“When all else fails, cleaning house is the perfect antidote to most of life’s ills.”
— Sue Grafton

I love to put cleaning quotes all over the house.

It reminds me why it is so important to clean. I just noticed, at some point that my life is HAPPY when the place is clean.

Back in the day, before I was a Missoula Counselor, I used to be a cello teacher. And so all these students were always coming over with their parents. And my husband had a piano business in the studio. So we had like 100 kids coming through the house every week. This meant we had to keep the place like a museum. People would come over at all times of day!

“Nothing inspires cleanliness more than an unexpected guest.”
— Radhika Mundr

Because the house was so clean, no one seemed to know that cleaning has always been one of my areas of struggle. Especially the kitty litter. Disgusting. There’s nothing worse than cat pee to me. It triggers me in ways I won’t even get into.

So here’s the rub – we don’t have those music businesses anymore. And because of Covid, our revolving door has shut down. Hence, we are not forced to clean anymore. And on top of this, we have little kids running around, destroying everything in their path.

I knew that I had to do something to get us back to the way we were! We couldn’t live in this horrible filth anymore! I had reached my limit.

I recently came across the concept of using CBT principals to help with the psychology of cleaning. I found this to be a wonderful way to get in the mind space to get cleaning and make things work.

So here’s what I did:


I changed my identity. No more would I be a “dirty person”. Or someone who allowed myself to live this way. From now on, my identity was that I cleaned. It’s just something I do now.

“Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project.”
— Meagan Francis

Declutter first

Ok, this concept is not new. It’s actually made quite the movement over the past few years with the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, by Marie Kondo. I’m a huge follower of this movement. Having read the book, I watched all the shows on Netflix and just love this revolution. I get emotional when I see the transformations people make when they implement these concepts.

Alright, not all the shows. I don’t watch “Hoarders”. Hulu has all those shows and I just don’t want to get sucked in.

Where were we?

Anyway, so many people carry emotional weight with the items they have stowed away over the years. Discarding items that no longer us to literally feel lighter and free.

And so the first step is to grab a garbage can. I know. And you want to look every item and say, “Does this spark joy in me?”

And if it doesn’t, tell the item “Thank you. I really appreciate all we’ve gone through together. I love you. Goodbye.”


This is always difficult. And you might cry. But Kondo recommends this to be a ritual that you set aside time for in one sitting.  She says not to do the “here and there” discarding. (However I think it’s a great place to start). She suggests going all in. After discarding, you go from category to category such as clothing, books, miscellaneous items and then clearing out all the items that don’t bring you joy.

Awareness and focus is key. Don’t play any music or podcasts in the background, she says. Because this is a spiritual experience. By simply looking for things you love and letting go of things that are no longer serving you there is a powerful shift that can happen for a person where they feel more in control and have a system of focus.

Shift perspective and notice automatic thoughts

There are a lot of emotions that come up for people when they begin the decluttering process. We often experience guilt and possibly overwhelm when considering things to let go of.

One example could be the automatic thought of “What if I will use this later?” Or, “When was the last time I used this?”

If it’s over a year, get rid of it! You don’t even notice it’s there! It’s sort of like you’re paying to house that item now. And secretly weighing you down. You know all that stuff in the garage? That stuff.

There is also a certain amount of guilt that can come up letting go of something that was expensive or something that someone gave you as a gift. However, if you consider how happy someone else might be to own the particular item – then this can bring some peace around this idea.

Have you seen the line at Goodwill lately, here in Missoula? Holy crap. Those are lots of Christmas presents that are going unused.

Baby Steps

Remember I told you I have quotes hanging around the house? Here’s a few. Feel free to hang them up too:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Lower the bar. Actually spending ten minutes clearing off one shelf is better than fantasizing about spending a weekend cleaning out the basement.”
— Gretchen Rubin

“For every minute spent on organizing, an hour is earned.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie