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”.

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

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!

Small desk syndrome?

Desks are fabulously useful. You can spend a lot of time sitting at them, pretending to work. And the more stuff you have spread around you, the busier you look, right? Well, what if you have a tiny desk?  How do you manage to look busy (or, more seriously, stay organised) when you have a teeny tiny amount of space on your desk?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep your active paperwork vertical. A stand of manilla folders takes up less space than a couple of piles of paper, and a magazine file of journals takes up less space than a pile of them on the desk corner.
  2. Keep your reference paperwork off your desk entirely. Try a filing cabinet, or binders on shelves. If you look at it infrequently, it should be off your desk
  3. Curb your stationery addiction. I know, it’s awfully pretty and fun, and it makes you feel organised, but you don’t need 60 notepads, 7 staplers and a bucket of paperclips. Nor do you need a billion pens that don’t work (throw them out – not back in the drawer!)
  4. Try to use your vertical wall space as much as you can – install shelving or add a hutch to your desk
  5. Have routines that include an end-of-day desk clearing – file your paperwork and put away your stationery. If you do it every day, it will never get out of control. And you won’t come in on Monday to the smell of curdled cappuccino, either.
  6. Try using a magazine file as your inbox instead of an in-tray (which is an unrestrained pile waiting to happen anyway!). And empty it daily (not yearly!).
  7. Ditch everything you don’t use regularly, and limit the amount of personal ‘knick knacks’ on the desk. They’re lovely, but it’s prime real estate that they’re hogging!

Tiny desk = no worries!

 

Getting organised for tax time

Are you scared of doing your tax? Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Wouldn’t you feel wonderful if this year you had it all wrapped up by the end of July?

The end of the financial year may not be looming large quite yet, but those that like to have their tax all sorted by the 1st of July are already getting organised for it.

If you’re completely overwhelmed by how you’re going to get this year’s tax organised, these simple steps can help.

  1. Make a 2010/2011 file – it can be a box, a manila folder or a binder. It doesn’t matter what you put it in really, so long as you have one.
  2. Write a list of paperwork that needs to be included so you can check them off when they go in the file. Include: receipts, charity donations, utility bills, group certificates, health insurance paperwork and dividend statements, among others. If you can get a list from your accountant that would be ideal.
  3. Go through your piles of paperwork (or filing cabinet, if you have it all organised) and collect up what you’re missing. Do it in small bursts (15 minutes or so a day) if your piles are largely unsorted.
  4. Add to the file for the next month or so, then at the end of June sort it all into groups (income, expenditure) and it’s all ready to do that return on time!

Don’t strive for a ‘perfect’ file. All it needs to be is all together. It’s as simple as that!

(note: this advice is for those in the Australian tax system. If you’re in another country use it as a guide, but be aware you’ll need to customise it to suit your nation’s terminology and tax laws).

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