Category Archives: Organise

How to deal with sentimental clutter

How to deal with sentimental clutter

A few weeks ago I had a documentary crew out to our house. They were filming a short piece on the emergence of minimalism in Australia and asked me to be involved.

I was really excited to be asked, but I won’t lie: I was terrified. Terrified of being on camera. Terrified of sounding like a privileged douchebag. Terrified of being found a fraud when people exclaimed, “That’s not minimalism!”

Part of the shoot was done in the small garden shed we use as secondary storage. In it we keep things like our lawn-mower, my gardening gear, house paints, camping equipment, outdoor toys, a couple of boxes of Christmas decorations and one memory box per person.

I was asked to open each of the memory boxes to show how I manage to keep a balance between sentimentality and clutter. I was happy to do this until I was asked to open a plastic crate down on the bottom shelf.

I had no idea what was in there. I knew it was my stuff, but it could have been anything.

Upon opening it I realised it was old marketing materials, catalogues, business cards, order forms, inspiration boards, design sketches and press clippings from my jewellery label. I had not thought about this stuff in over two years, and it’s been more than four years since I closed down the business. The question wasn’t, “What is it?” but rather, “Why do I still have it?!”

I muttered some kind of excuse as to why I still had this clutter, and swiftly moved on.

But over the following days I really thought about it a lot.

I remember having gone through all this stuff during one of my biggest purges, and going back to look at the contents now I can see I did keep only what was interesting or had some sentimentality attached to it.

It’s really interesting to go back and trace your journey towards simplicity by looking at what you’ve held on to during various purges. By looking at the contents of this box I could see the process of becoming less attached to my business (and the goals, successes and stories tied to it) but hadn’t been ready to let go. I could, however, see a big shift, and the good news was that I had been intentional about it rather than blindly keeping everything related to my business.

And, when it comes to dealing with sentimental items, I think that is the key: Be intentional.

We need to be intentional about what to keep and what to let go of. Instead of looking at the box of trinkets or childhood items and saying, “Argh! I can’t decide so I’ll keep it all,” we need to make a decision.

If that decision is, “I love this thing and want to keep it,” then that’s perfect. If that decision is, “I don’t know yet,” that’s OK. It might be the best answer for now. But you need to ask the question. You need to be intentional about keeping things. Otherwise it will continue to be just clutter.

So last week, I headed out to the shed and opened that last remaining box of deferred decisions.

It was interesting to look through the contents and see what I had thought was important. I didn’t feel bad for having kept it, but upon inspection more than 2 years later, I realised it had changed from stuff I had intentionally chosen to keep, to clutter.

And I realised that the transformation from clutter to sentimental works both ways.

When we are initially faced with the idea of simplifying our home, we balk at the idea. “But this isn’t clutter! All this stuff is sentimental!”

Then we move a little further into our journey and we realise that much of that sentimental stuff is, in fact, just clutter. Deferred decisions, guilt and a lack of time.

We move through that clutter slowly, methodically, keeping what we believe to be important. It becomes sentimental again.

It gets packed away, saved for posterity. Then we rediscover it, hiding in a dusty box in the shed, and we realise that it’s no longer sentimental. It’s changed back to being just clutter. Much of it is stuff that we were simply afraid to be without, but with the passage of time has come the realisation that it’s OK.

And so it was that I found myself looking through the contents of that box in the shed. It was interesting, but I was ready and happy to let it all go. So I did. Every single piece.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a (brief) moment of fear as I picked up each of these items and put them in the recycling box. But, quite literally, the second I let the item drop from my hands, I felt a lightness. A relief. A release. And I knew I was making the right decision.

Slow Home Essentials: Weekly Rhythm

Slow Home Essentials - Creating a Weekly Rhythm

There are 168 hours in the week.

You, me, the Prime Minister and Beyonce – we all have 168 hours, and we can get a lot done in that time.

But how often do you feel like those 168 hours are nowhere near enough?

There are too many tasks, too many appointments and too much housework. You’re pulled in all directions, and while trying to get everything done, you end the day feeling as though you got nothing done instead.

So you try to set up a strict routine, carving out specific blocks of time for specific tasks. It works for a while, but then life intervenes. Someone gets sick, the vacuum cleaner breaks, you have to work late or get called for jury duty.

Your life isn’t made for strict routine.

Rhythm Over Routine

I’m a huge advocate of living a rhythmic life, as opposed to a strictly routine one. The notion of rhythm is a much friendlier, more flexible option, and it fits comfortably in our life.

Over the years, I have adopted a rhythm to my mornings and to my days. And last year, when I reached a point of massive overwhelm, I decided to adopt the idea of rhythm into my weeks too.

For the last 12 months, I’ve had a crumpled piece of paper stuck to the fridge. It’s a simple list, written in my own shorthand. But it also plays a massive part in creating (and maintaining) our Slow Home. It’s my weekly rhythm.

 

What my Weekly Rhythm Looks Like

The list is divided into three sections.

1. Dailies

At the top I have a list of Dailies (thanks to Patty from Homemaker’s Daily for the term), which is simply every task that needs to happen on an-almost daily basis. Things like ‘get dressed’ or ‘feed dog’ don’t appear here, because, really, that stuff just has to happen.

For me this section includes:

  • sweeping (kitchen and dining areas)
  • make beds
  • load of laundry or two
  • wipe over kitchen benches
  • wipe over bathroom vanities

The aim of doing these little jobs every day is that it cuts down on the amount of deep cleaning I need to do. If I sweep, do a load of laundry and keep the bathroom vanities clean most days, I’m allowed flexibility. I can skip a day at home to go to the beach or watch my daughter’s ballet concert, and the house won’t be tragically messy when I get home.

It’s all about doing a little bit of work each day (15-30 minutes, maximum) to help minimise the workload later and keep your home running well. Which means you’re less likely to feel stressed, frantic and overwhelmed.

2 & 3. Weeklies

Below the Dailies is a row for each day of the week. Each day has two columns next to it.

The left column shows the household work for the day, while the right shows what activities we have outside the home.

I try to limit the number of items in either column to a maximum of three. Some days have only one task, and some days have no organised activities. Again, this builds wiggle room and flexibility into our days. If we want to go for a bushwalk, we can. If the kids are sick and need a quiet day, we can do that too.

For me, for our kids, for our stage in life, this idea of rhythm fits really comfortably within our days.

How to Create Your Weekly Rhythm

Print off the worksheets I’ve created for you. You can download them by clicking here.

1. The first worksheet asks you to write down all the jobs that you need to get done in any given week. Include things like cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, ironing, vacuuming, mopping floors etc. Break the bigger jobs down into smaller ones if you need to (for example, I clean toilets on a separate day to the rest of the bathroom).

2. Include all the tasks you like to get done on any given day. Things like making the beds, cleaning the kitchen benches, wiping down the vanities, doing a load of laundry, etc. Don’t forget you may not get every one of these done every day, but if you get the majority done the majority of the time, you’ll be golden.

3. List all the extra activities or regular appointments you have during the week. Include your work hours, school or preschool times, dance classes, sporting matches and training, regular catchups with friends, play group, church, etc.

4. Take some time to look over the list you’ve just created and give some thought to how you like to structure your week. For example, do you feel better if you can clean the bathrooms and floors just before the weekend? Then think about scheduling those tasks for Thursday or Friday. Are the kids at preschool on a Monday? Use that time to do the grocery shopping or do the ironing.

5. Using the second worksheet, list your Dailies and then plot out every day, listing 1-3 tasks for both housework and activities.

Stick the list on your fridge and refer to it every morning. Even if you know what’s on for the day, having a point of reference and a short list of tasks makes your day seem much more manageable. Plus, I find it helpful to be able to explain to the kids that I have to clean the bathroom, then I can play with them.

This stuff isn’t sexy.

I feel weird writing about it in such depth, to be honest.

But you know what? Thinking through this stuff in depth, right now, will set you up for a much smoother, easier, more flexible rhythm at home. One that will last you for months or years, and free you up to do the fun things like playing with your kids, or going for a coffee with a friend, writing a blog or reading a book.

Putting in the work now could reap benefits for years to come.

 

(Looking for more ideas on rhythms and rituals? Grab a copy of Destination: Simple – Rituals and Rhythms to Simplify Your Daily Life.)

Why Rhythm Trumps Routine

Finding Your Rhythm

From this week, or maybe next, life generally returns to normal.

People are back at work, families are getting prepared for the school year ahead, dance enrolments open, swimming classes fill up, as does the calendar, and the year simply rolls on into another version of its former self.

I know many of us resist this return to Life after the holidays. It feels like a drudgery, a constant battle to remain balanced when there is simply too much to do, a reminder that the more relaxed way of life we have been enjoying was merely an interlude. A pause between hectic periods.

Which is kinda depressing, don’t you think?

Instead, we can see this new beginning as an opportunity. Not an opportunity to create an uber-routine of ultra-productivity, but to create rhythm for our homes and the people who live in it.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Routine. It’s the domain of the successful, the organised, the on-time. It’s what You Should Be Doing. Right?

But do you know what else routine is? It’s restrictive, it’s unfriendly, it’s regimented.

Rhythm, on the other hand, speaks to you. It moves you, it moves with you, it feels good.

You’re right, on the face of it there isn’t much difference between the two. Both help you get things done, both deliver guidelines on what needs to happen and when.

The differences though, are really important. And if you’re looking to create a simpler life with less stress, then…  you gotta have rhythm, baby.

Rhythm Over Routine.

After our daughter was born a few years ago, Ben and I were determined to establish a routine, get her sleeping pattern regulated, and create comfort and predictability for everyone involved.

As it turns out, babies don’t really work like that.

In fact, life doesn’t really work like that.

It took us well over 12 months to learn that routine – a strict, sequential approach to our days – was less than helpful. It made us feel we were failing if we missed a step or fell behind.

Rhythm, however, was a much friendlier notion. It spoke of order, but also flexibility and movement and fluidity. It even sounded friendlier.

Rhythm.

Rhythm moves you. You dance to it, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.

Routine? Notsomuch.

You march to routine. It’s a steady metronome keeping time. And if you sway, if you linger, if you move out of order or miss a step, then you fail. You’re out of time. You’re lagging behind.

Rhythm allows change and flexibility for different seasons in life. Which is why rhythm wins out over routine every day.

Embracing Rhythm

To embrace this idea, you need to ask yourself some questions about the rhythm you want to create.

You can create a rhythm for your mornings, evenings, weeks, seasons or even holidays, and what it looks and feels like is entirely up to you.

Choose a rhythm and ask yourself:

What are my priorities? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?

What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Or perhaps my school-age kids need to pack their bags in the evening?

What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.

What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.

What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.

Once you’ve answered these questions, take some time to work out your best rhythm. Literally write it down on a piece of paper, establish a sequence and then bring it in to your day.

Once it’s there, you simply let your day unfold around it.

And the best thing? There’s no need to keep up a rapid tempo if it’s the season for a slower tune. Similarly, if you feel the urge for dancing, for growth, for expansion, then up the tempo and dance for your life. Always know that it’s your rhythm and you choose the pace. You choose the moves.

 

21 Ways to Tame the Toys

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

{ original image via Lee on Flickr }

 

Are tiny dinosaurs invading your living room? Have you turned down your bed linen to find a naked Barbie? Do you know first-hand the expletive-riddled pain of stepping on Lego in the middle of the night?

For the love of all things plastic, let’s tame the toys!

Every week I get dozens of emails from people who need help with decluttering. Sometimes it’s their wardrobes, sometimes their office. But the biggest issue many people ask for help with is toys. 

Our kids are only young – 2 and 4 – and while I have a pretty good handle on how to keep their toy chaos to a minimum, I know each age and stage has its challenges. Many of which we haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing yet.

So I have once again engaged the group wisdom of my readers (yes, you!) and turned to Facebook.  Last week I asked you for your best toy-taming tips and, as ever, you didn’t disappoint me with your answers.

Just a Note: Not all of these tips will apply to you – it depends on the ages of your kids, the amount of toys you already own and the number of new toys your kids receive each year. 

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

1. I could say pass them on to my sisters…BUT that would not be the right answer would it, Brooke? (Michelle M. is actually my sister. So, no, Mich. Definitely not.)

2. Keep it simple and in big chunks (no micro-organising).  Get them involved. You can read more about it in this blog post. (Cassie @ Working Order)

3. Keep fewer toys out for your children to play with. Too many just overwhelms them. Keep some stored away. Then every few weeks switch out the toys. Your children will have renewed interest in the toys that were stored away. You also won’t have countless toys cluttering your house. (AnnMarie GM)

4. We purge often and use bins. I do not organize the bins but just toss them in there. My kids don’t play in “sets” so to speak so it would just waste my time and frustrate me. (Karen WE)

5. Don’t buy so many! But it is hard when your kids are given so many lovely pressies all the time. (Kristin @ Mamacino)

6. Buy wood and metal toys only and request that to friends / family. They last longer, can be updated via paint and can be heirlooms. Also storage cubes with baskets are awesome! (Louisa Jane W)

7. Don’t let the grandparents take the kids shopping – that is where most of our toys come from! (Michelle Leanne B)

8. I recently did a huge cull and now only have a few toys in each of the kids’ rooms – it has made an amazing difference in the reduction of clutter, the kids don’t have a million things to choose from and they’re playing outside a lot more. You can read more about how I ditched the playroom right here(Deb @ Aspiring Mum)

9. My son is only 9mo old, but i have started to bag up and store toys he has grown out of and bored with (the good quality ones, I tossed a few silly ones that never were played with) until the next baby comes along. That way I’m not wasting those toys, but I’m not letting them clutter up our house. Also, for his first birthday, I am going to request that if people bring gifts, they should bring him a favorite book. (Emily FS)

10. I removed a shelf from the bottom of an old cupboard to convert it into a study/storage area for our 5 year old son. I painted the the bottom shelf in gloss to make it a wipeable desk and painted the inside. I used a combination of see-through tubs and baskets, and left the rest of the toys viewable so he can request the things he would like to play with. I keep certain things grouped too for easy selection. (Michelle LW)

11. Wait til your child is at school or away, then pull out things from the back of the cupboard that are no longer played with or have been grown out of. Pack them out of sight and rearrange those staying so a fresh look is noticed. Missing items not requested after 3 months progress to the loft or garage, en route to another home or toy recycle session. (Helen N)

12. Be SELECTIVE about what comes into your home. Involve kids when purging – we do this twice a year – once before their birthday, and the second time before Christmas.  I never sneak toys out when they aren’t around. I don’t think they learn how to part with things that way. (Amy BU)

13. A couple of years ago, we started to give our kids (now 8 & 10) experiences for special occasions vs. a ton of toys. Tickets to traveling Broadway shows, etc. They do get a couple of things to open, but it’s minimal. My daughter (8), really looks forward to what her next experience will be. We have a large book collection. I placed a basket under the shelves and when they are done with a book they place it in the basket to GO. (Amy BU)

14. Limit the amount of useless toy presents. I give out a wish-list for my son’s birthday and Christmas, with tips for what toys/books would be appropriate for his developmental stage and what clothes he needs for the next six months or so. I make it very clear to relatives that I prefer clothes or other useful presents. This is economically helpful for me, and my son loves clothes, so both are happy! (Ane FS)

15. My children are 6 and 10 and we have a rule, one new toy equals one pass on to younger friends/charity. (Jody M)

16. We have a rule that we only buy them stuff for Christmas and birthdays, and ask family to buy them experiences whenever they buy gifts. (Rebecca M @ Clear Space Organising)

17. What worked the best for us (after decluttering) was to always make toys easier to put away than they are to get out. Works for shoes too. (Ellane W)

18. Start with less, add less. Enjoy time with each other. Interaction is a fab way to learn and develop. Eat together, talk together, read together.  Teach your children by example – don’t have loads of stuff yourself and treasure what you have. If it’s not beautiful or useful, don’t bring it home (Alic B)

19. Add to savings account on birthdays or Christmas so kids can choose for themselves when older. My daughter is 14 and loves photography so she has just been able to afford her first great camera. I’m still the signatory on her account. (Alic B)

20. Let them play with potatoes, cups, stones and pegs. I know two beautiful boys who prefer stuffing the washing machine for their mum instead of red plastic cars – at the age of three and one. (Laura NA)

21. A tradition when my (now 25yrs old) son was little, we would sort through his toys a few months before Christmas and decide what he wanted to donate to kids who couldn’t afford toys. He enjoyed helping others and it also made room for new toys later from Santa. (Tammy F)

I was going to add a few of my own tips and suggestions, but considering the incredible group wisdom on offer here, I think I’ll make a Part Two to this series next week. I wouldn’t want to overload you with awesome.

In the meantime, do you have any favourite toy-taming clutter tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

June is the Month of Change

June is the Month of Change - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

And so we roll into June (June?! Really?) which brings us to the Month of Change.

As part of the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge, June sees us decluttering the linen cupboard, decor, seasonal clothing and parts of the garage/basement. Specifically though, we are looking at those seasonal items that are switched out at this time of year. And while your thoughts might be with red wine and fireside chats, or camping trips and lake swimming (depending on your Hemisphere!) this month is the perfect opportunity to do a little work – and save yourself a lot of time later in the year.

To jump straight into the challenge, you can download the June checklist here. Or keep reading to find the full list, as well as added tips and suggestions below.

(If you haven’t started the challenge yet, it’s never too late to join. Click here to find the first six checklists, as well as the Slow Your Home forums, where many of us are keeping track of the clutter leaving our homes.)

My Progress from May - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

My Progress…

At the beginning of May I got a phonecall from my Dad saying he and mum had been inspired to clear out their storeroom at home. The downside was they had found four huge boxes of my stuff and wanted me to pick them up. Some were filled with wedding gifts, some from my days living in the city. Some from school and others from University.

Suffice to say, I had kept a whole heap of crap for no apparent reason and the majority of it never made it in the door of our home.

The combination of those four boxes, and working through the kitchen, dining and storage spaces has made it an interesting month.

This month I…

Threw Away/Recycled:

  • textbooks x 12
  • photo albums and boxes x 17
  • notepads/journals x 8
  • folders x 14
  • miscellaneous papers x 37

Donated:

  • cutlery x 28
  • crockery x 12
  • wine glasses x 12
  • martini glasses x 9
  • kids crockery sets x 2

Sold:

  • wine carafe
  • wine bottle holder
  • chopping boards x 2
  • board game
  • salad servers x 2
  • second-hand paving bricks x 180

TOTAL:  338 items

Progress to Date:  1348 unwanted items are gone!

(Over halfway there – and it’s feeling awesome at this stage.)

 

And now on to this month’s checklist.

June is the Month of Change

For us in the Southern Hemisphere, the change is all about winter sheets, chilly mornings and ugg boots as the footwear of choice. But for those in the Northern Hemisphere, June brings longer days, warmer temperatures, pretty blooms and the end of the school year.

I’ve found that building this seasonal switch into our yearly rhythm helps in maintaining not only our level of stuff, but also the little tasks around the house that need doing once or twice a year. Viewing June as the Month of Change means you’re less likely to forget to clear the gutters or wash the curtains – they’re simply part of your rhythm.

Anything seasonal will either be packed away or brought out at this time of year, and you should ask yourself the fail-safe decluttering questions, to avoid keeping a heap of stuff you don’t even want or like.

  • Did I use this (last season)?
  • Do I like this?
  • Do I want it, or will I need it?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Do I like it enough to have it repaired or cleaned?

Using these questions as your guidelines, work through the areas of your home listed below.

The June Declutter Checklist

Click here for a printable version of the checklist.

Linen Cupboard

  • sheets
  • blankets
  • quilts/duvets
  • throws
  • pillows
  • towels
  • guest linens (how many do you really need?)

Clothes

Yes, we have just worked through the wardrobes, but this is a good opportunity to establish what we actually wore over the past 6 months, and only store that. As we pull out our winter coats and scarves, or our swimming costumes and sun dresses we can now judge what we want to keep, what is still in good condition and what we need. The rest can be donated.

  • adults winter/summer wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • winter coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • sandals
    • dresses
    • shorts
  • kids wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • winter uniforms for school, sport etc
    • dresses
    • shorts
    • lightweight clothing
    • cold weather clothing
  • specialist clothing – wetsuit; hiking or snow gear

Basement/Garage

  • seasonal hobby gear – fishing or snow gear, camping equipment
  • beach equipment – shelters, umbrellas, body boards, surf boards
  • outdoor furniture

Decor

Some people like to swap out decor for the seasons. To be honest, we don’t have much so haven’t seen the need to swap things around. But if you do, it’s a good idea to approach the process in a similar way to your clothing.

Whatever you do, don’t use it as an opportunity to add useless stuff or clutter back in to your spaces. In fact, you will likely find you have much less need for the bulk of your decor. And this (to me) is an added bonus of simplifying your home. Less to dust!

  • soft furnishings – cushions, throw rugs etc
  • prints, wall hangings etc
  • quilts, decorative linen on beds
  • tabletop decor – vases, bowls, etc
  • mantlepiece, coffee table and hall stand decor

Again, the June Checklist can be found here.

Establish Your Own Seasonal System

If you don’t yet have a system where you swap out your seasonal clothes, linen, decor or recreational gear, this is a great opportunity to start. Storing what isn’t currently needed means you keep the wardrobes, cupboards and garage much less cluttered. You can see at a glance what you own, what you need and what to wear. Plus, you’re more likely to pull out the surfboard and head to the beach if you can actually reach it without an avalanche of stuff coming down with it!

For clothing and linen, I simply have a lidded storage box that holds the gear I don’t currently need. I keep it stored out of the way and don’t think about it for another six months. For bulkier items (surf and snow gear, outdoor furniture etc) after decluttering, I simply rotate them to the back of the storage space when they are out of season. It’s a simple solution that works.

 

I’d love to hear how you’re finding the challenge. I know many of you aren’t keeping count (and who can blame you!) but let me know your best guess. How much have you gotten rid of in the first five months of the year? 

 

 

 

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