Words to keep you motivated

Listed below are the most common pieces of advice I give to people on the topic of uncluttering. With a three-day weekend on the horizon for those of us in the States, I thought that some encouragement might be appropriate. Have a great holiday, everyone!

  1. You don’t have to unclutter in one fell swoop. Many projects, spread out over weeks and months, will get you the same results as if you had tackled it all at once.
  2. Benefits of uncluttering can include being better organized, less stressed, and having fewer things to clean. When you walk into a room, you’re able to relax because there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
  3. Your motivations and visions for your uncluttered life are your guiding star when taking on uncluttering projects. Keep your eyes on your goals and you’ll find that uncluttering has less to do about the stuff and more about the life you want to lead.
  4. You can do it!
  5. You don’t have to unclutter alone. Seek out friends, family, or organizational professionals to help with motivation and keep you focused on your uncluttering goals.
  6. Keep things in perspective. If you relapse and get bogged down, don’t become frustrated and beat yourself up over it. Start again tomorrow. This is home and office organization, it’s not brain surgery. There are worse things in the world than not succeeding your first time with an uncluttering project.
  7. The person with the most amount of stuff at the end of his or her life doesn’t win an award.
  8. The person with the least amount of stuff at the end of his or her life doesn’t win an award, either. Living an uncluttered life doesn’t mean that you have to live an ascetic life. Simple living is about getting rid of distractions that prevent you from enjoying a modern, luxurious life. It’s about smart consumption, not no consumption. As Albert Einstein said, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”

What advice, motivations, or thoughts have helped you to be more organized? Let us know what has influenced you!

Tips for a low-maintenance garden

In the book The Low-Maintenance Garden: A Complete Guide to Designs, Plants and Techniques for Easy-care Gardens by Susan Berry, there are many tips on how to prepare your yard for a low maintenance garden. The most important being the design of your garden. A well-designed garden will go a long way in keeping it low maintenance.

Here are two of my favorite tips from the book:

… planting can be much easier to look after if you plan it carefully. Evergreens are generally easier to look after than deciduous plants (less pruning, no sweeping up of leaves). Shrub borders and ground-covering perennials are the easiest options but it is vital that you choose plants that are appropriate for the climate and soil conditions, so that they thrive when left largely to their own devices. To this end, you also need to choose plants that are not too invasive or too fast-growing …

… you can turn a portion of your garden into either rough grass or semi-wild planting, which will not only benefit nature but ease the work in a larger garden. If you have only a very small area — such as a patio — you will need to find ways to make container planting less time-consuming by choosing plants that require less watering-one of the major time-consuming elements in any container-dominated garden …

Keep on posting!

The response to our Unclutterer flickr group has been terrific. Currently, more than 115 people have joined the group and there are 39 pictures of uncluttered workspaces on the website. If you haven’t checked out the group recently, it’s worth a peek. Also, if you haven’t uploaded your office pictures yet, feel welcome to contribute to the group. We love seeing everyone’s uncluttered workspaces!

This week, I want to give a shout-out to KariAnn and her husband’s dual home office. There are close-ups of her workspace and her husband’s in the flickr group, as well. One wall of a room is used to support two home offices — it’s efficient, well organized, and stylish. The desk system would be especially nice in a room that doubles as a spare bedroom. KariAnn, your space is inspiring!

Detach yourself from stuff

One of the major reasons people hold on to stuff is the emotional attachment they assign to an object. I have a t-shirt that I’ve had since 1992. It is a Baylor University t-shirt and I purchased it when I was in high school for 50 cents. I still have it and it has survived many moves and donations to Goodwill.

I never attended Baylor University and I don’t have any association with Baylor. It was just a purchase I made because I liked the colors of the shirt. So why do I still own this shirt? Well, I guess because it has been with me so long and it conjures up memories for me. The t-shirt didn’t play a pivotal role in anything I did it just happened to be on my body here and there. The memories were not created by my Baylor t-shirt they were created by myself and the people around me.

The shirt itself is barely holding together and I only wear it when I’m doing work around the house or kayaking down the river. It has a giant bleach mark on the front of it and holes have started to widen on the shoulder areas. I’ve decided to throw it out even though I should have trashed this thing years ago. Yeah, it doesn’t take up much space, but the fact that I’ve held on to this shirt for so long is an example of how I assigned emotions to a clothing item. I am not throwing away the memories that I associate with this shirt, I’m just throwing away a shirt.

Goodbye, Baylor shirt. You won’t be missed because you’re just a shirt.

Unitasker Wednesday: Monogrammed steak brand

Do you consider yourself a grill master? If so, how do you put your mark on a nice juicy steak? Well, Williams-Sonoma has a way for you to make every steak a real masterpiece by adding your monogram to the prepared beef. Now all your friends and family will know who prepared their steak by reading the monogram before they dig in.

Williams-Sonoma has stepped up to the plate and furnished the grill master with a product that no one was clamoring for. I know I enjoy monogrammed food much more than non-monogrammed food. Is there an untapped market for monogrammed food? If there is, Williams-Sonoma is at the forefront of this market with the Monogrammed Steak Brand. For those of you who live in Hawaii or Alaska you are out of luck. Williams-Sonoma does not ship this item to you.

**Unitasker Wednesday posts humorously poke fun at the single-use items that seem to find their way into our homes.

Birthday cards and reminder systems

I love my birthday. Honestly, it’s more of a birth-week celebration to me than an actual day. I schedule pomp and circumstance, and gather groups of people together. Knowing this about me, you would be surprised to learn that I am horrible about remembering other people’s birthdays. I have a friend I have known for more than 30 years and all I can recall is that her birthday is sometime in September. Sep. 15? Sep. 21? Your guess is as good as mine.

To solve my birthday forgetfulness issue, I opened a Plaxo account and requested that my friends update their contact and birthday information through it. There are a number of services out there similar to Plaxo (like Birthday Alarm), and all notify you of upcoming birthdays by sending you reminder e-mails. I chose Plaxo because it integrates easily with my computer’s address book program. With help from an online service, you’ll never be left apologizing for your disorganization.

In addition to a birthday reminder system, I also purchased a card organizer. At the start of the year, I print out a birthday list from Plaxo, buy cards for all of my family and friends in a single trip to the card store, and organize the cards in my organizer. I also purchase other types of cards for the year while on my trip to the store. Here is a list of what I usually buy:

  • Birthday cards for family and friends on my Plaxo list
  • Five extra birthday cards with one specific to a young child
  • Five blank interior, thinking-of-you cards
  • Three sympathy cards
  • Five baby cards appropriate for showers and arrivals
  • Five wedding cards appropriate for showers and wedding day
  • Three anniversary cards
  • Three get well cards
  • Two graduation cards
  • Five non-specific congratulations cards
  • Three boxes of 10-count thank you cards

Your needs are likely different than mine, so if you’re interested in setting up a similar system be sure to make necessary adjustments. You also might consider giving a fully stocked organizer to a home-bound family member as a birthday or holiday present.

These organization systems prevent me from having to run to the store at the last minute, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting anyone’s special day. If your cards are disorganized, this or a similar system might be for you.

Streamline your security check point routine

If you travel quite a bit you have probably adjusted to the security screening process in the airport. The annoying routine has to get on one’s nerves, but if you prepare yourself in advance the whole process can be less of a headache. Here are some tips to make your security check easier:

Wear slip on shoes. Although I have been able to walk through some security screenings without removing my shoes, more often than not you must remove your shoes. Wearing shoes that easily slip off saves you time.

Follow the 3-1-1 guide. If you are traveling with a carry-on make sure to check out the TSA’s 3-1-1 for liquids and aerosols.

Prepare before entering. Rather than getting everything prepared while you snake through the line, get everything in order and then enter the roped labyrinth. Turn on your laptop, have your ID and boarding pass ready, throw unauthorized liquids away, etc.

Give yourself time. Rather than stressing about catching your flight while you wait in the security line, show up early if possible and don’t lose your cool.

Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section.

Reader pics: Charles Smith’s uncluttered nursery

Having a baby can really test your ability to keep a tidy and uncluttered home. You can either give into the disarray and let your home descend into a constant state of clutter or you can make a conscience effort to straighten up your home.

Our daughter was quite active once she started crawling and pulling her self up. Her ability to grab anything and everything definitely contributed to my wife and I keeping our home less cluttered. We got rid of tons of items that were definitely clutter, but resided in our home for one reason or the other.

We also try to keep our daughter’s nursery in an uncluttered state. It isn’t easy and the room still gets a bit disastrous here and there, but it never really gets out of hand. Our daughter hasn’t reached the age where she can run around room like a tiny tornado wreaking havoc where ever she goes, but we are constantly trying to teach her that everything has its place.

That brings me to a reader’s submission about their nursery. Charles writes in his email:

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Extreme minimalism Monday: Shoes are clutter

I went jogging this past weekend with the extreme minimalist.

He’s been exercising regularly over the past month. He’s actually lost a considerable amount of weight lately, which probably has nothing to do with his new diet.

By now I should really know not to be surprised by any of his newly-acquired eccentricities, but I still did a Danny Thomas spit-take after we met up on the trail and I saw that he wasn’t wearing shoes.

At first I figured I should probably just ignore it. Questioning him about such things only seems to encourage this type of behavior.

Twenty minutes into the run I saw him charge right through some dog shit someone had inconsiderately failed to remove from the trail. I figured this might be a good opportunity to gently remind him of the obvious benefits of footwear. I should have followed my initial instinct, as he began to lecture me on the issue.

  • I learned that Abebe Bikila and Tegla Loroupe set world marathon records without barefoot, so you obviously don’t need expensive sport shoes to be a good runner.
  • I learned that wearing shoes contributes to weakening of the feet.
  • I learned that I’m complicit in Chinese human rights violations by purchasing shoes made there.
  • I learned the I can find out more about going barefoot by visiting the site of the Society for Barefoot Living

After a few minutes I realized he hasn’t just stopped wearing shoes while exercising. He stopped wearing shoes entirely.

I’m worried this might be progressive and he’s going to slowly become a nudist one article of clothing at a time.

Downsizing our home

Our house is going to go on the market at the beginning of September and that is the primary reason we recently had a yard sale. The size and upkeep of our 2800 square foot Victorian home is just too much for us. We’re ready to decrease our living space and live a simpler life in a smaller home.

In a country where the average home size has increased from 1400 square foot in 1970 to a whopping 2330 square feet in 2004, it is a rarity for people to downsize. Everyone seems to want something bigger and better. While we definitely would like to find something better, we do not want anything bigger. The upkeep in our current home is too much and the energy costs are steep. Hopefully, with a smaller home, we will spend less on energy and less time cleaning.

I have really enjoyed living in our current home. It has tons of character and a lot of original features that are hard to find in houses these days, but the sheer size of the house proved to be too much for us.

Driving by some of the newer developments, I try to comprehend the need for some of the huge McMansions that pop up and I can’t figure out why people need so much space. It is their choice and they obviously prefer to live in a spacious house, but it just isn’t for my wife and me.

An alternative to a bulky double boiler

In my ever increasing quest for all things collapsible I came across an alternative to my wife’s bulky double boiler. This collapsible silicone double boiler looks to be just what a clutter-free kitchen needs. Of course, not everyone is in need of a double boiler, but my wife uses hers quite a bit. Especially, when she bakes her delicious holiday cookies.

The collapsible version is so much more practical than the one my wife uses. Hers is your typical two quart saucepan with the stainless steel insert. This silicone solution takes up much less space and it is collapsible when not in use. The amount of space it saves is quite substantial when you figure that a traditional double boiler adds a whole other saucepan to your cabinet.

If you are looking for a double boiler, you may want to check out this silicone collapsible alternative.

Lay it all out

I’ve been putting off getting rid of a bunch of my clothes for quite some time and this past weekend I finally did something about it. My clothes used to reside in two different places in my home, a dresser in the laundry room and a closet in a completely different room. There was no need for two different storage spaces so I decided to lay out all of my clothes and take stock.

Once my clothes were all laid out I was amazed at how much clothing I actually had. I thought I didn’t have that much, but to my surprise I had a lot of items I never wear anymore. I ended up cutting my clothing inventory by half right off the bat. Then, when I started to put all of my clothes back into the one closet I made a second pile of rejects. Overall, I think I cut my clothing inventory by about 60%.

Laying out all of your clothes is a great way to put things in perspective. Once everything is laid out you realize how much stuff you actually have. This obviously doesn’t have to be limited to your clothing. It also can be used for anything else you want to scale down. Try it with a closet that is in desperate need of cleaning or a junk drawer that no longer closes. You also may want to edit your collection of books, DVDs, CDs, or shoes. Laying them all out may enlighten you to the fact that you have much more junk than you first thought.