Tag Archives: de-cluttering

The Clutter of Unfinished Projects

file00074170513Unfinished projects, whatever they may be, can be double trouble when it comes to clutter. First, there is the actual physical clutter of the supplies needed, the stamps and scrapbook paper, the yarn and needles, the candle molds, the paints, how-to books, whatever the projects require.

Next, there is the mental clutter. Do you feel good when you look at your unfinished projects, excited by your progress, or do you feel a sort of dread because they still haven’t been completed. For me, looking at unfinished projects starts negative thoughts because I feel like I have failed. The unfinished project supplies mock me.

In my experience, there is the initial excitement of starting a project that may carry through for days or even weeks, and then something happens. Life comes along, the project gets put aside and there isn’t the time or motivation to get back to it. The usual response is “Of course, I can’t just throw it away, right? After all, I have already invested money and time into the project.”

So there the project (or more likely projects) sit, waiting. Sometimes we move them around the house a bit, from a desk to under the desk, to a closet or a tub, but like they never go away.

Letting go of unfinished projects is hard, but I challenge you today to try to release at least one unfinished project around your home. Maybe pick the oldest project. I’m going to do the same. Free yourself of clutter space in your home and in your head.

Meanwhile, out the door for me today are two large bags of clutter (garbage) and a car full of stuff ready for donation.

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It’s 1996, Let’s Buy Cheez Whiz

file0002020216998De-cluttering and becoming minimalist has had some fun moments. My husband is starting to get on board and agreed to go through old paperwork with me that was stored neatly, although obsessively, in our many (Eight! Seriously!) file cabinets. I found an entire set of folders of old grocery receipts, dated in the 1990s. I learned some interesting things about my husband from them.

“I never bought Cheez Whiz,” he says.

“Hoo Hoo, it says Cheez Whiz, right here. April, 1996. You bought Cheez Whiz.”

“Maybe I was making Macaroni and Cheese?”

“Cheez Whiz is the stuff that you spray out of a can, right?”

“I don’t eat that stuff.”

Pause for “the look,” which after 12 years of marriage is close to being perfect.

“It must have been for a party or something.”

“Uh huh.”

Days later, I proceeded to shred the evidence, along with stuff that had financial information and social security numbers, perhaps more damaging in the wrong hands than even the Cheez Whiz receipt. The somewhat ancient shredder died on me, so I bagged it up along with the paper shreds. I actually made it so far as to toss the whole thing in the trash can (cut me some slack, our recycling bin was full, and I just wanted the stuff out of the house).

Later, my husband rescued the whole thing.

The shredder was just temperamental, he said (sure enough, scared for its life in a land fill, it started right back up). The shreds were not cross-cut, so they needed to be burned in the backyard. (Yes, yes, green police, I know, strike two.)

So, what was the purpose of spending time with the old shredder if it still required burning paper in the backyard?

Booyah! score one for Minimalist Wife and the shredder is no longer taking up space in our basement. (Minimalist Wife is blessed to have a husband who can concede defeat when presented with logic.)

The shredder never did make it out to the donation pile in the car, so I have my suspicion it might have been quietly buried in the backyard where it will one day be unearthed and declared an ancient device used in religious rituals.

Progress is progress.

 

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Money Saving March Day 5

money saving marchWelcome to Day 5 of Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. 

Well, March is certainly coming in like a lion with yet another winter storm. Today, I think we need an easy money-saving task that will also help improve our homes.

The challenge for today is to go around your home and find at least five things that no longer add meaning to your life. Place these things in a box or a bag and set them aside to either donate or sell. Selling the items may earn you some cash, but if you donate them instead, you can get a write off on your taxes.

After doing this little purge, the items will no longer take up valuable space in our home, so you won’t be paying the square footage just for storing things you don’t really need or want. If you rent a separate storage unit, then today’s challenge can have even more impact. The more clutter you remove from your life, the closer you are to removing the monthly storage fee!

Ready? Set? Go!

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Banish the Aspirations

file0001885192404Aspirational Objects are things that don’t serve an immediate purpose, but usually remind us what we aspire to do and to be. Sometimes these objects can be inspirational, such as a beautiful photograph that reminds us to seek out simplicity and calm. Most of the time, though, these aspirational objects serve only to make us feel guilty or inadequate, such as the three pairs of size 4 pair of pants we will never wear again, the tiny but expensive jar of truffle oil for a gourmet meal we haven’t gotten around to cooking, or the stacks of woodworking magazines for the home improvement projects that never happened.

These are the “someday” things. “Someday I’ll (fill in the blank).” If the someday ever does come to pass, won’t it be more of a delight to go out and find objects that fit your new reality instead of making do with something that might not fit?

While there is nothing wrong with aspiring to something better, something different, why not invest our focus on the lives we are living now, and own with objects that speak to us, serve a purpose or add value in our lives? Being surrounded by reminders of what we have failed to accomplish or decided didn’t work for us gives us negativity, not freedom.

My challenge for us all today (and I hope that you will join me), is to banish at least one aspirational object from your home and your life. If you take the challenge, please comment on your accomplishment!

 

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Another One Bites the Dust Clutter List

IMG_1999Well. Whew. Another full car load of stuff for the thrift store, plus an almost-full garbage bag ready to go. I’ve been ruthless, ruthless I tell you. After being guided by two of my new favorite people: Peter Walsh and Joshua Becker, something really clicked, and our home is slowly transforming into a freeing space that we can love.  (Aside from their obvious talents, I’ve found both Walsh and Becker to be really nice guys.)

We still need furniture, having inherited a miss-matched collection. At midlife, with three kids, we are looking forward to a future where we stop treating our home as if it were our first rental out of college. Better to do without than to do with wrong. Letting go leaves the hand open to accept the worthwhile.

As you can see below, the list is getting long, which is both a source of pride and embarrassment. If this much stuff needed to be de-cluttered… I know I am not alone. Tell me I am not alone.

Here is my updated de-cluttering list. The items in bold are the newest accomplishments.

  • One section of the basement
  • Kids’ school paperwork
  • Old Word Processor (a whole project since it had data on it)
  • Hope Chest–emptied and ready for donation
  • Right food pantry
  • Second box of photos
  • Paperwork (10 minutes)
  • Inherited sewing notions
  • First Aid
  • One box of old photos
  • Sweaters
  • Towels
  • Sweatshirts
  • Underwear drawer
  • Make up and toiletries
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Recipe magazines
  • Baskets
  • Rags (Ugh, why was I keeping so many–was I worried about a shortage?)
  • One kitchen cabinet
  • Cookie sheets, muffin pans and platters
  • Pens and Pencils (Until I went around the house and actually gathered them all up, I had no idea how many we had! A bunch went in the trash and a bag full of nice ones were donated to my son’s kindergarten teacher, who will have enough writing instruments to last until said son is in college.)
  • One kitchen drawer (Goodbye chip clips. I sent them to a new friend I met online who was in dire need of some.)
  • More books! (The recent purging and a prompt from organizing guru, Peter Walsh, has made me brave enough to get rid of another large box of books.)
  • The Junk Drawer!!!
  • Master Bedroom Bedding (I even sewed a button on to our comforter cover–a bit of mental clutter solved)
  • Kids Puzzles and Workbooks (I somehow missed this when I did the toys earlier in the week)
  • Socks (All five of us plus the bag of single socks)
  • Utensils
  • Belts
  • Some photos (This will be a long project)
  • Children’s closets (3)
  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

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Interesting Objects

Some interesting things that I have found while de-cluttering our home:

My 80s Name Plate Necklace

My 80s Name Plate Necklace

 

Magnetic poetry

Magnetic poetry

 

C-3PO

C-3PO

What is the most interesting thing that you’ve found around your home lately?

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Let Your Library Reduce Your Clutter

IMG_2013We love our local library. Not only does it help us save money, but it also reduces our clutter. How? By providing us with education, entertainment, things for the home, and so much more, thus reducing the pile we have in our house.

Here are some of the areas in our home where clutter has been reduced, thanks to our local library. You may be surprised by how many different areas of our home we are able to keep clutter free just by having a library card.

I strongly suggest that if you check out your local library, especially if you haven’t been there in a while. Chances are there are plenty of opportunities you will enjoy.

Kids Craft Supplies

Our local library provides our children with many different opportunities for creative crafts. Often we can just drop in during a particular time period and do the craft together with supplies that are already laid out. Other times, the craft is directed by an instructor. Either way, the kids have some creative fun, and I don’t have to purchase and keep mounds of craft supplies in my home.

Magazines

For a while, magazines were one of the major sources of clutter in our home. We use them for entertainment, research and knowledge. Plus, we like trying some of the new recipes that we find. It was always hard to recycle magazines, since I worried that I might miss something.

Our library now offers popular magazines in a digital format, free to download. There is no limit to the number of current issue magazines that we can view–the library makes all of the most popular ones available, as well as some trade magazines, so we always have access.

Plus, if we really want to read paper versions, we can spend a few moments at the physical library reading current issues or borrow older issues and take them home.

Entertainment or Media Center

Video Games

We used to save money by purchasing used video games, but we still wound up with quite a collection that cluttered up our living room. The library has helped us eliminate that clutter by offering video games for our home system. The kids can check out a new video game for an entire week at a time. The games also come with any extra controllers or special devices that are needed to play them, so we don’t have to worry about having to buy and store a special board to do some virtual skiing, for example.

DVDs

Thanks to the library, we can check out new movies any time we want. There is a good selection of DVDs available that can be borrowed from one to three weeks, depending on the popularity of a particular title. This eliminated our previous practice of purchasing whatever new family movie became available. Now, we only purchase a movie if we’ve checked it out more than five times. We get to watch new movies all of the time, without having to commit to the space to keep them all organized.

While most libraries offer DVDs for free, some do charge a nominal fee for this service.

CDs

Need a new CD for the car or just to listen to at home? While the library may have been the last place you would think of for new music, the truth is that it is a wealth of a resource, especially for children’s music, world music and popular tunes.

Bookshelves

This month alone, I saved at least three feet of bookshelf space in my home simply by avoiding book impulse buys and checking the books out at the library instead. Thanks to our library’s online access, I can “order” new books and have them waiting for me to pick up for free. When I am done reading, there are more wonderful books to be had. Since my family consists of avid readers who tend to bump into walls because we have our noses in our books all of the time, the clutter reduction is significant. Thanks to the library, boxes and boxes of books have left our home and given us a lot more space.

What about rare books or less popular ones that may not be available at your library branch? Request them through intra-library loan.

Reference Library

We often kept certain books around for reference, such as cookbooks and home repair books. While we still have a few of these, most of the time, we can simply check out the library when we need to learn or be reminded of something. Physical reference books can be viewed or check out of course, but our library also has a number of online references that we are allowed to access. The library offers solid and reliable reference material. Reference books tend to be large, so it is nice to not have to find permanent space in our home for them.

Toys and Games

Our local library offers a number of board games that can be played with while in the library, including both the classics and some new favorites. It also sponsors different toy and game events from Lego building for kids to card games for seniors. Not only can this reduce the need for tons of toys and games in the home, but it can also offer social benefits, as well.

Some libraries also allow toys and games to be check out of the library for a number of weeks, so you can take them home to enjoy.

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Becoming Minimalist

I had the good fortune of interviewing Joshua Becker of the website Becoming Minimalist for the Minimal Mom column with Western New York Family Magazine

Minimal Mom: Interview with the Becoming Minimalist Dad

by Mary Ann Carrado Romans

Joshua Becker describes himself as being the dad in a typical middle class family. Becker, his wife and their two young children are a self-described typical middle class who have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. The author of two books and a popular blog, www.becomingminimalist.com, he hopes to share the lessons his family has learned and inspire others to intentionally live with less. Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Becker about the joys and the challenges of being both a minimalist and a family man.

Why should families consider minimalism?

Because our “stuff” is not adding as much value to our lives as we think. In fact, it is distracting us from truly living and burdening us with all sorts of different cares and obligations. Consider for just a moment how much of your time and energy is spent in the pursuit or management of your possessions. We research and purchase our possessions, we bring them into our home, we have to organize and clean and repair and remove and replace… and that doesn’t even begin to count all the hours we worked in the first place just to earn the money that we used to buy things that we have to organize and clean… It’s becoming too much. All the while, the most important elements of our lives, the truly life-giving ones (our families, our relationships, our passions) are being pushed aside.

What has living with less brought into your life? 

Practically speaking, owning fewer possessions means that we have less debt, less stress, and less cleaning. We have more time and energy and mental capacity to pursue the things that are most important to us. In short, it has brought into the life the opportunity to pursue our greatest passions.

What have been some of the challenges? 

First off, one of the greatest challenges is that not everyone in the family is convinced to the same degree on the importance of minimalism. My wife and I have both bought in – but to varying degrees. However, my two small children aren’t so convinced. Secondly, even if every member of the family did buy into the lifestyle completely, each unique individual is going to define their most important passion and pursuit differently. As a result, the things they need are going to look different. I’ve learned there is no simple formula for minimalism and it always requires patience, grace, and flexibility.

What would your children say about your lifestyle?

My son, nine, gets it. He understands it to the extent that he can. My daughter, six, is not so sure. For her, the number of dolls in her room or clothes in her closet is never enough. But I don’t blame her for that. At this point, that’s what is most important to her. In response, we try to model a life of contentment and communicate life lessons when appropriate “You know, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time picking up your toys if there weren’t so many of them.” But I can relate to her beliefs and pursuits… after all, they perfectly resemble mine for the first 30+ years of my life.

What mistakes did you make in the beginning of your journey that could serve as lessons for others? 

I threw away the Jell-o molds my wife had bought for my son’s upcoming birthday party. Of course, she didn’t realize that until she went to cut the Jell-o just a few short hours before the party was set to begin. So basically, I forgot to communicate with my wife. I jumped in with both feet and proceeded to start removing the things I saw in the house that I saw no reason to keep. I quickly realized it is far easier to recognize someone else’s clutter than it is to recognize our own. Expecting someone else to progress as quickly down the road to minimalism as you is unfair to them.

Is minimalism just about getting rid of things in your life?

Minimalism is about increasing intentionality in our lives. It is about removing the distractions so we are better able to pursue what is the most important, valuable, and lasting. Physical possessions are often the most obvious, because we can see them with our eyes. There is just as much benefit in removing the distracting time commitments, relationships, or unhealthy habits from our lives, too. Typically, I find that removing the unnecessary physical possessions from our homes opens up our heart and mind to identifying and removing some of the other barriers.

Are there any downsides to minimalism?

Most of the downsides are removed by remembering that minimalism is not rigid and inflexible. I have recently begun playing the game of tennis after taking 17 years off after high school. I love the sport, the exercise, the competition, and the relationships. I found it was adding value into my life. So I bought a new tennis racket. Minimalism serves me, I don’t serve it. In that way, minimalism works. I don’t feel confined by it in any way.

So many parents are already overwhelmed. Do you have any advice on how they can get started on living with less?

Just start small and with your own stuff. Experience the emotions that accompany the process, so you are better equipped to help the others in your family down the road. You’ll find great freedom and life in the process. Your family members will notice the benefits and desire it as well.

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Why You’ll Never See a Sparrow on Hoarders

file0001829268490Snowed in. The bright white of the world brings new promise to the day, the week, the year. The sky, a soft, happy blue, is the perfect foil against snow-covered branches that reach up, swaying in the wind, every movement bringing forth a new flutter of polka dots of snow. The cat wonders if he can catch any of it.

The baseboard heat ticks and clings and rumbles softly, trying to keep us warm and providing a little bit of a concert each time the furnace kicks in.

I sigh and turn back to the bags and boxes that litter our bedroom, when all I really want to do is get back in bed with my very interesting book and another cup of coffee. The piles of stuff slated for donation is slightly depressing, not energizing, as I thought it would be.  This morning, I’m afraid to let go.  So, I log a few things in my notebook, for tax purposes and then stare out the window. The clutter is sucking me down.

There are two birds playing in the holly trees. Despite the wind, they hop up and down the branches. Their joy is obvious and immediate. One knocks a bit of snow on the other, who unafraid ruffles its feathers a bit and hops some more. They feast on the berries.

Then I have one of those moments. Something pops into my mind, a bit of a verse. Something about being taken care of, about being in His loving arms. I look it up.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

In other words, I need to get over myself. Stop worrying. Stop holding on to so much.

Gently, He tells me; have faith, and I do. This is good for me, for my family. Removing the clutter. Removing the distractions.  Freeing us for what is important. Like hugging a child and finding treasures in the snow.

Letting all of this go today (items since the last update are in bold):

  • One box of old photos
  • Sweaters
  • Towels
  • Sweatshirts
  • Underwear drawer
  • Make up and toiletries
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Recipe magazines
  • Baskets
  • Rags (Ugh, why was I keeping so many–was I worried about a shortage?)
  • One kitchen cabinet
  • Cookie sheets, muffin pans and platters
  • Pens and Pencils (Until I went around the house and actually gathered them all up, I had no idea how many we had! A bunch went in the trash and a bag full of nice ones were donated to my son’s kindergarten teacher, who will have enough writing instruments to last until said son is in college.)
  • One kitchen drawer (Goodbye chip clips. I sent them to a new friend I met online who was in dire need of some.)
  • More books! (The recent purging and a prompt from organizing guru, Peter Walsh, has made me brave enough to get rid of another large box of books.)
  • The Junk Drawer!!!
  • Master Bedroom Bedding (I even sewed a button on to our comforter cover–a bit of mental clutter solved)
  • Kids Puzzles and Workbooks (I somehow missed this when I did the toys earlier in the week)
  • Socks (All five of us plus the bag of single socks)
  • Utensils
  • Belts
  • Some photos (This will be a long project)
  • Children’s closets (3)
  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

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Clutter Busting: How to Keep the Motivation Going

IMG_1969

That burst of energy you get when you first start organizing your home is wonderful isn’t it? Little victories turn into larger ones, and the good feelings you get keep you going. Have you ever removed clutter from a space and then found yourself returning back to it throughout the day just to admire how good it looks? You organize your closet, a shelf, a drawer and it serves as your inspiration to keep going on other areas of your house.

Then things happen. Life gets busy. You get a cold. The kids or the husband junk up the newly cleaned space. You get discouraged. You wonder if it is all worth it, this being organized. You think another re-run of Sex in the City sounds better than diving into the hall closet and organizing the boots.

When this happens, the important thing is to try and get back to your clutter busting goals as soon as you can. Give yourself a break, if you really need it, but then set a day or a time when you will get back to the clutter. Here are some other ways to keep the motivation going when you are clutter busting.

  1. Work in 10-15 minute increments. This is a small commitment, but it is effective. Your home will improve, and you will see a difference.
  2. Pick a new project each day. Before you go to bed decide what you will tackle the next day. When you wake up, you’ll find yourself looking forward to completing the new task.
  3. Be accountable. Make sure someone else knows your goals and your progress. You won’t want to disappoint them. Plus, you can show off the your results.
  4. Plan to give yourself little rewards when you do a job well done, such as 30 minutes to read a book, a couple of pieces of dark chocolate, or the perfect sweater to fit in your newly organized closet.

Remember: My good thoughts go with you during your clutter busting.

Here is my own updated clutter busting list. I spent about 10-20 minutes on each project.

  • One kitchen cabinet
  • Cookie sheets, muffin pans and platters
  • Pens and Pencils (Until I went around the house and actually gathered them all up, I had no idea how many we had! A bunch went in the trash and a bag full of nice ones were donated to my son’s kindergarten teacher, who will have enough writing instruments to last until said son is in college.)
  • One kitchen drawer (Goodbye chip clips. I sent them to a new friend I met online who was in dire need of some.)
  • More books! (The recent purging and a prompt from organizing guru, Peter Walsh, has made me brave enough to get rid of another large box of books.)
  • The Junk Drawer!!! 
  • Master Bedroom Bedding (I even sewed a button on to our comforter cover–a bit of mental clutter solved)
  • Kids Puzzles and Workbooks (I somehow missed this when I did the toys earlier in the week)
  • Socks (All five of us plus the bag of single socks)
  • Utensils
  • Belts
  • Some photos (This will be a long project)
  • Children’s closets (3)
  • Flat surface two (Bedroom dresser)
  • Pots and pans
  • Small appliances
  • Flat surface 3 (Left kitchen pantry)
  • Under the kitchen sink
  • The Car (Hint for those in freezing weather: Grab a laundry basket. Make a mad dash to the car. Fill the laundry basket. Dash back in the house. Sort in the warmth of the living room. Oh, and don’t forget to wear shoes. Brr.)
  • One large food pantry
  • Magazines
  • Flat surface one (Produce bin)
  • Toys (one large contractor bag–whoo hoo)
  • Children’s books
  • Children’s videos
  • Adult Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Adult medicine cabinet
  • Children’s medicine cabinet

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