bandwagon.

I did get some resistance from family and friends. I got rid of so much stuff that they started to wonder if I was going to get rid of everything. People stopped giving me gifts because they were afraid I’d throw them out—which was a good thing because I didn’t need more stuff.

Paula: At the end of each chapter you give your reader some food for thought in regard to the clutter in their hearts. Why is this aspect so important in de-cluttering a home?

Kathryn: When I first started de-cluttering, I didn’t think there was a spiritual component to it. People told me that they saw changes in me, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was still the same person minus a whole lot of clutter. One day I was asked point blank, “How do you think you’ve grown spiritually from de-cluttering?” As I reflected on this question, I realized that the more stuff I got rid of, the closer I felt to God. I began to appreciate the blessings that previously went unnoticed because they were overshadowed by my “too much stuff” lifestyle.

This heart aspect is important as a benefit of de-cluttering. We sometimes think that our houses should be clean for appearances without realizing how clutter affects relationships. As we de-junk our homes of the things that can’t love us back, we create space in our hearts for God and people that do love us back.

While my book focuses on the practical application end of things, small groups based on the book have sprung up in churches across the country. Due to the interest in the de-cluttering your heart segments of the book, I created a small group leaders guide with questions to dig deeper into the spiritual side of de-cluttering based on the end of chapter Bible verses. This is available at my publishers Web site as a free download at

Paula: What made you decide to become a professional organizer?

Kathryn: I became a professional organizer by default. As I de-cluttered my home, I found answers that others were looking for. People started asking me for help. When my book came out, I started receiving speaking invitations. I love offering workshops on de-cluttering and watching my audiences get energized to clean sweep.

I don’t do much 1:1 organizing because I much prefer empowering groups of people.

Paula: If you had the option for your own housekeeper, would you take it?
Kathryn: The answer is a big YES. In fact, this is an option I already take advantage of. I used to think that housekeepers were for rich people, but I’ve found that they are affordable and well worth the cost.

I started bringing in a weekly housekeeper when my husband was working out of town for a long-term assignment. I felt like a single mom—even though I was married—who couldn’t keep up with chasing after a toddler and keeping a clean house, while running my own business. When my husband was back working in town, we agreed to continue using a housekeeper because it made our lives so much easier.

Paula: What is your favorite de-cluttering tip?

Kathryn: My favorite de-cluttering tip is to stop focusing so much on finding the latest and greatest organizing tools to store clutter, but start using trash bags and kick that clutter to the curb.

We have a choice—we can keep everything we own or we can keep a clean house. Which do you choose?

Paula: Do you have plans for another book?

Kathryn: I do have plans for another book, but I have little time to work on it due to my speaking schedule. I plan to take a writing sabbatical this summer in which I’ll devote one month to working on book number two, and hopefully completing it.

Thanks Kathryn!

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