Category Archives: House

Slow Home Essentials – Decluttering

2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge

Decluttering.

Yes, it’s a buzzword. Yes, everyone is getting into it. And, yes, for a while I felt like that was the only thing I was writing about.

As a result, I actually stopped posting about decluttering because there is a lot more to creating a simple life and a slow home than sorting through our stuff.

But every day, more and more people decide their lives are too full of stuff and need to be simplified, and I want to help.

Early in January I started a Facebook group for those who are participating in the 2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge*. Over 600 people have joined the group, which is truly one of the most supportive and encouraging spaces I’ve seen online.

We share ideas, struggles and problems, as well as links to interesting articles about simplifying. Some of our members also post amazing before and after photos of their homes, as they continue to work through their space and simplify. It really is an inspiring place.

Some of the advice being given is incredibly valuable too, so (with permission) I’m sharing some of the best crowd-sourced decluttering tips from our online community.

Some of this advice may seem basic, some may seem too advanced, and some will contradict other suggestions. This is because we are all unique, and what works for one of us will not apply to another. It’s important to find a path that suits you, and yet still challenges you enough to make a difference.

Slow Home Essentials - Decluttering Tips

On Feeling Overwhelmed

  • Pick one pile, or one drawer or one corner. One bit at a time, one bit every other day. And smile and just keep swimming. (Kellie)
  • Take a before photo, so you can see how much better it looks than before. Even if its just a small job. (Sally)
  • Set your timer for 15min. Make it a game, see how much you can sort, organize, clean before the timer goes off! Remember: baby steps, a little at a time. (Heather)
  • Sometimes it helps to get one big thing done, such as a piece of furniture you want to get rid of. Sell it, donate it or whatever. That big change can be a catalyst to keep going since you see progress right away. Also I sometimes force myself to do something hard – get rid of something I know I don’t really need or want but am keeping for guilt or other emotional reason. After that big push, the little stuff seems easier. (Bridget)
  • Just go simple. One step. One thing a day. Don’t think about all of it, or getting rid of 2014 items. Just one thing a day and you’ll be on track (Deborah)
  • Being overwhelmed can be debilitating. Sometimes having a decluttering buddy may help. Someone you trust and is supportive to get you started. (Elisa)
  • Be proud that you have started. Also I think that decluttering is like a lot of other skills – you get better at it as you get more practice. (Tess)

On Decluttering Childhood Items:

  • I only keep a very few of the tiniest clothes – one outfit and maybe a special pair of shoes or cute wee hat, a stuffed toy perhaps and a blankie if it was special. With one child already 18, I can see that he isn’t going to want a huge box of baby things. My mom kept a few little things for me from my babyhood and it was sweet, but I didn’t want a load of clothes or babythings from the 1970′s for my kids. (Bridget)
  • I kept a first or favourite stuffed animal and books for each daughter, 2 infant jacket, hat, booties sets knit by my late mother, and a very few baby toys. (Cathy)
  • For me it helps to know that there are babies who really need clothes, blankies, etc. and donate to them. Much better use than storing multiple outfits that may never, or barely, see the light of day again. (Bridget)
  • I took a ton of pictures, and they take up less space. There are only two articles of clothing – the first one i bought for her, and the first thing she wore. (Anna)
  • Toys get passed along. Clothes, I’m keeping sentimental clothing items, and really good ones that I would want if we had another child. I have one 60L plastic tub that they’re in. It’s maybe 1/4 full. That’s my limit on keeping clothes. (Holly)

On Dealing With Paperwork:

  • Quickly work through the papers [that are currently covering the entire office], put them in a tote so the office is picked up and usable again. From then on, file mail properly and vow to look through the tote once a week and keep weeding it out. This way I’m not so overwhelmed! (Julie)
  • If you get really behind, declare a “backlog” and get it out of your intray (email or post). Then you have a clean slate to go forward and work on your backlog for the first 10 minutes each day. (Anna)
  • It has taken a lot of practice, but I find that it is easier to not bring in paper than to get rid of it afterwards. It seems like everywhere we go, they try to give us hand-outs, info we “need” etc. I often find that I can say no at that point, or read it there and then leave it or drop it in the nearest recycling bin before I go home. The other thing I do is rarely print things on my printer. Instead of printing receipts, etc. I just file them digitally. (Bridget)
  • I usually ask myself, “Can I get this information online?” If the answer is yes, I file the paper in the recycle bin. (Elisa)

On Storage ‘Solutions’ and Organising

  • I knew enough was enough when I was spending $100s on organizing. I was buying stuff for my stuff. Now I have very few bins or baskets because I got rid of all the stuff that was in the bins and baskets. So much better. (Jen)
  • I spent some money recently on bins. Part of it was on new bins to make my recycling easier. Part was on 60L tubs with lids to store craft room stuff in until I have time to go through it all. I don’t get a lot of time to actually declutter/organise, with work and a little one. But for me the cost was totally worth it, as it means than in the meantime my sewing room is usable, as all the clutter is in tubs (loosely sorted, so I know where to look for things). (Holly)
  • I do spend money on containers but only after I have decluttered. (Alicia)
  • Getting rid of storage containers that I had managed to empty was one of the things that felt the best! It is such a mental shift. (Andrea)
  • My next goal is to empty two storage containers and give the containers away! (Kasey)
  • A friend was able to finally get me to see that so much of my clutter was organizing boxes and such. She showed me I was doing it all backwards! That got me getting rid of stuff and then I didn’t need all those organizers! (Linda)

On Yard Sales vs Donations vs eBay

  • I found my last garage sale very disappointing for the money made versus time and effort put in. I am considering having another one but with the primary goal of getting rid of a lot of little things I don’t want anymore, versus making money. Most everything would be a buck or two or less, and there would be a lot of free items like books. I think this would move a lot of stuff, leaving very little to donate to charity shops. (Cathy)
  • My mindset had to change from making money to the actual goal of just getting rid of the stuff. (Mandy)
  • My friends did a Yard Giveaway. They put signs up saying that as of 9am everything on their lawn would be free, first come first serve.s Everything was gone in 2 hours. (Andrea)
  • I find more value in the peace of mind I get from having a clutter-free space, rather then the monetary value. (Tee)
  • My last (ever) garage sale wasn’t about the money, it was about the stuff leaving. The feeling of donating the left overs and coming home to knowing there wasn’t anything left to “rehome” was so great, that the value of what left was bigger than the cash in my hand. (Kellie)
  • For me it’s about having a way of moving things on. I find it easier if I know it’s going to a good home or cause and not just to landfill. I’ve never had a garage sale. I eBay at my own pace. Lovely people come to my house and take away my clutter and give me some money too. Our lifestyle is always changing, outgrowing toys, clothes or items, so I like to move things on. (Elisa)
  • I will try to sell things that are in good condition, especially if they were expensive. I am pretty tight on cash. I use an online method to sell things and it has been very successful. I plan to have a yard sale in the spring too. For me, the little bit of extra money helps pay the bills and reduces my anxiety. If I’m anxious, I don’t do any decluttering so for me, this works. If you are not worried about money, then giving away to a charity would probably be the best. Every situation is different so do what is best for you and your family. (Christina)
  • There is a monetary value in what I have sitting around but the money it cost is GONE. I can’t spend it so I am letting go of it, letting family and friends know that they are free to take whatever they want and the rest goes to the op shop. (Sue)
  • If I delay getting the clutter OUT of my house, stuff tends to sneak back in – so now the box of unwanted stuff sits by the door and once filled, it goes in my trunk and right to a donation place,. Done – out – gone. (Linda)

Generally Excellent Tips:

  • Clutter is always delayed decision making. Good luck. (Elizabeth)
  • Make it a daily routine, always thinking when you walk past something, “Do I really need that?” (Linda)
  • In general [decluttering] is much easier than it was in the beginning, but sometimes I still have to give myself that pep talk. (Bridget)
  • When stuff is made to last, you can live with less. Because less is more. (Sally)
  • As I started decluttering and finding items that didn’t belong in any of the other rooms, I placed them on [a central] shelf. Every night I walk past and make a decision about an item or two. [Loose ends] are all in one spot and not making anywhere else untidy, plus it kept busy fingers away from things best not played with. Now with 2 shelves cleared I can see the process working! (Kellie)

This is by no means exhaustive, but it will hopefully help you tackle some of the most pressing and common roadblocks that we often face when simplifying life and home.

Do you have any additional tips or suggestions to add? Pop over to the Facebook group and introduce yourself, or let us know in the comments below which of these suggestions has been the most helpful to you. 

 

* I know not everyone who reads here is on Facebook (often this is a direct attempt to declutter your online lives – a move I applaud greatly!) but at the moment this is the simplest way to host a large group discussion. I am considering creating a forum space where the entire community can discuss simple living and slowing down, regardless of whether you use Facebook or not. If that is something you’d be interested in, let me know. But for now, Facebook is the imperfect solution, unfortunately.)

Slow Home Essentials: What Exactly IS a Slow Home?

Slow Home Essentials - What is a Slow Home, Exactly?

You’ve no doubt heard the old adage, “home is where the heart is”. I don’t know if I’ve ever explicitly explained it, but that thought is central to this blog and my wider philosophy on life.

To me, Home is not just a house. Home is an ever-changing combination of:

  • family
  • relationships
  • the apartment, house, barn or tent you currently live in
  • memories being made
  • outdoor spaces
  • creativity
  • your kitchen and the food prepared in it
  • religion or spirituality

Home is at once all-encompassing and constantly changing. It is everything that is important. It is everything that makes up the essence of you.

The official Slow Home Movement was founded by Calgary-based architects, John Brown, Carina van Olm and Matthew North. And while that movement provided me with my first look at the idea of creating a slow house, I have since redefined it to something that covers my own expanded version of Home. The one that you can take with you, regardless of where you’re currently living.

Home is not just four walls and a roof. But what typifies a Slow Home?

To me, it’s a fluid combination of being:

If you look at each of these elements separately (and I plan to, over the coming months) they are all really positive traits to have in your home. Combine them – even some of them – and your life and home will benefit more than you can imagine.

OK. But what does a slow home look like?

Does a slow home have a vegetable garden and a chicken coop? Sure!

Is it a tiny home on wheels, able to shift around when the mood for change strikes? Why not!

What about an old cottage soulfully renovated and filled with happiness and memories? Of course!

The point is, a slow home looks and feels different for everyone. It’s less about features of the home and more about your approach to life. It is true that a slow home is less centred on stuff, and it is harder to create a slow home if your house is a 5-storey sprawling mansion (because cleaning), but anyone, anywhere can create a home that works – I mean truly works – for them.

It’s just a matter of priorities.

Tell me, what does a slow home look and feel like to you?

Slow Home Essentials - not all about backyard chickens and vegetable gardens

Slow Home Essentials - What is a slow home?

This is the first post in a new ongoing series called Slow Home Essentials, where I will look at different elements of creating and maintaining a slow home. If there’s anything you’d like to know specifically, feel free to leave a comment! 

When life hands you coffee…

When life hands you coffee... drink it while it's hot.

Oh, the irony. You may remember our much lauded French press from my post last week? You know, the one that allowed me time to stretch and welcome the day with energy and joy?

Not 24 hours after I hit publish on that post did the damn thing fall apart. A screw went missing and do you think we can find it anywhere? Chances are it went down the drain when I was washing it.

Isn’t it the way though?

You comment, “Oh, my baby is sleeping so well now. They hardly ever wake during the night!” Cue: hours of screaming and crying and general misery. (And that’s just the parents.)

Damn you, Murphy, and your ridiculous law.

Needless to say, Ben and I had quite a hearty chuckle at the expense of our French press and then rapidly moved on to the inevitable question – what to do about coffee now? I know it’s a decision you await eagerly and I will certainly keep you posted.

 

Winners of ‘Notes from a Blue Bike’

On a far more interesting note, here are the five lucky winners of last week’s giveaway. The five lucky ladies below will soon receive their copy of Tsh Oxenreider’s wonderful new book, of Notes from a Blue Bike.

I have emailed each of you, so please get back to me with your address and we can get your copy in the mail:

Sharon, Maria C, Verity, Veronica and Elissa. Congrats, ladies!

 

In the meantime, let’s have a wonderful weekend and try not to take life too seriously!

2014 in 2014 – A New Declutter Challenge

2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge

 

Last year, hundreds of you tackled the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge with me. And the results were astounding. There were readers who decluttered tens of thousands of items from their homes, while others found the numbers less important than the positive impact the process of simplifying had on their life.

At the beginning of 2013, I installed some forums here, with the aim of keeping track of each other’s progress. But it turns out I have limited time available and (who knew?) running a forum was quite time-intensive. Lots of spammers, you see.

I know lots of people are keen to get going with this year’s challenge, as I’ve received a heap of emails over the past few weeks asking about it. I’m almost ready to release the free 2014 in 2014 Decluttering Guidebook, but first wanted to do two things.

Join the Facebook group and get inspired

I still like the idea of a meeting place for all of those participating in the challenge. I think it’s really important to keep track of our progress, get help and find motivation when it’s needed, as well as simply take a moment to get to know each other. So I’ve created a Facebook group, open to anyone who is interested in participating.

Feel free to join here, and take a minute to say hello and introduce yourself. I’ll be popping in and out to say hi and help with any questions you may have.

 

Take the 2014 in 2014 Challenge survey

I also want to help you work out where your strengths, weaknesses and trouble spots are before we begin. So I’ve put together a brief survey for you to print out and complete over the next few days.

You can download a copy here.

These questions are designed to give you a realistic overview of your current clutter situation. There are no right or wrong answers and no good or bad places to begin. It’s simply important to understand your strengths and weaknesses before starting the 2014 Challenge. Otherwise you may wonder why a particular task is proving difficult for you, only to discover that it’s playing to a weakness of yours.

You will need approximately 15-20 minutes to complete this survey. Not only will it help you identify sore points, strengths and weaknesses, but it also gives you a baseline to measure your progress against. We will revisit the questionnaire later in the year, and finish up with a final survey to see just how far you’ve come in 12 months.

I know January is nearly half over (I’m a slow-starter, what can I say?) but now that you’ve settled back into the year is actually a perfect time to start thinking about what 2014 will bring for you and your family.

  • Less stress?
  • Less debt?
  • Less anxiety?
  • More time?
  • More space?
  • More contentment?

Let me know if you plan on taking the challenge this year.

In all honesty, I won’t be following the list strictly, as I finally feel like we’ve arrived at the point where it’s no longer necessary. But that is after 3 years of solid work to simplify our home and two years of working through the challenge. My mission is to is to create a challenge where, come January 2015, you will be in the same position.

So get going on the survey, join the Facebook group, and watch out for the free 2014 in 2014 Challenge Guidebook hitting the blog later in the week.

 

December is the Month of Preparation and Celebration

2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge - December

This post is late, I know. And I owe that to biting off more than I could chew this month.

For those of you who have been following along with the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge, I’m sorry. But the good news is… this is a very short task list. And if you’ve completed the previous months’ lists then it should only take you 1-2 hours to finish. Because, really, at this time of year, who needs another to-do list?

To jump right in to the list, you can download and print it from here. Or read on for the full list, as well as some additional tips and tricks.

December is the Month of Preparation and Celebration

Last month’s tasks and checklist were all about consolidating the work you’ve done this year. This means that, although you probably don’t feel like it, there’s far less for you to do in terms of decluttering now that it’s December.

That being said, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed whenever you look around your home, never fear! I’ve written the Amazingly Awesome Pre-Holiday Declutter Guide to help get things under control within the week. Check it out here, and then come back to the short list of tasks assigned to this month.

The length of time taken to complete his month’s task list will vary, depending on who lives in your home, the current level of clutter, the ways you celebrate the holidays and how or if you decorate specifically for the season.

Allow approximately 30-60 minutes for each area, remembering that we’re aiming for a light declutter. Who needs a huge list of to-dos at this time of year? There’s already enough going on!

The specific areas of focus this month are toys, holiday decor, the kitchen and any guest rooms you may have. After this you will have not only cleared out the clutter in our focus areas, but also have the space to deal with any incoming gifts you or your family might receive.

As usual, the best way to declutter a space is to empty it and only put back what belongs there (as outlined in the guidelines from Month #1). Considering this month is all about speed and light decluttering, you can just grab the surface clutter. Hopefully after a year of decluttering, that’s all there is left anyway!

The December Declutter Checklist

Just like in November, this month’s list is designed for speed and effectiveness, rather than a really deep declutter. It’s simply about preparing your home for the busy holiday season, as well as clearing out any obvious clutter such as unused toys, decor or kitchenware.

As you work through each space, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Target flat surfaces for the best results. Work through one flat surface at a time, sorting rubbish, donations and out-of-place items as you go.
  2. Keep an empty laundry basket with you as you move through the spaces, putting out-of-place items in it. This way you only have to sort and return the items to each room once. It saves a lot of time!

Toys (Bedrooms and Playroom)

  • Soft toys
  • Toys no longer used
  • Broken, torn or worn out toys
  • Forgotten toys – look under beds and in wardrobes

Holiday Decor

As you bring out your decorations, declutter those you no longer want, need, use or like.

  • Decorations
  • Serving platters, bowls, themed flatware
  • Linen – tablecloths, handtowels, etc.

Kitchen

  • Fridge (inside and out)
  • Top of the fridge
  • Junk drawer
  • Utensils
  • Benchtops – keep these clear, placing appliances in cupboards where possible)
  • Microwave (inside and out)
  • Oven (inside and out)

Guest Rooms

  • Under the beds
  • Side tables
  • Linen – throws, cushions, blankets

And that’s it! Obviously some of these may not apply to you, but go ahead and work through all that do and your home will be ready for the holidays in no time at all. Then pour yourself a drink of something lovely and celebrate the fact that 2013 was the year you made a change. Congratulations for making it through! You should be really proud of your efforts this year. It’s not easy to commit to simplifying, and you’ve done it like a boss. Well done. 

You can download the full December Checklist here, and you will find all previous months’ lists here.

An Update From Me

Throughout the year I stopped posting updates of my decluttering activities, partly due to time constraints and partly because I had less and less to declutter. (A really nice place to arrive at, can I just say.)

But after working through the November Checklist last month, I was floored at just how much more I could let go of. Part of it has been due to a change in circumstances, but mostly because we have arrived at a point where it’s just easier to let stuff go. Our kids are starting to understand the idea of passing things on and making room for play, and it is just getting…simpler.

December Declutter

This is what I cleared out one Saturday morning last month.

Loads of kids clothes, toys they’ve outgrown, linen and homewares. All gone.

This haul, combined with the 1800 pieces I had collected and counted earlier in the year, and the smaller amounts of stuff I decluttered each week, takes us way over the 2013 goal. And it feels good.

How about you? Do you think you reached your decluttering goal this year? 

A Note on 2014

As I mentioned in the November post, I’m closely considering how to proceed with a 2014 in 2014 Declutter Challenge.

What are your goals for simplifying in 2014? Decluttering? Striking a better balance in life? Finding rhythms that suit you, your family and you lifestyle?

I’m thinking about creating a guidebook that will walk you through a clutter-free year. It will follow the same basic structure as the 2013 in 2013 Challenge, with more in-depth instructions and guidance into how best to declutter your home over the course of a year.

Alternatively, I am considering a digital course covering the same topic. Video and audio would be offered each month, as well as checklists, task lists and a breakdown of what you actually need in your home.

If either of these options appeal, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a quick email. I’d love nothing more than to help you create a simpler home in 2014, it’s just a matter of what works best for you.

 

 

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