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.

Celebrate your achievements

All ready for the RSPCA

When I went to see my client yesterday, we started off as we usually do, chatting about what he’d achieved in the fortnight since I’d last been.

He was disappointed in himself, and complained that he hadn’t achieved anything. He had been too busy working (he works shift work).

Then through more probing on my part I discovered that he had cleared out a great deal of his bedroom and there was a big expanse of carpet on display (yay! I did a little dance in it to show him how big it was). He had also delivered a load of old towels and sheets to the RSPCA, and decluttered and cleaned his bathroom.

Now, for someone who is a hoarder and is crippled by procrastination, that is a LOT achieved!

I told him so, and he agreed. So the lesson here is don’t be too hard on yourself. Any progress is a step forward.

Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, or at least NOTICE them!

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.

 


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.

Don’t ask your kids to clean their room …

Instead of asking your kids

“Can you please go and clean your room?”,

try rewording it and saying

Can you please go and spend 5 minutes putting things in their proper homes?”.

 

The request is much more specific and it’s measurable for them. The limit on time also helps them to not get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.

It doesn’t matter if the room isn’t finished in 5 minutes, but after another 5 minutes a few hours later, and then the next day, and so on …

you get the picture :)

A place for everything…

 

 

 

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the utensil drawer

20121130-114015.jpg

This week – the utensil drawer. This is where stuff that won’t fit in the cutlery drawer goes. And it can get rather messy!

  1. Lay out a towel on the kitchen floor.
  2. Pull all of the stuff out of the drawer and sort it into like groups (ie “cutting” “scooping” “storing” “making” “decorating”) onto the towel
  3. For each item, ask yourself:
    • How many of these do I have?
    • How often do I use it?
    • If I got rid of it, would I be able to find a way to still do what I need to do if the need arose (the answer is almost always YES – there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying…rather grossly…puts it)
    • Will I use it again more than a couple of times a year?
    • Is it still in good working order?
    • Can I live without it (that’s me being facetious – unless you have a dialysis machine in there, of course can live without it).
    • Does my bestie/mother/sister/neighbour have one I can borrow if I do need it again one day?
    • Does it even belong in the kitchen? (there will be rubber bands, bits of broken toys, coasters, orphan bits of sets, the odd hair band, a few receipts, stamps, paper clips, bandaids or bobby pin and the like that should be re-home completely)
  4. Cull everything that doesn’t make the cut
  5. Put the rest back in the drawer in its groups.  You may need to use ziplock bags to group the small stuff together, and drawer dividers to keep it all from getting too jumbled again.

 

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).

 

What excuses do YOU use?

There are many reasons why people keep too many things; I hear them every day. Some are valid (ie, they need, use or love the item) but other excuses need to be challenged if people want to move forward with a simpler, less cluttered life.

Here are some of my favourite counter-arguments and challenges in response to some common excuses:

1. I might use it one day

This is the most common. I always remind people that for every item you keep for this reason, you are adding to your ‘To Do’ list. After all, if you do actually use it, it’s something to do, isn’t  it? Do you really need MORE stuff to do?  And if you’re keeping it out of obligation (“I really should finish that project”) then it’s not even going to be an enjoyable activity! Why do that to yourself?

When exactly WILL you use it?  How long have you been ‘meaning to’ use it? How is it affecting  your life right now? If you’re pretty sure you will use it, give yourself a deadline. If it’s not used by then, it is a negative effect on your life and it needs to go.

I also ask clients to ask themselves “What’s the worst that could happen if I get rid of this item?”. In most cases, you’ll just need to borrow one off someone else, or buy it again. And that’s the worst case! You can live with that, can’t you? You’ve certainly been through worse. Most  likely, you’ll forget it existed and be grateful for the peace of mind.

2.  I plan to fit into it again

Okay, so you have a few items of clothing that you love that don’t quite fit – fair enough. However, you need limits on how many you keep.  After all, you will most likely want to go shopping again if you lose weight, won’t you?

And the tough question – how likely are you to actually lose weight?  How long have you been that size? It does get less likely as time goes on.  I always encourage my clients to focus efforts and space in their wardrobe on clothes that they can use, and that make them feel fabulous in the size they are, instead of resenting their size.  If skinny clothes could talk, all they would do is call you fat anyway. You wouldn’t keep a friend that called you fat!

3. I spent a lot of money on it

The money is gone – it’s not coming back. If you wasted the money, it’s already wasted; what you do with the item will make little difference to that. Accept the loss and move on. If you don’t use it, you’re wasting both money, space AND sanity. Why not consider selling it or donating it to someone who will get a lot of use out of it?

4. Someone gave it to me

Your affection for someone should not be directed towards items, it should be directed towards the person. Love the person; get rid of the monstrosity that stresses you.

5. It’s a waste if I get rid of it

It’s far more of a waste to keep it and not use it! Donate it to someone who will appreciate it and get use out of it.

6. We’ve always kept that type of paperwork

Just because you’ve always done it does not mean it’s appropriate anymore. Challenge your habits and rationalise your decisions with some logic. Do you need it? Can you reproduce it if you really do find you need it one day? If it’s available anywhere else, get rid of it and simplify your life. Less paperwork = more smiles!

What excuses do you think you need to remove from your decluttering experience?