Friday, July 31, 2009
Part One - Getting Started At-a-Glance (pgs. 50-51)
1. Being clear on what you in your life (instead of the clutter and the time wasted on its maintenance) will help you choose what to keep and what to get rid of. Write these goals down and refer to them for encouragement.
2. Start by taking a non-judgmental tour of your home to identify clutter hot spots. Keep a journal of the process, including your goals on what you are making room for by clearing the clutter. Take before and after pictures of each location for encouragement along the way (have your digital camera handy to record these images and to capture an image of items that you want to remember, but not save.)
3. Seek encouragement from family and friends, like our de-clutter club!
Part Two – Learning Skills At-a-Glance (pgs. 154-155)
4. Handle one item at a time. Don’t worry about getting everything where it is ultimately going; just get it on its journey whether it be to somewhere else in your house or out of your house altogether – to the dump, the recycle center, the consignment shop, etc.
5. Leave no stone unturned – go 100%!
6. Dispose of stuff with panache and ceremony! Celebrate your successes!
7. Don’t cover your tracks – once an area is de-cluttered, don’t put any more clutter there! Be diligent and don’t be afraid of empty space – this is a good thing!
Part Three – Living Clutter Free At-a-Glance (pgs. 185-186)
8. Routinely handle the daily mail and don’t let it accumulate – have a system in place and discipline yourself to use it until it becomes habit. Adapt it as necessary until it feels comfortable.
9. Use your new found time wisely – let go of ideas that restrict and confine you. Use time for its best and true purpose – as the space within which you can live your life fully. Keep and carry only one time planner or date-book system and use it to create a schedule that corresponds to what you are making room for in your life and that you look forward to following.
10. Housekeeping at regularly scheduled times can not only help you keep the space you created open, but make it sparkle. Declutter emotional, mental and spiritual realms as a way to continue to honor yourself and be more at home in your world.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
1. Store the things you use most often in the most accessible location. This is true for placement in your house as well as for placement within a closet, cabinet or bookshelf. Store things where you use them.
2. When uncluttering a shelf, drawer, cupboard or closet, take everything out. If you pick and choose things, you will never make a dent. Clean the closet or shelf while it is empty including vacuuming the carpet and dusting all of the contents. Put like things together; get rid of stuff you don’t use, need or like; contain what is left and put it back. Time your projects to be able to complete each task and put everything away by the end of the session. (However, I have also read that leaving a project unfinished will help motivate you to continue and save you the time it will take to decide what to do.)
3. If you have a bag of stuff to discard, and it is not near garbage collection day, plan a trip to a dump or recycle center, otherwise you may be tempted to reconsider your decisions.
4. Repurpose containers you like, such as bowls, baskets and decorative boxes, to store items in plain sight. A basket can contain rolled towels on the floor of the bathroom near the shower or tub or a basket or decorative box can contain CDs on a shelf near your audio equipment. Keep a small bowl or tray in the places that things like keys or change accumulate. Decorative hat boxes, piled on top of a shelf, high dresser or even on the floor, make attractive storage containers for miscellaneous items like scarves, gloves, etc. or for individual craft projects.
5. Use your vertical space to the best advantage. Shelving units that don’t go to the ceiling waste the space above. If you do go up high to store things, keep a step stool close at hand.
6. Use the back of every door in every room, closet and cabinet. Use store bought racks that are made for this purpose to store shoes, books, pantry items, etc. At the very least, install a few clothes hooks.
7. Use a hanging shoe bag with clear pockets on the back of coat closet doors to store mittens, gloves, earmuffs and hats. You can also use a shoe bag in other closets to organize smaller items: in your clothes closet for hose, socks, scarves and accessories; on the back of the bathroom door or inside the linen closet to store miscellaneous toiletries and make-up or in the closet where you store cleaning supplies to put vacuum bags, sponges and brushes.
8. Hang a doorknob or wall-hanging basket or key hooks on or near the door you use most often to contain keys and outgoing mail.
9. Think of your refrigerator as a large cupboard. Designate specific shelves for specific things. Always keep leftovers in the same place in the refrigerator so that things won’t get hidden. Use storage bins for small items on the shelves and get racks that hang below the shelves for large soda bottles. Consider adding a turntable to make items at the back more accessible.
10. Keep a nylon bag hung on the back of the bedroom door in which to put clothes that need to be dry cleaned.
And one final word of encouragement from Donna Smallin’s book: In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” Tackle that clutter today!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
After all of the philosophical ramblings of my past few blogs, I am in the mood to deal with more practical information so I took some time to look for good tips to share. In the interest of avoiding plagiarism, I will take ten good tips from particular reference books or sources and share them with you one day at a time. Today’s tips are from Donna Smallin’s book The One Minute Organizer: Plain and Simple (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2004).
1. You are not the person you were 10 years ago; your interest, tastes and styles have changed. Aim to keep around you only the things that represent who you are today.
2. If something has a layer of dust on it, it is an indication that you haven’t used it in a while – get rid of it.
3. When evaluating what to keep, imagine that you are packing to move across the country. Consider the item in terms of: a) is it worth the time to pack it? b) is it worth the effort of carrying it to the moving van c) is it worth the amount per pound that it will cost to have it moved a great distance and d) is it worth carrying into and putting up or storing in your new home?
4. Establish limits on things that accumulate, like plastic shopping bags, food storage containers, rags and scrap paper for taking notes. Decide in advance what is a reasonable amount to have at any one time and recycle the rest.
5. Give yourself permission to get rid of things. Yes, that old t-shirt would make a good rag, but how many rags do you need? Throw it away.
6. Create the rule: “If it is ugly or unfixable, it’s garbage” and stick to it!
7. Take photographs of sentimental items (preferably with the person with whom you share the memory or the child who created it) and get rid of the item.
8. Get rid of bath and shower items you haven’t used in over a month. Put them into smaller containers for travel or guest baths. Donate the rest to shelters or food banks.
9. Schedule time to go through your closet and try on things that you haven’t worn. If it looks good and you love it, hang it back up. If it doesn’t fit or if doesn’t look good on you, donate it.
10. When organizing, keep a small notebook and pen at hand. When you come across or think of a good organizing project, write it down so that it can be dealt with at a separate session – don’t get sidetracked.
Tomorrow’s ten tips will be from Donna Smallin’s earlier book: Unclutter Your Home (Pownal, VT: Storey Publishing, 1999).
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
My brother and I had this conversation yesterday. He is the marketing manager of a family of mutual funds and has an eye on investment trends and consumer behavior. He has observed that the baby-boomers, the generation that has been at the forefront of consumer spending since the early 60's, are, perhaps for the first time in their lives, setting self-imposed limits on their personal spending and acquisition of material goods and exhibiting a general downsizing. We have seen, from the proliferation of information available on the topic, that there is a trend in the U.S. today to clean out, de-clutter and lighten our load. From this conversation about the trends in society, we discussed our own personal crusade against clutter. He sees clutter as the chaos in his life and the accumulation of random stuff that has no orderliness or significance and it is his goal to rid himself of this stuff. When I expressed that I was trying to rid my life of all of the detritus that I have acquired with or without intent, he drew a distinction between his chaos and my ordered accumulation. I don’t think that just because most of my stuff is in boxes, drawers, closets and organized on shelves, it isn’t clutter. Granted, that for the most part the stuff that surrounds me - that gives me stress and takes away all of my free time - isn’t heaped up in unmanageable piles, but to me, it is still very much clutter.
Perhaps the distinction I am making is the difference between garbage, clutter and true personal treasures! I think that clutter can be neatly ordered and can have value, per se. The task we are facing is to determine if it still has value to the person who owns it! To do this, it is important to make sure that your goals and your priorities are clear in your mind (and written down on paper). It will ultimately be the only way that you can make the distinction in your life about what to keep and what to throw away.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I think that the idea of writing out my goals and keeping them close at hand will be a positive experience. Did any of you complete that task, of writing down what you could accomplish if the time spent dealing with clutter was given back to you? I think that it is really worth doing. I would love to share some of your goals at our next meeting, which will be here before you know it. See if we each can list at least one or two desires to share with the group on August 6th. See you then.
Friday, July 24, 2009
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!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The fifth category Passoff calls hanging onto or dishonoring the past. Into this category she includes photographs, memorabilia - things that remind you of the past. She makes the distinction about these things being clutter or not depending on how you store them and/or display them. Well ordered memorabilia that has been sorted, culled and organized with the goal of being able to have it accessible to share and to appreciate is not clutter; but, having random bags, boxes, drawers, etc. filled with the detritus of the past is not a healthy way to live. The dishonoring comes from keeping this shrine of past accomplishments rather than focusing on the possibilities in the future.
The sixth and final category that causes clutter is indecision and I would venture a guess that indecision is at the heart of most of the clutter in life. Indecision is wrapped very closely with the feelings you get from being overwhelmed when you literally shut down rather than having to make a determination to keep something and find a place where it can be safely and retrievably stored versus discarding the item and possibly have to purchase a replacement in the future. This is where having a goal and a mission about what your life can be like without clutter and what you could accomplish if you were in control comes in handy. It is a benchmark against which you can compare the situation at hand to help you have better, more positive resolve.
I hope that keeping these issues in mind will help you avoid the pitfalls that will come between you and a clutter-free life! I have spoken with a professional organizer about coming to speak at the library. I asked everyone at our last meeting if there was a topic that would be of particular interest to the group. One of the topics that she can speak about is time management. Would that be of interest to anyone? Let me know by commenting on this post. I hope we are all taking advantage of these grey, rainy days to take a bite out of the chore of de-cluttering! Think about how much more you will enjoy that leisurely afternoon in the sun if you have made some headway with the clean-up!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The second category that Ms. Passoff identifies is “a mass of mixed-up, jumbled, unlike objects.” She notes that these often occur near the entry door where things like mail, keys, small toys, unpaid bills, etc. are dropped the minute you come in the door; or on the dresser top when you empty your pockets or your purse at the end of the day. She suggests that the way to decrease the chance of these piles occurring is to “separate all unrelated items from one another.” This means to me that you have to have a system in place into which these items can be sorted, going back to the age-old adage, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” One such system is Jamie Novak’s open-top, hanging file folder box that is kept right near the door into which is sorted items such as bills to be paid, receipts to be compared against statements and then discarded (or saved in a tax file if it is an item that can be deducted or in major purchases file if you may need the receipt for future repairs or exchanges) and correspondence to be answered. She cautions not to file something if it can be dealt with immediately. This will require allowing a little more time as you enter the house or before you go to bed, to deal with stuff right away…all a matter of discipline or forming good habits.
The third category, and the last one I will address today, is unfinished business. Into this category on page 16, Ms. Passoff puts some of the items that gather as mentioned above: “a scrap of paper with a telephone number of someone whose call you have not returned; a letter you have been meaning to respond to; a half-wrapped package earmarked for the post office; bags of clothing standing at attention by the front door ready to be given away; an unreturned catalog purchase; and a long list of undone to-do’s.” She documents their often endless migration all over the house until you are finally shamed into doing something about finishing the business; however, she cautions that often by the time you get around to doing this, the task has escalated into a larger task perhaps with financial consequences. Obviously, developing the habit of doing a task when it comes up, and completing the whole task from beginning to the end when it is out the door, is worth the effort.
I will finish the last three categories from Michelle Passoff tomorrow. I hope you are all still making head-way not only into tackling the clutter, but in forming new habits that will help you continue to lead a clutter-free life.
Friday, July 17, 2009
If the written exercise didn't work for you or you didn't think that it would be beneficial, she suggests an alternate activity. She also says that this might be useful just for fun, providing "a way for you to tap into your heart and reveal your unconscious desires." It also gives you a purpose for magazines you may have collecting in your house! She suggests, on page 27, going through a pile of magazines that you have and "clip anything that attracts your interest on a visceral or intellectual level." You can clip photos or words that are either random (and let your subconscious mind inform you about your inner most desires) or you can clip items with conscious intention, looking for images and phrases that remind you about what you are looking for in the future to improve your personal or work life, your relationships with family and friends or your finances and your physical surroundings. As Ms. Passoff goes on to say, "usually there are no accidents."
When you have gone through (and then recycled) several magazines, lay out what you have clipped on one large poster board, sheet of newsprint or length of freezer paper (or on smaller sheets sorted by ideas or topics). How you arrange the individual elements is part of the imaging process. Glue them down (if you dare). For some, this may be too much of a commitment to the future to truly attach things "permanently" to your dreamscape. Remember, you can always remove something later, or paste something new or more important over top of an old idea, just like you can always change a bad habit by replacing it with newer, healthier behaviors (hint, hint!)
When you have finished, stand back and look at the collage of ideas and images you have created and try to get more inspiration from the new relationships that are formed by the adjacencies and notice the items that stand out among their surroundings. Keep this collage somewhere where you can revisit the ideas it contains whenever you get stuck at your task of de-cluttering or whenever you need additional motivation. Update it periodically with new ideas that come out as old habits are dispelled. Start over with a completely new collage at key points in your challenge to conquer clutter or at specific time intervals (monthly or annually). Go ahead and write things on the poster or on sticky notes that you add to the montage as new insights and inspirations occur to you as you approach your goals. If you do this exercise and you are comfortable doing so, bring it to one of our future meetings and share with the group the things that you have learned about yourself.
I will move on to some of Michelle Passoff's insights into the accumulation and elimination of clutter and her pointers on creating a game plan in the coming posts. I have also found a copy of Elaine St. James' Simplify Your Life, (Hyperion, 1994) on my bookshelves at home, which has some chapters that will give us positive ideas to incorporate into our mission. Good luck this weekend – remember to set and achieve three goals for our next meeting on August 6th.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I know I promised to continue with some more information from the book Lighten Up, but I have another small diversion that I wanted to share. I recently got a few issues of Real Simple dropped on my desk. I realized that this magazine regularly has a lot of interesting information on the kind of topics we are discussing and I was going to suggest that if you are not familiar with this publication, you should look at an issue next time you are in the library. But then, another thought occurred to me. I realized that the library magazine section contains many magazines that most likely feature this kind of information - clutter is such a universal problem that magazines use it to sell as many issues as the promise of weight loss or stylish hair styles. By taking advantage of the subscriptions that the library has, you don't have to pay for subscriptions of your own and deal with that magazine clutter in your home. You can check out and read just the issues and articles that you want and you won't have to worry about recycling.
I also wanted to remind you that the library has an online magazine index on our webpage at www.sbpl.info under Databases. The database is called EBSCOHost, and it contains the full text of most articles that were published since 1996 in over 1700 different magazines and journals. Articles can be located by a simple subject or keyword search. By using the magazine index, you can find articles on any topic and read the full text right online or if you want to read the actual magazine, you can come to the library with the citation and check out the specific issue that contains the article in which you have an interest. With this resource, you never need to subscribe to another magazine or keep any articles that you might want to refer to at a later date. All you have to do is use the database when you need information on a particular topic and you will be able to locate any article you may have read previously as well as similar articles that might have different or more recent information.
As a test, I did a search using the term "clutter control" and found over 460 general articles on the subject from magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Newsweek and even American Girl that was directed at young girls. There was more information there than one could ever use. You can also be as specific as you want with your searches. The second search I did was specifically on records management or managing paper clutter and I got over 2000 articles.
Take advantage of the resources that you have access to that don't increase the clutter in your life. Don't be tempted to print the information out, causing more clutter. You will always be able to go back and find the information again when it is needed. If you must save it, save it to your computer and access it all paper-free. Save a tree and remove some stress by learning some easy tasks that can make life easier.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I will continue with information from Lighten Up tomorrow...I just want to share that I actually did some de-cluttering yesterday!! I filled three paper grocery bags with old newspapers, catalogs, etc. without even really trying. I am starting to sort like items together to get them at least to the right room to be dealt with as I get to them. My office already looks much better!!
Keep up the good work and take advantage of the bulk shredder for the stuff you think is sensitive - it can save you a lot of time!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
The book is divided into parts, chapters and sections. Part 1 is "Getting Started." The first chapter, "How Did Things Get to be Such a Mess?" is filled with insight as to why clutter happens and some advice on how to psych yourself up to make the control process happen. There is a nice section titled, "There is No End to Clutter" that lays reality on the line: no matter how good a job you do de-cluttering, more clutter will come your way. "As long as you still have blood running through your veins, a stream of objects will keep passing in front of you throughout your life." (page 23) The point of this observation is that recognizing that you will never be rid of clutter can rid you of any associated guilt and fear over its existence and its accumulation. Passoff says, "Rather than think that one day your clutter will be gone forever, I suggest that you instead try to develop a lifelong relationship with your physical environment that makes it a more joyful place in which to dwell." I would say that is a very sound piece of advice.
In the section titled "Becoming a Clutter Connoisseur," (page 15) Passoff identifies six different "varieties" of clutter: 1) Garbage 2) A mass of mixed-up, jumbled, unlike objects 3) Unfinished Business 4) Uncomfortable areas of life 5) Hanging onto or dishonoring the past and 6) Indecision and she says that it is important to recognize and appreciate the differences and to learn the skills to deal with each in order to be fully in control of your environment.
I think I will spend some time on the points that Ms. Passoff makes in this book over the next week or so in this blog. She presents a very positive position on the process that is worth consideration. Let's see if we can create some of those miracles she promises.
For an exercise to do over the weekend, you can try what she suggests as your starting place, to identify what you are making room for. She suggests carving out an hour or so of uninterrupted time "to jot down s0me thoughts about how your life would be if you could have it be any way you wanted it to without clutter in the way." She says to avoid generalizations like "I would be happy" and to be as specific as possible, making long- and short-term goals and identifying objectives and strategies like you would if you were in the business of clearing clutter. You will use this to help you identify later the stuff you will keep and the stuff you will let go of.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thanks to all of you who attended the meeting last week; we had a good turnout (including some new faces) and a lively discussion. Congrats to you all who accomplished your three goals. We had some who had completed great tasks...getting entire rooms cleaned out. And, we had some, like myself, who had more modest successes to share but the fact that we are hanging-in is a great success in itself.
Now, as to my confession... I went away for the holiday weekend and when I returned, I was so motivated by having been away (and frankly so disappointed by the clutter that was all around) that I did a gathering up of a lot of stuff (mail, magazines, etc.) and did a good sort and purge using Jamie Novak's file folder sorting system and a large garbage bag. However, that is where it ended. Two of the piles that I left were 1) stuff to go through and act on immediately and 2) stuff to go through and pitch. I was careful not to put the piles into folders, because for me, out of sight is out of mind. The piles are still sitting where I left them on the living room floor very much in sight and still out of mind!
And yesterday, as I was working at my computer, I would periodically look around and attempt to attack a pile, bag or box with the goal of complete elimination of that bit of clutter, and I got completely overwhelmed!! I should take a picture of my home office and share it with you but I wouldn't want to be responsible for any one of you fainting! One of my goals for this month has to be finding a way to break this stuff down into managable bites so that I don't get so bogged down with the magnatude of clutter that one can accumulate in 50 years!! (I have been a pack-rat all my life and so has my husband...after all, you never know when you might need or want something again!) I am going to start using the 18 minute rule - to break the task down into little 18 minute sessions and set an alarm and then decide to quit or continue for another 18 minutes when the time is up - I am hoping that will work!
I actually find it amusing that I am writing this blog when I don’t really have a history of success at de-cluttering. I usually console myself that at least my clutter is “neat” and “organized” in my mind, but the reality is that no matter how neat and organized I think I am, I still spend way to much time looking for things that I need. Clearly my expertise lies in encouragement to get motivated, since I have been doing that to myself for years and at giving support if goals are not met since I have also had a lot of practice at that as well!!
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Share your strategies to get motivated with the group by commenting on this blog.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I have looked through these six and found more information than I could digest in week! Now I realize that I have enough information; I just need to put some of what I have learned into practice.
How are you all doing? Are you planning to come to the meeting tomorrow night? Don't forget, 7:00 in the Quiet Study at the library. We will move to the back of the room where there is a little more room to accomodate us all. If we fill the back of the room, we will have to find another room in which to meet and perhaps a different night to meet since starting in September, the larger room is used for our Intermediate Yoga classes on Thursday evenings. Bring your calendars so we can confirm some dates and be prepared to share your successes, information or topics with the group. We will get motivated and empowered to continue on our path to a clutter-free life.