Decluttering vs. Organizing

If you're curious as to why this home organizer is always talking about decluttering, not organizing, it's because there are 2 ways to get organized:  Own less stuff or buy more shelving and bins.  

I'll let you decide which is more attractive.

It's just physics. There is only so much storage space in our home and only so much attention we can give to our stuff.  We all flow between numerous roles everyday:  Employee, employer, parent, child, sibling, friend.  All of those roles take energy and at the end of the day, there isn't much bandwidth left to deal with stuff. 

Stuff is organized if it has a specific home.  A place on the shelf, a spot in your drawer.  A place that it returns to after each and every use.  Everything else is clutter. The thing is, as new stuff come into the home, new homes for those items have to be created.  If an old item doesn't leave when a new item comes in, at a certain point, shelves, closets and garages became overstuffed.  

I've only worked with 2 people who really, truly did not know how to organize.  They had tons of empty storage space and not much stuff.  The other 300+ people I've worked with knew how to organize.  They were just overwhelmed by the volume of stuff in their homes and needed a helping hand to dig through it, find the treasures and let go of the rest.

To be clear, there isn't anything inherently wrong with "stuff".  It's a problem when it's causing you problems.  When you're frustrated, embarrassed and angry.  When you can't find something even though you "know it's here somewhere".  This is why I harp on decluttering before organizing.  No number of shiny bins from the container store will fix your physics problem.  If there's too much stuff, there's just too much.  Once we have the space to give everything you love a home, THEN we can get a few shiny, pretty bins to house the stuff.  

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Debt & Decluttering

Oopsie...it's been a while!  I hope you are enjoying your summer!  We sure are.  However, we just finished up our taxes (we have to file an extension every year...long story) and as I was hunting down write offs, I began thinking about debt. 

While JT and I are finally debt-free (other than a mortgage on a rental house), I've managed to rack up credit card debt numerous times over the years. Retail therapy and all.  Turns out actual therapy is cheaper and more effective in the long run, but I digress. I LOVE shiny things.  Beautiful things.  Decorating and redecorating our home. But if I'm down, or anxious, I buy out of habit.  Suddenly I NEED to have something that quite frankly is nowhere near a need.  Or better yet, I "deserve" it, after my long, hard day in the trenches.  

I think a lot of us fall into this category.  I can't think of a single home I've worked in where not only were there beautiful things, there were far too many beautiful things. 

So how do we break this cycle?  How do we decide we're done with the excess purchases?  

I'm far from perfect, Amazon just said my 1 gallon jar for brewing kombucha was just delivered, but I've learned a few tricks over the years.  

Tracking: Using Mint to track our purchases using monthly budgets.  Rather than putting my head in the sand and ignoring the mounting credit card bills, I now look closely at my spending throughout the month.  June was a success, but we failed miserably in July after having a bit too much fun in San Diego and San Francisco.  Those restaurant bills sure do add up.  So do "have to have it" mindless purchases.  I used to spend a few hundred dollars a month on dumb crap.  I could never figure out why I was always broke, even though I hadn't gone out and bought a new Louis Vuitton purse.  In hindsight, it was because all the small stuff added up in a big way. 

Watching: I look through my belongings weekly - if I don't, they seem to multiply.  This doesn't mean you need to set aside a whole day to look at all of your stuff.  When I get dressed in the morning, I make a point to really look at the clothes in there.  2 years ago, I'd find something that didn't fit or that I didn't like on a weekly basis.  Now it's more like a monthly basis, and I have a greater appreciation for the few clothes I do have because they fit and I love them. Same with the kitchen, just start noticing your stuff when you cook. As you reach toward your utensil holder to grab a spatula, maybe you notice a wooden spoon that's all splintery that you can toss.  By really looking at your belongings, you'll both know what you have and appreciate what you have. No new stuff needed.

Avoiding: As we continue to pare down our belongings I find that avoiding stores helps to keep costs down.  Because, trust me, I can always find something pretty that I just "have to have".  Looking at you, yellow throw pillow that perfectly matches the color scheme of our canned ham trailer.  Recently though, I find myself getting more and more anxious when I go into stores. Like, almost on a cellular level my psyche is saying "Don't do it!".  This actually happened a few days ago. I was near Home Goods and it was like my car parked itself and I was suddenly browsing the aisles.  After 20 minutes of browsing, I could feel my chest tightening up and it was hard to catch my breath.  Stuff overload.  I had to flee the store.  

For this reason, I try to use Amazon Prime or Google Express to deliver the things I need to me.  Need, not want.  But I find that if I absolutely can't avoid going into a store, and while grabbing the necessities something cute and decorative winds up in my shopping cart, I "own" it for a while as I go through the store, all while asking it "where will you go in my house?".  Usually the answer is nowhere, it's just going to be clutter, there isn't room for another tchotchke.  Back on the shelf it goes.

 

I'm not perfect, I love stuff, but I love my sanity more.  I love the deep breath walking into a clean, clear room feels like. Hopefully these tips will help you rein in the stuff and enjoy what you have more.  

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The Why of Less

The More of Less.

The Joy of Less. 

What about The Why of Less?

You're 1/3 of the way through the 30 day challenge.  It's getting a little harder to find things to toss, but you're still stubbing your toe on boxes or silently swearing when you can't find your keys in the morning.  You want to get rid of more, but you just...can't. 

Not to brag, but if I'm home, I can always find my keys.  However, if I'm anywhere else - parents', friends', hotels - I lose them. It's embarrassing. 

So why can I always find them at home?  

Because they have a home within my home.  I open the door, I hang them on the hook on the wall inside the door.  Period.  

So that's one of my "whys".  I'm a ditz.  I lose things.  

What are your Whys?  Why do you want to declutter? Write them down.  Glance at this paper often.  

 

Some ideas:

Less hassle

Less debt

More time

More energy

Fewer fights 

 

 

Baseball Cards, Collectibles, and the "F"-its

In the face of the rental market from hell, going tiny is looking more and more appealing.  We received a 26% increase last year and are facing a similar increase this November. 

To wit, I've been going through boxes of old "stuff" from my childhood in preparation for downsizing.  Nothing is safe.  Nothing is sacred. 

Most of it is stuff that's been in boxes for 25+ years.  Collectible holiday Barbies (Save them! They'll be worth something! Not!), baseball cards from the years fondly referred to as the "Junk Wax" era, horse figurines from a time before I had a real horse, plaques and awards. 

I preach not having stuff.  But still it persists, 10 66qt boxes of it. So I'm right there with you.  When there are things in your possession that aren't bringing you joy, it's overwhelming. Weekends spent carting bins from my "garage" in my family's shed to my living room. Evenings sorting the "stuff". Mornings before work running bags to Goodwill. 

Sorting through a past of consumption sucks, but the piles do go down.  The "F-its" kick in and the desire to keep the stuff fades.  F-it.  Out it goes. One drawer, one bin, one collection at a time. 

Don't think of it as one big project, break it down into little mini-projects.  Sort through one drawer or container of utensils at a time, not the whole kitchen.  Sort one shelf on your bookcase, not all of your books. 

Remember why you're doing this.  For me, it's about not allowing the amount of stuff I have dictate the amount of living space I need.  I'd rather be nimble and able to move to a smaller apartment when our rent goes up.  What's you're reason?

Less stuff...

...more life

...more time 

...more money

...more sanity?

          Why? Why do I still have this stuff?

          Why? Why do I still have this stuff?

Phone a Friend

Am I alone in being hesitant to call people I've been out of touch with? Or scared to answer the phone when they call me?* 

Time passes, you don't hear from each other. Time morphs into a scary beast - intent on telling you that that they don't care, don't miss you, you're not enough.   

Then, you suck it, phone a friend, and chat for an hour.

You realize that, they were just busy...like you.

They were a bit overwhelmed with the day to day...like you.

They were doing their best to keep in touch with scattered family and friends...like you. 

They love you...and you love them. And talking makes you immensely more connected to the world, your history and your life.  

This week, pick up that phone.

*granted talking on the phone has always been akin to waterboarding for me. As a kid, I used to hide when the phone would ring. As an adult, I make good use of the "Do Not Disturb" function on the iPhone.