How to prevent clutter creep in your guest room

Guest bedroom

It’s lovely to have a guest room in your home, but it can easily turn into yet another place to store things you rarely or never use.

What gets stored in guest rooms

We’re talking clothes and shoes you haven’t worn in years, and other household items you can’t squeeze into any of the other storage areas of your home but don’t feel ready to part with just yet.

Guest bedrooms are also sometimes used as a place to hang washing to dry, or to put laundry that is waiting to be ironed or folded.

Maybe it’s where you throw your yoga kit or sports equipment when it’s not in use? Or put items that need to be repaired?

And, of course, if you’re having a clutter clearing purge, where better to stash all the things you eventually plan to donate to charity?

The problem is that most items dumped in guest bedrooms tend to take up permanent residence there, so the room is never actually available for guests.

When a guest arrives to stay

When an actual guest arrives to stay, you have some urgent choices to make. You can gather up all the things you have stashed in the room and temporarily put them elsewhere (usually in your own bedroom, because that’s the area they are least likely to see). You can remove some of your stuff to create just enough room for them to unpack their case and store their things. Or you can simply leave everything as it is and expect your guest to put up with it.

The problem is not unique to private homes. A surprising number of landlords wantonly inflict their clutter on paying guests too. You won’t see it shown in any of the photos advertising the property, but when you start opening cupboards and drawers, they may very well be filled with the owner’s belongings, especially in holiday lets and Airbnb.

An immaculate one-bedroom apartment my husband and I recently stayed in turned out to have nowhere at all to store our clothes. When we asked why the closet was locked, the landlady admitted it was full of her own things. She had run out of space in her home next door and couldn’t resist using the storage area herself.

How to prevent guest room clutter creep

The best strategy of all is to pretend the guest room doesn’t exist. Nothing gets stored in there. It’s a clutter-free zone, only for guests.

What that means is, if your personal belongings won’t fit in the storage space you have available in the rest of your home, you’ve got some clutter clearing to do. And, if ever you find yourself tempted to put something in the guest room just for now, think again. Make it off-limits, out-of-bounds, strictly verboten.

‘But I only have guests once or twice a year,’ you may say. ‘Surely I can use the room the rest of the time?’

Well, it’s your decision. But clutter of any kind stored in your home will affect you in some way. The stagnant energy that accumulates around it will cause you to feel stuck in some aspect of your life. And guest bedrooms are usually stuffed full of things you never use anyway. If you didn’t keep things there, would you have guests more often?

Many studies have shown that social interaction of the face-to-face kind is an important key to living a happier, longer life. In 2010, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University, Utah, undertook a review of 148 of these studies, involving 308,000 people over a 7.5 year period. Her conclusion was that having a close circle of friends, neighbours or relatives gives a 50% better survival rate than taking more exercise, losing weight, giving up alcohol or quitting smoking. In other words, close relationships make life worth living.

So, the choice is yours ­— your clutter or your friends?

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

First published at on March 9, 2017

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Professional Clutter Clearing Practitioner Training

I announced six weeks ago that the next professional training would start in September 2018 but that was before I knew what a cold, wet and stormy month September can be here in Perth. I’ve discovered it really isn’t the best time of year to bring an international group here.

Richard and I have therefore had a rethink and have decided to move the start date of the next training to April 2019. Here’s more information about it…

The training

This training covers a range of highly effective techniques and skills that are not taught in any other professional clutter clearing program.

Major emphasis is placed on learning to discern the underlying reasons why a client has accumulated clutter in the first place, to help the person to gain a new perspective about it. This results in a greater willingness for the person to let it go and much less likelihood of them ever wanting to acquire clutter again in future.

The training also includes advanced personal energy management techniques that are vital for all professionals in this field of work to know and practice.

Part One (April 1-4, 2019)
Part One consists of a 4-day residential course at the tranquil location of the Joondalup Resort in Perth, Australia, which is also home to many kangaroos who roam the adjacent 27-hole championship golf course and graze on the luscious grass there. This part of the training includes all the skills that cannot easily be taught from a distance and also allows trainees to meet and get to know each other before embarking on Part Two.

Part Two (April 16 – September 30, 2019)
Part two consists of a series of case studies conducted over a 24-week period via skype, email and a private message board.

What is the training really like?

I am often asked this question. The best way to get the inside track on what the training is really like is to read these testimonials from previous participants:

Part One testimonials
Part Two testimonials

Who can apply for professional training?

Anyone who has already completed the following preliminary courses is welcome to apply for professional training.

Foundational Courses
Fast Track Clutter Clearing
Zero Procrastination
Clear Your Paper & Digital Clutter (previously known as Clear Your Paper Clutter)

Advanced Course
Living Clutter-Free (or the online course previously known as Part One)

If you have not yet taken any or all of these courses, the next dates are:
Fast Track Clutter Clearing – Mar 5-25, 2018
Zero Procrastination – Apr 5-25, 2018
Clear Your Paper & Digital Clutter – May 1-30, 2018
Living Clutter-Free – Jun 1-30, 2018

More information

About professional clutter clearing
Professional Clutter Clearing Practitioner Training Program

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

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Always check a person’s attic before you agree to marry them


‘There’s something missing from your book,’ a woman once told me, in very stern terms. She then sat me down and told me the story of how she had married a man who had turned out to have hoarding behaviour, and how it had caused years of anguish and strife before she eventually gave up trying to change him and left.

‘Always check a person’s attic before you agree to marry them,’ was the important piece of advice she felt I had failed to include in Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and it’s definitely a wise tactic if the person you plan to marry already has a home of their own. Their attic and also their basement, garage and cupboards will yield many clues.

She said that if she had just taken the time to climb the step-ladder to his attic and poke her nose up there, she would have called the whole thing off. But she didn’t, and he brought all his stuff with him, and that was just the start of it. As the years passed by, he got worse and worse, his stash got larger and larger, and he wouldn’t throw anything away. In the end, she had to move out, leave him with it, and start her life over again.

Insights into hoarding behaviour

To be fair, when she met him, he still had control of most of the rest of his home. It was dirty and disorganized but she figured that was just his bachelor style of living and she’d soon lick him into shape. It was only later that it turned into full-blown hoarding, as he continued to acquire items he didn’t need and wasn’t willing to part with a thing.

Like the stash in his attic, every item had special significance or value to him, even though it might only be something he picked up in the street on his way home. Once it was in the house, it belonged to him and was there to stay, regardless of whether there was room for it or not.

Worse still, after a while, she wasn’t allowed to throw anything away either, except for kitchen garbage and garden weeds. She had read my book and liked to live a clutter-free life, but every item she discarded had to be disposed of in secret to avoid emotional reactions from her spouse. She resorted to smuggling things out of the house and putting them in public waste bins to avoid the arguments she knew it would bring.

What can be done in this situation?

It’s difficult for love to thrive in such an environment. No matter how much you care for someone, their compulsive behaviour becomes like a barrier between you and them. It increasingly feels like the person you once knew is lost. If asked to choose between you and their stuff, you know you would not win.

According to the International OCD Foundation, at least 2% of the western population suffers from hoarding disorder and the real figure may be as high as 5%. That’s one in every 20 people. It’s much more widespread than most people realize.

Yes, there are various kinds of therapy available, but it’s usually a long, slow process, and the person has to want to change. Until they make that decision themselves, the sad fact is there is very little anyone can do.

If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who has hoarding disorder, my best advice is to read up on it and learn all about it. Give your partner as much help as you can. But also be sure to take care of yourself and get the support you need so that the problem doesn’t drag you under too. If it comes to the point that you need to separate, you are probably the one who will have to leave the home and start afresh, so you need to be prepared for that.

Related articles
An insight into hoarding

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

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Unconscious collecting


Unconscious collections start innocently enough, as I learned from a couple I once worked with, who owned a Dalmatian dog called Rodney. One day, while out shopping, they came across a porcelain figurine that was the splitting image of their beloved pooch. They bought it, took it home, and installed it in pride of place at the centre of their living room mantelpiece.

Little did they know what an influence it would have. Any item placed in such a key position can affect an entire home.

By the time I met them, several years later, there were Dalmatian pictures or figurines in every room of their house. They were also on their cushion covers, their bedspreads and their tea-towels. There was a huge stone Dalmatian outside their front door and another in their back garden. Everywhere you looked there was Dalmatian imagery of some kind.

The fascinating thing was that the couple were completely oblivious to this until I walked them through their home and pointed them all out. Sheepishly they opened closets to reveal even more items – Dalmatian slippers, sweaters, and even a kooky Dalmatian hat. Their love for their dog had taken over their lives, and they didn’t even know it.

There’s more to collections than meets the eye

When someone has a collection of some kind, there are always deeper reasons for it. The items themselves are only symbolic of a frequency the person feels the need to bring into their life at that time. The mistake people make is to keep on collecting without ever getting to the bottom of what the deeper reason is.

With this couple, I asked a few questions and uncovered the fact that both came from very unstable families where they had learned, growing up, that people were not to be trusted. Dogs, yes. Humans, no. So instead of lavishing love on each other, they had taken the safer route of heaping it upon their pet.

What they hadn’t realized was that they had given Rodney so much importance that they had become slaves to his every neurotic whim. They would tiptoe around when he was asleep, so as not to wake him up, and every day was scheduled around when he needed to be fed, watered, and taken for walks. Dalmatians are notoriously high-maintenance, and unconsciously they had chosen that breed precisely for that reason. By keeping themselves busy looking after it, they were able to keep their own relationship on a safe, superficial level. It all worked perfectly well. Or did it?

The truth of the matter

The tears started to flow at this point of our conversation, as they realized how much they truly loved each other and were both afraid to show it.

I heard from them several months later that they had made the momentous decision to take a vacation without their dog (something they had never done before). He was put in a local boarding kennel for two weeks, and off they went.

They admitted that simply spending time with each other was one of the most challenging things either of them had ever done, and they missed Rodney terribly. However, it got easier as the days passed and they gradually opened.

When they returned home, they cleared all but their five most favourite Dalmatian ornaments from their home, and began to put their own lives and relationship first, rather than focusing so much on their dog.  They were amazed to discover that Rodney responded to this by calming down considerably and requiring a lot less time and attention than before.

Related article
Why do people collect things?

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

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Clear Your Paper and Digital Clutter

Home office

Online course starting October 1, 2017

Paper clutter is one of the most challenging types there is because it’s so dense. You can sort through and tidy a small drawer full of general clutter in 20 minutes, but a pile of paper that occupies the same amount of space can take days, weeks, or even longer to work through.

A completely different approach is required for paper clutter clearing, which is why I run a separate online course for this, together with paper’s digital equivalents.

What the course covers

The course covers anything that is made of paper, including books, newspapers, magazines, clippings, photos, notes, cards, course notes, documents, and so on, as well as their digital equivalents, such as email, ebooks, eclippings and digital photos.

As our lives move more and more online, digital clutter is multiplying at an exponential rate. It may not take up the same physical space that physical paper does, but it certainly does take up “head space”, which can have an equally overwhelming effect.

Using methods developed over many years of working with clients online and in their homes, I will show you how to conquer each type to bring more order to your life.

How the course is structured

The course starts on October 1, 2017 and runs for 30 days, with a new step being posted every three days. This means that if life gets busy, you will still be able to keep up, and whichever world time zone you live in, you will be able to participate with ease.

The course content will be tailored to the participants taking it. It will consist entirely of text posts, with the option to upload photos, and you will be able to log on at any time of the day or night to read and make posts.  As a general guideline, I suggest spending half an hour each day reading the message board to get motivation and insights, and as much additional time as you can actioning each of the steps.

You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you need to ask to help you apply the technique to your own personal situation, and will have the wonderful camaraderie and support of the rest of the group, which makes the whole process enjoyable and fun.

Fun? Yes, paper clutter clearing can be fun! This is one of the greatest surprises to people who take my courses. Come and join us and see!

Related links
Clear Your Paper & Digital Clutter online course
Testimonials from previous participants
About online courses

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017

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Karen Kingston International Pty Ltd
PO Box 2382, Ellenbrook
Perth, WA 6069, Australia

Tel: +61 (0)8 9297 6043
ABN: 98 615 613 155



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