Monday, September 19, 2016

Minimizing Makes Cleaning Easier

I found this comment by someone on Facebook. I thought it was worth sharing. (Sorry if the font size seems off, I can't seem to correct it to be larger. )

"An observation. Since I started decluttering and minimizing things, I have noticed that household chores that I used to hate doing have become easier. I won't say that I love cleaning my house but it's not as horrible of a thing as it used to be for me to clean house. Today, as I was folding towels, I realized something. I love to do laundry. I love everything about it - from sorting, to loading the washer, to hanging it on the line or putting in the dryer, to taking it in and folding it and putting it away. I get a real sense of satisfaction. But I have always hated washing the towels. As I was folding them, I thought about why that is. They are simple to fold, so that's not the issue. Then, I realized. I HATE trying to stuff them into the bathroom closet! I guess it's time to minimize the towels, then. And, really, how many sets of towels do I need? We only use one set per week. WHY do I even own five sets? After tomorrow, I predict the towel washing will no longer be dreaded." - Clare Mont Sexton

Do you see anything besides towels?

I love that she was able to pinpoint why she disliked the task of washing the towels, when she loves doing laundry and nearly all the steps involved. She disliked trying to add the clean towels to a stuffed closet of towels. Towels that they don't even use! How frustrating, but yet how freeing to realize those extra sets aren't needed and could eliminate her feelings on washing towels.

I share her observation with hope that while you are cleaning, tidying, decluttering or organizing you might think about your things in a different way. Observe if any of your feelings are guiding you to make a change for the improvement of your home. We should enjoy being in our homes. We should be able to clean quickly and efficiently. And minimizing our things can go a long way to make this a reality!

Have you found a task frustrating only to realize you could eliminate items to make it easier? Tell me I want to hear about it!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Projects vs Tasks: My Example

My name is Carrie and I procrastinate! Yes, even organized people like me do it. 

I inherited a church pew about two years ago (or was it three?). It came to me mostly stripped of stain. I stored it in our garage at the last house. And it has sat on our screened in porch at our current home. And it still lacks stain or paint, because like I said before, I procrastinate! 

I am determined to get this church pew beautiful again and set up in a prominent place in our home. But it's a project! A big project that is a bit overwhelming to me. Thus again, why I'm pretty sure I have been procrastinating.

I have learned that it helps to break down big projects into smaller tasks. The only way I'm going to get this pew refinished is to break down the steps I need to take and do them one by one until the project is complete. 

Our cat Riley is photo bombing back there!
My first task is to finish stripping the stain. It is mostly complete but there are a few areas to work on. Wouldn't you know I actually purchased stain remover back in March or April. I guess that really may have been the first step! But I'm starting again, so now the first task is to strip the stain. I started this morning and after applying the first coat, I realized I need another product to remove the stripper, or least to clean it up a bit better. 

So the next step is to make a run to the store for the product I need. As I write this, that part has not yet been complete. But I know it is the next step before I can move forward with adding more stain. Oh, and really this post isn't about the pew itself, but the process I'm taking of breaking down a project that seems big and overwhelming into smaller steps. 

I'm actually excited that I took the first step even though I don't yet know exactly how many individual steps or tasks that will make up this project. I got started. I'm doing my project!! I'm even starting before I know the color of paint or type of stain I will use. No sense in putting that decision before the first task of stripping, even if I had decided on a finish for the pew, the first step is still the first step. 

As you evaluate your activities consider whether they are projects or tasks. If you find it is overwhelming it may be that you have come upon a project. And the best way to complete a project is to break it down into smaller tasks. If you say I need to declutter my entire home beware that is a project. That is not something done in a few short hours. You will need to break that decluttering down into much, much smaller tasks in order to make progress. Those smaller tasks will also keep you from getting overwhelmed! And I've found eliminating the feeling of overwhelm can actually allow progress to occur. 

Are you aware of the difference between a project and a task? Do you break down your projects into smaller steps? Have you refinished furniture? I'm needing to decide on stain or paint (and if paint, what kind...chalk?) Hopefully an update on my furniture refinishing project in the next couple weeks! 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September Decluttering Challenge

Earlier this week on our Organized Friends Facebook page, I proposed a little challenge. The challenge is to declutter 465 items this month. That number comes from some other challenges going on around the Internet, that suggest decluttering one item on the first day of the month, then two on the second and so forth until on the last day of the month, you declutter 30 items. Added up that amounts to decluttering 465 items!

I don't know if the actual process of increasing the number each day is helpful, too controlling or overwhelming. I do know that the more you declutter the better you feel. The final tally is just proof that you are actually doing the work. And even if the number is just 25 items, rather than 465 you are doing the work. There is no shame in the final number.

As I said, I'm aiming for 465 items out of our home by month end. And here's where I stand with my decluttering for the month.

On Saturday night while watching football I pulled a medium sized storage bin from my closet along with some other random things. Do you know that I let go of EVERYTHING except two items?

I was storing a lot of junk that I was keeping for just in case or sentimental reasons. The just in case seemed to be a lot fabric scraps. I don't need to hold on to half a piece of felt. If we need more felt we will buy it and spend $1. Not a big deal. The sentimental amounted to paint colors we put in the houses we owned (I think I kept them for reference actually) and my elementary and high school grade reports! Really. While a little interesting to look at, I only look at them when I come across them to declutter. They went to recycling. That pile amounted to 75 items.

On Sunday I started a new pile. More fabric, extra wash cloths, a few duplicates (like the crayons). More just in case items. I seem to have a theme...just in case!

By the afternoon on Sunday I had accumulated clothes from my husband's drawers, books I thought he would not want, and other miscellaneous items I thought of or came across. I did get my husband's approval on all of his items. He thanked me for asking. Which made me feel like he feels like I get rid of his stuff without asking. I do not. I probably ask him about stuff a lot but I never get rid of something of his without asking. Turns out he appreciates that I do ask. :) The new total for Sunday was 50 items. It sure felt like a lot more!

On Tuesday, I was reinvigorated to find more to declutter! I knew there were things hidden in the garage that were just asking to leave. It's like I heard their little voices saying "let us go". The few Halloween decorations, primarily left over from a party in 2010, that never get used were first to be released. I also decided the Easter baskets are no longer needed. I can give any Easter gifts we give (which are very, very few) in a gift bag. And there were three Valentine's related items, I kept one red stone heart. The rest can go. I just don't have any desire to decorate or add emphasis to these holidays. 

In my garage decluttering I emptied two containers and found an empty box to use for the donations! 

Ignore the mower in the background of the picture below. We are keeping that!  The rest of the items are leaving. We have a large metal cabinet that we store a lot of things in. Many small things. I went through every drawer and evaluated each item. So many items are kept for someday or just in case. Just in case I knock a hole in the wall, I'll need this repair kit. Just in case we have a large tree again we might need this sprayer. We are in a rental for at least two more years! We might not even own a home for another 7 years. We don't need to be storing all these home improvement items when we don't have a home to improve. And so many of the items, if we ever need are so inexpensive. I'm getting rid of them now...most of which will end up at Habitat Restore to help others. I did run into some items that I need to ask my husband about, but I really thinned the cabinet out. In the garage I tallied 51 items for discarding (I didn't count each nail and screw, but each package they came in). 

Later in the day I thought about tackling a pile of old files. Look! Term papers, old (no longer owned) vehicle information, and old loans and credit accounts. I can't tell you how many times I have referenced these. Oh wait, yes I can. Zero! Again, I only look at them when I go to declutter.

I didn't actually get through all those files. Still a little overwhelming and hard to make the final decision. But I did find my ACT scores from high school and the financial aid award letters from college! And I shredded them along with a few other papers and all of last months receipts. I'm counting that as another 9 items.

If you are keeping track, my decluttering total for the month of September is now185. I still need to find 280 more. I'm beginning to feel that 465 is a really big number. How about you? Can you declutter 465 items this month? How far along are you?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Where to Start Decluttering?

When we are in the place of overwhelm, it is really hard to get started decluttering. We are looking at ALL the stuff and can't possibly fathom where to start or if it will ever get done. In fact, it seems impossible doesn't it?

My best advice when you are overwhelmed: pick a small task.

Small areas are easier to handle. They generally can be completed in small amounts of time. And even a small task is good practice for the larger projects. A small task that is completed is a confidence booster and motivator for the next task.

Here are some small tasks to consider choosing from when you feel overwhelmed:

  • Clean out your car
  • Declutter your purse or wallet
  • Sort the pile of mail
  • Check your medications for expiration
  • Sort one shelf in your kitchen cupboard
  • Declutter one drawer in your dresser
  • Review the shoes by your front door
  • Declutter underneath one sink
  • Clear the top of your nightstand
  • Sort one box of children's toys
  • Clear off the pile on a chair
  • Sort through your makeup
  • Clear off the top of your dryer
Once you pick one of these areas, your goal is to touch all items in that area. Decide if the items are keep or toss. Toss the trash right away. Review the keep items and make sure they are really needed. You aren't keeping them just in case are you? Just in case items do not add value to your home. If you ever need them, they can be replaced. The keep items then need to go to their correct home. If you aren't sure where that is, ask if where you would look for that item or where you want to find that item. Take the item there right away. And repeat with all items.

Yea! You completed your first small task! Notice how that felt. Did it take very long? Isn't it great to look at that area you decluttered and see the results? 

Just start decluttering. Start small. You will make progress. You will improve each time! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Decluttering Results In Empty Bins!

We have decluttered enough in recent years that we now find we have extra space in closets and drawers, in fact a year ago I showed you some of the empty spaces we had in our last home. I was doing some digging in the garage this weekend and realized how many empty containers and bins we have. I pulled them all out so I could get you a picture.

I did a little rearranging, and they are now a  better organized, but probably still spread out more than necessary. I think eventually some will get donated or sold. I can imagine getting rid of the ones that don't match or have lids, or that I don't like for whatever reason. This will leave me with only the best ones. 

Because we move frequently and each home has different storage options, I like to have the bins and containers available if needed. I would likely suggest to others not too keep too many extras, since you can easily replace these bins for less than $10 each if it really came down to needing more. 

Have you found yourself with more empty bins and containers the more that you declutter? 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Paper: A Journey Begins

I think I need to embark on another journey with paper. I don't exactly want to do this job, but I know that one of my goals before we move again (likely still two years away) is to eliminate enough paper that we can move with one file box. Last time we took two VERY stuffed boxes of files with us, it was way too much. And that was after eliminating bags and bags of shredded paper!

I'm calling it a journey as I know it will take some time. I also know it is a hard job that can't be completed in one afternoon. Physically maybe, but not mentally. The journey will involve small tasks over a period of time. I know I will need to review all pieces of paper, scan some and shred others.

The first task is to figure out if I need to buy a new scanner. I think I might be making it into a want, but I need the scanning process to be fast, so that it doesn't drag me down. Anything slow with computers can get so frustrating and make me want to give up on the whole process. I've heard of a Doxie scanner, but they are a little pricey. It needs to work well with my Mac.

Actually, my first task should be to clean up my online files! Earlier this year, I moved a lot of files from one computer onto our hard drive and it is mass chaos now. Digital files are easier to delete and move around at least. I think this is a better first task, so that when I do go to scan new items in it is more clear where they should be filed.

Now let's see. I need a plan to make the digital file cleanup a reality. I'm thinking a set amount of time per day to work on them. An hour feels too long, but ten minutes seems pretty short. I'm going to strive for thirty minutes each day until complete. I'm going to make sure to close all my internet tabs in the process so I don't get distracted. I will also set a timer to keep me accountable. I wish I knew how long this would really take, so I could set a deadline. I would prefer to be complete with this in about two weeks, or mid September. All I can do is strive for that right now. If I see I'm close to that date and don't have much more to do I will put in some extra time. Luckily, there is no major consequence if I don't complete it by that date!

Is anyone else on a paper journey, or need to be on one? I may post more about my process, if there is interest. I'm also interested to hear how others keep on top of their paper.

Monday, August 29, 2016

What is the Goal? What is the Reward?

Decluttering can feel like such a big chore, right? One has to take time out of their day to physically touch everything they already know they probably don't want. It is overwhelming mentally to make decisions over and over again during the decluttering process. We usually would rather be doing something else. Something more fun!

Have you thought about what the end goal is for your decluttering? What reward will you get by decluttering your garage, or living space? Focusing on the positive results can help remind you why you are doing this possibly unpleasant task.

For example, some people can't park in their garage because of all the items in it. The end goal or reward might be to declutter that space so you can park your car in there. Parking in your garage might be safer, warmer or cooler than parking outside depending on the weather. It might save you time to park in the garage. If you live in a winter climate, you often have to defrost your windows before you can drive away. Parking in the garage eliminates the time needed to complete that task and the reward is more time in the morning. Who doesn't need that?

If it is your living space you find cluttered, ask yourself what you would do in the space if it wasn't cluttered. Would you invite people over? Would you have more room to play games as a family? Would you just feel more relaxed in the space upon returning from work? The time with friends and family is the reward for putting in the effort to get the space free of the clutter. The feeling of peace and relaxation is the reward for clearing the excess and unneeded items out.

Another place I've noticed can be cluttered for people is the kitchen. Often the kitchen counters have a lot of items left out, usually these are the most used items. The less used or never used items are hidden behind the cabinet doors.  The act of digging deep into the kitchen cabinets and pulling out the unused items is creating space for the items being stored on the counter! And therefore, uncluttered countertops! The reward of uncluttered countertops is more space to prepare and wash dishes. The reward saves time not having to find space to use for cooking preparation. The reward may even be eating more meals at home because it is more pleasant to cook in an uncluttered kitchen. That may result in money saved, which is another kind of reward!

My kitchen example above with things left out can apply to almost every room in the home. If excess items are visible it likely means the storage areas are full. The closets are full in a bedroom when piles of clothes are found on the floor, piled on dressers and in laundry baskets. The stuff in the closet is overwhelming. It is too hard to find anything because the hanging clothes are in there so tight. It's possible that these items in the closet are not even used because they can't be retrieved. Eliminating the excess, the unlike and unused, the stained and torn, too small or too big and out of style items opens up space to store the items that are used. The items that may previously been stored out in the open can be hung in the closet. If you have piles on the floor, you are now rewarded with more walking space. Or safety, if you found yourself tripping on these things. If you find yourself moving things around a lot to find other items, you likely will now have extra time since items will be put away and more easily accessible. There are rewards in decluttering!

So what areas do you need to declutter? What do you gain by completing these task? What benefits do you see to doing the work? The work will be work, but the reward will be a blessing to your life.

Focus on positive rewards. You can do this! I'm cheering you on!!