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The Clutter Catcher


“You have eyes,” I have pleaded, “Simply open them, gaze down, and you can see!”

“You have hands,” I have implored, “Open them, reach down, and embrace that which does not belong. Return the bits to their home! They long to go home to their friends!”

Alas, it was all in vain. My desperate efforts were to no avail.

No amount of beseeching or cajoling instilled in any of my children an ability to walk into a space, identify mess, and relocate misplaced clutter.

Clean up a spill – they’re on it. Put away an activity they have completed – you got this. The house is a mess – clean it … <crickets>.

It took me a long time to accept the reality that my expectations needed to change, not my children.

In the immortal words of Mulan’s emperor, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Not 100% confident it’s actually applicable here but this scenario always brings it to mind and I feel like I should get bonus points for working it in.

If I request they pick up and put away that Lego, the shoe, and this towel, they are absolutely willing and able to do so, but I don’t want to spend the whole day nagging them. If they play with trains, they are fully capable of putting them back in their box and returning it to it’s shelf independently. But the overly generic “clean up” in the face of random bits is something they cannot do. It is not out of spite or a lack of respect or any other personal issue you might try to project onto your child’s motivations. When you try to continue fighting an unreasonable expectation, you will always lose.

Yet the problem still remains that I am not sane living in clutter. The children are tripping and not finding things while I am unable to relax.

Enter the clutter catcher.

All of the day’s clutter contained in one manageable box (read that slowly for dramatic effect).

When I feel myself getting twitchy or at the end or beginning of the day I will walk around the house with a hamper and deposit into it anything out of place. It takes me 5 minutes and the house looks completely clean.

“Boys, empty the hamper please.”

Then the 3 of them will spend 5 minutes running around putting the things away. Though there is no rush. They are free to empty it as they please since it is not in anyone’s way.

However, the system only works if you don’t let it carry over from day to day. The day the catcher is filled it has to be emptied.


Our laundry room is kind of in the middle of our living spaces so we always have 1 empty hamper waiting for it’s load in the laundry. Whatever empty hamper happens to be there, is the one we use as our clutter catcher, or as my kids call it, “the mess hamper.”

When we lived in a 2 story house, I had a pretty box that lived on the landing of the stairs.

There really are no rights or wrongs when it comes to choosing the right container. Just get something that is a little bigger than you think you will need (so things are not spilling out) that your children can either carry or push around and it will function beautifully.

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I work from an island in the Pacific Northwest, where I live wild and free in connection with my hilarious husband and three growing sailors in our fixer upper on the beach. I authentically live this healing work out loud raising my own neurodivergent family (inner child included) and draw on my decades of education and experience (I've done all the nerdy work so you don't have to) to guide a revolution of overwhelmed parents just like you to feeling at peace within yourself, consciously connected with your children, embraced by a supportive community, and enjoying a values-aligned life you love.

Gentle parenting, natural homeschooling, & simple living mentor

I'm Rachel Rainbolt

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