Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving On

A few weeks ago I told you I found a copy of Elaine St. James' Simplify Your Life (New York: Hyperion, 1994) on my bookshelf at home. I found it amusing to note that her first chapter, in Section One: Your Household, is "Reduce the Clutter in your Life!" This is the number one recommendation that the author has in a book about simplifying your life! I guess I shouldn't be so surprised by this priority from all that we have been finding. This seems to be a universal problem among Americans these days, perhaps even a problem beyond our mass consuming society. A friend just told me that she read somewhere that the Chinese Government is encouraging Chinese citizens, who are newly enlightened to the “glories” of Capitalism, to buy more goods and services! It is too bad that developing countries don’t learn from our mistakes, but of course, "simplicity" is not the message that we are projecting about our culture, even though it seems to be what the vast majority of our citizens desire!

Elaine St. James says pretty much the same as the rest of our clutter control mentors, to follow the guideline: If you haven’t needed or used an item in more than a year, get rid of it. She suggests the same ways to rid yourself of the clutter – give it away to a friend or a charity; sell it at a garage sle; recycle it if possible or put it in a Dumpster if it is not able to be recycled.

Because of the brief format she uses for her recommendations, she steps out on a limb and says specifically where to start with the task. She says, “Start with your clothes closet and branch out from there. Clean out every closet, every drawer, every shelf, in every room in your house, including the kitchen. Don’t forget the front hall closet, the linen closet, tool chests, and medicine cabinets. Remember the laundry room, the garage, the attic, the basement, your office, your car, and any storage space you may be renting or borrowing” (pgs. 10-11). In my opinion, where St. James is way off track comes in a following paragraph. She says that “you can complete the initial stage of an unclutter program in a couple of Saturday afternoons.” She has obviously not seen the amount of clutter that needs to be removed from my house and I suspect from a great number of Americans’ houses!!

Chapter 2 is titled “Dave’s Uncluttering System” in which she describes her friend Dave’s method of boxing stuff in boxes that are left unlabeled as to the contents but dated two to three years in the future. If the boxes are unopened during that two to three year period, they should be thown away without opening! This is not Dave’s unique system, and I would say, it is not aggressive enough to truly rid your life of stuff. The dates should be more like six months to a year in the future. If you haven’t had use of the unidentified items in that length of time, it is doubtful that another year or two will make a difference.

In the meantime, if you develop the skills to throw the stuff away as it comes into your life, you will be free of much of your clutter in no time.

Jamie Novak had another telephone chat last night. Did anyone catch it? Sorry I didn't get a reminder out to everyone. If you listened, I hope it was beneficial. Let me know what was discussed!

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