Tipping points

I’m going to preface this article by saying I don’t like to tell people how much stuff is the right amount of stuff; I think everyone should be able to have whatever volume of belongings they are happy and healthy with. This article isn’t to specify a “right” or “wrong” but it may perhaps give some people a guide to go by when decluttering or maintaining their home’s “stuff levels”.

My house isn’t overly minimalist. It’s not overly tidy all the time, either. But it does have one thing going for it – we have only as much stuff as we can comfortably store. That means that when I do want it tidy to my satisfaction, it doesn’t take long because all the stuff that’s laying about annoying me has a home to go to.

What that also means is that I can easily see where things are going awry. I have “trigger points” that show me I need to declutter (not tidy, as I have kids and pets and a life I pretty much need to tidy constantly, as I’m sure you do too!).

Here’s some of my “It’s time to declutter” trigger points:

1) There’s stuff staying an extended time on tables and benches because it won’t fit in the cupboard or doesn’t have a home. That’s a huge alarm bell for me. Right now I have a big pack of Rice Bubbles on the kitchen counter because it won’t fit in the pantry – it’s been there a week. Silly me bought when we already had a full pack in there. I need to do something about that. I think I need to remove a container. Or just eat a LOT of Rice Bubbles very quickly ;). It’s not bothering me too much because I know it will get eaten eventually, but if it’s not a consumable like that I quickly resolve it. If you leave it, the table just attracts more stuff and then it grows to an unmanageable level.

2) I have to rifle through a pile on my desk to find something. When I notice myself doing that, I make sure I put aside 5 minutes as soon as I can to go through it and file stuff. And get some stuff done, too, as lots of it will be important actions to take. Also, when my files are getting fat that’s a warning flag too – time to prune.

3) I have things on the floor. As far as I’m concerned, the floor in my house isn’t storage. It should store furniture and half-finished Lego constructions only. And maybe the odd train track development project ;). So if I’m seeing stuff persisting on the floor, I need to declutter a cupboard somewhere that that stuff should be going into. Or get rid of said stuff.

4) I can’t find stuff or get to things easily. If I’m having to rummage through a storage container/shelf/cupboard then I add a declutter to my to-do list for that week. I can’t stand not being able to find things!

5) I feel cramped. This one is a slow-burner but it’s responsible for a whole bookcase leaving our house recently. I just wanted more empty wall space so the room felt bigger. It worked well too 🙂

 

Here’s some other posts that might help you declutter:

Declutter first, organise second

The “No Brainers” declutter list

Will it stay or will it go? How to make declutter decisions

 

 

 

“Free” stuff still costs you

One of the things I see a lot in clients’ homes is free stuff.  Branded pens, notepads and stress-balls; t-shirts with event logos on them; samples of cleaning goods and cosmetics. Conference goodie-bags full of marketing disguised as bargains.

What about the free toys/cards etc given away by supermarkets for your kids? To get you to bow to either store pressure or kid pressure to shop at their store so you can get more of the “collection”? They’re prolific and also make a big mess.

It’s okay to say no, you know. It’s okay to say “No thanks, I have enough pens” or “No, my kids have plenty of toys”. Or even just “No thank you!”.

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it. There’s no obligation. You’re not missing out by not taking it. You’re not going to offend anyone (although it would be amusing if you did).

If you needed it before you saw it, you can take it. If you didn’t, don’t take it.

(ps – also please teach your kids to say no to free stuff as well. Except the little samples of icecream they offer you before you buy one – who can say no to icecream?! ;))

Too many interests makes for all work and no fun

A common theme among my clients with high levels of clutter, particularly those who are “information collectors” or “crafters”, is a very high number of interests.

The more interests you are actively pursuing, the more stuff you accumulate.

The more stuff you accumulate, the more time it takes you away from your interests.

Take stock. How many interests do you have? And how much do you even get to enjoy them? Ironically, the more supplies people have, the less they actually do.

IMG_6339I know you need your hobbies and pursuits for your mental health, but do you need all of them at the same time? Our lives are long enough to pick a few favourites at a time.

Consider dropping some altogether, or putting a lot of them on hold.

As Oprah says –

“You CAN have it all, just not all at once”.

 

Letting go of useful stuff a necessity for some

When I’m coaching clients through the process of decluttering and letting go, I use these questions initially:

  • “Do you NEED it?”
  • “Do you USE it?”
  • “Do you LOVE it?”

These questions help people decide if they really are going to keep the item.

Sometimes, though, you can have such a high volume of “stuff” that an item can fit that category but still need to go. It might be used, it might be needed, it might even be loved, but it can still need to go in order for you to achieve your goals.

It’s a very hard concept for people to get their head around, but if you want your house to have less clutter, it’s just going to have to happen.

Saying “No” at work

Whenever you answer your phone, reply immediately to an email or answer a knock on your office door with a “sure, I can help you now”, you’re effectively saying to the person at the other end “Here is my time – you do with it as you wish”.

As soon as you say “Yes” to a request, you’re changing from proactive work to reactive work. It’s not on your terms. Only you know your priorities, and only you should be making decisions about your time.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to respond immediately, of course. But if you’re honest with yourself, a lot of the time you don’t have to.

How to say “No” so you’re working on your own priorities first:

  • Have times during your work day that are proactive, focussed times and your phone goes to voice mail or to a colleague (you can return the favour during their quiet time if you both work together)
  • Turn off your email notifications and choose a few blocks of time a day for email and only check and reply in those times
  • Have a carefully scripted response to people who interrupt you. Something like “I’d love to help you; I can see it’s important to you. Unfortunately my focus is on another task at the moment and I can’t give your issue the attention it deserves. How about I come and see you in an hour?”. And then honour that promise.

You don’t need to say yes all the time – you can still help people and be proactive in your own work at the same time.

 

Can you declutter your complexities?

A common theme amongst my clients is complexity.

They have a lot, they do a lot, they want to do a lot, they help others do a lot, they accumulate a lot in order to do what they want.

They have rules about how they do things (or not do them), which complicates life. They can’t say no to others, which complicates life.

Do you insist that certain conditions be met before you take any action? Why? What do you gain? What do you lose? Are your rules helpful to you or unhelpful?

For example, do you insist on reading all the junk mail before you throw it in the recycling? Do you buy the latest issue of your favourite magazine despite not having read the last two yet? Do you insist on using a new towel each shower? Do you buy a new outfit whenever you have a special occasion to attend? Do you buy designer clothes for your 2yo tomboy? Do you entertain several nights a week? Do you volunteer for several committees? Do you only buy bread from a bakery 30 minutes’ drive away?

These are all examples of complexities that you impose upon yourself. They may or may not be helpful: that’s up to you to decide.

The more simple your life, the happier you’ll be. Trust me.

What complexities can you step away from today?

Avoiding isn’t the answer

You’re cluttered. You feel out of control and overwhelmed. You want to escape the house. You aspire to a beautiful, organised home but despair that you’ll never get it. You’re anxious.

When you’re anxious, going shopping can make you feel better – every girl knows that ;). But we also all know that it’s only a short-term hit, like a drug.

Sometimes you even buy organising products to try and get around that feeling in your gut that tells you to stop bringing more stuff into the house.

But more stuff, even if it is a useful container or set of shelves, will NOT fix your problem.

The only thing that will fix your problem is taking action on what you have got around you. The only way out is to stop avoiding your stuff and face it. To defeat it, you must take action.

When you next get the urge to run away from your home and seek solace in shopping, realise that the ONLY WAY to get the home you want is to stay in it and face your demons. Sort that pile, toss that stuff, create the life you want rather than buy it.

You CAN do it, I know you can xx

Storing kids’ artwork 101

artwork

Our kids’ artwork can be very special to us (copyright Ethan Mezzino!)

This is such a common question I get that I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post on it!

A Facebook fan asks “Do you have any ideas for storing kids artwork? I have already accumulated a pile of “treasures” and my daughter is only 3. I obviously can’t keep everything, but how do I decide? And I’ll have the double the problem when my youngest starts getting creative. Please help!”

There are several ways to deal with kids’ artwork, so I’ll give you a run-down of a method that works for me and I recommend to the majority of my clients. It might work for you, too.

 

 

 

 

Firstly, have a place to put all the artwork when it comes in. You can put it on the wall, or in an artist’s folio sleeve, or both (the wall for a month, then the folio or a combination). The folios are designed for one or two pieces of artwork but I’ve shoved 6 month’s worth in there fairly easily! Slide it behind a piece of furniture for safe-keeping. Ours goes behind our buffet.

artist folio

A2 Artists’ folio – this one from Officeworks

Create a routine in which you regularly (when they are little do it every season, when they are older you can do it twice a year or so), go through the folio and photograph or scan every picture. Have the children pick out a few originals to keep, then recycle the rest (or use it as wrapping paper, or give to family – whatever you like).

The originals that my kids keep go in an A3 display book with plastic sleeves that they can look in any time they like, and is stored in their bedrooms (slid behind a bookcase).  The really special ones get framed.

If they are attached to their artwork this can take some coaxing, and you may get tears, but they do get used to it and if you can create a little slide show of all their artwork on the computer, you’ll win them over – they love it. You could even get a photobook printed of all their creations every couple of years.

It’s important for children to learn that there is a finite amount of space that we live in, and we can’t keep everything. The alternative of having the photographs means you save space and you still keep the memories.

 

 

Do less, be more

I have many clients that aren’t hoarders, but have too much stuff.

They don’t over-shop, but they are always in a mess.

They don’t refuse to throw things away, but they still never get around to it.

These people are busy – really busy. They have jobs (often more than one), they have study, kids that have stuffed-to-the-bursting schedules, friends that they drop everything for, hobbies, groups, committees, coaching and other commitments. 

They are cluttering up their schedules, and that in turn clutters up their spaces and their minds. They are overloaded.

I am constantly bleating on about slowing down, about dropping all but the essentials. My clients’ lives – YOUR lives – will not change if they don’t.

You don’t NEED to be doing EVERYTHING all at once. Slow down. Drop stuff. Pare back.

We have a long life, at the end of which very little apart from our near and dear will actually mean anything.

You don’t need to be doing all that stuff to be of value. You are of value just as you are.

Do less, BE more.

Lessens learned

Yes, that’s a deliberate pun – I DO know how to spell lessons!

Last year I gave up buying clothes, essentially. Read all the rules if you haven’t already…. I’ll give you a minute.

…..

Okay, now you’re up to date, I’ll let you know how it went.

Sad faces first:

  1. I didn’t enjoy it much. I missed having new clothes.
  2. I didn’t save much money, I just spent it on other stuff!
  3. I cheated a little, and feel bad

Now happy faces:

  1. I do feel a sense of achievement because despite cheating a little, I didn’t give up
  2. I found other ways to get clothes (taking donations of gifts, going to clothes-swaps) that I will use in the future
  3. I did get better at using my whole wardrobe
  4. I did get better at waiting for things
  5. I did have an emptier, more user-friendly and organised wardrobe
  6. I did get better at shopping carefully (I spent a couple of gift vouchers and made sure they were purchases that worked hard for me!)

So, the cheating occurred in December. I had just had a colour & style consult with Natalie from Defined Image and I was looking forward to buying stuff that suited me. Mum dragged me out shopping after my birthday because she needed some things herself (bad idea). Long story short, I bought a few sale items. I was half good, though, and gave my purchases to Mum to take home with her – she delivered them after Christmas and I waited until 2013 to wear them. So I failed, but not COMPLETELY. Yes, yes, I know, I know 😉

This year, I have certainly spent money on clothes. I went nuts in the first week (shopping with Natalie) and have eased off since (mainly because I spent so much in January that I ran out!).

I have a list of items that I want to get, and will only shop for them and not browse and buy random things just because I want new things.

So I am now getting wear out of all items in my wardrobe (Natalie also did a wardrobe audit with me and we culled what didn’t work) and enjoying choosing outfits. THAT is a big win!

I won’t be doing it again, but I will use my lessons learned well 🙂

Rebecca & Natalie

Here I am (in 'old' clothes), out on the town with my stylist and friend Natalie

 

 

 

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