Ask Unclutterer: Storing hockey equipment in a condo

Reader Jen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My boyfriend and I live in a small-ish condo in Toronto. I’m working very hard on decluttering our home, but one thing I have no idea what to do with is his hockey equipment. Half of our spare room is full of hockey gear, and I’m not sure where to put it. We have no available closet or storage space. Have you seen any creative ideas on how to store hockey gear in small apartments?

Every once in a while, a question comes into my inbox that stumps me completely. I know nothing about hockey or what equipment it requires beyond a stick and a puck and skates. My initial thoughts are that going vertical, and using wall space would be very helpful … but I’m only guessing.

This is one of those times I want to let the readers with experience give advice for how to store hockey gear in an organized fashion. Please, fill the comments with your helpful insights. I’m extremely interested in reading your advice, too.

Thank you, Jen, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I’m hopeful our readers will be able to help.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

What’s on your summer to do list? Organizing for next year’s summer events

Summertime is perfect for catching up on outdoor chores, but having fun is probably what everyone (mostly) thinks about. For those of us in the United States, Labor Day (this year it falls on Sept. 3) gives us an opportunity for one final summer celebration before cooler temperatures are ushered in with the start of fall. Many people try their hand at being a grill master for the day and test out new recipes and grilling techniques. Some take road trips or one last visit to the beach.

No matter the activity, by putting things in order at the end of this season, you’ll find everything you need when warmer temperatures arrive next year. Focus on some basic rules of thumb so you can avoid hour-long searches to find your stuff, like …

Keep similar items together

You’ve heard this one before and there’s a reason you hear it so often. It’s perhaps the one rule that, if you stick to it, will help you save time so you can get on with the business of having fun. When everything you need for a specific activity (bike, helmet, knee pads, tire gauge, and pump together; grill cleaning brush, tongs, and skewers together) is in one location, you will find what you want quickly and see what things are broken and need fixing or replacing. Once you’ve gathered all your supplies together, they should be kept in the same location all the time (just like you always keep your keys, wallet, and mobile phone in the same spot). Labeling storage spaces can help, too.

Replace needed items immediately

Those broken items or the ones that just don’t work the way you would like them to? Replace them now if you regularly use the items. If you wait until next year, you’re likely to be suprised (not pleasantly) when it’s time to use them. Keep a running list of things you need to buy and take it with you on your next shopping trip. Stick to your list so you don’t overbuy. Try not to give in to the temptation of getting things that you’re not certain you’ll actually use (is it possible your plans just might change?). Wait on those items and come up with a game plan first. And, donate/recycle/trash the items that you no longer want.

Remember to replenish your first-aid kits as well. Not only will you need them year-round (in your car and in several rooms in your home), but you’ll also want to have a kit ready in the bags you use for your summer events (picnics, trips to the zoo, sporting events, etc.). Don’t forget to stock up on first-aid supplies for your pets, too.

Use checklists to help you remember

Create an “end of summer” list to remind you of all the things you need to do to wrap up the season and get ready for the next. Group your tasks by category (camping, gardening, marathon/race) so you can focus easily on each section before moving on to the next. For example, if hiking is on your list, it might include:

  • Clean hiking boots
  • Put boots with other hiking gear
  • Purchase new socks and liners
  • Create a communication plan
  • Start training routine to prepare for trip (add start date)

What you put on your checklist will be specific to you and the things you like doing. It should include all the gear you need (what’s a trip to the park without your favorite frisbee or a picnic with a half empty basket or a lawn concert without a comfy chair?) as well as any special requirements (season pass to the water park, parking pass for the football game). After creating your checklist, keep it with the items it belongs with or in a “summer activities” (paper or electronic) file so you can keep using it each year.

Put special events on your calendar now

Get ready for next year’s events by entering on your calendar those that you attend annually or new ones that you want to go to (or host). Doing this will help plan your activities and to narrow down the things you can realistically do based on your available time and budget. You’ll also see if you need to enlist the help of others.

Planning and organizing fun summer activities can give you something to look forward to next year without the hassle and pain of never-ending searches for the things you need. And, there’s still time to take care of many of this summer’s chores that you haven’t gotten to yet. Take a look at our tips on how to organize your:

Getting a handle on your craft supplies

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, in her guest post today shares her seasoned, practical advice for keeping hobby supplies from taking over your home. Welcome, Janine!

Let’s face it, a lot of the fun of doing a craft and/or hobby is buying the supplies. But, if you spend more time buying supplies than actually creating things with them, you can have a storage and organization problem on your hands. (Supplies can even pile up on the most diligent crafter.)

If your craft area becomes overwhelmingly cluttered, it can do a number on your creative spirit. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can try this approach to gain control of your craft space–and create space to craft.

  • Contemplate categories: The key to organizing your craft space, in my experience, is to store everything in categories that make sense to you. Think of your favorite craft store. How do they organize their products? Perhaps you can replicate that category system in your own home. For example, I’m a knitter and I organize my yarn by weight, except certain yarn that I organize by fiber. (It makes sense to me and might not make sense to others, but that doesn’t really matter.)
  • Sort everything: Once you’ve decided on your categories, start sorting your supplies into those categories. You may end up modifying your categories a little, and that’s okay. If you run into unfinished projects, you can create a category for those, too. But do give some thought as to whether you’ll actually ever finish them. Why did you run out of steam on a certain project in the first place? If you don’t realistically think you’ll ever finish a project, perhaps you can deconstruct it and sort the components into their appropriate categories?
  • Weed mercilessly: You’ll have more space to craft if you have fewer supplies to store. Are there some supplies lurking there that no longer appeal to you? Perhaps your tastes have changed? Heck, there may be whole categories of crafts that you no longer do. Consider letting them go so they can be used by others.
  • Decide on containers: It’s so tempting to buy containers right away, but if you do it before the sorting and weeding process, you might end up with less-than-optimal storage solutions. Don’t limit your search to organizing and craft stores. You might find storage ideas at a sporting-goods store (I store my circular knitting needles in a tackle binder used for fishing, for instance), an office-supply store or a housewares store. IKEA is full of possibilities. Pinterest can be a great place to find innovative storage solutions. Also, check out the Creative Organizing blog of my friend and fellow professional organizer, Aby Garvey, co-author of the fabulous book The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker.
  • Shop at home: Now that you have an organized craft space, you can save money and effort by using what you have, rather than going to the craft store. All that thought you gave to your categories can really come in handy when you shop your stash!

Small spaces: Custom closet using Ikea bookshelves

One of my favorite places for small living inspiration is Ikea Hackers. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s a collection of reader-submitted modifications to pieces of furniture from Ikea. The hacks range from relatively small (like adding paint to a Lack table) to extremely involved (like turning a Spar butcher block into an electric guitar). The site has been around since 2006 and is teeming with ways to personalize Ikea furniture.

Earlier this month, the site featured Regina’s amazing closet for her itty bitty Swedish apartment. Under what I think is her lofted bed, she has five modified Expedit bookcases (in the 2×2 configuration) that she added a piece of wood to the base and then attached four casters to the bottom of the piece of wood. In the U.S., these Expedit shelving units are just $40 a piece and the Besta casters are $10 for two, so the whole system probably cost less than $350 to create, which isn’t bad for a custom closet that could easily cost four times this price. Visuals from the article:

The rolling bookcases not only hold her clothes, but also her hobby supplies (such as the sewing machine and fabric stash pictured above) and other necessities for her apartment. I like that she can roll the sewing Expedit directly to her sewing table, and then roll it all back into the closet when she’s done. The storage system is ideal for this small space, and I think could easily be utilized in other homes — small or large.

Note: There are casters that are specifically made to hold the Expedit bookcase, but they stick out beyond the base of the bookshelf, so you can’t nest the shelves directly next to each other. They’re also $5 more for two casters, which adds $50 to the cost of casters, but gets rid of the need to attach a piece of wood to the bottom of each bookcase. If you don’t need the items to nest next to each other, the Expedit casters might be a good alternative for you.

If you are unfamiliar with Ikea Hackers, spend some time perusing it for even more ideas. Most of the hacks are inexpensive and easy to do.

Images by Regina as posted to IkeaHackers, and thanks to reader Shalin for bringing this closet to our attention.

Unfinished business

The inbox on my desk is currently overflowing. I returned from traveling two weeks ago, dumped a stack of must-complete paperwork out of my briefcase and into the inbox, and immediately started to ignore the mess I’d made. The inbox ceased to be an inbox and became a Black Hole of Forgotten Items.

The situation with my inbox is similar to how most messes begin in our house and in my work. When a mess occurs it is usually because:

  1. I’m in the process of doing something and am interrupted before I can finish the action. For example, I’ll be sorting through the mail, the phone will ring, I’ll set the mail down when I go to answer the phone, and a week later I’ll find a stack of old mail sitting in whatever strange location I dumped it.
  2. I don’t take the time to do something properly because I don’t really want to work on the entire task. I’ll do the enjoyable or easy part (dump all the paperwork into the inbox), but stop short of taking care of the problem (processing the paperwork).
  3. I start a task when it’s impossible to finish the task because of time limitations or situation. For example, I’ll check my voicemail when I’m sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office — I might be able to listen to one or two messages before the nurse calls me out of the waiting room, but I certainly don’t have time nor is it appropriate for me to return any of the calls right then.

Once a mess has started, I’ll either become immune to it (stepping over the unpacked luggage each time I go to the washing machine) or feel stress and anxiety about it (I have so much to do! Did I remember to write down that I have to call Margaret back?). My space is cluttered and my thoughts are often cluttered, too, simply because I didn’t finish what I had started.

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with most of these messes before they happen. A few sneak up from time-to-time, as has happened with my inbox this January, but I tend to have fewer messes in my life because the mess never gets started. Here are many of the things I do to prevent the mess:

  • Limit interruptions. It is impossible to prevent all interruptions, but you can reduce them. Turn off the ringer on your phone or set it to “Do Not Disturb.” Turn off new message notification sounds on your computer and mobile devices. Put a sign on your office door or hang a sign in an obvious place of your cubical requesting that you not be disturbed except for emergencies for a limited time period. If corporate culture permits, wear earphones even if you aren’t listening to music. Hire a babysitter for a few hours to watch your children while you tackle a project that requires focus at home.
  • At work and at home, create standardized to-do lists and routines. In case you have to abandon a project, you’ll at least cycle back through it the following day and finish it then. Also, get in the habit of writing everything down in a central location — on your mobile phone or in a day planner or a notebook.
  • Before starting any important task, ask yourself, “Do I have enough time and is the situation appropriate for me to complete this task?” If you don’t have enough time to finish a project, ask yourself, “Do I at least have enough time to do what I can and clean up before moving onto something else and leave things so the project does get finished?” If you answer “no” to both these questions, don’t start working on something.
  • If you can do something right now, do it. When returning home from vacation, immediately unload your dirty clothes directly into the washing machine and unpack the rest of your luggage within minutes of walking in the door. If you can file a piece of paperwork as quickly as it would take you to drop it into your inbox, simply file the piece of paperwork.
  • Avoid having catch-all drawers, bins, and bags. If you’re going to need something from the catch-all container, it’s best to have the items organized in a way so that dumping all the contents onto the floor isn’t the easiest way to find something. Large toy chests are horrible because kids have to dump out all the toys to find the one item they want.
  • Create kits. Kits can sometimes lead to duplicate items (you may end up owning four pairs of scissors), but they’re extremely useful in that all of the things you need to accomplish a task are easily accessed and easily stored after use. Sewing kits, gift wrapping kits, scrapbooking kits, house-cleaning kits, car-cleaning kits, etc., make doing certain tasks more efficient and less messy.

What do you do to prevent messes from starting in your home and office? How do you always finish what you start? Share your strategies in the comments.

How to preserve photographs worth keeping in three simple steps

Today’s post is written by Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist. She has worked on archival collections at the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division, the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives and American Girl. Thank you, Sally, for agreeing to share your amazing, in-depth knowledge of archival procedures with us.

Before I start talking about preserving heirloom photographs so they last as long as possible, I want to state the obvious: Every photograph in your collection is not an heirloom. In fact, some (most?) of them are photo clutter. If you’re in the process of sorting through your pictures to determine which ones are keepers and which ones aren’t, I recommend checking out the YouTube video I made to help free people from the myth that every print is a treasure. Now, on with the discussion of what to do with the pictures you want to keep …

Ancestor photos are less likely be photo clutter in your home, in part because they are more scarce then modern snapshots. Photography used to be much more expensive than it is today, which means Great Aunt Estelle didn’t have many throwaway shots. Perhaps your collection only includes one portrait of Great Great Uncle Milton — as a soldier or in his wedding suit — but even if it’s just one, you probably want to treat it well. (If you don’t want to keep the old ones, consider passing them along to a genealogist or DeadFred.com.) In addition to these older photographs, you may also have a handful of newer portraits you want to preserve, and this is the best way to keep all of them safe:

Three Simple Things You Can Do to Extend the Life of Your Heirloom Photographs

1. Handle your photos carefully and safely.

Ever wonder why archivists wear white gloves? I use mine so often I wash them and store them in my underwear drawer. Human hands contain oils and salts that can damage photographs, and cotton gloves are an easy barrier to protect photographs. If you’ve seen as many 19th century photos as I have, you’d never forget that a fingerprint that’s invisible today will eventually become an impossible-to-ignore brown stain in the future. White cotton gloves are a simple and inexpensive solution. You can buy them online from suppliers like Uline.com.

If you truly can’t stand to wear gloves while you work on your photographs, I have an alternate suggestion. Wash your hands with soap before you start working, and be sure to wash them again after you take any break. Also, don’t put on hand lotion until you’re finished working with your photos for the day. Other than that, be careful where you place your fingers and try to hold prints by the edges only.

2. Store them in the right spot.

I’ll skip the long boring lecture about temperature and relative humidity and cut to the chase. Like Goldilocks, you want a spot that’s not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, and not too dry. High temperatures speed up the chemical processes that cause damage. Here’s a sobering thought: The rate of decay doubles with each increase of 18ºF. Doubles! High humidity like you find in basements and attics encourages mold and mildew, which can permanently stain and destroy photographs. Fluctuating humidity can cause the photos to crack because the paper backing and the emulsion absorb moisture at different rates. Basements and attics are also at high risk for flooding, and we all know flooding is bad news for any kind of treasure.

So, what’s the right spot? An interior closet in a house that’s cooled in summer and heated in winter is a safe bet. Guest bedrooms and linen closets under stairs work for many of my clients. Under the bed can be a great location, as long as you aren’t putting your photo treasures next to a heating vent.

3. Choose high quality boxes for a longer life

Controlling temperature and humidity levels to a specific zone can be difficult and expensive to accomplish. Fortunately, you can offset what’s going on in a room by putting your photo treasures in archival boxes. This creates a micro-environment that offers protection from UV light damage, dust, and discourages pests. You can even use silica gel to remove excess moisture from the “micro-environment” of your box. Boxing up anything that is loose also protects your photos from folding, crimping, and collecting scratches that happen when a corner of one photo nicks off emulsion from a nearby print.

When I say better boxes, do I mean archival boxes? Well, yes and no…

Yes, in the sense that you want to use the kind of boxes used by professional archivists. But, also no, because the term archival is unregulated and therefore meaningless. Finding a product sold as archival tells you very little about whether it’s a safe environment for your photo treasures. You probably know already that acids will damage paper and photographs. However, a true archival box is both acid free and lignin free. Lignins are a by-product of the paper-making process, and if they aren’t removed they will cause the paper to become acidic over time, even if it’s acid free today.

When it comes to storing photographic prints and film (as opposed to letters and printed material) there is another factor you should consider for your storage materials. The safest boxes for storing photographs have passed the Photographic Activity Test, or PAT. This test is an independent third party test that uses accelerated aging to discover whether the box or envelope will interact with the photographs in any way. You can read more about the PAT in “What Archival Really Means,” an article/rant on my personal blog.

Where can you find PAT-passed materials? Probably not at your neighborhood stationery store or scrapbooking supplier. You can find boxes, envelopes and folders that have passed the PAT in a dizzying array of sizes from archival suppliers such as Gaylord.com, HollingerMetalEdge.com and TalasOnline.com. I also sell an entire kit on my website, if you don’t want to track down individual pieces. (Note from Erin: It’s a nice kit, it’s actually why I asked Sally if she wanted to write a guest post for us. I saw it and thought, “I could really use that.”) If you do right by your photographs, they’ll be around for future generations to enjoy.

And, since this week is Thanksgiving in the U.S., I recommend bringing along copies of your old photos to family gatherings — you can ask relatives to help you identify any unknown people and also enjoy looking at the images.

Safely store guitars and other stringed instruments with a Guitar-Stor

We have a number of musical instruments in our house. Due to humidity concerns, we like to keep them stored in their cases year-round. What then, to do with the big, clunky cases?

Rather than hiding them under a bed, which would be inconvenient since we actually play the instruments regularly, we keep them rested on a Guitar-Stor rack where they are easily within reach. It keeps the cases from scratching the walls and it looks nice in our living room where we practice.

The other really nice thing about the unit is that you can rest guitars directly on it without their cases. This is convenient when you’re practicing, or when you have a number of friends over to pick. And, even if you leave a guitar on the Guitar-Stor rack for an extended period of time, you don’t have to worry about the foam padding marring the finish, as the manufacturer uses a custom-formulated EPDM/neoprene synthetic blend for the padding that touches the instrument (this is important because open cell and and/or organic materials such as those found in natural rubber and surgical tubing are susceptible to outgassing, which can damage guitar finishes)

The racks come in several styles and finishes. We opted for the basic MDF model in black, for a more contemporary look. In this configuration, the Guitar-Stor is priced at $475. The company also offers more elaborate models in both cherry and walnut finishes with hardwood construction.

The manufacturer’s website only shows guitars on the Guitar-Stor rack, but you can see from the photo taken in our house that we have no trouble storing cases for both mandolins and violins on the rack.

These Guitar-Stor racks are not an inexpensive solution, but they are very well-built. We think it’s a small price to pay if you have expensive guitars that you want to keep safely out of the way when not in use.

Don’t let maybe-one-day items become clutter in your home

Reusing objects is a tricky matter for people, like myself, who struggle with clutter. Our initial instinct is to save an item so we can reuse it (I’m being frugal! I’m helping the environment!). However, if the object is never repurposed, it becomes clutter. The most common examples of this are plastic tubs for food stuffs like cottage cheese, sour cream, and margarine. We save the tubs thinking we’ll reuse them to send leftovers home with dinner guests. And, there may be one or two times in our lives when a tub is used for such a situation, but mostly these tubs make a mess of a kitchen drawer or cabinet for years or even decades.

I’m thoroughly impressed by people who save items planning to reuse them, and then actually reuse the item creatively and within a reasonable amount of time. When done in this manner, reuse can be a wonderfully uncluttered, frugal, and environmentally friendly way to live.

The article “22 Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin” on The Art of Manliness website is an inspiring look at all the ways an empty Altoids tin can cease being clutter. If you’ve been holding onto a tin thinking you’re going to reuse it one day, maybe a survival kit or pocket tackle box or morse code oscillator is in your future:

If Altoids tins aren’t filling up your drawers, maybe you are looking for a way to turn a cigar box into a guitar or wanting to find another purpose for those margarine tubs? Old coffee cans have numerous uses and so do used corks.

Don’t let maybe-one-day items clutter up your space. Either drop them in the recycling bin right now, or get started on a reuse project that will keep the item from being clutter in your home.

Ask Unclutterer: How can I disguise workout equipment?

Reader Cindi submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My question for the day is how do people incorporate the big exercise equipment into their homes? I am thinking of a treadmill. I have thought of getting some decorative screens and walling it off when not is use. It is currently in the family room, which has multiple personalities — home office, tv room, and gym. I’d love to know your thoughts and ideas, as well as other reader’s suggestions.

I must admit, I am truly stumped by what to do with exercise equipment in the absence of a dedicated workout room. Treadmills are so difficult to incorporate into a room that serves other purposes.

Screens scream, “THERE IS A TREADMILL BEHIND HERE!” In bedrooms, treadmills become dirty clothes hampers. And, in television rooms they’re always in the way.

If you didn’t already own a treadmill (and you had a lot of money), I’d suggest you check out the XFit. It’s a workout room in an armoire. A brilliant idea that I wish weren’t so expensive.

This is one of those times when I think it best to let our readers give you the advice. Someone has to have a solution. (Please, someone have a solution!) I have always been at a loss for what to suggest for disguising workout equipment. So readers, please give Cindi a hand and offer up your suggestions in the comments. I’ll also be reading to see what everyone has to say because I need the advice as much as Cindi.

Thank you, Cindi, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. And, sincerely, I hope someone has better advice for you than I do on this topic.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Workspace of the Week: Sewing serenity

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Heather Peterson’s mom’s sewing room:

My selection this week isn’t from our Flickr pool. I stumbled upon this truly amazing sewing room while looking for inspiration for our guest room. The picture I’ve attached to this post doesn’t look all that impressive, but the detail images in the full article describing the space are remarkable. There is sincerely a place for everything, and everything is in its place. Even if you aren’t someone who sews, you can find inspiration from this room for how to organize other hobbies and even a traditional workspace. I’m a fan of Heather Peterson’s mom’s custom sewing room, and I strongly recommend checking out her post about the space.

Image by Heather Peterson.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Searching for inspiration for a multipurpose guest room

Our new house has a guest room, which is something completely alien to us. Not really knowing what to do with the space, my husband and I bought a bed and nightstand, hung some artwork, and then closed the door to keep out the cat. (The image at right is the catalog staging of the bed and nightstand we have. Obviously, if our guest room already looked this amazing, I wouldn’t be writing this post.)

Since we moved in March, the room has only been used by guests a few times. The Karen Bussen-inspired entertainer in me loves this idea of having a relaxing room just for guests — make the room like a $400 a night resort hotel room where visitors can truly feel as if they are on a rejuvenating vacation. Conversely, the practical part of me thinks the room should have more utility than a place for visitors to sleep once every couple months.

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching ways to satisfy both of my desires for the space. I’m looking for ways to make it a fabulous guest room and a practical hobby room in one. The solution will have to include storage for the hobby supplies that can be completely closed up when guests are present and using it for their retreat. And, I want it to be extremely practical as a hobby room when guests aren’t visiting.

Here are some of the images I’ve been using as inspiration for what to do with this room:

Have you seen a beautiful guest room that serves more than one purpose? Share a link or describe a solution you’ve seen in the comments. How did someone create a space that effectively met both needs?

Living as close as possible to your ideal self

My ideal self and my real self aren’t exactly the same person. My ideal self is like this:

I’m driving a Jeep somewhere on the west coast, heading up a trail so I can go running or hiking or do a little rock climbing. My husband and son are with me, and all we see are blue skies. It’s a Tuesday morning and we are stress free and ready for fun.

My real self is more like this:

Well, except that isn’t actually me or my son. The point is that my real Tuesday morning is spent writing at a desk, trying to wrangle a toddler, while also attempting to chug a cup of coffee.

I believe it’s important to live as close to our ideal self as possible. I love my job, but I work because I need to. Working provides me with the means to live as close to my ideal as I can and to be responsible for the things I value.

Even though I’m not spending this Tuesday morning driving up a mountain with my family, I have plans to do exactly that on an upcoming vacation. Like I said, my ideal self is as close as possible to my real self.

Problems arise, however, when someone’s ideal self and real self are separated by a giant chasm. The ideal self is never experienced, and guilt, stress, and clutter accumulate because of this disconnect. Someone might see her ideal self as a golfer who plays the most beautiful courses in the world, and she may even have a set of golf clubs in the basement waiting for her to use. But, if she hasn’t picked up a club in a decade and hasn’t scheduled a tee time or saved any money or researched possible golf trips or done anything to make her vision a reality, there is too much distance between the ideal and the real. The golfing dream is just a dream, and it’s time to make it happen or let it go.

Clutter comes in many forms — physical, mental, emotional, etc. — and all of it is unproductive and distracting. Take a few moments to review your ideal self. Decide if the vision of who you want to be is really who you want to be. If it is, do everything in your power to clear the clutter and get as close to that ideal as possible. If it isn’t, let go of those misperceptions and their associated clutter. Make room for an ideal self you actually desire and have the motivation to pursue.

Life is too short to fill it with clutter. Live as close to your ideal self as possible.