Connie Ellefson cover

Clutter affects us all, no matter how big or how tiny our houses are. Connie Ellefson believes that clutter ties up a huge amount of energy and creativity. In her new book, Clear The Space Feel The Rush, Connie offers tons of strategies for how you can get started with decluttering and organizing, and she shares some really good ones in this interview.

In This Episode:

  • Why is decluttering so difficult?
  • How Connie handles old photos and mementos
  • Games that make tidying up fun
  • Sometimes clutter is a good thing
  • Advice you probably haven’t heard about your old clothes
  • How to break it all down into manageable pieces

Links and Resources:


Guest Bio:

Connie Ellefson

Connie Ellefson

Connie Ellefson is an engineer, author, and professional organizer working in the Denver metro area to help people release the incredible amount of creativity and energy tied up in unnecessary clutter. Whether physical, mental, or possessional, clutter takes up space in our psyches and calendars that could be put to much more productive, creative, and fun use.

Realizing the rush of delicious energy that comes from decluttering and organizing a space is the same rush we get from exercising or releasing emotional burdens. With “Clear the Space Feel the Rush” she’s all about letting people know you can start anywhere on your decluttering journey.



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Connie's book gives you great strategies for decluttering and organizing any space


Connie Ellefson 0:00

They said, "If you had an hour to get out of your house with whatever you could carry out in an hour - you don't have to leave the house immediately because the flood's coming or the fire or whatever - what would you take and what would you leave behind?"

Ethan Waldman 0:16

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 227 with Connie Ellefson. Today we are talking clutter. Clutter is something that affects all of us, whether we live tiny now or we're hoping to live tiny in the future. Or maybe we're never going to live tiny at all. Clutter is in all of our lives. And my guest Connie Ellefson thinks that clutter is tying up a huge amount of creativity and energy. In her new book, Clear The Space Feel The Rush, Connie offers tons of different strategies for how you can start to declutter. And she actually has some ideas and techniques to add to the kind of elephant in the decluttering space, Marie Kondo. So I will actually ask Connie for some of those strategies, and she shares a lot of really good ones. So I hope you stick around and give the interviewer a listen with Connie Ellefson.

But before we get started, did you know that I personally send a tiny house newsletter every week on Tuesdays. It's called Tiny Tuesdays and it's a weekly email with tiny house news, interviews, photos and resources. It's free to subscribe and I even share sneak peeks of things that are coming up, ask for feedback about upcoming podcast guests, and more. It's really the best place to keep a pulse on what I'm doing in the tiny house space and also stay informed of what's going on in the tiny house movement. To sign up, go to, where you can sign up for the Tiny Tuesdays newsletter. And of course you can unsubscribe at any time. I will never send you spam and if you ever don't want to receive emails, it's easy to unsubscribe. So again, that's Thanks and I hope you enjoy next week's Tiny Tuesdays newsletter

All right, I am here with Connie Ellefson. Connie is an engineer, author, and professional organizer working in the Denver Metro area to help people release the incredible amount of creativity and energy tied up in unnecessary clutter. Whether physical, mental, or professional, clutter takes up space in our psyches and calendars that could be put in much more productive, creative, and fun use. Realizing the rush of delicious energy that comes from decluttering and organizing a space is the same rush we get from exercising or releasing emotional burdens. With Clear the Space Feel the Rush she's all about letting people know you can start anywhere on your decluttering journey. Connie, welcome to the show.

Connie Ellefson 3:09

Thank you, Ethan.

Ethan Waldman 3:10

Yeah, thanks for being here. I want to feel the rush. How does that work?

Connie Ellefson 3:16

Well, have you ever decluttered a closet or even your glove compartment in your car or any space at all?

Ethan Waldman 3:23

Absolutely. Yeah, I've definitely emptied out a drawer and gotten rid of some stuff and put it all back in.

Connie Ellefson 3:31

Well did you notice how good it felt once you got done with that and every time you looked at it for a while?

Ethan Waldman 3:37

So good.

Connie Ellefson 3:39

Until you messed it up again?

Ethan Waldman 3:42

Exactly. But I guess it's also there's, there's a really hard part when you get to something that you're like, "I know I shouldn't keep this but I want to keep it and I don't have room for it." So that's like the opposite of the rush. What do you call that feeling?

Connie Ellefson 3:58

That's the snag. Anyway, we all have that all the time. So the rush happens when you get it all done. And it makes it worth worth all the effort.

Ethan Waldman 4:10


Connie Ellefson 4:11

But I realized just a few months ago as I was finishing up the book that basically the rush is endorphins, pleasure chemicals or, or pain relieving chemicals. Similar to what would happen if you eat some spicy food and you're - and it's just the right amount of spice where it doesn't actually hurt but it's a little bit challenging. Your brain thinks you're getting burned, so it sends out endorphins to relieve the pain. So that's the rush. It's endorphins.

Ethan Waldman 4:42

Got it.

Connie Ellefson 4:42

And and I don't know how it magically transfers from whirling up all this stagnant energy of your stagnant stuff that turns into the rush in your body. But that's, that's what it is in non technical terms. But I realized that when you exercise, like for half an hour or go running or walking, you start to feel kind of exhilarated and that's decluttering your body. And it's also that rush. That exhilarated feeling that you feel when you exercise for a bit.

Ethan Waldman 5:15


Connie Ellefson 5:16

And then I realized, when you have an emotional release, that the same thing happens. The most simple form is if you're super upset about something, and then you just let yourself have a good cry, you always feel better after that. So it's the same thing. It's the endorphins again. And there's more about that I'll talk about a little bit later. But that's the rush, basically.

Ethan Waldman 5:40

Nice, nice. And I guess I asked about the second part first, but the first part of the book title is Clear The Space.

Connie Ellefson 5:48


Ethan Waldman 5:49

Do you mean? Yeah. What do you mean by that?

Connie Ellefson 5:53

It's a phrase that appeared in my head in 2008, when I was trying to think of a name for my company. It means 'clear this space for your dreams, your wonderful, welcoming home for your friends to come to. Clear the space for your kids to run around. Clear the space for your skateboard to have its own parking place in the house. It's an open ended phrase, it can mean whatever you want it to.

Ethan Waldman 6:22


Connie Ellefson 6:23

And it just showed up so strangely, that I said, "Okay, that's it." And I immediately went in and got a domain name with that, with that phrase. It's not quite the same as "clear space" or "clear a space." It's pretty open ended.

Ethan Waldman 6:39

Clear the space feel the rush. It has a good ring to it.

Connie Ellefson 6:45


Ethan Waldman 6:46

So I want to kind of rewind a little bit and hear about why you got into professional organizing, or professional clutter reduction in the first place.

Connie Ellefson 7:04

Right. Well, I'm pretty sure that my childhood had something to do with it. You asked me about my 344 square foot trailer that I lived in the first four years of my life. My father worked for an oil company and then so we would move every six months to a year. And it was sometimes even more often those first five or six years that that we lived in it. My little sister came along when I was three, so it was four of us. And that's just the way we did it, we moved in crews of people like 20 families that would move from one place to the next. And it was obviously much easier to move a little trailer then pack up the house every single time. So lots of people did it that way. And I remember that it never felt that crowded. So I have to assume that we just didn't have that much stuff. Then I grew up still moving, but then with boxes. So I always had an eye to when the next move was so that limited how much how many things I wanted to have. I was terrified to get more stuff because I didn't want the move to get dragged out. I went off to college with everything. I guess it was actually after college, after college, I moved to Denver to seek my fortune and everything I owned, including my 10 speed bike, and two big speakers fit in my car. So I continued that way. Like I just had this mindset of keep your belongings to a minimum. And then five years later, my husband at the time and I we moved with our two little boys to a new house. We've had a custom home that we built. And it took me and five big guys four and a half hours to put everything in a in a moving van. So I said, "What happened you know, in those years?" So that's the journey I started then going back the other way, downsizing and I'm a civil engineer, which is a I work in land development, which is goes up and down with the economy. So after 9-11 I was laid off from four jobs in six years. So I have remembered that I enjoyed organizing my desk as much or more than the work. So I thought I would try professional organizing.

Ethan Waldman 9:28


Connie Ellefson 9:29

Because I know what a difference that it makes when you're trying to work and you can't get... Your productivity's about cut in half if you've got a bunch of stuff in your visual, you know visual clutter.

Ethan Waldman 9:43

Yeah, no, it's... There's no question about that. I live in a pretty small place now myself and I noticed that sometimes because the space is small, the storage areas are very full and even that can be very just overbearing when you open the closet. And you know, you feel like it's floor to ceiling just like packed.

Connie Ellefson 10:08

Right, right. The feng shui experts recommend that when you get done with your decluttering, you leave at least say a third to a quarter of the space open. And that way you don't have that overwhelming feeling when you look in there. And, and the theory as it brings, it leaves room for more good things to come into your life. And they may or may not be tangible.

Ethan Waldman 10:33


Connie Ellefson 10:33

So you don't necessarily fill that space up again. But there's room for other wonderful things to come in. Because you're not feeling that cramped feeling. That you just described.

Ethan Waldman 10:47

What's the difference in your mind between decluttering and organizing? Because I do feel like they're two different things. Do you agree?

Connie Ellefson 10:56

Yes, absolutely. For most people, the decluttering part is by far the hardest. And even though there's wonderful organizing books out there, that's actually the easier part of it. Because once you get down to the stuff that you really love and use it, it sort of makes like sense where you want to put them. And you always try to put them as close to where you're going where they're going to be used, of course. But for me the decluttering part, I heard that when we, when we even touch an object, like we're in a store, and they let you play with the Apple computer or whatever, you you start to feel it like it's your own. Even if you haven't purchased it yet, you already feel like it's yours. And when you have to put it back down or you don't go ahead and buy it, there's a little bit of pain involved. Similar to getting a paper cut or a minor burn, your brain just is, I don't know, I'm sure there's some primeval reason why we don't want to let go of that which we already have. Makes you feel more more vulnerable. But for some reason, for some people, it's absolute torture, or others, they're they're easily able to let go of things. And that varies obviously hugely. But getting started is usually the hardest part. And that's what my book is all about. I have many, many strategies to help you get over the hump of, "I don't even want to get started. Because I know I'm going to reach a point pretty quickly, where there's something that I don't want to let go of."

Ethan Waldman 12:35

Yeah. Well, so many of my listeners are people who are hoping to live in a tiny house, maybe they're planning one right now or even building one. And, you know, I think that that experience of decluttering of getting rid of stuff is something that that many listeners will go through or are going through right now. And I'm curious, could you share a couple of those strategies that you offer in the book just to you know, to offer to our listeners?

Connie Ellefson 13:03

Sure. Yes, one of them is, if you're going to organize a closet or a room or whatever, you take everything out of it. Then you start. Just that one step releases all the stagnant energy that's tied up in stuff. And then you start putting, you be very, very strict about what you put back in, okay, and analyze it. Marie Kondo has her method of whether it sparks joy or not. Put back in the most beloved items, then the most used items. There was one story I heard once that I always loved. They said, "If you had an hour to get out of your house with, with whatever you could carry out in an hour - you don't have to, you don't have to leave the house immediately because the flood's coming or the fire whatever - what would you take and what would you leave behind?" And if you look at your items with that point of view, you immediately see which are your most beloved items. You you might be able to take more than your favorite, you know, photo album of your kids growing up or whatever.

Ethan Waldman 14:14


Connie Ellefson 14:15

You could take quite a bit out in an hour. So those are going to be your, your most prized possessions. So if you look at that, look at an eye with all you've taken out of this space and put back only the things that you absolutely adore or make you feel cool or you use them every single day, then you look at the rest of the stuff that's left over and you go, "Not so hard to let go of you now that I see the difference." You can see them split apart into the Favorites versus the Non favorites.

Ethan Waldman 14:46

What about the kind of family mementos? Maybe old picture albums old you know, things that you have some sentimental attachment to but are nonetheless sitting in a box in the highest shelf in your closet. Those are the kinds of things that I that tiny house dwellers oftentimes have to really wrestle with. Do you have any strategies or advice around those those items?

Connie Ellefson 15:12

Yeah, those are the most difficult. And I used to do photo albums. But now I simply put all the photos in a box, that's about the size of what the old VHS tape boxes. You can buy them in any store that sells general items. It's a, it's a box a little bit bigger than shoebox that you can put several years worth of small photos in, in one little box. So I basically just tried to, to downsize as much as I can.

Ethan Waldman 15:44


Connie Ellefson 15:45

And start with this stuff. That's the easiest, again, it's, it's the sort of thing that if you start pulling out all the pictures that are blurry, or not very good, or whatever, or if you have 100 photos of an event, like a trip, you can set them all out in front of you and say, "I'm going to pick out the 10 best, or the 20, favorites or whatever." So anything you can do to downsize helps you helps get you going. And as soon as you've gotten through the first batch, hopefully you start with the easier easiest. And it does get easier and easier to let go and see what you absolutely value. And that which you don't really care about that much.

Ethan Waldman 16:28


Connie Ellefson 16:29

I just always throw away anything... My parents were amateur photographers. So my when my mom died, there were literally 1000s of photos. But I pretty much throw away because I don't... I mean I love landscapes and sceneries and the great outdoors. But I throw away almost every picture that's like that. I only keep the ones with people in them. Because I know I can go look on the internet and probably see a nicer picture of it anyway, whatever the location was. So I don't worry too much about pictures that were just scenery unless it's, you know, really stunning, nice. And then other mementos, if you have kids artwork or something you might... One of the women that I listened to once that she had one garment size box, a large, say, a couple feet wide, two inches tall, maybe, you know, 18 inches long. So she would keep all the each kid had their own box, and they would put the artwork in each year. And when the box got full, and she would work with the child and decide which ones they could they can let go of let in the new year's stuff. And then in the overall scheme of things, this stuff doesn't really take up that much room. So you won't feel guilty if you want to keep every single one of them.

Ethan Waldman 17:50

What about working with partners, spouses, I think that that's also something that I hear about tiny house living in general, like, "Oh, I would love to, I'd love to live in a tiny house. I'm trying to convince my husband or convinced my wife." But then, you know, I've also just experienced in my own relationship, my own marriage, just like that we have different philosophies on how long things should be kept, you know, what, what should be held on to what's worth saving. and what's not? How do you? I mean, I'm sure it's it's different for every situation, but do you have any any strategies or advice for kind of getting on the same page as your spouse?

Connie Ellefson 18:34

that's always gonna happen. There's, nobody's ever gonna have the same amount of decluttering mindset. So one of the things, the most interesting things I learned was there was a study at UCLA, where they discovered that older teenagers and men tended to be much less bothered by stuff stacked around. They liked having their belongings out where they could see him and all over the place, even though they were, you know, crowded. And women were the ones who tended to be like, "I can't stand all this." They're, they're much more bothered by it in general. And I'm sure there's exceptions. But especially if you're, if both of you want to live in the tiny house, then it's probably a matter of negotiation. We each have X number of cubic feet of belongings we could bring to the table. And unless it's something we both used and both agree on, we're going to need to figure out which things we treasure most. Or try to make it a game you know, it's anything you can make into a game is makes it more likely to happen. That's one of my favorite phrases. Make it fun, it's more likely to get done.

Ethan Waldman 19:51

So how do you make cleaning out the closet fun?

Connie Ellefson 19:56

Oh, I love it. It's not hard for me. But I, I play games too. Like, it's more like the daily clutters what's sitting around the house, you know, it's not so much the closet. But I'll I'll put away 10 things. I'll say, set a timer for 10 minutes and see if I can put away 50 items in 10 minutes, or I vary it, like five minutes per room. How much can I tidy up in each room in five minutes?

Ethan Waldman 20:26


Connie Ellefson 20:27

But you were asking about the the bigger declutter. One of the sections in my book, there's like, eight or nine different suggestions for what, what motivates you to declutter. And I did hear a wonderful sentence recently that said, "Nobody really knows why other people hold on to things." So I was glad that I had nine or 10, different options. What inspires you? For example, if you're super, super kind person, and you just so kind, you can think about how whatever it is, you're letting go of can go to someone else, that would love it to pieces, and you're not even paying any attention to it anymore. So there's lots of different tricks in the book about what inspires you. One of my favorite authors, she wrote a book called What the Soul Wants for Christmas. And basically, overall, it's a, it's a book about decluttering, the heart, the habits or traditions that we have around holidays. It's also about life, but the stuff that you, you just keep doing it over and over, because that's what you've always done. Maybe nobody in the family really enjoys it anymore. And she had one chapter about too much stuff. And this line was completely galvanizing to me. She talked about getting help from friend or professional organizer, she said, "That stuff isn't going to move itself. The time is ticking away. Your life is being hampered by inanimate objects." And I thought, "Wow, if that was ever a line to motivate me! I'm not going to let my life be run by inanimate objects."

Ethan Waldman 22:11

I like that.

Connie Ellefson 22:12

So you have to find whatever inspires you and maybe make yourself a big sign, scribble it up with a big black marker and set it up in front of you. Keep reminding you.

Ethan Waldman 22:24

So the I think, Marie Kondo's book and subsequent TV show really brought the idea of decluttering into the mainstream. I'm curious, what led you to write your book? And, you know, why did you decide to write another book on organizing in this space that seems like it's it's gotten more crowded over the last few years?

Connie Ellefson 22:52

Yeah, for sure. Well, I noticed that lots of times, I'd read a new organizing book, and I'd get all excited about the method and I would follow it, for whatever, days, weeks, whatever. And then I would just stop at the 90% mark, I wouldn't go all the way to completion. Or maybe once in a while, I would get the whole house organized. And then within two months, it would be a mess again. So I'm like, "There's something else going on. It's not just about the stuff. It's not just about having the perfect way to do it. There's emotional clutter, there's mental and emotional stuff that's holding you back from completing the task." And then it was just a hop and a skip to think that if you're tired all the time, because you're not eating very well, or you're not getting enough exercise, that could also hold you back.

So I decided to write a book that covers each of those three main topics. So someone could start somewhere else, or most people it's the emotional clutter that keeps them from finishing the job. Something in your past or, or whatever holds you back. And it's it's usually pretty subconscious. You don't even realize what it is. mean, I kind of realized because my, my background was pretty obvious that I grew up with very little things. And I grew up with the horror of having too many things. But somehow that switched along the way to something a lot more lackadaisical. But yeah, there was something that made me feel like if I just finished the final... The root of all fear is death. "I'll die if I finish this up." There was something that would hold me back. So doing some of the strategies in that chapter of the book can help you get to the bottom of it, or help you get past basically just take some action even though you are feeling this thing.

Ethan Waldman 24:56


Connie Ellefson 24:58

Whatever it is.

Ethan Waldman 24:59

Is there anything that's good about clutter?

Connie Ellefson 25:03

Yes. You saw that section huh?

Ethan Waldman 25:06


Connie Ellefson 25:07

Okay, when getting rid of clutter or keeping your house 100%, clutter free all the time becomes the main goal of the home, then you're squelching a lot of people's creativity and initiative to explore new things, especially if there's kids around or even a spouse or whatever or housemate. You can you can really stifle a lot of people's creativity, if that's the number one goal in your housekeeping. The other times clutter is good is if you're just in the middle of an amazing creative project, and you don't even see it because you're so focused on it.

And then, when you get it done, of course, that's the time to go ahead and tidy up. When I was working on my engineering, which I was still doing, the best part of the whole project was getting it done putting all the throwing away papers I hadn't used to recycling them and putting the files away and clearing off my desk again. That was the best part of the job for me. I love that stuff. But sometimes in the middle, I was just tunnel vision to get it done. And it was it was fun, because it didn't matter. My number one tip in the whole book is first declutter the guilt. So if you're feeling guilty that well, I'm 90% done with this project that I'm working on, but oh, look at the house, what a wreck it is. You're, you're just wasting your time. So that's the first thing that I always tell people to declutter in any, any of the three areas, body, mind or stuff. Get rid of the guilt first.

Ethan Waldman 26:51

I like that. Speaking of kind of guilt, or just stuff that isn't necessarily like the stuff that you would take if your house was burning down... One of the hardest things for me to let go of is stuff that I kind of might need in the future. And I find that sometimes the advice of like, "Oh, well, you can just buy it again, if you need it," is, is tricky, especially, you know, given, you know, my background, and many of many people who are planning to live in a tiny home are doing doing it out of frugality or you know, wanting to have a lifestyle where they spend less money. So this idea of like, "Oh, I'll just buy it again, in the future," is less appealing? How do you how do you advise people kind of evaluate that stuff that they're holding on to, that they kind of might need in the future?

Connie Ellefson 27:52

Yeah, that's, that's one of the most difficult ones to get over. Because none of us is free from the Depression Era frugality that your grandparents or great grandparents might have experienced. Or you had the feeling for five years there where you might never might never be able to get it again, no matter what. It just looked hopeless. So that's when we can be kind to ourselves again, about, I'm thinking you can look towards the things that the kind of things that you want to do in the future. And whether whatever this item is, is really going to support that. Or if it's just a handy thing that you think you might use, but the reality is, maybe you won't. So, again, I think it's a matter of thinking about the other people that could be using it. I'm really big on energy conservation. My two of my other three books were about low water landscaping, zerpscape, so

Ethan Waldman 28:52


Connie Ellefson 28:53

I'm big into conservation. So I like to think, "This item that sitting on my shelf, took a lot of energy to produce. And if it's just sitting there for 10 or 15 years never been used, then all that energy went to waste. So if I get it back into the stream of life with other people, and they use it, then that energy didn't go to waste." So to me, that's an inspiration. That means a lot to me.

Ethan Waldman 29:21


Connie Ellefson 29:22

So that's something that you might might think about. It's more about what you want your future to be and probably how much space it takes up.

Ethan Waldman 29:32


Connie Ellefson 29:33

I had recently I saw this, the most gorgeous hat in the world and I don't have - I only have two or three hats - but there's a couple of them that I've kept for a long, long time. "I might use this someday when I'm out gardening. It's got a wide brim." You know? The fact is I've only used it maybe four or five times in one year 30 years. And then I saw this one beautiful hat and I thought, "I could finally see letting go all those other hats to have just this one beautiful one." And then that made that made it a lot easier. And it made sense to my frugal heart.

Ethan Waldman 30:14

Right. So did you get the hat?

Connie Ellefson 30:16

No, it was somebody else's.

Ethan Waldman 30:18


Connie Ellefson 30:18

Somebody else made the purchase. I had the idea.

Ethan Waldman 30:22

Yeah, yeah.

Connie Ellefson 30:24

Now I can act on it still in the future. But the main thing about the future thing is, is that's fear. And then if you keep things from the past that's like, kind of like holding on to some sadness.

Ethan Waldman 30:38


Connie Ellefson 30:38

Because it doesn't always remind you of the person or the fun time that you had. Sometimes it makes you think, "Oh, I'm not doing that anymore."

Ethan Waldman 30:46


Connie Ellefson 30:47

So sad.

Ethan Waldman 30:48

Yeah. Well, that's one example I can think of for that is somebody who may be keeps clothes that are either now too small on them, or too big on them, you know, thinking about, Oh, I might lose weight, or I might gain weight in the future. You know, holding on to those things might not make, make them feel all that happy.

Connie Ellefson 31:07

Right. Yes, I have quite a few clothes that I sent every once in a while. I think, "Okay, I'm going to start going through these. I'm gonna wear one of these every day."

Ethan Waldman 31:16


Connie Ellefson 31:17

Until I've gone through the whole old batch. But what happens is I put them on and I'm like, "Ah, I don't really feel that good in these clothes."

Ethan Waldman 31:24


Connie Ellefson 31:26

So no wonder they keep getting passed over?

Ethan Waldman 31:28

Well, that's an interesting thing. And I'll let you finish. But I want to I want to circle back on that idea of putting the clothes on.

Connie Ellefson 31:37

Yeah, yeah. That's basically what, what I was going to say, but one of the other games that you can play with yourself is, "What if I won the lottery and I can move into the most beautiful house of my dreams? Would I bring this with me?" Or not so much even knowing that you can buy another one. Because you can afford anything you want now? But would I bother bringing that to my new house? My beautiful new home? And go ahead, I can't remember what I was gonna say.

Ethan Waldman 32:11

That's okay. I apologize for interrupting your your, your thought there.

I guess. I I definitely can identify. And I've seen people really struggle with clothing in particular. And I've never heard the advice to actually put the clothes, put the thing on, and to see how you feel wearing it. Because I feel like that that kind of you get out of your head thinking about, you know, maybe when you bought the garment or who gave it to you or how expensive it was. And it's just, it's just on your body. And you're like, "How do I feel wearing this thing?"

Connie Ellefson 32:50

Right. Yeah, that will that will really tell the story of whether it's worth keeping for you or giving to someone else.

Ethan Waldman 32:58


Connie Ellefson 32:59

to hopefully enjoy some of my favorite clothes are ones I bought at a thrift store. So I'm glad those other people passed them along.

Ethan Waldman 33:07

Yeah. Yeah. So a little comment from from a listener just from Sherry says, "COVID gave me the excuse to finally get rid of all the business clothes that I always hated anyway, but I felt like I should have them. I donated them all." That's awesome.

Connie Ellefson 33:23


Ethan Waldman 33:24

Yeah, yeah.

Connie Ellefson 33:26

That's outstanding.

Ethan Waldman 33:27

And I'm sure you made somebody else very happy. Who needed business suits?

Connie Ellefson 33:31

That's right. Exactly.

Ethan Waldman 33:33


Connie Ellefson 33:34

Yeah, you can you get to the point. It's just as you get older, you realize what things really matter to you and which ones don't. The thing that for me is I have a bunch of different colored T shirts that are all one color. And almost, there's like seven or eight of them. And they all have a spot on them. Because I've had them a long time, you know, dropped a piece of food or whatever, and I couldn't get the stain out. So maybe I'll wear them under another shirt. But that's kind of like, but then I want to go put something bright on and, oh, it's got a stain on it. And then I've recently realized that learned about the term upcycle, which it didn't really know what it meant. But I also have I'm kind of a nonconformist, and I haven't sewn. I like to sew. I haven't done a that are really long time years. But all of a sudden, I thought, hey, I could take these T shirts, which are all kind of raggedy looking but I love their logo. And I could sew them onto my spots on my other shirt. I could create some crazy new clothing so I could take it. I could exercise my artistic longing to get something like that done, have something that nobody else in the world has. So that'll make me unique and take up half the space because I'm combining two garments.

Ethan Waldman 34:49

Yeah, that's cool.

Connie Ellefson 34:52

Win win win.

Ethan Waldman 34:54

And have you started doing it?

Connie Ellefson 34:57

Well, yeah, I started laying out which ones which too. shirt logo I put on which of my collared shirts, so I'm on my way.

Ethan Waldman 35:06

Cool, cool. That's, that's a good tip, kind of upcycling clothes. I've become very ruthless about donating or getting rid of clothes that that have stains on them. Because I've found that I don't like the feeling of wearing a shirt with a stain or pants with a stain. And I used to keep them and be like, "Oh, I'll wear these. These are like my junk pants. You know, I'll wear these when I'm doing a job outside." But like, all you need is one pair of like, you know, junk t shirt, junk pants, and then the rest is just like no. I've really gotten more ruthless about that stuff.

Connie Ellefson 35:47

Well, good for you.

Ethan Waldman 35:48

Thank you. Thank you.

Do you have like a number one decluttering tip like if you you could only give our listeners one piece of advice about decluttering, what would it be?

Connie Ellefson 36:02

Well, it's, as I said earlier, it's first declutter the guilt. And keep reminding yourself that. So if I had a second tip, it would be it's so worth it. It's, it takes some time. But it frees up so much more time after that.

Ethan Waldman 36:20


Connie Ellefson 36:21

that it's worth slogging through.

Ethan Waldman 36:23


Connie Ellefson 36:24

So keep your keep your spirit up. Keep doing it, because it'll, it'll hugely pay off in your life.

Ethan Waldman 36:32

Nice. hat's actually kind of reminds me of a question. It's been a little while since I've read Marie Kondo's book, but I remember that she kind of advocates for doing an entire, either an entire room at a time or like, an entire category at a time, like get all of your clothes or get all of this. And I feel like in, in my busy life, and in our busy lives, that can be a big time commitment to, you know, empty out an entire closet or an entire area. And I'm curious, you know, do you advocate for the same thing? Or is it okay to go in smaller chunks? And if so, like, how do you recommend chunking down?

Connie Ellefson 37:22

Well, that's one of the reasons that I wrote the book.

Ethan Waldman 37:24


Connie Ellefson 37:25

She does recommend doing one category. She says, "No, don't do just one room because then you go to the next room and you're, you're organizing the same categories of stuff." And the purpose of getting it all in one place is then then it's super easy to see. Oh, yeah, these are my favorite clothes. And the rest of them don't look that great.

Ethan Waldman 37:46


Connie Ellefson 37:46

or my favorite books or whatever. So she's, she's also coming from the point of view of Japan, where lots of people live in much smaller spaces than we do. So they probably have less stuff. So it's not maybe not as overwhelming to do one category from your from your whole house. And, like she says, just have one, one of each item, like one tape dispenser or whatever. And I'm like, "Well, I have, I have a small house, but it's got lots of rooms. So I don't really want to have to go all the way down whatever when I need the tape dispenser right this second." So I think it's still a good idea to have certain things, especially things like chemicals to clean the bathroom.

Ethan Waldman 38:31


Connie Ellefson 38:32

You don't want to put any barriers to getting that hated task done. So with them wherever they're needed to make it super easy to do whatever you need to do, especially if it's something you don't like, but she just has a different point of view. And then as I loved I love some of her her ideas like I I fold my clothes, her best tip for me was whatever you hang up in your closet takes more space than if you have a way to fold it up on a shelf or in a box or something. So I recently took all my trousers and folded them into my workout pants and my regular ones and I folded them the Marie Kondo way in little boxes on the shelf and I took what was on the shelf and put it up above where iI had stored all these clothing. And, and it looks a lot better. And it's it's more concise, and just tidier as she likes to say. I think that the word, the life changing Magic of Tidying Up, there must be some difference in translation from Japanese because that's where it didn't, it was translated as when she uses the word tidy. And I think of the word tidy. It's something different, I believe, just by the way she uses it, but she definitely inspired me so I'm extremely grateful.

Ethan Waldman 39:56

Nice. How much, like, in-person decluttering and organizing work are you doing these days? Are you focusing mainly on writing and helping people through through the dissemination of ideas?

Connie Ellefson 40:12

Yes, I, I figured the book could help a lot more people than just me helping an individual family. I got lots of wonderful stories from my, from my past clients. And I do still occasionally I work for another woman who does senior move management to help the elderly people move from their house to their assisted living or whatever. So I, I help with those just basically doing packing and unpacking and putting away and getting them situated in their new homes so they're not looking at boxes for months at a time. So that's pretty rewarding. And every single time, it's interesting to see what people have saved and what they've let go of, and what's gonna fit in their new space, because it's never... The storage never matches exactly what you had before. And

Ethan Waldman 41:03


Connie Ellefson 41:04

and that's, that's always interesting. But one of the coolest stories I got out of that was two women, that we that we helped her do this move, one had been very wealthy, and the other one had lived a modest life with her husband had been a college professor, they both moved into the same place. The wealthy woman had grown up with wealth, she travelled the world, she had all kinds of valuable objects. She had met the artists, you know, she had all this tight connection with her valuable stuff. And the other lady just said, "You know, 90% of my stuff is junk. Let's get rid of it." So they both moved into the same complex, the same apartment. And when we got done with the lady who had decluttered so much, her house looked like a show home. And she was just thrilled to pieces. She started crying, she was so happy with her new space. And then the other woman we put we unpacked and put away as much as we possibly could. And she still had many, many boxes unpacked by the time we got done. She got tired of us being there so she sent us on our way, but I never forgot that.

Ethan Waldman 42:13


Connie Ellefson 42:14

It was great.

Ethan Waldman 42:15


Connie Ellefson 42:16

It's also one of the best ways to inspire yourself to get rid of everything. As soon as you help somebody else move and you think, "Oh my goodness, how can they possibly keep this for 40 years?" then you just want to go home and throw everything away?

Ethan Waldman 42:30

And throw everything of yours away?

Connie Ellefson 42:32


Ethan Waldman 42:35

Well, where can people find you and your book?

Connie Ellefson 42:38

Okay, it's right now it's in the advanced readers copy stage, although you can find the eBook on Amazon as a Kindle book. And we have

Ethan Waldman 42:48


Connie Ellefson 42:48

if you go to my website, which is, you can learn how you can either just purchase a copy, it's it's pretty complete, we might, we might change a few things. But right now it's you can buy either buy a copy or if you are willing to give a review or feedback, you can get a copy for free, from the website.



Ethan Waldman 43:14

Awesome. Well, Connie Ellifson, thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. This was really great.

Connie Ellefson 43:22

Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Ethan. That was, it was awesome.

Ethan Waldman 43:26

Thank you so much to Connie Ellefson for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes including a complete transcript and links to Connie's website and book over at Again, that's Also, don't forget to check out the Tiny Tuesdays newsletter over at Again, that's Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman. And I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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