Clutter vs. Aesthetics… a war story

I’m sure you’ve read all about how to de-clutter a place. I have too. And I would sincerely like to de-clutter my apartment (which I usually call “the Flat,” as I prefer the Brit slang term for the place), and which is actually a townhouse with an upstairs and ground floor, but no basement. Confused yet?

I get that way sometimes.



  • Trash is always clutter, never needed, and generally needs to be dispensed with immediately when its original purpose is done. This is doubly true for any trash that once contained food, especially in a place where bugs and mice might take an interest.

NOT Clutter

  • Leftovers are not necessarily clutter, but – and this is an important but – they have to be packaged up and stored appropriately.
  • No, you cannot safely leave your pizza out on the counter top for three days and still eat it, no matter WHAT my roommate says! ICK!!!
  • Leftovers belong in the fridge. If there are two peas left in the serving dish, those aren’t leftovers. They’re trash! See: CLUTTER!


  • Old, wrinkled, torn, dog-eared papers that aren’t of any use any more to anyone.

NOT Clutter

  • Your tax forms for 7 years, no matter what condition they’re in (but you might consider keeping these electronically)
  • Any important paper records, like a copy of your lease or home ownership paperwork, the title to your car, your birth certificate, your passport, etc.
    • Recommendation: Get a small safe to store your important paperwork in; that way, it won’t be mistaken for clutter


  • Broken or damaged objects that no longer serve their original purpose and cannot be immediately repaired.
  • Objects that do not have any purpose, like old floppy disks you don’t know what’s stored on them and can’t read.
    • Recommendation: Note that making you smile IS a purpose for this post. If that ceramic poodle you love makes you smile, then it needs to be put in a place of honor, and kept in good condition. If it breaks, it becomes clutter if you’re going to fix it “one of these days…” where “one of these days” is anywhere between a week from now and the Twelfth of Never…

Not Clutter (not necessarily, YMMV)

  • Your great-grandmother’s glued together serving dish that came down through the family for many generations and is now yours… BUT, consider storing it in a safe location to keep it from being further damaged.
  • Decorative objects that aren’t just crammed onto shelves, but are displayed so that they can be seen by people, and enjoyed.
    • Recommendation: Consider, if you have a small space, rotating which decorative objects are out and on display. Even the Smithsonian and other prestigious museums do this. It varies the display, without adding to the clutter.

NOT Clutter

  • Functional objects for which you have a use, that are not broken or damaged.

More to come in Part II…

Personal Hygiene

I know, I know. This is stuff everyone knows, right? My experience says that no, it isn’t stuff everyone knows. So bear with me.

What is personal hygiene?

Personal hygiene is stuff like having and wearing clean clothes, showering, washing your hair, wearing deodorant, keeping your hair (facial and otherwise) trimmed, and so forth. Makeup and clothing is covered more under grooming, which is a more complex subject to be covered in a future post.

Why is it important?

You’ll be judged by whether you take care of yourself or not. If you don’t care enough about yourself to take care of yourself, why should anyone else? Failure to maintain good hygiene can affect every aspect of your life.

It will affect your ability to form relationships, whether romantic or platonic — who wants to be around someone who smells?

It will affect your ability to win and keep a job — since you are a representative of your employer, poor personal hygiene can reflect badly on your employer and create a nasty work environment for those around you. People can and do get fired for poor personal hygiene, especially in customer-facing jobs.

It can affect your health — failure to wash regularly can result in some nasty skin conditions, not to mention carrying or contracting communicable diseases.

What do I need to do?

How much you need to do depends on the situation and circumstances, so this is broken into sections.


These are things that everyone absolutely has to do in order to be acceptable in public. The only time it’s okay to skip things in this category is if you’re cleaning, working out, or doing something else that will get you dirty or sweaty, in which case you should clean up afterwards.

These include:

  • Showering (with soap)
  • Washing your hair (with soap)
  • Washing your face (with soap)
  • Wearing deodorant
  • Wearing clean clothes
  • Brushing your teeth

For our friend college students: Pajamas don’t count as clothes that are OK to wear in public.

If you have good hygiene, you shouldn’t smell like anything in particular. If you’re prone to heavy sweating or your body odor is particularly noxious, it could be a medical issue. Consult with your doctor for suggestions on how to reduce sweating and problematic body odor.

A note about hair washing: Most people don’t have to wash their hair daily, and indeed, most hairdressers recommend that you don’t because of the risk of hair breakage. For those with oily scalps, they recommend using a dry shampoo every other day to absorb the oils and keep your hair from looking stringy. I have yet to find one of these that works for me and doesn’t make my hair go limp or frizzy, so I do wash my hair daily and use a biotin conditioner to strengthen my hair. How often you need to wash is based on your ethnicity, genetics, and activity level. Consult with your hairdresser, but use your own best judgment.

Suggested and Appreciated

These are things that are generally wise to do, especially if your clothes are revealing in some way. Doing these things will improve your appearance and how people regard you, but not doing them won’t usually get you thrown out of an establishment.

These include:

  • Removal / trimming of unwanted hair
  • Nail care
  • Skin care
  • Hair care – brushing/combing, etc.
  • Use of mouthwash

Keep in mind that heavy perfume/cologne can trigger asthma attacks in certain people, and even if they smell good, too much can also be offensive. Go easy on these products.

Clean Clothing

Some clothing can be worn more than once, if it has not been somewhere smelly or dirty. This usually applies to outerwear. Here’s a general guide to “can I wear it a second time?” If the answer is no, it should be tossed in the laundry hamper at once. If it can be re-worn, lay it neatly over a chair or similar.

  • Does it smell like anything? If so, NO.
  • Does it have any marks or stains on it? If so, NO.
  • Is the article of clothing underwear or socks? If so, NO.
  • Is the article of clothing a pair of trousers that have already been worn more than once? If so, NO.
  • For the ladies: is it a bra that has already been worn more than twice? If so, NO.
  • Is the article of clothing a shirt that has been worn more than four hours? If so, NO.

Washing Your Hands

Improper or insufficient hand washing is the most common means of spreading flu and the common cold. You should wash your hands:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before eating
  • After touching your face
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • Whenever they get dirty

To wash your hands properly:

  • Wet your hands with warm water.
  • Add 1-2 pumps of soap and rub vigorously for 20 seconds.
  • Make sure to get the backs of your hands and in and around your fingernails.
  • Dry with a paper towel.

Sharing of Personal Items

If you live with your bestie or you live with your children or spouse, and money’s tight, it can be tempting to share personal hygiene items in the interest of conservation. However, because of the possibility of sharing germs and communicable diseases, there are some items that should never be shared.

  • Underwear. Please don’t ever share underwear with anyone. Yeast infections and some STD’s can be passed in this way. Throw it away if you suspect that anyone else has worn it.
  • Socks. Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection that is an unholy pain in the rear to get rid of once introduced. It can be passed by wearing someone else’s used socks, so don’t.
  • Toothbrushes. Do you really want to stick something in your mouth that has been in someone else’s mouth? Neither do I. Get your own and keep track of whose is whose.
  • Hairbrushes. This is particularly an issue with school-age children, but can happen to anyone. Sharing a hairbrush with a school-age child is asking for a case of head lice.
  • Body sponges / washcloths. Two people shouldn’t use the same one at the same time, although in the latter case, a washcloth that has been through the laundry is safe for another person to use. Body sponges should be washed or replaced regularly.

A Final Word on Hygiene

These instructions given above are typical. Everyone is a little different, and your exact hygiene routine will depend on your ethnicity, genetics, and activity levels among other things. Personal hygiene goals:

  • You shouldn’t smell like anything in particular.
  • Your hair should not be stringy, dirty, or messy.
  • You should not be sweating copiously.
  • You should not have bad breath.
  • You should not be a carrier of communicable disease.