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  • The Decluttering Continues

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    As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been decluttering the house, from top to bottom, and I’ve even shared ten decluttering tips that have worked for me. Much of my inspiration has come from Flylady, who has been instrumental in helping me to stop being such a perfectionist. Much of my decluttering has been done in small chunks of time – 15 minutes here, 10 minutes there, even 5 minutes just to clean out one file in my filing cabinet. But all of those small chunks of time have added up – here’s just a sampling of the things I have removed from our house:

  • A banker’s box full of papers, which have been shredded (and all of my file purging has nearly filled the box up again!)
  • Two bags of kids’ clothing
  • Two bags of adult clothing
  • A juicer that I never used
  • The Aerogarden that never fulfilled my dreams
  • Some jewelry I’m never going to wear (I passed on a bracelet to a friend’s daughter, which was so fun because she loved it!)
  • Unopened toys that my boys never played with
  • Plastic cookie cutters I never used (kept some for Playdoh, tossed the rest, and opened up space to store my waffle maker out of sight!)
  • A crock that held kitchen utensils (I had two crocks on the counter, but seldom used half of the utensils so they would get dusty; I put the less-used half in a drawer and donated the crock)
  • A TV (replaced by the one we bought from Amazon during the holidays)
  • Three suits (they didn’t fit great, and I don’t need to worry about having a variety of suits for court appearances anymore!)
  • A full shelf’s worth of reusable plasticware that I didn’t use anymore
  • Old plastic cups that we didn’t use
  • Expired medication
  • Expired food
  • Food we’re unlikely to eat
  • Extra sheets (I kept one set for each bed and got rid of the rest)
  • Extra towels that we are unlikely to use (in the process, I found infant towels that weren’t used through two babies)
  • Old phone books (and man, they’re heavy!)
  • Japanese calligraphy supplies (I haven’t used them in years)
  • Cheap wrapping paper that I avoided using because it tears so easily
  • Stationery that I won’t use (and I know that because I haven’t used it in the ten years it’s been sitting around)
  • What’s really astonishing is that we’re not pack rats, so there isn’t an overwhelming amount of clutter. But when I delve below the surface, I find that there are lots of things I can happily live without. I love reorganizing as I purge, and making the house more functional. It’s easier to find what’s left, and it looks so much nicer!

    What have you gotten rid of lately?

    Ten Tips for Decluttering Your House

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    As I mentioned last week, I’ve been decluttering like crazy. But the wonderful thing is, I haven’t driven myself crazy doing it. Instead, I’ve embraced the Flylady tenet that you can do a lot in a little bit of time, and that you don’t need to be perfect. Here are some concrete tips that I’ve been following that have helped me get a lot done:

    1. Start small, and keep it small. I want to declutter my house from top to bottom, but that’s an overwhelming task. What’s manageable is decluttering one shelf, one box or one drawer at a time. Even one file at a time, which is how I’ve been going through my filing cabinet. It also means that I can declutter even when I have only five minutes to kill before I leave the house.

    2. Plan ahead on how to re-organize. Planning ahead will help you figure out what to keep, what to toss, and how to arrange the space as you purge.

    3. But don’t get caught up in perfectionism. Sometimes you just can’t figure out what the space should look like, or how it should function as you’re working on it. And that’s okay. I’ve been decluttering boxes by pulling out the things that I know I can get rid of. Since I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the stuff that’s left, I just put it back in the box and stick the box back where it was. Eventually, I’ll figure out what to do with that stuff and it will be easier to put away because there won’t be unnecessary extras that I have to weed out.

    4. Use three groups: Keep, Donate, Toss. As you purge, separate your things into three piles: Keep, Donate and Toss. The Keep pile should be put away as soon as you’re done purging, even if, as I just said, it goes right back into the space. Keep it out of the way for now and find a permanent home for it later if you need to. The Toss pile should find its way into the trash bin immediately. For the Donate pile, you’ll need to find a system that works for you.

    5. Don’t procrastinate on the donating and tossing. As mentioned above, the Toss pile should leave your home immediately. I keep the Donate pile around for a while until I can create an itemized list for tax purposes, but I’ve learned not to wait too long or the Donate pile itself becomes an energy drain. If possible, plan a regular monthly or weekly run to Goodwill, or schedule a pick up so you have a deadline.

    6. Set boundaries on what you’re going to keep. Before you start purging, decide on the reasons something makes it into the Keep pile. Among the questions I ask are: Do I need this for legal reasons? (E.g., tax documents should be kept for at least seven years.) How likely will I need this? (I have a bunch of kitchen gadgets that I may not use often but will definitely use again, which makes them keepers.) Can I get another one? (I keep only a few extra towels and sheets, on the theory that it’s easy to get more if I end up needing them.) How many do I need? (I finally realized that I don’t need a hundred unmatched card envelopes!)

    7. Do little projects when inspiration strikes. On the spur of the moment, I have taken fifteen minutes to clean out dresser drawers, a box on my desk, a book shelf, etc. And I felt great afterwards.

    8. Shred as you go, or have a place for paper clutter. I am purging a lot of paper clutter, much of which needs to be shredded because it contains personal information. After Alex was born, I started keeping my shredder in a closet for safety reasons, so now I have a box under my desk for papers that need to be shredded. Every so often – preferably when the kids aren’t home – I plug in the shredder and shred a bunch of papers at once. It’s not a particularly fun task, but I can do it while watching TV, and it feels good to get all of those papers out of the house.

    9. Reward yourself. It always helps to have something to look forward to, so whether it’s sitting down with a cup of tea and a magazine, or buying something you love for your newly decluttered closet, plan to reward yourself when you’re done.

    10. Keep the end in mind. Having less stuff means your house is easier to clean, you can bless others with what you no longer want, you have less stress, your house is more comfortable and cleaner for your family, etc. I’m also finding that it makes me think twice about buying more things – even things that we will eventually use, like toiletries. I have a good stockpile thanks to The Drugstore Game, so I’ve decided that I can wait for absolute rock bottom prices (which often means free) on just about everything.

    The Psychology of Empty Space & Saving Money

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    I’ve been on a decluttering kick for the last few weeks, and I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. Enough that there are now empty spaces throughout the house that previously used to be occupied.

    It was subtle, but eventually I noticed a subconscious urge to fill the empty space.

    And I had to remind myself that it’s okay to have empty space in the house.

    I think this is one of those times when I have to live with the discomfort, trusting that eventually it will feel comfortable. Because intellectually, I know there’s nothing wrong with some empty space. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, in which case we will eventually fill it with something that looks nice. But in the meantime, I have a lot more decluttering to do and it makes sense not to make too many changes until I’m done.

    It occurred to me that it’s a similar psychology for people who feel that if they have money, they should spend it. I don’t have a problem with saving money, but I know people who seem to feel compelled to spend every penny they earn (and then some, in certain cases). Maybe they would benefit from the corollary, It’s okay to not to spend money.

    And then they too would have to get used to the discomfort. As time passes, they would see that nothing bad happens when they save money, and that it’s actually really nice having some money in the bank.

    The First Step Toward De-Stressing: Declutter

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    I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. My to-do list is a mile long, which is nothing new. But I’m finding my situation particularly distressing because I had found a happy place, mentally, when the whole hospitalization/illness thing hit and I just haven’t been able to get back to that happy place since.

    A good way to describe my emotional state right now is weighed down. And when I get this way, I find decluttering to be extremely appealing. The literal removal of excess weight helps me feel mentally lighter.

    I’m at the point where I’m tempted to just pile everything into the car and drop it all off at Goodwill or Salvation Army. Without documenting or itemizing for taxes. The stress relief might be worth foregoing the deduction.

    But then I think about the medical bills that I have to pay in the next one to two months, and the effort I put into saving money by shopping smart. With the amount of stuff we have to give away, I’m guessing we’re talking a tax deduction that’s worth a couple hundred dollars all told. I don’t want to give that money up.

    So posting might be light for a week or two as I make time to document the items that I want gone from my house. Maybe I’ll even find some items that will make for a good giveaway 🙂


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    The Fine Line Between Frugal, Green, and Clutter-free

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    I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for a while now. Most of the time, being frugal and being green go together. If you’re frugal, you generally buy fewer items, you drive less often, you reduce, reuse and recycle. Because of this, your home is also generally less cluttered.

    But as I declutter my home, I find that the line between these areas becomes very fine. There are many things that I might need someday. It wouldn’t be frugal or good for the environment to have to buy them new all over again. But keeping these things around makes my home more cluttered. It also increases the possibility that I’ll forget I have these items and buy new ones anyway.

    I’m still finding a balance that works for me. But I would love any tips you have to share, because this is definitely an area that I struggle with.

    What do you do with old toys?

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    I usually donate things that the kids have outgrown to Goodwill, but they’re not taking toys anymore due to all of the recalls. So now I’m not sure what to do with the five bags that are currently sitting in my upstairs hallway. Here are the ideas I’ve come up with so far, none of which are as effortless as simply loading up the car and heading to Goodwill:

    1. Find a different charity to take the toys. While this seems rather obvious, I’m not sure where to start. I’m going to ask around, though.
    2. Have a garage sale. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy because we don’t have a front yard (we live in a townhouse). Some friends have mentioned doing a group yard sale at one person’s house, which may or may not happen.
    3. Give them to or swap toys with a friend. I’ve tried this but can’t find any willing takers. I suppose some friends might want one or two pieces, but it would take way more time and energy than I have to dole the toys out a few at a time. One alternative I’ll consider is hosting a swap party, though again, I’m not sure where I’ll find the time and energy for that.
    4. Sell them on eBay. I just don’t think the return will be worth it.
    5. Take them to a consignment store. Unfortunately, I’m pretty confident only a few of the toys in the bag would be consignment-worthy. There are a lot of small toys in there, like rattles, links, and such.
    6. List them on a site like Freecycle or Craigslist. I’ve never used these sites, and I’ve heard both good and bad things, so I’m hesitant.

    I’d love to hear more suggestions, so if you have any, please leave a comment or send me an email at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com.