COVID-19 and Clear Space

It’s a scary, strange and confusing time. With the pandemic sweeping the planet, everything has changed.

We wanted to let you know that Clear Space is still open for business, albeit it in different ways to normal of course. So much has changed for us – auction houses have closed, charities have closed, and we have to sanitize like mad, not work in groups and stay safe distances from each other.

If you need us, we’ll see if we can find a way to help that is safe and complies with the new rules and regulations surrounding social distancing, gatherings, hygiene and the like. We take safety very seriously and won’t just take on anything – it has to be safe for all involved.

There are many jobs that we can do solo without any personal contact with the client – either by working alone to clear an estate or by coaching online.

If you’re wondering if we can help you or not, just give us a call. We’ll have a chat and see what we can come up with together. There are many ways we can help and still stay safe, so just ask and we’ll work it out together.

 

Leaving room for the warm fuzzies

When you declutter or downsize, there will be items that are challenging to make decisions on. There are various reasons, but one reason is definitely that there is a sentimental connection somewhere.

Sometimes it’s an item that reminds you of a past event, or even just a past feeling. It could remind you of blood, sweat and tears that you put into it. It could have been given to you by a loved one, or someone who has passed. It gives you a good feeling that you don’t want to lose.

When you have more stuff than space, it’s important to reduce your belongings – it’s actually necessary. However, you don’t need to give up on off of the things that fill your heart and soul.

When you are decluttering and downsizing, it’s fine if you want to set aside some space for your memorabilia. For some people, it’s a really important piece of who they are.  They key is to be intentional about how much space it can take up. If you’re moving into a smaller home, designate a certain storage area in the new home for your warm fuzzies.  Ideally, you’ll use them and they’ll be in the daily cycle.  Second priority would be to display them. But even if there’s no room to do either (or it’s not appropriate to display Great Grandpa’s love letters or your school reports), you can set aside a space somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.  Sometimes just a few items can meet the same emotional needs as the whole lot.

It’s okay to make space for your heart, just as long as you do it intentionally and it takes up only a helpful amount of your living space.

Being able to keep some things that give you the warm fuzzies is important.

A better life? You choose….

When we buy things or keep things, we often have reasons why.

“I might need it”
“But it’s part of my history”
“I need to finish it first”
“I’ll feel guilty”
“It’s still usable”
“These things always come in handy”

ALL of those rationales could be re-written as “My life will be better if I keep it”, couldn’t they? You’d be prepared, or have memories, or have knowledge awaiting you, or you won’t feel guilt. You’ll be better off than if you discarded it, right? I mean, that’s why you’re keeping it, really, isn’t it?

Next time you catch yourself making an excuse to keep something, tell it how it is. Say how you think it will make your life better. Then question that. Will it REALLY? Or just potentially? Or just in the short term?

What about your goal of living a life that is more intentional, mindful, simple and meaningful? Will living like that make your life better?

So which will you go with?

Keeping: “My life will be better if I keep it”

OR

Discarding: “My life will be better if I don’t keep it”.

It’s up to you to choose, so choose well.

Mindful shopping: an antidote to clutter

One of the most common causes of clutter I come across is excess acquisitions; when people buy more stuff than they have space or need for.

People shop for various reasons. One is a basic need – you need sustenance, so you buy milk and bread. You have a hole in your shoe, so you buy a replacement pair to stop your feet getting wet.

Another reason we buy things is to give to others. Presents, gifts, donations. Or as an investment – jewellery, art etc. We also shop to create an environment we feel happy in. We buy home-wares, clothes, artwork and decorations.

Another big reason we buy things is to make ourselves feel better. To feel more successful, to feel more content, to feel more beautiful, more intelligent, more accepted, more creative.

Finally, we shop to get an adrenaline rush. Either the thrill of the chase, or the thrill of the bargain. And then once addicted, it’s just for the rush and no other reason.

People don’t usually shop with the intention of filling their house to unhelpful levels, nor with the intention of growing large amounts of debt, of feeling constantly unsatisfied, or of needing to buy more storage, or of filling our oceans and landfill with excess goods we didn’t need in the first place.  But this is what happens anyway.

Shopping mindfully can help to reduce these negative effects of consumption.

Ask yourself what do you really NEED, and can this item give you that? Will that pretty notebook really make you happier than you are today, beyond the first page of using it? Will that new outfit really make you feel more attractive in the long term?  Will that new phone still be good enough when the next one comes out?

Ask yourself if your home and your life can handle more stuff in it. Is there a home for that item? Do you have time to maintain it, put it away, dust it, clean in, move it around, repair it etc?

Ask yourself if you already have enough. Do you have something else already that can do the same job as that thing you’re eyeing off? Can you survive without the item? (for most things the answer is yes as you’ve survived just fine without it so far!).

Finally, as yourself what truly makes you happy. True, lasting happiness comes from being accepted and part of a community. It comes from helping others. It comes from being grateful for what you have. It comes from learning and growing. It comes from being mindful and present.

Ask yourself these questions before you next make a purchase – and be intentional and mindful of what you bring into your life.

Make this tax time an organised one!

The end of the financial year is coming up so I thought I’d throw together a few tips for managing your paperwork so that tax time is stress-free moving forward.

  1. Have an easily accessible file for your taxable receipts and make sure they’re separate from non-taxable receipts (an envelope in a drawer works just fine, just label it well with the year)
  2. Keep all your tax stuff together in the one storage type – don’t stash them in different places such as portable files, tubs ore piles on the bookcase.
  3. Always have a “current tax year” folder at hand to drop anything relevant in there as it arrives (no more asking for a replacement group certificate!)
  4. Ask your accountant to send you a detailed list of what you need to keep and for how long so that you can refer back to it when filing, organising and culling
  5. Digitize as much as possible and sort the files with folders by financial year
  6. When you’re sorting through your piles, have one for “current tax year” and the rest can go in one pile for now – it’s the current one (and any not lodged yet) that are important at the moment
  7. Don’t let it build up – work on it throughout the year and it won’t be a) lost or b) overwhelming when the time comes.

If you struggle with paperwork, perhaps setting up a proper household paperwork system that suits your personality might be worth the effort? Make next year’s tax a breeze!

My thoughts on Marie Kondo and “Tidying Up”

I’ve been asked my opinion on Marie Kondo’s show and her method a lot lately. So I have gathered my thoughts in this post (and also recorded two podcast episodes on it!). I’m not really a huge KonMari advocate, but I’m definitely not a complete detractor either. I think it has merit, but with a few warnings.

I have tried to watch her show both as a person who owns stuff and lives in a house, as well as from the perspective of a professional who has been doing what she does for close to 15 years now.

As a regular person, I was profoundly affected by the respect for the home, the greeting of the home as a spiritual practice, and the respect for the belongings. I have an uncluttered home, but I don’t have the reverence for my belongings that she promotes and I was inspired to change that. I actually cried when she greeted the first home, and get emotional every time. I think I’m in the minority among POs with this opinion – many of my colleagues found my admission rather amusing! But I think we could all do with more gratitude and respect for our homes and our belongings. Perhaps it would translate into more respect for each other and our environment; I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

I was inspired by her calm manner and the deliberate way she speaks, moves and touches things. She seems very sweet and genuine – I couldn’t help but like her. I know some don’t like it, but the cute jumping and smiling didn’t bother me at all, it was endearing to me. I’d happily allow her in my home and let her walk on my counter tops.

Conversely, I felt that if I wanted to do her method, I could, but I felt there wasn’t enough information on how to make decisions. I know how to myself as I do it for a living, but if I didn’t, I think I would have had MANY questions that weren’t answered. At one point when a woman who had insisted on keeping everything at the start of the show then later said “I don’t need to keep everything” I shouted at the television “HOW? How did you come to that conclusion? I want to know!!!”. Decluttering is ALL ABOUT DECISION-MAKING and it was not covered thoroughly enough.

I found the show a little boring at times. I was interested in the psychology but it was glossed over a bit and there was more time spent on the people on their own than with Kondo and her insights. And some processes were repeated in every episode at the expense of others.

Her paperwork system lacked a LOT in the way of detail – it definitely wouldn’t work for me. Pending, Important (what’s not important and if it’s not, why is it kept?) and Miscellaneous (shudder) as categories just don’t cut it.

There should also have been more focus on not acquiring. How to make decisions when shopping, how to talk to family members about gift giving, why we shop etc.

As professional, I like how the whole family is included – this is something I promote too as much as possible. It didn’t promote perfection as much as I’d expected and I loved how the homes were still real (and not “furniture catalogue”) when they were “finished”. I like how the people were made responsible for doing it, not anyone else. They have homework and are held accountable.

There are steps to follow, which is really helpful for viewers overall. After the first three categories it gets very vague, however, and they get left with little guidance. But steps are a good start.

It’s inspiring, even if not quite instructional enough. I got up and immediately cleaned out my bin drawer that I’d been putting off! I apologised to my house for letting it get so grotty (I’m uncluttered, but I can be rather lazy!).

Now for my professional doubts. Firstly, as mentioned previously, you can’t see them getting help making decisions. “Does it spark joy?” can’t be the only question they ask themselves as it won’t work for all items. I did see her asking some different questions but it was very brief and vague and glossed over. The most challenging part of decluttering is decision-making and it’s not done justice.

The participants are shown to be left alone when overwhelmed and distressed. This can be quite detrimental if it happens in real life.

They are working on it every day, all day for a month. This is not explained properly and some viewers desperate to overcome their clutter might think it’s a manageable time-frame. If you work and have young children, there’s no way the whole house can get done in a month, especially things like paperwork, garages and photographs.

There’s few tips on where things can go or how to dispose of them, that’s a bit thin.

It’s not very practical to put all the clothes on the bed in one big pile, or every book in the house on the living room floor. Psychologically it’s often helpful to see the volume (although for some it would just be overwhelming), but it’s not practical. Most people don’t have all day to clear it off, and then it ends up on the floor and in a mess again to be re-sorted. Also, many people who need help have no space to put all their stuff together in one spot (if you can’t see the floor or the bed, what do you do?) AND they have their stuff stashed in several places and many they don’t know about. Getting all their books together is virtually impossible. Hopefully viewers understand there are definitely other ways to declutter than the “all together” method.

It won’t work for everyone, and I wish that was communicated more. She seems so confident in her method that she doesn’t really cater for the differences in people, and the extremely high prevalence of mental illness in cluttered homes.

The charities all were happy to receive their goods. This is NOT my experience and I do many many charity runs – a few a week. Charities are overloaded and picky and often rude and ungrateful. Getting rid of the stuff is a LOT harder than it is portrayed. This will result in many homes full of things “to go”.

Again, there isn’t enough talk about acquiring. Why did they have those items? Why did they feel they were important? How did they arrive and why did they get purchased and never used? How can they stop the influx?

There is no investigation into the WHY – why they have so much stuff, why they have trouble parting with it, why they keep acquiring.

In the show’s defense, I feel many that write off the show or Kondo’s method don’t look at it through any lens other than their own. They find it silly, so it’s silly. They find it too easy, or too hard, or too boring, or too shallow, so they tell everyone that’s what it is.

Many opinions are formed without watching the show properly, or reading the book. Many opinions are formed based on a misunderstanding of the literally translated terms and the differences in culture. There area a lot of opinions that are based on thinly veiled racism.

“Spark joy” is ridiculed by many (and I’m not immune – I’ve been known to say that for many people, everything “sparks joy”) but perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to ridicule it because what we are hearing is not exactly what she means. She doesn’t really mean joy in the sense we mean it, she means a sense of excitement, of “throb”. It’s not “does this make me happy?”, it’s more like “does it promote a strong feeling, bordering on urge or excitement, of wanting to use it?”. We still may disagree if we could translate it properly, but we should at least be aware of this issue.

I definitely do not think this show is a bad thing, and I think it can properly inspire people to live more intentionally. Of course, it won’t be for some, but as with everything else, there is never one thing to suit everyone. I love watching The Walking Dead on TV but I’d never insist that everyone should watch it, and the show itself doesn’t come under criticism for not being a show everyone would love. Why then, is Kondo’s? I think in part it’s because of her fans – they are VERY loyal and some people find that annoying. What Konverts need to understand is that what works for them shouldn’t be shoved down everyone else’s throats – it worked for you, that’s really awesome, just don’t insist it will change everyone else’s lives as well.

For people for whom this method doesn’t work on you, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone, and there are loads of other methods of decluttering you can try. I have written a whole book just for people who find that “Does it spark joy?” is no help at all, and there are hundreds more out there, as well as professionals that can come to your home and help you in a way that works for you.

So take it as it is – a show you can choose to watch, or a show you can choose to not watch. And take from it what you will, and don’t worry if there’s only a few things, or even nothing, you can take from it.

I’ll take from it a need for more respect for my home, which compliments my existing philosophies of intentional living. I think that’s a good thing.

Future You and Past You – are you ignoring them?

Why do we treat our future selves so badly sometimes? And why don’t we trust our past selves?
 
I was just thinking about this because I decided to set myself a calendar reminder to do something (marketing stuff – boring!) once a month. I thought that was a good thing for my future self – she’ll be glad I reminded her of something she should be doing but always forgets to.
 
My first thought was “I’ll probably ignore it” (as I usually do).
 
Do you do this? How many reminders pop up on your phone or PC and you select “Dismiss all” every time without reading them?
 
My next thought was “I wouldn’t ignore someone else’s advice, why do I ignore my own??!”.
 
Doing that task monthly is a GOOD IDEA. I know it is, that’s why I want to set the reminder. But then when I get the reminder, I’ll think “Meh, whatever”.
 
I will not trust my past self enough to do what she said. I will not respect my future self enough to put in some work for her so that her SEO doesn’t drop away.
 
So I’m going to write that reminder, and schedule it. And in it I will write in caps: “STOP DISRESPECTING YOURSELF”. Maybe that will remind me of how important that task really is!

The culture of “better” is hurting us

It might be because of the hundreds of homes we either declutter or empty every year, but I am very, very aware of the amount of stuff that our culture is wasting.

Our culture of “better” is toxic to say the least. We are made to believe that unless we have a home that is in fashion, we have failed somehow. That we can’t have “ugly” things or old thing, or things that don’t match (side note: what you bought last week will be ugly to you or someone else one day but you think it’s gorgeous now – what does that say about us??).

We at Clear Space send TONS of furniture to Auction Houses and charities every month. Literally tons. It’s all perfectly usable and the supply really does outnumber the demand, which means that even quite usuable stuff is often rejected by all and ends up in landfill.

But despite the massive supply to second-hand places, how many people ever consider buying second-hand?

Most people think “Why would you, when a new one is $5 from Kmart or $15 from IKEA and it’s “modern” and pretty?

I beg you to rethink this obsession with fashion. I beg you to rethink this obsession with buying cheap stuff and replacing it frequently with more cheap stuff.

There’s some amazing secondhand stuff available if you just take the time to look. I can virtually guarantee you that a 50yo, $30 coffee table will last longer than the $250 new one you buy.

Embrace sustainable purchasing, embrace “old is new”, embrace the idea that what you have is good enough and doesn’t need to be “upgraded”.

Let’s not fall for the Culture of Better.

When Adult Children Clutter Your Life

A lot of our clients that are trying to downsize have stuff in their homes that belong to their adult children.  The stuff has been kept for various reasons. Sometimes the offspring have asked for it to be kept for them, and other times the parent has chosen to keep them to pass on one day.

The first category is the most difficult one to deal with because it’s not often voluntary on the part of the parent. I find that my clients have a conundrum – do they store the stuff for their child even though it impacts on their life, or do they risk upsetting or inconveniencing their child by asking for it to be removed?

A lot of parents will feel guilty for requesting that the stuff be taken away. I hear things like “they don’t have much space” or “it will cost a lot to ship it”. They are still looking after their kids, and I can understand that. It’s not helpful though!

I notice that the parents assume responsibility for the items rather than assigning responsibility to the owners of the items. They forget that they are grown-ups who are quite capable of looking after themselves. I love it when the children are helpful and immediately help by removing the items, but I do get disappointed when others unhelpfully drag their feet, refuse to act and make their parents feel guilty. I want to say “They have sacrificed so much for you! Help them live a clutter-free retirement, please!”.

My advice is always pretty consistent – ship it out! If the adult children can’t afford to transport it, they need to choose to de-own it. If they can’t fit it in their homes, they choose to de-own it or pay for storage. They are the ones that need to be making the decisions but either way, it needs to leave their parent’s house.

 

 

What’s your “Getting Home From Shopping” routine?

When you arrive home from shopping, laden down with bags, what’s the first thing do you do with the stuff?

a) put the bags on the nearest horizontal surface
b) put the bags in whichever cupboard they fit
c) unpack the bags and put the stuff whenever it fits…
d) unpack the bags and put all purchases in their homes, culling existing items if the new ones don’t fit.

Most of my clients have the habits of a, b and c. They’re not wrong, lazy, messy or stupid ways to do it, but they are unhelpful. They cause clutter, waste and disorganisation. They are also a result of excess acquiring.

Firstly, if you don’t have room to put your purchases away then perhaps you need to cull more and buy less. Secondly, if you aren’t excited about using the item (and instead leave it in the bag to be lost in the clutter) then perhaps it wasn’t really needed and was bought on impulse.

Sometime a habit is a by-product of another habit. The unopened bags are a result of not shopping mindfully and intentionally; fix the shopping habits and you will fix the bag issues.

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