Getting Rid of Clutter by Karen Shughart

Clean out those closets, put away the winter clothing, cut back the dead flowers from the yard.  Donate that dress or those slacks you haven’t worn in years, even if you love them. Shoulder pads are probably gone for good, those long bootcut flares you used to wear just won’t work with flats, and you’ve given away all your high heels. You’ve loved those pretty hand towels for the guest bathroom, but they’re faded and raveled. Time to get rid of those, too.

There’s something about spring that causes us to want to clean up and start fresh. We’re preparing for warmer weather, more time out-of-doors in the sunshine, planting pretty things that will bring us a stunning pallet of color and scent.   Spring is a time for new beginnings.

Cleaning clutter out of our homes just goes with the season, but it’s also a time, for me, to clean the clutter out of my writing. That short story I never finished that is completely dated, that poem that’s been in a file for twenty years that has no hope of being published, maybe I’ll archive them, but I also might decide it’s time to let them go to make room for new and fresher creative endeavors.

If I’m in the middle of writing a book, I may decide that as much as I love a paragraph, description or prologue, I must take the emotion out of it and discard them if they no longer make sense in the context of the story. It’s awfully hard to do, just as was giving away that dress I haven’t worn for thirty years but doing so opens the closet in my mind for new ideas, new words and new thoughts that might make the book even better.

I began writing Murder in the Cemetery this past winter, but as I got closer to spring, I found I was changing much of the story to reflect the upcoming season. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing mysteries that take place during cold, creepy winter nights. Death and ice seem to go hand in hand in mysteries.

Now the book opens at the beginning of spring, when the snow has melted, the birds are nesting, and the posies are peeking their heads up from the thawing earth. All the characters are happy and relieved they’ve survived the tough winter that always occurs up here on Lake Ontario, and the juxtaposition of a death that happens just as the flowers are beginning to bloom made sense to me. Tired myself of snow, dull and grey, I wanted to bring some sunshine and energy into the book. I sucked it up, got rid of icy winter imagery and rewrote.

So yes, spring for me is a time to declutter: my house, my closets and even my writing. Tough as it sometimes is, getting rid of what doesn’t work any longer actually has simplified my life and made the journey that much easier.

pink leafed trees on green grass field

Photo by Jan Krnc on

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10 Responses to Getting Rid of Clutter by Karen Shughart

  1. Terrific post, Karen! I’m brainstorming a new series, and your post reminded me I want to include at least one recipe in each book. I have food restrictions and want to share recipes I’ve successfully modified for others to enjoy. Hope you have a tasty and cozy Thanksgiving!


  2. Reblogged this on Bonnie Cehovet and commented:
    Excellent blog on including recipies in czy mysteries!


  3. kshughart47 says:

    Thanks, Kate! Happy Thanksgiving.


  4. patyjag says:

    I hadn’t realized my character Shandra Higheagle made cinnamon rolls a lot in my books until a reader asked for the recipe. I sent her one of my easiest cinnamon roll recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!


  5. kshughart47 says:

    Thanks, Paty! Since you’re getting requests for the cinnamon rolls, maybe you should consider putting the recipe in the next book. 🙂 Have a happy Thanksgiving!


  6. HI Karen, I participated in the first Cozy Cat group mystery, “Chasing the Codex.” The authors wrote in alphabetical order, so I got chapter three. I was disappointed that a clue I had set up became a red herring, but a character I introduced not only showed up later in the book, but became part of my new series. The new mystery sounds fun. Glad you enjoyed writing the new book.


  7. marilynm says:

    I can’t even imagine doing this. Wow! What a fun undertaking!


  8. It was more fun than I imagined!


  9. Mary Quinn says:



  10. kshughart47 says:

    Thanks !


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