Archives for June 2007
Are you in the process of uncluttering your home or workspace? Send us before and after photos and we’ll post them on Unclutterer to help inspire others. Just shoot them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget we love to answer your questions on the site, so send them our way, too.
I am a voracious reader. Since I was four, I’ve read at least a book a week. Most weeks, the number is around two or three. Digital subscription services, like Audible.com, have made my reading obsession less of a clutter problem than it used to be. But, I would be lying if I said that book clutter isn’t still a stumbling block in my home.
To put this into perspective, I brought nine new books into my house this weekend.
Unlike a good number of cluttered readers, however, I actually read the books that make it into my home (see the “voracious reader” paragraph above). As a result, I have devised a series of questions that I use to review books once I have read them. So far, they have helped significantly at keeping my book clutter better under control.
Questions to ask yourself when you finish reading a book:
- Is this a reference book (dictionary, thesaurus, parenting guide, etc.) that I will refer to often? Will it contain accurate content for at least a year? Is the reference book better and more useful to me in printed form than a digital version that I can access from my computer?
- Is this a cookbook that meets the standards set forth in this post on getting rid of cookbook clutter?
- Is this one of my favorite books? Will I honestly re-read it again at several times in the next few years?
- Is this book signed by the author and/or dedicated to me? Am I acknowledged by name in the author’s acknowledgment section?
- Is this a children’s book for my child that she will ask me to re-read to her again tomorrow night? Has my child decided that this book is more important than vegetables?
- If I keep this book, are there two books (or more) that I can get rid of when I put this on the shelf?
If you answered “yes” to the relevant questions above, keep the book. Otherwise, get rid of it by either passing it along to a friend or family member, selling it to a used book store, or donating it to a charity or a local school or public library.
My wife and I are fairly new parents. Our daughter is fourteen months old and the clutter that she contributes to our home is fairly substantial. When my wife and I were planning the nursery we were inundated by so many items that we must have.
One of the items that we passed on was a changing table. It is a unitasker that is obsolete as soon as our daughter is potty trained. We simply bypassed this “must have” by using the dresser top as the changing station. It works just as well as a changing table and the top drawer fits all the necessities for changing a diaper.
I’m not exactly sure why anyone buys a changing table. Maybe they are purchased as gifts or people just believe that they absolutely need them. Whatever the reason, it should be known that they are not necessities and the top of a dresser performs just as well. Now the space that the changing table would have occupied is used for all the toys that the grandparents never stop buying.
Switch purses often? Then you have no doubt been faced with the problem of missing items that results from switching the contents of your handbag in a hurry. Well, here’s the solution. The Container Store’s very clever Purse Organizer ($15) has six pockets large enough for cell phones, a notepad, sunglasses, lipstick, or just about anything else. Just switch out the organizer and you’re good to go.
How cool is that? I’ll often ask my girlfriend for something she keeps in her bag, and inevitably she’s left it in her other purse. This can be frustrating. Even more frustrating, though, when your girlfriend is the woman behind Paperclippy. The site that brought this solution to your attention. Sigh. ;o)
Peter Walsh is an organizational giant. His books It’s All Too Much! and How to Organize Just About Everything, his television show Clean Sweep on TLC, and his radio show every Friday on XM Satellite Radio (XM156) inspire people to live uncluttered lives. Walsh is an essential resource for anyone looking to bring more order and less chaos into their world, and he is a bit of a hero in these parts.
Peter Walsh recently took time out of his busy schedule to participate in an interview with Unclutterer.com. His answers are informative and motivational, and we hope that you find them as wonderfully inspiring as we do.
Unclutterer: In your book It’s All Too Much!, you indicate that you have walked away from projects when people value their possessions over their relationships. Isn’t this type of unhealthy prioritization at the root of most people’s clutter problems?
Peter Walsh: Clutter comes in many forms and the reasons why people hold onto it is similarly complex. There are two main types of clutter: Memory Clutter – which reminds one of an important person, or achievement or event from the past – and I-Might-Need-It-One-Day Clutter – this is the stuff held onto in preparation for all possible futures that one might encounter. Keeping things from the past or sensible planning for the future are great things – it’s when the objects take over that there’s a problem. With many of the people I encounter, their primary relationship is with their stuff. Instead of owning their stuff, their stuff owns them. This clearly is not only unhealthy but also a real stumbling block to happiness and a fulfilling life. If your stuff is causing problems in your life or relationships it’s time to do something about it!
When deciding to buy or upgrade a computer or peripheral, be sure to consider the number of additional cables the device will add to your workspace. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you reduce computer-related cable clutter:
- Laptops will usually only require a single power cable. Also, they can be easily stored out of sight when not in use.
- Opt for bluetooth and wifi enabled peripherals over those that require cords. This is a great way to get rid of cables for your keyboard, mouse, and printer.
- If you use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, an iMac will also only require a single power cable. This is a good alternative to a laptop if you need a larger display. An iMac also affords the benefit of an integrated webcam that won’t require any additional cables.
- Many newer peripherals are able to receive power over either USB, Firewire, or Ethernet. Not only does this help you reduce the number of cables, but it also can spare you from having to deal with those large and heavy wall-wart transformers that are usually required.
As an adult, you can write “No Gifts Please” on birthday party invitations and guests usually respect these wishes. It doesn’t work this way for children’s parties, however, or for baby showers or even random trips to grandma’s house.
Children love gifts and people love giving children gifts. It’s the way of the world. Gifts, although well intentioned and truly appreciated, can still end up as clutter.
For example, my friend Kristine received 14 baby blankets at a shower her mother threw for her when she was pregnant with her second child. She ended up keeping a couple that were hand knit, one that was quilted, one that could easily be laundered, and then gave the other 10 to charity. She was extremely thankful for the generosity people showed toward her and her future child, but there was no way that she could store or ever use 14 baby blankets.
When having parties for children or baby showers for new parents, there are some things that you can do to help keep gifts from becoming clutter:
Need ice on the go? No problem! Skymall has you covered with its Portable Ice Maker. At a light 47.5 pounds, this baby sure is portable. Best of all, it works anywhere — anywhere there’s an electrical outlet. Sure, it only does one thing, but it does it well. It’ll make up to 30 pounds of ice! You’ll never be caught short wherever you go. Just bring along 30 pounds of water. Plus it only takes 24 hours to make ice! At just $399, why would you ever buy a mini-fridge (even at half the price).
Earlier in the week, I discussed the idea that just because something has a place in your home doesn’t mean that it’s the best place for that object. In fact, just because you have space to store an object doesn’t mean that you should.
If you want to have a home where everything is in its best place, here are 10 places to start looking for hidden clutter:
- Under beds. When I was in junior high, my mom found a “tennis ball” under my bed while she was replacing my mattress. Except it wasn’t a tennis ball, it was a furry, rotten apple. The space under people’s beds can be scary. Clear out the clutter (and the bad apples) from under your bed.
- Closets. If you’re like most Americans, you have sheets, towels, board games, coats, scarves, umbrellas, scrap-booking supplies, exercise videos, outdated spices, shoes, empty boxes, and hundreds of other items that you never use cluttering up your closets. Linen closets, coat closets, pantries, and wardrobes are full of clutter that you can get rid of now.
We’ve been on a big charging station kick here lately, so reader Leigh sent in this way cool design. This thing looks like a unitasker, but at about $13 it’s not such a bad way to turn what could be a cable eyesore into a stylish accent.
The Load-Thing comes flat-pack and you fold it yourself. It hooks up to your electric socket and then the device you’re charging (iPod, cell phone, camera, whatever) sits on it. So, is this thing clutter itself or a very neat solution?
Looking for a surround sound system, but you really don’t want all those wires running around the room to every speaker? Well, here are a couple of options that you may want to look at before you buy that five speaker set.
Polk Audio’s SurroundBar (pictured): The SurroundBar measures in at 42.62 by 4.44 by 5.12 inches (W x H x D).
Yamaha YSP-800: The YSP-800 measures in at 31.5 x 6 x 4.5 inches (W x H x D).
One can not expect to have the same sound quality from these units compared to a full 5.1 surround system, but from the reviews I have read the sound quality is surprisingly good. A step down in sound quality for a easy to set up single speaker system may be the trade-off you are looking for. Also, think of the lack of wires!
Do you really need one of those pesky “beds” taking up space in your home?
If not, consider sleeping on a Japanese futon laid out over a beautiful tatami mat floor. The futon will fold up in thirds for easy storage in a closet and you’ll be left with more functional space during waking hours.
The extreme minimalist knows that comfort should be left to the materialists.