Ask Mikey Michelle Arana

Dear Mikey,

I have been collecting things for years throughout my life, my travels, and each one of my life milestones. My husband and I share a three-bedroom home and we are just recently new empty-nesters. I guess I did not realize until our kids left home how much stuff we really had.

My husband has always made comments here and there about how much stuff we had, but I never really paid much attention to what he said. Lately, because it is just the two of us he has been complaining about it a lot more.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not hoarders but we could use a little de-cluttering. At the same time, a lot of the things we have are momentous for me.

How do I know what to get rid of and what to keep, and get my husband to stop complaining all at the same time?

— Wanting to de-clutter

Dear Wanting to de-clutter,

A lot of times, years will go by, we will collect treasures we have come across in our life adventures, only to one day watch them add up to clutter our homes. When we already live with clutter, we get so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize how bad it may be — that is, until someone else says something. In this case, your husband is that person.

There is nothing wrong with having things, but when your things are causing stress in your relationship and/or home, it may be time to de-clutter your life.

You mentioned you and your husband were newly empty-nesters so you’re probably looking around your house to see that you have a lot of things that belong to your kids, whether from their childhood or young adulthood. If this is the case, and your children have places of their own, then it is time to give all of their childhood stuff or other belongings back to them. If they do not want any of it, then donate their things to charity.

The best approach after you remove your children’s belongings is to take it room by room. Start with one room and take three different colors of Post-its. Your goal is to make three different piles; one is a keep pile (memento/something you need), a trash pile (garbage or anything that cannot be useful if donated to charity), and a donation pile (something that another person can get some use out of). If you have an organized system, you will be more successful at de-cluttering your life.

The trick is after you go through everything room by room, is to instantly donate your donation pile that day, throw away your trash pile that day, and then organize what is left in that particular room that day. If you linger too long, then you will probably just end up leaving the piles and re-cluttering that room all over again. After you get rid of the piles, you will get best results by cleaning the room and making the best possible use for any remaining space. Now is the time to possibly invest in some organizational furniture so you can prevent cluttering in the future.

When it comes to clothes, remind yourself that you do not need those 20 pairs of pants. Perhaps three or four will do and if you are having trouble with this part, then just remind yourself that while you have 20 pairs of jeans that have never been worn in your closet, there is someone out there in the world that would be thankful to just be able to own one pair.

As you clean and organize each room, you will feel instant stress lifted off of you, your husband, and the aura of your home to where it will motivate you to want to continue and maintain a de-cluttered home and life.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She offers free peer advice, however, Mikey is not licensed or trained, just a fellow friend to the community. All inquiries made to Mikey will remain anonymous unless legal issues occur. She can be reached at or visit

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