5 Things to Clean Out This Fall and How to Tackle Them

Few things make us feel as productive as de-junkifying. That moment right after we throw away, donate, or repurpose the clutter, our souls do a little happy dance. Now that the summer’s over and we’ve all gotten into the school/boots/pumpkin spice latte rhythm of the Fall, it’s a great time to do some tidying up. I know these things are usually reserved for Spring Cleaning, but I strive to be an equal-opportunity clutter killer. Here are some great items to zero in on. As a bonus to you (and as a way of avoiding a fight), I’m not even going to mention closets. You’re welcome.

Your car

It’s amazing how the clutter can multiply in the car. Lids, crumbs, Chick-Fil-A toys, library books, tie downs, busted cords, pizza boxes, teeth, tshirts, sand, dominos, hatchets, marbles have all been in the back and floor of my car in the last six months. I’m sure the floor of your car could tell similar tales, especially if you have kids.

I’ll throw it away when I get home, we naively think. But the problem is when we get home, we need to get inside. Then we forget. Then a million other things start calling our name. And clutter in the car smiles and starts reproducing like rabbits.

The problem is that we always think of cleaning the car when we’re on the way to somewhere else. So to do battle here, grab a trash bag and make a special trip to the driveway to clean the car at a time when you don’t have anywhere to go. Not being in a time crunch will help immensely.

Next, open every door at the same time and put every seat all the way forward. Then unleash your holy declutter fury. Remember the glove box, center console, and door compartments. Flatten an empty paper towel roll to get in the cracks between the seats too small for your hand.

The good news is that for most cars, 90% can be cleaned and purged in the first ten minutes. If you’ve access to a shop vac, it’ll go even quicker. If you need a new normal for your car organization swag, here is a great start. Or Google “genius car hacks.” It’s mind-blowing what people come up with.

Your mouth

It’s crazy how if you’re not paying attention, phrases and words start to creep into your conversations and texts. I’ve noticed my own vocab tends to wander off to the other side of the tracks after a heavy dose of Hulu.

If you’ve gotten in the (summer?) habit of foul, bitter, vulgar, or otherwise negative language, Fall’s a great time to hit reset. If off-putting vocabulary compromises your message, you are failing at language. Like it or not, the words you say (or don’t say) speak as much about you as they speak about whatever you’re trying to communicate.

Stopping the putrescence is much easier if you replace it with something else. You have to replace it with something positive so you can start to form new brain pathways that are more positive. Easier said than done? Of course. Here are some ways to do it.

—Make a conscious effort to start every conversation with a compliment.

—Replace cuss words with better words. Saying “sh%#” is pretty one-dimensional. Saying “Sewage” instead includes a whole range of grossness including vomit, urine, and mucus, as well as the feces in question. “Sewage” is a far better word. Or try “bullshoes” for a comedic angle. Random euphemisms are great too. Substitute “monkey” for an F-bomb with the same exuberance; I promise you’ll feel better.

—Remember that old maxim If you don’t have anything kind to say, don’t say anything at all? It’s still true. I’m not saying you have to agree with everyone. But make sure you what you’re about to say adds something positive. If it doesn’t, learn to exercise your right to remain silent. I admit this is calling us to a higher standards than either current candidate to lead the free world, but hey. Why not aim high? The good news is the more you practice, the easier it gets.

I’m not necessarily talking about what flies out when you smash your thumb or when you find the missing Lego with the arch of your foot at 1:40 a.m. Those are emotional responses, which, while still worthy of tempering, are not the same as peppering everyday conversation with foulness.

Like it or not, the words we say are a barometer of what’s going on deeper. Pay attention to things that come out of your mouth, and if 7 out of 10 of them are negatively-focused, it’s time to have a look under the hood.

Your garage

Ok, this is a biggie, and just saying the word may fill you with dread. You may have to wait until a Saturday, but it’s still worth doing. Most Americans have so much stuff, they can’t even park in their garage. At one point in our lives, my wife and I moved from a 3/2 to a 1/1. This was insane and really caused us to hack down the amount of what we took with us. But the process taught us a lot.

Mainly it taught us that we had too much stuff, and that we held on to stuff for emotional reasons. This is no revelation, but the answer is certainly not to ignore it. So bring plenty of Gatorade and a fan because it’s going to get sticky. So the best way to clean out a garage in the Fall:

—Step 0 Hit up Pinterest and search for garage organization inspiration. Get some great ideas and plan accordingly. Shower caddies, shoe organizers, pool noodles, and PVC pipe are all up to the task if you can fire up your imagination.

—Step 1   Put the tv in the garage so you can still watch college football.

—Step 2   Just pull everything out into the driveway. You’ll be amazed at how just doing this simple step will cause you evaluate the situation. In fact, this is a pretty good life tip.

—Step 3   Have a trash pile, a donate pile, and repurpose pile. If you can up-cycle your stuff, more power to you. And you might investigate your local charity/church thrift stores or women’s shelters in your area before offloading your stuff at the big name brand thrift store.

—Step 4   Think in terms of usage. Things that are used often, put in easy-to-reach places. Stash the seldom-used items high and in the back. Or if you want to start riding your bike more, then put your bike in a prominent place so that you’ll be encouraged to ride it.

—Step 5   Reinvent your garage organization. Here’s is a great place to start.

—Step 6   Celebrate a clean garage with dinner out.

Your junk drawer in the kitchen

We all have that drawer. Batteries, tape, zip ties, hooks, screw drivers, paperclips, and stamps. These are the things we wish were in that drawer. Instead, there is Lego arms,  the ten of spades, shampoo caps, doughnut holes, the number “5” birthday cake candle, coupons from 2009, and that one key no one has any idea what it unlocks.

Like a mini-version of the garage, the first step is just to pull everything out. Toss what’s old, keep what’s handy, you know the drill. The hardest part is just starting. But once you start to reorganize, putting in a silverware caddy may prove useful. Or make your own out of corrugated plastic and hot glue (cardboard can attract roaches).

The way to slay the junk drawer dragon is let this drawer have a purpose. That purpose cannot be “to put random stuff that doesn’t have a place anywhere else.” That’s a recipe for a clutter sandwich.

Instead it should be, Battery Station, or Mini-Tool Chest, or Note Cards & Pens. Once the purpose is defined clearly, doing the work becomes easy, which is a pretty decent approach to just about everything.

Your eyes

My friend Eddy is an artist, and he has this great saying: Pay attention to what you pay attention to. So let me ask you…what kinds of things do your eyes pay attention to most often? What does your gaze gravitate to most often? Is there a habit there somewhere? How about a tendency to look at every person’s _________. What do you look at? What do you ogle, linger upon, and drink in?

Chances are the answer is something like “my kids” or “my spouse” or “my project,” or “my phone.” Is that bad? Probably not. But if the answer is the latest, trendy _______, or such-and-such body part, or the ________ in the mirror, or the magazines beckoning from the checkout line, or _______ website, then I’m guessing one of the things you battle with daily is dissatisfaction. Because you’re always looking for more. This is a problem, because more is never going to do the job you’re asking it to do. Furthermore, your heart will start to look like whatever your eyes look at.

There could very well be a list of things you need to quit looking at, because in one way or another, they are cluttering your brain with what ought not to be there. Obviously, you can’t just keep your eyes closed all the time. So how do you change your eyes’ habits?

Pick something worth looking at, something valuable and good, and slow down your gaze. Look carefully. Notice. Take your time. Study. Observe. Evaluate. Deduce. Because noticing leads to appreciation. And appreciation leads to gratitude, which leads to a better view of things.

There is something so freeing about throwing away old stuff, giving away what’s no longer needed, and using the Force on some clutter. In terms of feeling like you accomplished something, culling, tidying, cleaning, and trashing offers a huge bang for the buck. In fact, there’s a whole minimalist movement that’s all about living with just the essentials. That might be crazy at this point, but I’ll keep you posted.

I’ll contend that it is because when we de-clutter, we’re emulating the first chapter of Genesis, in which God brings light to the darkness and brings order to the chaos. And doing things God does is always a good idea.

What things would you add to this list of things to clean out this Fall? I look forward to hearing from you.

Grace & Peace,


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