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.

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?

Will it stay or will it go?

When you’re trying to reduce your belongings, it can be hard making the decision to keep or discard an item.

Here’s what I ask my clients:

1. Do you NEED it? This one is relatively easy to answer once you get the hang of it. If it’s a bike bell and you don’t have a bike, you probably don’t NEED it. Notice I didn’t say “want”. Be careful you don’t confuse the two – western society has a pretty warped sense of need these days.

2. Do you USE it? If you don’t need it you still might use it. I don’t NEED a white coat and a brown one, but I do use both of them regularly throughout winter.

3. Do you LOVE it? Is it neither a necessity nor used? Is it a teacup that belonged to your grandma’s special set? Not needed, not used, but certainly treasured.


If it fails all these tests, then it has no place in your life. Period.

 

Be careful: it’s at this point that the “other” criteria pop up in your head because fear kicks in….

“I might need it one day”

“I really should finish that project; I’m a failure if I just discard it now”

“What if Cath notices the frame that she gave me isn’t on display anymore”, or

“But I spent good money on it and now I’m wasting that money by giving this item away”.

None of these are good enough reasons to keep something. Don’t let the fear take over.

If you don’t need, use or love it, it’s making life that little bit harder for you. That little bit more cramped, that little bit more complex. Let go of the fear and experience the freedom!

 

Embrace the idea of less stuff so you can have more of life.

 


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

Weekend Weightlifter – cull some paperwork

This weekend we’re going to attack some old paperwork. You don’t need to spend all weekend on it – you can spend as little as 15 minutes and make a difference!

Find some old filing in the home and take a handful of it out of the files.  Assess each piece of paperwork one at a time and ask yourself if you need to keep it or not.

Reasons to keep papers include:

  • It was used as supporting documentation on one of your last five (seven in the US) tax returns (invoices, receipts, superannuation)
  • It has historical significance (your grandfather’s migration documents)
  • You need to keep it for legal reasons (your car registration papers or your Will)
  • You need to keep it for warranty reasons (the receipt for your vacuum cleaner)
  • It’s useful when something goes wrong (your dishwasher user manual)
  • It’s a hand-print of your daughter when she was a baby
  • It proves something (residency, that you paid for something, that you did a certain qualification, medical records etc)
  • You’re going to use it soon (a gift voucher)
  • It makes you very happy. VERY.

Reasons to ditch papers include:

  • It’s a document you can obtain online whenever you need it
  • It’s a user manual for an item you don’t have anymore
  • It’s a bill that was paid 2 years ago and you didn’t claim it as a tax deduction
  • It’s one of 3,000 drawing of stars your daughter drew (a handful of the same drawing from the same age is sufficient)
  • It’s one of 50 payslips from 1987 (again, keep one for nostalgia, sure – but you don’t need them all)
  • You took it out of a magazine several years ago because you thought you might make that stool/soft toy/cake/party decoration one day (you can get SO MUCH online these days)
  • It’s memorabilia that makes you sad/angry/guilty

You can spend as little or as long as you want, as long as you ditch as much as you can in that time!

 

Where do I start?

The most common question I get is “Where do I start?”.

starting blocks

For people with a clutter problem, it’s not a simple problem to solve.  It can induce a lot of anxiety and many simply throw their hands up in despair and declare it an impossible task.

You have two ways to start:

1. The cull

2. The sort

If you have a highly cluttered space and no room to sort, you need to cull first. That means grabbing a few boxes or garbage bags and assigning them roles – “Rubbish” “Donations” “Give to friends” “Staying” and “Elsewhere in the house”.  Then you start at the pile closest to the door and work your way around the room, putting things in their appropriate boxes.  Don’t look at the whole space – focus on ONE ITEM AT A TIME ONLY. This will help prevent you getting overwhelmed. If you find it impossible not to ‘see’ the whole room and get anxious, engage a friend (or a Professional Organiser!) to help. You can be in the other room with the boxes, and they can bring you 1-3 items at a time to make decisions on.

If you have a moderately cluttered space, you can sort first. Sorting first helps you make better culling decisions because you can see where you have duplicated and the total volume of ‘stuff’.  Keep the culling boxes as outlined above, but sort your items into “like” groups first, then cull. Once you’ve culled you can then find storage appropriate with the group of items and the space you have for them.  Again, just start at the first pile you see and work on one item at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Dedicate a small amount of time every day, one item at a time and you’ll get there.

As Lao-Tzu said (not literally, but this common translation and interpretation is the one most suited to this circumstance!)  ”The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“.

 

A Restful Haven – 6 Steps to an Organised Bedroom

peaceful bedroom

Source http://smallplacestyle.blogspot.com.au/

 

Do you dread going into your bedroom? Is it piled high with clutter? Do you wake each morning staring at a mountain of things to do?

A cluttered bedroom doesn’t encourage a loving relationship or healthy sleep!

Try this 6-step process to declutter your room so you can reclaim your haven.

  1. Decide on your vision for the room. Write it down, draw it, close your eyes and ‘see’ it.
  2. Eliminate all items that don’t fit the vision.  This includes paperwork, kids’ toys, excess books and magazines (keep just a few for current reading) and homeless “junk room” stuff that belongs elsewhere in the house.
  3. Group everything that remains into ‘like’ groups – clothes with clothes, shoes with shoes, jewellery with jewellery etc..
  4. Eliminate duplicates and anything you no longer need, use or love.  Eliminate any clothes you put on but always take off again, that are damaged, do not fit or you just don’t like them anymore.  You can donate or sell items; it’s your choice (only sell if you have the time and really need the money – otherwise it’s just another thing on your list of things to do). This is the hardest part – letting go.  Yes, it’s difficult, but keep your vision in mind and you’ll be able to do it. You NEED a restful haven to sleep in.
  5. Find and create homes for all the items you need, use and love.  Remember that those things you use frequently should be easy to get to, and those that you use infrequently (like luggage, memorabilia and spare linen) should be less accessible – use the high and deep spaces for those items.  Don’t forget the useful space under your bed, too. Use  vacuum packs, tubs, drawer dividers, clear shoe boxes, jewellery organisers and other useful organising tools. Don’t buy them until you know where they are going and what is going in them, though!
  6. Set up a new habit of ‘resetting’ your room before you go to bed each night - all that is required is that you do step 2 really, and then for everything that’s left, put it in its home. And then enjoy a peaceful sleep.

I know many people will say “It’s not as easy as that”. But I do this every week with clients and it IS that easy – I know from experience. You just have to let go of the fear. You’re brave, I know you can do it!

New Year, new … somethingorother …

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s New Year’s Day, a time that many of us decide we will make some resolutions to change for the better, and that 2012 is going to be better than 2011.

More money, more friends, less stress, less fat, more fat, more joy, more holidays, less travelling, more clothes, less clothes, more stuff, less stuff, new car, new house, new partner …*takes deep breath*… new friends, no more new friends, more muscles, less crying, better parenting, better job, no job, see family more, see family less, help more people, get help more often, quit smoking, drink less, eat more meat, eat less meat … the list goes on!

Most people want to improve themselves or their lives to some degree; we’re all alike in that way.

Most New Year’s Resolutions fail (I won’t go into detail, but there are stats supporting that sweeping statement!). So I recommend that you just don’t make any. But no, you cry, how will I improve if I don’t make a resolution to? Easy – you take action. A resolution is just a decision to do something, and decisions don’t get you anywhere.  To change, you need a goal, some determination and action. Action is what gets you over the line!

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Choose a theme (“financial freedom” “healthy living” “learning journey”). You can’t change everything - it just doesn’t work. Pick a theme for 2012 and base your goals around it. Don’t stress, though; if you want to lose weight AND learn French this year, that’s fine!
  2. Restrict your goals to only a few (maybe 3?). Brainstorm a list then trim it down to the most important ones to you. Keep the rest to review next year.
  3. Write your goals so they are as specific as possible, and preferably measurable (eg – fit back into size 10 jeans, or get debt down to $50,000, or finish a graphic design course)
  4. Once you have a few specific, large goals, break them down into some smaller goals so that you have a plan of action to follow and not just a vague notion (ie, visit dietitian, decide on exercise routine, start routine, change diet, lose 5 kgs, lose 10 kgs, fit a size 12, fit a size 11 … )
  5. DON’T give up altogether if you stumble. Just start again! Perseverance is the key.

Share your theme for the year with us – what are you focusing on? (In case you were wondering, mine is “Acceptance” – rolling with the punches, flowing with the current and being grateful for all I have).

 

Productivity Death by Mindless Escape

We all want to run away from things sometimes

Procrastination affects everyone, but for some it seems to really affect their life – especially their work. It’s a real productivity-killer. I was chatting about it with a friend recently who said that she has become particularly good at some PC games because when she can’t face work, diving into a game helps her to cope. She’s engaging in a mindless escape from a difficult reality.

Most of us engage in mindless escapes – TV is a prime example (most commercial TV at the moment is particularly mindless, but I’ll save that rant for another time, lucky you…). But there is also Facebook (sometimes looking at photos of someone you don’t know seems an entirely useful way to spend time), or Twitter (do the useful links EVER stop coming? It’s Mindless Escape Heaven there) and other things such as watching kittens take on dogs in YouTube videos or reading up on Scandinavian Twig-Chair making.

My friend knows very well she’s escaping, and even talked about the cost/benefit of the escape. However, she still doesn’t know how to stop the escaping and the procrastination associated with it.

I suggested that it’s okay for her to play Angry Birds – that she shouldn’t try to stop altogether. But what she should do is first take 10 seconds to write down what it is she’s escaping from. The act of actually realising what we’re putting off, and then writing it down, means that your mindless escape all of a sudden becomes a conscious choice. And we can control our choices.

You still may engage in the escape, but by being aware, the escape may well be for a shorter time. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break – it’s how long and how frequently you take that break (and the quality of the break) that is important.

What do you engage in mindless escapes to avoid doing? Can you reduce that and be more productive, or at least, more conscious?

3 Types of “Stuff Homelessness”

One of the biggest causes of clutter is one technical error we all make – some things just never get a home. Even fairly organised homes have some areas that continue to trip them up. They are:

Box of random stuff

  1. Things that don’t belong to you. Books or DVDs you’ve borrowed (from friends or the library), the platter left behind after a dinner party, the sunglasses left after a BBQ, the blow-up mattress you borrowed when guests stayed over. Typically, these are scattered all over the house. Often they (quite embarrassingly) go missing.
  2. Things that need to be repaired or returned. These are in the laundry, in the junk drawer, in the wardrobe, the shed, the spare room and the office. And they never get fixed because you forget they exist.
  3. Things that need a decision to be made. This is most usually paperwork, but often there are items floating around that need decisions, such as carpet samples, a gift you don’t like, clothes that don’t fit, or a project you’ve abandoned but not discarded.

Once you’ve identified these items, create a home for them, and make some rules around what fits into each category.  A home for things that belong to others can be a shelf in a living room cabinet, or a clearly labelled box in the spare room.  A special spot in the bookcase or bedside table is perfect for borrowed books. A box near the back or front door would also be good for things that need repair, or drawers if you have a lot (note: if you have a lot, consider throwing some of them out – especially if they’ve been damaged a long time and you haven’t needed them).

Things that need a decision to be made should also be grouped together. This one needs to be more obvious, because it will probably be the largest category. An inability, or a delay, in making decisions is a key cause of clutter.  I’d use an open shelf with everything on display (paperwork should be stored vertically – in manila folders or magazine files). Then they’re reminding you of the decision that needs to be made. Create a boundary – decide just how much space you’re prepared to sacrifice for these items, then stick to it. If you exceed those boundaries, it’s decision time!

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