Tag Archives: decluttering

Choices

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Here in the US we live in a society of choices.  No matter what you want to do your options are many and we’re told that this is a benefit.  After all, who doesn’t love the ability to choose?

As I go through my too many things I realize that this is how I’ve been living my life as well.  I want to be able to choose what crafty thing I want to do.  I want to get the best, most perfect equipment to do whatever thing I want to do.  And all of that adds up to a lot of stuff.

But the reality is that choices have a big drawback… time.  It takes time to make a choice.  It takes time to research options to find the best possible widget for the job.  And it of course takes time to make the money to buy that best possible widget.

And this was my experience with quilting.  Of course I need a rolling cutter… isn’t that how quilters cut stuff?  And the pad for cutting.  And the other wheels for cutting.  And the (insert endless lists of things here)…

But the reality is that as I invest in more choices I have to learn how to use these things.  And I have to burn time figuring out which thing is the best thing.  And while society does indeed teach us to have the right tool for the job, people have been using the “wrong” tool for many years.

My choices have actually made me less likely to complete a new undertaking because each step requires more work.  Turns out scissors cut fabric just fine for a beginning quilter.  I don’t need more stuff to do it, certainly not when I’ve yet to decide if I actually like doing this type of project.

The same choice options become problematic with other things as well.  Why do I need 20+ pairs of pants?  Is it because I want to spend a lot of time each morning deciding what to wear?  As anyone who knows me will tell you, no, rather obviously I don’t want to spend time doing that.  So then here I am with clothes I never wear that take up space, make it harder to organize the stuff I have and costing me money for things I don’t actually use.

While I’m not suggesting that I live in one pair of pants (though that’s usually what I do anyway most of the time) questioning my “need” for options and choices certainly has me thinking about how I spend my time and money.  If I’m not using it why do I have it?  And more importantly, can I stop myself from buying more of these things so I have choices I don’t want to make anyway?

Options are great when the return on your time invested to make them pays off but making due with a less than optimal item is both a time and money saver.  The real trick is that by making due you eventually figure out if having another option is worth it and and at that point sifting through the options is easier because you know what you need and want.  From this point forward I will make due with the things I have until such a point that I know WHY and WHAT I’d actually like to make a task easier and I’ll wait and examine if that new choice, that new thing, is actually worth the effort.

Picture by Jim Davies

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All or Nothing

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“If you’re not happy, changing your circumstance also means changing your attitude.  In “Ruling Your World”, Sakyong Mipham notes, “The most practical way to ensure forward movement on the path of rulership is to train for a short time each day in changing our attitude- just 10 percent.”  We have to be open to the possibility of positive change and then actively work toward it.  I overcame my fears by taking one small actionable step every day.  Eventually, these small steps give us the momentum we need to make the big shifts we want- in our career or our circumstances.  If it seems to happen slowly, that’s okay.  Living simply has taught me how important it is to let go of rigid expectations and to be open to new opportunities- and how a small shift in attitude can literally change your life.”

From You Can Buy Happiness (And it’s Cheap)

 

For a lot of my life I was a perfectionist.  Everything I did had to be done well and completely.  Which of course meant nothing ever really got started and very little ever got completed.  Because really, nothing will ever be perfect so why bother?

But more importantly the idea that any task had to be finished in some specific period of time gave me enough stress that the entire idea was painful to even think about.  Why work on decluttering the basement if I believe it has to be done in one weekend?  Is that what I want to do with an entire weekend?  NO!

Once I let go of those expectations I could instead work a little at the time.  Often that meant that I was more realistic about what I could accomplish in any given time (no, the entire basement won’t take just a weekend).  Often it meant that I didn’t burn myself out trying to accomplish the impossible.

But the real benefit is that this new way of dealing with tasks is a lot more enjoyable and motivational.

Just this Monday I wanted to weed my yard but I was exhausted from a busy week and weekend and felt like I needed to just nap.  Rather than doing nothing which would have felt a bit ugly (now it’s on tomorrow’s list of things to do) I gave myself an easy target.  One bucket of weeds.  One bucket and then I’m done no matter what (unless I really wanna do more).  That’s easy.  And it was easy to motivate myself to do it.

In the end if my expectations of specific results cause me to never have any results isn’t it time to give up the expectations?

Photo from Amayzun on Flickr


Keep Going

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Well, I haven’t posted for a while but don’t think that means I haven’t been doing the Ten Things Challenge.  Nope, despite a surgery and a nasty cold I still managed to get my ten things for these last few weeks.  Actually in the last few weeks I’ve done far more than ten things.

That said, when I’m not feeling well I allow myself to go for the low hanging fruit… it needs to be done so hey, it counts.  One such thing was the storage container drawer.  I’m guessing like me most people have an odd assortment of lids or containers missing their other half.  Or, like me, many probably keep every plastic container they have ever got from the store.  Yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream.  All of those were living just fine in a drawer too full to close.

Fortunately thanks to a new found desire to have home made food I mostly cleaned out that drawer by using the contents for the freezer.  That made it easy to get rid of the rest.  Cool container but haven’t used it ever?  Gone.  A extra lid for a yogurt container that I’ll get more of anyway?  Gone.  What’s left are containers with all their parts and more importantly, ones I will actually use.  Best yet, I can find what I’m looking for!

The second part of my massive purge actually came from my surgery.  With all the clothes I had upstairs I figured I might have something I could wear in that pile that wouldn’t irritate my surgery wounds.  I didn’t find anything but things quickly went into the goodwill pile.

Fortunately that pile headed off to the Goodwill this week.  Still so much more to go but nice to free up that space for more work.

 

What did you do this week?  Are there any easy to declutter drawers or closets?


What the Hell?

I don’t have that much to report.  Well, nothing other than utter confusion at my past self.  

What the hell were you thinking?

Why am I thinking this?  Because I have clothes from HIGH SCHOOL (yes, I’m yelling here).  I’ve been hauling this crap around for 22+ years.  Because, you know, the clothes I wore in high school are both going to fit again AND because they’re super fashionable now and, you know, forever.

Seriously, as I go through much of the things I’ve not seen for years I have to wonder what attachment made me keep things so obviously useless?  Let’s hope I don’t look back in 20 years while going through my stuff and think the same thing.

What have you found in your stuff that just makes no sense to have kept?

 

(I’m half tempted to post pictures of this stuff… or perhaps pictures from when I wore it… I may need to do a run to the goodwill before I commit this act of insanity!)


Getting Rid of the Important Stuff

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There are certain things on my ditch list that are particularly hard to part with.  It’s not that these things have any usefulness.  In most cases it’s simply that I paid a lot for them or have fond memories of them.  Again, thanks Mom for giving me all my childhood stuff…

A year or so ago I gave away my childhood rocking chair.  I’d rocked the crap out of that chair and for that reason ditching it at the Goodwill just wasn’t an option.  Fortunately friends have kids and now there’s another tiny person rocking out in my old chair.  That’s a win for everyone in my book and parting with these memorable items is doable when there’s a connection to where it’s going.

Just this week my bestest friend from childhood messaged me on Facebook:

Kate: “Last night while I was reading a Christmas book to my son they had a train that went around the tree. I had to tell him the story of your giant house and giant train that went through your living room.”

Me: “ha!  well here’s a question. Do you want that train?  I have it upstairs and it’s going somewhere… I’d love it to go to you if you’d want it (and no big deal if you don’t)… and it’s really not that big of a train, though I remembered it that way too until I opened it up as an adult!!”

How awesome is that?  Now new little people will have memories of gigantic trains and I have one less memorable thing I have to deal with.  Sure, I could have sold it but it’s so much more meaningful to have given this childhood thing to someone who also has memories of it, and who will make new memories with it.

I also gave away some special PVC tubing joints and what not that were expensive but mostly useless to me.  I’d kept them because you can’t get them at a hardware store and I “just might need them”.  Now they belong to someone who will likely build a rocket with them… or at least do something with them.  Hopefully we’ll go to the moon for some cheese…


Taking Action

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Well I’d love to pretend that I did some sort of amazing purge of stuff this last week but with only a few days to get my ten things I went for the low hanging fruit.

First I gave away two Thermarests and a chair kit for them to a good friend.  I can no longer use them as they aren’t thick enough for my sad back and while it seemed so crazy to give away something “valuable” like this I’d rather see these go to a good home then never be used in my attic.  It’s funny isn’t it how things that were useful in the past are so difficult to get rid of even when we know they’ll not be useful again.

Secondly came what felt like the big cheat.  Books.  I have a LOT of books.  But the really interesting thing is that there were fewer books on my bookshelf that I wanted to give away than I would have expected.  No, not because there were books that were simply too cherished to give away.  No, there were simply a huge number of books I’ve never read.  I can’t tell you how many times I go to the bookstore to get a book as I simply must have something to read when right in my own home there are tons of “good books” that I’ve never cracked open.

Pretty eye-opening to see myself buying things I literally don’t need.

Don’t get me wrong, I love books and when I can’t get something from the library I likely will still buy it.  But I think for now I’ll just keep a list and get those after I’ve gone through the endless books I already have!

I should note that these books have yet to leave my house.  I find I get great used book rates in Portland at Powell’s, allowing me a new book or two without spending a dime so these will stay in my home in their bag ready to go until my next trip south.  I expect I’ll be adding a lot more to them soon!

What were your ten things for the week?


Ten Things: The “Rules”

The Ten Things Challenge

If you’re like most people in America you have far more things than you need.  The clutter can become overwhelming and more importantly you’re spending time and money maintaining these things (cleaning, buying things to store things, you name it).  So what would life be like if you had fewer things?  That’s the point of the 10 things challenge.

Here are the basics:

Every week you get rid of ten things.  These things can go to the goodwill, be put up on Freecycle, sold on eBay or Craigslist or put in the trash, given to a friend, whatever.  They just need to leave your home.  They can be big things, small things, whatever.  The choice of what it is and how you count them is up to you.  That old car you never drive?  That’s a thing!  That single sock you’ve been saving for a year hoping to find its mate?  That’s a thing!  Within reason there’s nothing too small or too big.  If it feels like a countable thing to you it is.

Sometimes things  take a while to leave.  If you’re selling something it might not be sold and shipped in one week’s time.  That’s OK but you must have put ads up on whatever site you intend on using to sell them.  If they don’t sell you’ll likely want to lower the price or consider donating instead.  It’s not OK to have “gotten rid of a thing” by having it on endless sale on eBay for a price no one will ever pay!  Remember, this is about decluttering and your home, so don’t cheat yourself by not really getting rid of a thing.

You can do more but not less.  Part of the challenge is to declutter but another aspect is looking at all this stuff we have and if we truly “need” it.  As most know getting more stuff doesn’t buy us happiness but it can buy us lots of debt and unhappiness.  By being more mindful of the things we’ve accumulated we can hopefully become more mindful when we think about getting more.  Creating a new habit requires regular practice so don’t cheat yourself by skipping weeks or doing this only once a month.  At some point you may have decluttered as much as you want.  That’s great!  It’s time to stop but until that time be true to yourself and the challenge by getting rid of ten things every single week.

If you’re going on a long vacation or have to be away for a while feel free to bank up extra stuff before or after your journey.  You can also choose to skip if that’s more appropriate for you.  You might even declutter on your vacation by donating things you no longer need rather than bringing them back home!

Don’t use this as an excuse to go out and get a bunch more stuff.  The goal is to have less in your home, not more or the same.  A good rule of thumb (for everything other than food, tp, etc) is one in one out.  Bring home a new magazine?  Add an extra item to your 10 things this week.  Bring home a new kitchen appliance?  Make room for it by getting rid of something in the cupboard you never use.

These aren’t really rules.  This is about you, your home, your stuff, your mental state and what makes you happy.  The above are simply suggestions based on psychological research regarding habit that seems to be a good place to start.  Want to do more items each week?  Awesome!  10 is too much?  Really? If so that’s OK too.  Be consistent and if you change the above “rules” write them down for yourself so you can be true to them in the future.

This challenge is inspired by many different books on simplicity, downsizing, and happiness but most recently by this book.  Check it out from the library (or buy it and then sell it!)

You can learn more about the author Tammy Strobel on her blog rowdy kittens.