The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Clutter,
Organizing, Having Too
Much Stuff, & Decluttering

Welcome to my page of quotes about clutter! Clutter makes me anxious, so I try to keep my spaces usable. But I think it's because I have so much mind clutter that I can't handle the physical stuff. We should all try to keep our physical and mental and emotional clutter to a minimum, for our own well‑being. Except for books, of course! You can never have enough books. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g

Do other people, I wonder, find the same keen pleasure that I do in periodically undertaking a pilgrimage all over the house to wage a war of extermination upon its accumulations of rubbish? ~Chiffon, "The Woman of To-Day," To-Day, 1898

Winter can stand a little cluttering — then what a relief when we unclutter for Summer! ~“Special rooms and their personalities,” House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration, Richardson Wright, editor, 1942

Most of us are inclined to keep too many old and useless things in our houses and in our minds as well. Good housekeepers have an excellent custom of going from attic to cellar, at least once a year, and clearing out every closet and drawer. Some shake out and dust each article packed away in box or trunk, only to replace it and repeat the process year after year. How much better to give away the discarded clothing, the bric-a-brac or picture for which we no longer care. The Salvation Army always stands ready to relieve us of superfluous effects. ~Emily Tolman, "Seasonable Suggestions," 1907

Clear clutter. Make space for you. ~Magdalena Vandenberg, Minnie Moo: The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat, 2012

It's easy to accumulate things, but hard to let go. Trust me — if you always add and never subtract, you will eventually bury yourself. ~Peter Walsh, It's All Too Much! Live a Richer Life with Less Stuff, 2007

Please give me the discipline to get rid of the stuff that's not important, the freedom to savor the stuff that gives me joy, and the patience not to worry about the stuff that's messy but not hurting anybody. ~Vinita Hampton Wright, "A Little Prayer for the Next Step," Simple Acts of Moving Forward, 2003

Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing — the reason they can fly.
~Mary Oliver, "Storage," Felicity, 2015,

If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. ~George Carlin, "A Place for Your Stuff," Brain Droppings, 1997

A clean desk to-night makes a good beginning to-morrow. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor

There is hardly a place where, in the course of a year, some things are not purchased and never used, and where spring cleaning does not unearth them. Spring is the time when the good homeowner puts all doubtful things into the trash barrel. ~E. F. White, "Spring Soda Fountain Thoughts," 1908  [Or donated or yard-saled, of course! Text a little altered. —tg]

Don't just declutter, de-own. ~Joshua Becker,, 2012

Later is the best friend of clutter... ~MaryAnne Bennie, From Stuffed to Sorted: Your Essential Guide to Organising, Room by Room, 2012

We must get rid of some of the old things, with introduction of the new — as so we must exhale as well as inhale. ~Emily Tolman, "Seasonable Suggestions," 1907  [modified —tg]

It is a law working in all nature, through plant, insect, animal, and man, that in order to have and enjoy the new, we must first rid ourselves of the old. If the tree held stingily on to last year's fruit and leaves, and refused to drop them, would not the vents for next year's fruit and leaves be choked up? ~“Sunday Readings, Selected by Bishop Vincent,” The Chautauquan, 1895

Control your clutter or it will control you. ~Alejandra Costello,, 2012

Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire. ~Wendell Berry, "Prayers and Sayings of The Mad Farmer"

Ahmed told me they were expanding the museum so it could fit more tourists inside, but I think this will just encourage the museum people to put even more old boxes on display. It's interesting to see that people had so much clutter even thousands of years ago. The only way to get rid of it all was to bury it, and then some archaeologist went and dug it all up. Humans have always been hoarders of tat. I think that's why lofts were invented; it's somewhere to stick all the crap we collect in our lives rather than bury it. ~Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington, 2010

The enormous power which this habit of hoarding has given him, perhaps leads man to overestimate his other talents. ~Gilbert Newton Lewis, The Anatomy of Science, 1926

Having too many things about us is a certain confusion to the intellect. ~Oscar C. McCullouch, "The Piety of the Intellect," sermon, Plymouth Congregational Church, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1890

"The fact is, wife, I've too much clothing!... the accumulation of years," said Warmheart. And he is not the only warm heart that has felt dissatisfied with having too much when others have been in want and not had enough. ~“The Visitor: A Picture for the Season,” The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, 1860  [a little altered —tg]

Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing? ~William Shakespeare, As You Like It, c. 1599  [IV, 1, Rosalind]

Too much of a good thing is still too much. ~L. D. C., The Urologic and Cutaneous Review, 1938

You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996

Most men appear never to have considered what a house is... It is possible to invent a house still more convenient and luxurious than we have, which yet all would admit that man could not afford to pay for. Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less? Shall the respectable citizen thus gravely teach, by precept and example, the necessity of the young man's providing a certain number of superfluous glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guest chambers for empty guests, before he dies? Why should not our furniture be... simple...?... At present our houses are cluttered and defiled with it... I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window in disgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground. ~Henry David Thoreau

Life is short and Death is continually advancing apace; what need is there then, of providing so much for so short a Journey? Why will you load your self with so many Riches, when the less you have the more free you will be, and the better able to Walk? and when you shall come to your Journies end, you will find no worse Entertainment for being Poor, than those that shall come hither Richer fraught. But you will be less troubled for what you leave, and will have the less to answer for. ~Rev. Luis De Granada (1504–1588), Provincial of the Order of S. Dominick, in the Province of Portugal, "Remedies against Covetousness," The Sinners Guide, translated from the Spanish, 1702

      Most of our possessions arrive in our lives almost by accident. Gradually, like falling snow, they accumulate around us until they form the basis for our identity.
      We do not intend this to happen. Most things we acquire are meant to increase our happiness and sense of fulfillment. But their uniqueness is quickly subsumed into the ordinariness of daily affairs.
      We wake up one day and find ourselves surrounded by possessions that mean nothing to us. Our freedom is gone; our lightness of being is gone. In their place is a sense of responsibility and ownership. We have become curators of our own cluttered reality. ~Kent Nerburn, "On Possessions," Simple Truths: Clear & Gentle Guidance on the Big Issues in Life, 1996,

The chief purpose of the garage build in the split-level house is to store the junk that formerly cluttered up the attic. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968

..."Madison Avenue," that mythical advertising copy writer who is supposed to persuade us to wallow in cosmetics and tail-fin cars. We have more Things in our garages and kitchens and cellars than Louis Quatorze had in the whole of Versailles. We are drowning in Things... We are lost in a sluggish, sun-oiled sleep beneath a beach umbrella, dreaming of More and More. ~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960  [a little altered —tg]

Clutter smothers. Simplicity breathes. ~Terri Guillemets, "More room, more thought," 2005

Clutter is a weight that has built on top of you so gradually, you don't even realize anymore that it is holding you down. ~Mary Johanson,, 2014

You can't have everything — where would you put it? ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985,

With the reduction of possessions to a minimum, there automatically comes a simplification in our manner of living. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, "Simplification," A View from the Hill, 1957

A way up in the mountain region of the West is a little animal called a Pack-rat. This rat obtains its name on account of its mania for carrying off to its hole any odd or striking object that may fall in its way. Each pack-rat's home is in the middle of a vast accumulation of useless odds and ends. None of the objects, of course, are of the slightest use to the animal. Simply it likes them. The collector enjoys his possessions but worries his little life out night and day lest some other rat will steal from his pile. The larger the pile the more pleasure and the more worry he finds in it. Finally he becomes so bewildered by terror for himself and anxiety for his museum that he, perhaps, perishes with them. While the common, sordid rats of the neighborhood, with no property but the fur on their backs, and with no ideas beyond the getting of a living, escape without difficulty. ~Ernest E. S. Thompson, "The Pack-Rat," The Quartier Latin, 1896   [a little altered —tg]

Storage experts are hoarders. ~Marie Kondo, the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, 2011, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano, 2014

Owning less is better than organizing more. ~Joshua Becker,, 2013

Stuff, more stuff, and even more stuff —
modern life says hey be a bigger stuffer
we stash, we store, expand and puffer
acquiring, collecting more stuff every day
sorting, organizing our stuffed lives away.
~Terri Guillemets, "Stuffed," 2013

Clutter-clearing is the first stage of getting organized. Let go of excess clutter and organize what's left. ~Sharon Stasney, Feng Shui Your Kitchen, 2002

I gave my life to learning how to live.
Now that I have organized it all... now that I have
Finally learned how to be closer to the nude
And secret silence, my life
Is just about over.
~Sandra Hochman, "Postscript," Earthworks, 1970

At its heart, organizing is simply rearranging. And though we may find storage solutions today, we are quickly forced to find new ones as early as tomorrow. ~Joshua Becker,, 2012

Storage methods do not solve the problem of how to get rid of clutter. ~Marie Kondo, the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, 2011, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano, 2014

A place for everything and everything in its place. ~Old saying, circa early 1600s

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris, lecture, 1880

The more you have, the more you dust! ~Robin Bastian,, 2014

Have Less. Dust Less. Live More. ~Robin Bastian,, 2014

Of course we all have a great many things in our homes that are a sort of accidental accumulation that we cannot throw away, nor do not wish to, but we may at least be very careful to make a wise selection when we place anything new in the house... We all have things about our houses that we have become so accustomed to that we do not know whether they are good or bad... Of course I am telling you no new thing when I say that we are inclined to have too many things. If we turn again to our classic standards it would be hard to imagine the accumulation of inharmonious objects from one of our rooms in the place of a few simple ones that adorned a classic interior. ~Alice Helm French, "Art in the Home and the School," in Primary Education, 1898  [Context note: This is actually about decor rather than clutter, per se, but it just describes so well our modern American clutteritis I had to use it here. —tg]

Clutter smothers joy, while simplicity liberates it. Clutter makes life complicated, heavy, and wearisome. Simplicity makes life relaxed, carefree, and invigorating. ~Tommy Newberry, "Cut the Clutter," 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle, 2012

Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter. ~Terri Guillemets, "Simple–minded," 1993

Once you've whittled down to spiritual essentials, the physical decluttering comes naturally. ~Terri Guillemets, "Unhoard," 2002

If you are fortunate enough to have room for it, a SOMEDAY pile is a good idea too. You need a place where the boys in your family can pile their old lawn-mower motors, bicycle wheels, scraps of lumber — the various parts that will, perhaps, "someday" make a go-cart, a chariot or a space ship. Such a junk collection can be as important as the decluttered part of the house, but it must be confined or it will grow when you are not looking at it. ~Alice Skelsey, The Working Mother's Guide to Her Home, Her Family, and Herself, 1970

Keep in mind that possessions... are chameleons that change from fantasies into responsibilities once you hold them in your hand, because they take your eye from the heavens and rivet it squarely on the earth. ~Kent Nerburn, "On Possessions," Simple Truths: Clear & Gentle Guidance on the Big Issues in Life, 1996,

I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into the clutter that is my life. ~Robert Brault,, 2011

A little clutter is good for a child's mind. It makes the child feel comfortable and at home; it eliminates hesitancy, the fear of touching something that shouldn't be touched, the fear of being wrong. Materials with which to learn are always at arms reach. It means you're learning all the time. ~Christopher Torockio, "Conservation," The Truth at Daybreak, 2007

Clutter is found in so many shapes and sizes. We can find it on our kitchen tables, under our beds, in our cars, and in our heads. ~Katrina Mayer,, 2013

Freedom is hiding under the clutter. ~Terri Guillemets, "At home," 2005

Keep a thing seven years and it's bound to come in handy. ~Proverb

Keep a thing seven years, and then if thou hast no use on't throw't away. ~Thomas Killigrew, The Parson's Wedding, c.1640

The old saying is, my dearie, keep a thing seven years, and you'll find an use for it; but I say, keep it three times seven... and you'll find an use for it... ~Joanna H. Mathews, Rosalie's Pet, 1876

The real cost of keeping things is the amount of thought you put in their keeping. If you will keep an old bedstead or bureau, or anything else you never have any use for, and pick it about with you at every house-moving, and put study and calculation as to the place it shall occupy, and worry then because it takes room which you need for everyday purposes, you are putting from time to time force enough on a (to you) useless article which, if properly directed, would buy a hundred new bureaus. In this way does this, the blind desire of mere keeping and hoarding, keep many people poor, and even makes paupers. ~“Sunday Readings, Selected by Bishop Vincent,” The Chautauquan, 1895

Garbage clutters the house that has no dream. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife, tweet, 2012

It is easier to be happy when you are not surrounded by the confusion and the clutter of life. ~David Baird, A Thousand Paths to Happiness, 2000

Having too many things is a burden to the mind, an insult to the earth, and an obstacle to our spiritual well-being. ~Terri Guillemets, "At home," 2005

As with the advent of spring cleaning we clear out of our houses the things no longer useful to us, why not at the same time relieve our minds of worthless rubbish? ~Emily Tolman, "Seasonable Suggestions," 1907

Don't let house or garden climb on your back and stick there. And unclutter your mind from any idea that you have to do a thousand things before other people do them. ~American Home, 1945

The time when most people's clutter surfaces is when they move, and one reason why moving feels like such hard work is that in the process of packing you sort through all your things and decide what you want to take with you and what you don't. You have to deal with all the mental and emotional connections to each object, which can be exhausting. ~Karen Kingston, "Clearing Clutter," Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, 1996

Sometimes clean feels empty. A bit of clutter and dirt gladdens the heart and affirms a life in progress. ~Terri Guillemets, "Moving out, moving in, moving on," 2011

I will not make a scrapbasket of my mind. ~Anonymous, c. 1907

There is something immensely therapeutic about clearing your clutter. The reason is that while you are clearing things on an external level, there is a corresponding change going on internally too... Being clear of clutter is one of the greatest aids I know to manifesting the life you want, and it is absolutely essential if you truly want to know joy and happiness in your life. ~Karen Kingston, "Clearing Clutter," Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, 1996

The fullest use of time does not mean that we should live our lives under forced draft, make sweatshops of our minds, or keep our nerves taut. The real purpose of learning to employ every minute properly is to unclutter our hours, deliver us of feverish activity, and earn us true leisure. Often it is not the things we do but the things we don't get done that weary us. ~Robert R. Updegraff, "Time for Everything," in The Rotarian, 1942

I have found that the temple of the undistracted mind must be housed in an uncluttered environment. A basement or garret is invaluable, but they, too, must be uncluttered, even though they hold many essential things used only occasionally... ~American Home, 1945

The emotional weight of clutter crushes our souls and our lives. ~Terri Guillemets

Eliminating clutter is much more than taking out the garbage every night. Clutter is sneaky and appears both physically and mentally. The physical clutter is usually easier to clean up, while the mental clutter can be more of a challenge, but often they go hand in hand. Either way, you need to clean up your environment and your mind in order to have the peace that keeps you feeling young... There is also environmental clutter outside our homes that is disconcerting. We are cluttering the planet with so many "things." ~Katrina Mayer,, 2013

Replace clutter with freedom. ~Terri Guillemets, "At home," 2005

The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling. ~Orison Marden  [Multitasking and being too busy are time clutter! —tg]

In a garden of clutter, nothing would grow
There would be no butterflies, only clutterflies
And heaps of disarray, every which way
No nourishment anywhere, not anything pruned
Just lots of useless stuff, everywhere strewn
~Terri Guillemets

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published 2004 Dec 31
revised 2005, 2011, 2016, 2019
last saved 2024 Jun 12