Archives for Simple Living
How much stuff do we have in our homes that we seldom use? The infrequent baker may have muffin tins, cookie cutters and such that hardly ever leave the cabinet. The person living in a warm climate may have clothes for the once-a-year ski trip; families may have tents for twice-a-year camping trips. Homeowners may have tools bought for a single need — tools that are rarely if ever used again.
If you don’t like giving your space (or your money) to these infrequently used items, you may want to investigate ways to rent or borrow these items. Or, perhaps you enjoy owning certain items, but would like to allow others to save money and space by borrowing from you. You can rent all sorts of things, but for now I’d like to focus on borrowing.
You may well have friends or family members who you can borrow from (and lend to), but what if you don’t?
My old condo HOA had a lot of game/sports stuff. For instance, you could borrow the croquet set and put it up in the greenbelt behind your townhouse. It was a random mix of games and toys but it was actually really nice.
Neighborhood, condo, or apartment building Facebook groups are another way to facilitate sharing. MetaFilter member Jacquilynne Schlesier shared her experience:
We have a very active FB group for our building on which people are constantly asking if anyone has an X they can borrow. Most if not all of those requests are fulfilled within about an hour. I’ve lent people my sewing machine, my grocery cart, my c-clamps and my drill. I’ve borrowed a flatbed dolly, and also asked people to save up their empty cereal boxes for me instead of recycling them so I could use them for a project. Our FB group gets a bit testy, but people helping each other is actually one of the things I love about living here.
If you have a good local freecycle group, and your group allows borrowing, that’s another possible route to go. There are also websites focused on facilitating this kind of sharing.
NeighborGoods, which Unclutterer has mentioned before, defines itself as a “social platform for peer-to-peer borrowing and lending. Need a ladder? Borrow it from your neighbor. Have a bike collecting dust in your closet? Lend it out and make a new friend.” NeighborGoods also has sharing guidelines that include things, such as:
Over in the U.K, Streetbank is “a site that helps you share and borrow things from your neighbours.” People can add things they want to lend or give away, and can include skills they are willing to share, as well as their stuff. As the FAQ states: “Communities that help each other are closer, nicer, and friendlier to live in. Streetbank can help make your neighbourhood a nicer place.”
I haven’t used NeighborGoods myself — the closest community is an hour’s drive away from me — but the idea behind NeighborGoods and Streetbank is appealing. I have done some lending; for example, my neighbor borrows my manual juicer when she needs one.
While it always makes sense to take reasonable precautions when borrowing or lending, sharing with others lets all of us live a somewhat less cluttered life.
Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker is not a book of organizing tips. It does not tell you what type of baskets to buy. It does not tell you how to arrange clothes in your closets. This book helps you evaluate the choices you make and develop new habits to lead a life that is full of meaning and free of clutter.
The book begins by introducing the concept of minimalism and leading a minimalist lifestyle. Many people believe that a minimalistic lifestyle is stark and boring but Mr. Becker explains that “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
Mr. Becker describes the empty promises of advertisements and their attempt to convince us that the more we own the happier we will be. He recounts the journey he and his typical American family have taken towards living a minimalist lifestyle and the challenges they faced.
In the first section, “Change Your Thinking”, Mr. Becker presents an alternate way of thinking about uncluttering and organizing. He explains the impact minimalism can have on contentment, generosity, and honesty in one’s life and also debunks many of the myths of living a minimalist lifestyle. It really is not stark and boring!
The section of the book that focuses on parenting states, “the lifestyle of minimalism requires far more inspiration than instruction.” It describes how parents can best model the minimalistic lifestyle. It also outlines the benefits of family life where possessions are deemed less important than self-development and interpersonal relationships.
Mr. Becker outlines a roadmap to becoming clutter free and explains how to include your children on this journey. He does not stick to hard and fast rules but asks questions that allow the reader to choose the minimalistic path that is right for his/her family.
Clutterfree with Kids will show readers new ways of thinking about, and establishing better habits, regarding children’s toys, clothes, artwork, and collections. There is advice on how to adjust schedules to spend more time participating in developmental activities and reducing the amount of ‘screen time’ – be it computer or television.
Some other practical advice provided in the book includes how to:
- Become clutterfree with a reluctant family member
- Deal with gifts and excessive gift-givers
- Resist the influence of advertisements in our consumer-driven culture
- Prepare for a new baby
- Pack for holidays and vacations
Clutterfree with Kids is an enjoyable, refreshing, easy-to-read book. Mr. Becker provides practical advice in a non-judgemental way. He encourages readers to adopt a level of minimalism with which they are comfortable. Whether you are new to minimalism or you are new to parenting, this book can help you move toward a happier and more minimalist life.
Lately, Unclutterer writer Jacki Hollywood Brown and I have been sending each other links to humorous articles about people who come up as the INTJ type on the Meyers-Briggs personality test. Both Jacki and I are this rare result (fewer than 3 percent of females), and although we don’t put a huge amount of stake in these test results, we both nod our heads and smile when we read articles describing traits that are common to our INTJ type.
It is in this same vein that I present these rules of being organized. Obviously, they aren’t laws and don’t all apply exactly to everyone who is organized. Rather, they’re a trend. They’re a fun way to get a big picture view of how people who are organized live. As we do with the INTJ personality descriptions, feel welcome to nod and smile as you read through this list, but please stop short of printing it out and handing it to someone demanding they adopt each of these rules. (Although, my INTJ personality does love a good checklist …)
Rules for being organized
- Know yourself. Organized people typically know themselves very well. They know how they access information and goods and create storage systems that reflect these preferences. They know how many steps is too many for them to maintain order. They know how they prefer to work and live. They know what they need, and what they don’t need. They know their responsibilities. Most importantly, they know what they want in life and what their priorities are.
- Being organized is not the goal. People who are organized are not organized for the sake of being organized. They are organized so they can enjoy the benefits of being organized. An organized life is their way of getting rid of distractions so they can focus on what matters most to them.
- Expect to fail. No one is organized in every aspect of their life every day of their life. People fall off the organized wagon. The difference between organized and disorganized people, however, is that organized people accept this as part of the process and simply start again. We’re human; we don’t have super powers.
- A place for everything, and everything in its place. People who are organized have a place to store every single item they have in their home. If something doesn’t have a storage place, it will always be out of place and in the way. Each shirt needs a hanger or a space in a drawer. If there isn’t enough room to store all of your shirts, there will always be dirty laundry or clean laundry hanging out in a hamper. If shoes don’t have a place to live, they will wind up in the middle of the living room floor or in a heap by the door.
- Write it down. This could also be stated as “capture it” or “type it in.” The point is that organized people get their to-do items out of their heads and onto a list or calendar so they don’t worry about dropping the ball. No need to remember you have a dentist appointment on Thursday when you can just look at your calendar and see that it’s scheduled on Thursday. Your mental resources are free to think about important problems/happy thoughts/complex issues instead of when, six months from now, you should be at your dentist’s office.
- Routines are the backbone of organization. Organized people have routines worked into their days to take care of the boring, repetitive, and/or undesirable tasks. At the end of a work day, the desk is cleared, tomorrow’s calendar and to-do lists are reviewed, and the desk is set so it is ready to go the next morning so work can begin immediately. After school, the kids pull out their lunch boxes and put them on the kitchen counter and then have a snack high in protein before settling in to do their homework. At bedtime, the kids take a bath, put on their pajamas, have no more than three books read to them (which have been chosen prior to the bath), and then it is lights out at the same time every night. Actions are dependable and familiar and provide stability.
- Follow through and don’t delay. Organized people don’t see dinner as being finished when the last bite of food is swallowed. Organized people see dinner as being finished when the table is cleared and wiped down, the floor has been swept, all dirty dishes have been loaded into the dishwasher, and the dishwasher is started. Wrapping a present isn’t finished when the bow is placed on the package but only after all supplies — tape, wrapping paper — have been properly stored. If anything can be done in less than two minutes, it will be done straight away instead of putting it on a to-do list.
- Do your part. Organized people tend to see that they are part of a unit or team instead of a lone wolf. This means, if they share a house with someone, they know they have responsibilities about cleaning, caring, and maintaining the home simply because they live there. They try not to make work for other people and do what has been assigned to them. Or, if they are in charge of assigning work, they know that everyone involved has a stake in the project/home/team/etc. and thus make sure everyone has responsibilities reflecting their abilities to contribute.
- Don’t own a lot of superfluous stuff. When organized people cease having a need for something, they typically get rid of it. They only keep what they value or use.
- Trust in the future. Most organized people trust that in the future they will be able to either buy, borrow, or acquire the tools they will need when they need them. Saving an unnecessary object just in case isn’t really an organized person’s style. That being said, an organized person does tend to have things that are useful and necessary on hand when they are needed. For example, toilet paper rarely runs out in an organized person’s home because systems are in place for storing and replacing toilet paper as demand requires. An organized person will likely have one shelf in a linen closet designated for toilet paper storage and when supply depletes beyond a certain point, toilet paper will be added to the shopping list. Conversely, an organized person doesn’t buy more toilet paper than can fit on the toilet paper storing shelf just because there is a deal. Other deals will come and an organized person trusts that he will take advantage of those other deals when he needs more toilet paper.
- You are not your things and your things don’t contain souls. Organized people aren’t heartless creatures who never feel anything sentimental toward a physical object. In fact, they might be sentimental fools. This being said, they are rational enough to know that grandpa is not IN the painting he left them after he died. They know that the baby blanket they saved for their child is not their child. If they get rid of the object or if the object is destroyed in a fire, their memories still exist and they still love grandpa and their child.
- It’s better to have a tree than a forest. Sometimes I phrase this as “quality over quantity.” Either way, organized people tend to keep the best object (best, obviously, being subjective to the keeper) instead of all the objects. Instead of keeping a five inch stack of their child’s artwork from kindergarten, they keep their favorite piece and hang it on the wall or store it in an archival quality way. Instead of printing every photograph from a favorite vacation and hanging all 427 images on the wall, they frame their one favorite image or use it as their screensaver on their computer.
- Being organized isn’t for everyone, it’s a choice only you can make for yourself. Simply stated, you can’t force someone to be organized. Not everyone has a desire to be organized. There are multiple paths to a happy, fulfilled life, and being organized is just one path to that goal. You can certainly teach others about how to be organized and you can let them see the benefits you garner from being organized, but you can’t force someone into being organized. And, harboring resentment toward others for not being organized only clutters up your time. Accept their decision, no matter how much it frustrates you. Maybe one day they will come around to your way of seeing things and they will be more likely to ask for your help if they’re not mad at you for being a jerk to them when they weren’t.
- Anyone can be organized. Being organized is a skill set, it is not a natural ability — it’s nurture, not nature. It certainly comes more easily to some people, but that doesn’t mean an organized life is impossible to achieve if it comes slowly to someone else. Being organized takes practice, same as a sport.
We wrote about actor Vincent Kartheiser and his obsession with minimalism in our 2010 article “Celebrity minimalist: Vincent Kartheiser.” Back then, he was just beginning construction on his new home and admitted to using his neighbor’s bathroom because he threw out his toilet.
Three years later, construction on Kartheiser’s space is complete and the beautiful renovations are featured in the article “The Tiny Hollywood Home of Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser” in Dwell magazine’s November 2013 issue.
In the article’s accompanying slideshow, it is this picture of Kartheiser pulling his bed down from the ceiling that took my breath away:
Image credit: Dwell’s Joe Pugliese
The bed on pulleys with 300 pound counterweights is sheer genius, and the headboard (a large piece of redwood) is on a lever so it can fold down during the day to serve as a desk or sideboard. Another small-space idea that caught my attention in the article is his outdoor coffee table that is also a fire pit. The sliding closet doors that become a privacy wall for the bathroom is a nice touch, too.
Technically a one-room cabin at just 500 sq feet, Kartheiser remade the home and outdoor courtyard with builder Funn Roberts. It doesn’t say it directly, but the article seems to imply Kartheiser even shares this tiny space with his fiancée, actress Alexis Bledel.
In the comment section of my post “10 suggestions for where to begin uncluttering” reader Anna asked the following question:
I’m in the process of decluttering and streamlining my utility closets and cabinets. I’ve searched the web high and low for a minimalist list of cleaning supplies to use as a loose guideline. I’ve used the search function on this blog to find old articles but I’m coming up empty. I’d appreciate a link if an article comes to mind. Thanks!
Another reader chimed in with a helpful response, but I wanted to chime in with my thoughts in a broader sense. Especially as the Washington Toxics Coalition says: “There are hundreds of cleaning products vying for your dollar. However, you don’t always need a special purpose cleaner for every dirty dilemma.” Since many of us have a number of such special purpose cleaners, there are certainly some uncluttering possibilities.
As with almost any uncluttering situation, there’s no one right answer — no single list of products we should all have. But I’ll present some strategies to consider, with pointers to additional resources.
Strategy 1: Eliminate toxins
The ingredients used in many cleaning products have potential risks; some people will want to avoid products with these ingredients. The Environmental Working Group has extensive information about such toxins and their possible dangers, and it rates a large number of commercially available products on a scale of A to F.
Another list of potentially hazardous chemicals in our cleaning products, in an easy-to-read format, comes from the David Suzuki Foundation. Anna mentioned in another comment that she makes her own, so this first strategy is more for the big-picture perspective.
Strategy 2: Make your own
Many online sources — and a number of books — explain how you can use a limited number of common products to make your own cleaning solutions. As Martha Stewart says: “Many people are conditioned to believe a house is not clean unless it smells of chemicals. In fact, the opposite is true. You can make your house sparkle with just a few simple supplies, many of which are already in your cupboards.”
How few? Kelly A. Smith writes about cleaning her whole home using only vinegar and baking soda. Clean: the humble art of zen-cleansing goes a bit further, but still says you really only need five ingredients: baking soda, borax, lemon, salt, and white vinegar. And the website Wabi Sabi Baby has recipes with only six ingredients — and since one of those is water, it’s really only five.
Many sites include essential oils, such as lavender oil and tea tree oil, in their recipes for homemade cleaners. However, the Environmental Working Group points out that these have some potential risks, too — so you’ll need to consider whether or not you feel OK about using them.
With make-your-own cleaners, you don’t have to make a lot at once. With a little practice you can simply make up what you need for one cleaning and then store the un-mixed ingredients.
Strategy 3: Consider whether you really need antibacterial cleaners
An article in Scientific American challenges the need for antibacterial products in most households, while noting that people with weakened immune systems may have good reason for “targeted use” of such cleaners.
Strategy 4: Start with a list from Martha Stewart or Real Simple
With some searching, I’ve found some decent lists of minimum products that you can then customize to your own circumstances and preferences.
Martha Stewart says: “For routine cleaning, less is more. You actually need very few products to clean any given room.” She then provides a universal cleaning list with only six items — but this excludes items such as brooms. Stewart also has other, more comprehensive, lists: a kitchen cleaning kit with 15 items and a window-washing kit with seven items.
And Real Simple has a house-cleaning kit checklist with only 20 items. It includes white vinegar, baking soda, and an all-purpose cleaner — but also microfiber cloths, a toilet brush, a dust mop, and other such items.
The way we watch TV and movies is changing. So-called “time-shifted” television and on-demand movies make it possible to see just the programs we’re interested in when we have the time to watch. I love this practice because it lets me get work and family activities completed first, and save TV watching for when my schedule allows it.
There are many ways to access on-demand movies and television shows. Each has its own pros and cons. In this article, I’ll look at some of the most popular options, describing the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Netflix started out as a way to rent DVDs through the mail, and today it provides streaming television and movies to millions of users. I’ve been a customer for about two years and I enjoy the service quite a bit.
- Compatibility. Netflix is available on the iPad, Android devices, the Nook, Kindle Fire, the web, iPhone, Nintendo Wii and more. If you’ve got a connected smart device, it just might run Netflix.
- Original programming. Netflix has produced at least two high-quality original TV shows. Lilyhammer starting Steve Van Zant of The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band was a delightful fish-out-of-water story that put a New York City mob boss in Lilyhammer, Norway, via a witness protection program. Meanwhile, House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey takes a look at the hard-scrabble world of D.C. politics. Netflix is also working to revive Arrested Development, which Fox shut down in 2006.
- Navigation. Using Netflix is easy. The company has released several updates to its web app and device-specific applications. It’s clear the team is determined to produce a high-quality product.
- The queue. You can identify shows or movies you’d like to see and store them in a queue. When you’re ready to watch, simply open your queue and make a choice from among those you’ve saved.
- Mediocre selection. Overall, Netflix’s selection is mediocre. The TV selection is better than the movies. Once you’ve seen the ones you’ve heard of, you’re left with obscure documentaries and other films that didn’t make a splash at the box office. Now, many of them are quite good, but be aware that you might not find the latest summer smash in Netflix for quite some time.
- Cost. It’s not expensive, but at $7.99 for access to streaming content (DVD rentals are more), it adds up over time.
- Search isn’t great. It can take a while to find a title you’d like to see from among the many thousands on offer.
- Not very kid-friendly. Netflix features a “kid mode” that only presents child-appropriate content, but anyone can defeat it with two taps, no password required.
Hulu Plus is the paid version of Hulu, the online streaming service that works in a web browser, iPad, iPhone and more.
- Kid mode done right. Unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus requires a password to exit its kid-safe mode.
- Fantastic TV selection. Hulu often gets episodes of popular television shows the day after they run, so you don’t wait. TV really is Hulu’s main strong point.
- Wide device support. Hulu Plus is available on many devices, from the Xbox to the iPad to Android tablets and phones.
- Nice image quality. I’ve watched several programs on my 27″ display and my HD television (via Apple TV) and they always look great.
- Picking up where you left off. You can start a program on, say, your iPad and pick up where you left off on your computer (to be fair, other services do this, too).
- Abysmal movie selection. This is a sticking point for most streaming services but it seems to be a real issue for Hulu. I can often find something to watch on Netflix. On Hulu, I stick with TV. The movie selection is not to my liking at all.
- Cost. Just like Netflix, Hulu Plus will run you $7.99 per month. Not a lot on its own, but it adds up when purchased along side other streaming services.
The PBS app for iPhone and iPad is very nice. Here are a few things I like about it.
- The scheduling feature is quite helpful. Tell the app your home location to browse a full programming calendar. You can even create reminders to catch upcoming shows.
- Favorites. After creating a free account, you can monitor your favorite shows and receive notifications of relevant information.
- Great navigation. This app is beautifully laid out and easy to use.
- It’s free!
- Restricted to PBS programming. That’s not a bad thing, especially for PBS fans, but the drawback is obvious: you can’t watch anything other than PBS shows.
- Some series are incomplete. For example, I was able to find Julia Child’s Cooking with Master Chefs, but not The French Chef (which I prefer).
Apple’s media behemoth iTunes is a great choice for people who want access to current TV and movies in HD.
- TV shows are current and movies often hit iTunes when they’re released on DVD.
- 720p and 1080p HD programs are available.
- The iTunes software is available for Macs and Windows PCs.
- Renting is less expensive than buying.
- The iTunes Store is updated weekly, so content is always fresh.
- Apple’s iCloud lets you store iTunes purchases on Apple’s servers for playback on any approved, compatible device.
- Unless you’re using iTunes on a Windows machine, you must have an Apple device to view rentals and/or purchases. There’s no Android support here.
- A la carte pricing. This sounds good, but it’s a lot less economical than the all-you-can-eat flat fee of services like Netflix and Hulu. Every time you want to watch anything, you must pay for it (unless you’ve bought it outright, of course).
Amazon Prime Streaming
Prime is Amazon’s service that includes two-day shipping on qualifying items plus access to its library of streaming video. It’s a good deal for those who shop with Amazon and love streaming video.
- Cost. At $79 per year, Amazon is much cheaper than the other services listed here (save PBS). That works out to about $6.58 per month, and includes the shipping benefit.
- Prime members with an Amazon Kindle can “borrow” books as well, essentially turning Amazon into a lending library.
- Selection. It’s not good. The movie section is especially lacking. You’ll find some hits that are around 20 years old, but other than that you have to dig.
There’s also a newcomer to the group. As of yesterday, audio streaming service Rdio has added streaming video to is business: Vdio. It’s only available to Rdio Unlimited subscribers in the US and UK for now. In the few hours I spent looking at it, I found the selection to be small in number but big in names. Recent hits like Lincoln, Les Mis, The Hobbit and Life of Pi are available right now. Vdio is young but definitely a service to watch. (Sorry for that pun).
So there’s a look at the more popular video streaming services. There are more, of course, but this post is already long enough. It’s really nice when you can schedule TV viewing on your own terms. The whole process becomes more efficient with less time wasted. Have fun watching TV in “the cloud!”
Microhomes and creatively built small spaces are becoming more popular in recent times, particularly in places like Japan, Germany, British Columbia, and Poland. Some are as large as 300 square feet, but others are considerably smaller, as tiny as 46 square feet.
Remember the story NPR ran about the Keret House, a very cozy home (by American standards) wedged between two other buildings? The project has been completed (and was built off site as the space was too narrow for construction):
Image credit: Yahoo Homes
Extremely small homes along with compact work spaces seem to be cropping up in New York City, as well. Interior designer, Kittie Lonsdale, not only lives in tiny home, but also specializes in designing them for others. Here, she is in her kitchen, which comes equipped with a slide-out hot plate and refrigerator that’s 19 inches wide:
Image credit: New York Post
You might think that microhomes wouldn’t be as popular as they are because choices for storing things inside them are so significantly limited. However, small spaces may appeal to one’s creative sensibilities and a desire to simplify. Though the majority of us don’t live in tiny homes, we can use some of the small-home concepts to maximize the spaces where we do live.
You don’t have to live in a microhome to creatively store and easily access your most prized (or used) items. You probably wouldn’t have to use every available spot for storage, but you can be more purposeful about keeping your belongings to a reasonable number. Leaving things hanging about (like laundry or paper files) could quickly get out of control in a tiny home or office, so you’re more likely to put things away as a regular practice. Why not keep that same mindset in a larger space?
I suspect that living in a tiny home would make it a bit trickier to entertain, too. On the flip side, not having a large living space would also mean having less stuff (glassware, party supplies) to store and maintain. How many cocktail napkins and special silverware do you really need? And, while a glide out stove may not be necessary, glide out shelves in your kitchen, bathroom, or closet can help you easily reach the things you need when you need them. You can take the DIY route and install them yourself (check out the roll-out cabinet drawers at the Container Store) or have them professionally put in by a company like Shelf Genie.
Image credit: Container Store
While living in a microhome is not for everyone (myself included), the practice of keeping and using what you need and have room for may help you maintain your home more efficiently so you can spend time doing the things you love.
A reader recently emailed asking if I could put together a detail of what my day looks like and how I stay on top of uncluttering and organizing tasks. I’ve written something like this before, but I’ve become a mom since writing the original article, so I thought I’d put together an updated routine. This one-day example shows how a little bit of effort each day can keep most people’s homes in good condition.
Not every Tuesday works exactly like what I have listed here, but this is a fairly accurate representation of how I move throughout my day. All of the chores I share with my husband, so where the schedule says “load the dishwasher” or “take son to school,” it might be either of us who does this activity.
One thing to note is most weekdays I work until 5:00 p.m. The “After-Work Errand Routine” is special just to Tuesdays and allows me to grocery shop and run errands at a time when the stores and streets aren’t crowded. As a result, most Tuesdays I go back to work from 8:45 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. instead of relaxing during that time.
A Typical Tuesday
Morning Home Routine:
6:30 a.m. Wake up, brush teeth, wash face, put on workout clothes, and make bed.
6:40 a.m. Unload dishwasher, make coffee, feed pets, assemble son’s lunch, get breakfast on the table.
7:00 a.m. Sit and do nothing for 10 or 15 minutes with a cup of coffee.
7:15 a.m. Wake up son, everyone eats breakfast.
7:45 a.m. Load dishwasher, sweep floor.
7:50 a.m. Supervise son getting dressed, teeth brushed and flossed, his face cleaned, and backpack loaded.
8:05 a.m. Take son to school.
Morning Work Routine:
8:30 a.m. Work on most important writing/client project.
9:45 a.m. Check email, social media, and administrative work.
10:00 a.m. Work on second most important writing/client project.
11:15 a.m. Check email, social media, and administrative work.
11:30 a.m. Make and eat lunch, load dishwasher.
12:00 p.m. Exercise or do yard work (like mowing).
12:45 p.m. Shower and get ready.
Afternoon Work Routine:
1:00 p.m. Work on third most important writing/client project.
2:00 p.m. Make another cup of coffee, check email, social media, and administrative work.
2:15 p.m. Wrap up writing/client projects for the day.
2:30 p.m. End-of-day routine for work: set phone to do not disturb, clear desk, set writing agenda for next day, have everything set and ready to go for tomorow.
After-Work Errand Routine: (Tuesdays only)
2:45 p.m. Pick up son from school.
3:05 p.m. Run errands to grocery store (made shopping list on Sunday), post office, dry cleaner, etc.
Evening Home Routine:
4:00 p.m. Return home and sort and shred mail, put away groceries, scan and shred receipts, unload son’s lunchbox and other items from backpack, load lunchbox items into dishwasher.
4:05 p.m. Spend time with son.
5:20 p.m. Put load of son’s laundry into washer.
5:30 p.m. Make dinner and get son’s lunch ready for tomorrow so it only has to be assembled in the morning. Everyone eats dinner.
6:30 p.m. Load dishwasher, run dishwasher, sweep floor.
6:35 p.m. Move son’s clothes to dryer. Everyone does 20 to 30 minutes of general house clean up with special focus on bathrooms. (Other special focus areas: Mondays are kitchen and dining room; Wednesdays are bedrooms; Thursdays are living rooms; Fridays are remaining spaces like hallways, entryways, and garages; and Sundays are meal planning.)
7:00 p.m. Spend time with family.
8:00 p.m. Bathe son and put him to bed.
8:30 p.m. Fold son’s clothes (will put away tomorrow morning after breakfast), get self ready for bed, brush and floss teeth, feed pets.
8:45 p.m. Hang out with husband or do more writing/editing work.
10:30 p.m. Go to bed.
On pages 98 and 99 of my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, there is a routine schedule that covers the full week. We’ve made a few additions to the schedule now that we’re parents, but it is still very similar to what we do in our home. It has worked well for us for many years and keeps our weekends free to have as much fun as we desire.
Also, twice a year we spend a weekend doing major uncluttering work throughout the entire house. Even with daily maintenance, we find we still need to give everything we own a good review every six months. Usually our major uncluttering weekends are held the weekends preceding our fall and spring cleaning weekends. We like to get rid of clutter before doing the spring and fall cleanings so there is less to clean and maintain. You can find our cleaning guides in my book on pages 100 and 185. We usually do the “Dedicated Cleaner” plan.
Finally, we try our best to put things away after we use them and to have a permanent storage space for everything we own. These two simple actions aid us significantly in keeping our home uncluttered and organized.
In an effort to unclutter my wardrobe, I made the decision a few years ago to streamline everything and stop buying printed clothing. Three years later, and except for five pieces, I’ve achieved this goal. My pants, tops, coats, dresses, suits, and skirts are now solid colors and are also in a very limited color scheme: navy blue, white, gray, black, brown, red, and teal.
Shopping is certainly easier — in fact, all of my casual tops are one of two styles of basic t-shirts (this one and this one), just in different colors. When one of the t-shirts is damaged or worn, I hop online and order the exact shirt to replace it. My dresses all come from two designers (this one and this one) who have outlet stores near my home and almost exclusively design in solid colors. Three of the dresses I own are even the same dress in black, gray, and white. Since these items fit me exactly how I prefer, it’s nice to have the color variety (and getting them at discount at the outlet stores is nice, too).
The idea of having a classic, basic, streamlined wardrobe seems boring or lacking in creativity to a lot of people, but the way I see it is my clothing is like a canvas. My shoes and accessories are where I let my personality speak. A headband and coordinating pair of shoes stand out when they’re not also competing for visual attention with a shirt and skirt. I’ve also found shoes and accessories are significantly less expensive than well constructed, quality clothing. As trends change, replacing a scarf is easier than replacing an entire wardrobe. And, until I point it out to people, no one ever notices I have a basic wardrobe of solid colors in a limited color range.
Recently, I came upon a design concept that is so in line with my uncluttered wardrobe system I was saddened to learn the concept isn’t in production. I’m mentioning it, though, because it’s where I would like to see fashion trend. I’d like to see more uncluttered ideas become mainstream.
I see my clothing as the basic flat shoe that is enhanced with the heel accessories, or, in my case, simply accessories.
Keeping clutter out of your wardrobe can be difficult, and how you choose to do it will reflect your style and personality. In my case, a streamlined wardrobe of solid color, well constructed pieces in classic designs and a limited color palette work best for me. This system works because all of the pieces fit me well and are complimented nicely by my fun, trendy shoes and accessories. There are obviously different ways, but this is how I achieve an uncluttered wardrobe.
Shoe design found via Design-Milk.
Reader Howard submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
Do you have any tips for remodeling or building a house that would help prevent clutter or reduce cleaning maintenance in the design of the space?
This is a really fun question, Howard, and I’m so glad you asked it. You have a terrific opportunity in front of you to build a space that can help you achieve and maintain an uncluttered lifestyle.
First things first, thoroughly unclutter your existing possessions so your new space is free of things you don’t want in it. Check out “Start a full-room organizing project with a blank canvas” for tips on uncluttering in this style, but apply it to your entire home.
Now that the obvious is out of the way, I highly recommend designing the space with ample storage that can easily be reconfigured. Use elfa shelving (or the competing product from Rubbermaid) in closets and pantries so shelf heights can be adjusted or clothing rods installed or drawers can be added as necessary. Your needs for storage change over time, and your storage solutions should be able to adapt. If they can’t adapt, at some point they will cease to be helpful.
Also, when it comes to storage, think outside the closet. Have drawers set into the risers of your stairs, recess shelving between the studs of your walls, have window seats double as storage cubes, furnish with ottomans that have interior storage, or whatever fits your design style. The idea here is be creative with the elements you use in the space to improve storage instead of hinder it.
Beyond having ample, reconfigurable and creative storage, there are numerous cosmetic things you can do to help with cleaning and preventing clutter. None of these is a perfect solution, but they’re certainly things I do in my homes when I’m not renting:
Paint the walls with washable flat latex interior paint that contains ceramic microspheres. (You can find these in the washable paint section at most home improvement stores. Check the ingredients on the paint cans. The ceramic microspheres are usually in the higher-end washable paints.) Even if you don’t have pets or young children, it’s still very easy to get marks on your walls. With washable paint that has ceramic microspheres mixed into it, these stray marks come off like you’re washing tile instead of your painted walls.
Lay hardwood floors and use throw rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, especially if you have pets. Cleaning and maintaining hardwood floors is exponentially easier, and it’s much less expensive to replace a throw rug than an entire room of carpeting.
If money is no object, install smart glass windows. You’ll never have to clean blinds again. (But, I guess if you can afford smart glass windows, you could probably also afford a cleaning crew to wash you blinds …)
Finally, I’ve never had one, but I’ve always thought a central home vacuum system would speed up cleaning time. Some of the systems have horizontal intakes (I think they’re technically called “sweep inlets”) so in addition to using the vacuum hose, you can also sweep directly into the suction area and not have to use a dustpan.
Thank you, Howard, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. And, like I mentioned earlier, be sure to check the comments for suggestions from our readers on designing spaces to prevent clutter and reduce cleaning time.
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.
Today’s edition of Britain’s Daily Mail includes an article, photo gallery, and impressive infographic describing London’s newest clutter-free street, which officially opened earlier today. The piece “No kerbs, pavements or nanny-state signs: Britain’s longest clutter-free street is unveiled to make things SAFER” explains the initiative to improve safety on this stretch of road by removing visual distractions:
Britain’s longest ‘clutter-free’ street was opened today with the aim of making cars and people co-exist harmoniously — without the need for hectoring signs and protective steel barriers.
Indeed, the newly revamped Exhibition Road in the heart of London’s museum quarter in Kensington, visited by millions of people from around Britain and the world, doesn’t even have kerbs or pavements.
The idea underlining the project is that when nannying rules and orders — in the form of countless signs, traffic signals and barriers — are removed, motorists take more personal responsibility for their own actions and drive more attentively, making more eye contact with pedestrians.
In addition to taking on projects in London, two years ago national officials in Britain formally began encouraging city council leaders to decrease road signage to improve road safety. This specific decision to rework Exhibition Road came in 2003 and is based on popular urban design and engineering concepts from Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. Monderman’s engineering ideas are implemented in many areas of Europe and Asia and are referred to as “shared space” planning design.
More about the clutter-free road from the Daily Mail article:
Councillor Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London (TfL), said: “… The psychology of this scheme is fascinating. Experience seems to show that when you dedicate space to traffic and control it with signs and green traffic lights, motorists develop a claim on it. It becomes ‘my space.’ Drivers become annoyed if people move into it.
They get angry if a mother pushing a buggy moves across the crossing just as the lights are about to change.
This new scheme is more like the behaviour in a supermarket car park. Drivers know there are people around pushing shopping trolleys and so drive more cautiously. They are looking out.
They don’t feel that pedestrians are invading their space. They don’t therefore get annoyed.”
Image from Britain’s Daily Mail. Thanks to reader Samantha for bringing this post idea to our attention.
According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, the phrase “get organized” is one of the top 10 resolutions people make every year. I’m not really sure how to validate this information, but my guess is that some version of “get organized” falls on the majority of resolution lists (“get the basement organized” or “have better time management”). If you add uncluttering into the “get organized” category, it’s likely a top 5 resolution.
If you fall into the group of resolution makers who wants to be better organized in 2012, the first thing to do is specifically identify why you want to be organized. Being organized isn’t usually a goal. Being organized is merely a path to achieving another goal. For instance, you might want to be better organized with your time after work so you finally get your business idea off the ground. You might want to be more organized with meal planning so you have less stress surrounding mealtimes with your family. Knowing why you want to be organized will help you with the remaining steps of the resolution-making process and with ultimately achieving your goals.
While brainstorming resolutions and the reasons you wish to make your resolutions, keep in mind that change is difficult and that research has found that it is easiest to achieve a goal when you’re only focusing on one at a time. This means you need to have 12 or fewer personal resolutions for 2012, giving yourself at least one month to focus on each resolution. If you have a resolution such as weight loss, and you want to be better organized with your meal planning to help you achieve that resolution, consider making your weight-loss resolution a six month or even an entire year-long resolution. You can focus on each step to help you achieve the weight loss each month — research and doctor’s visit in January, journaling food consumed and daily weight in February, meal planning in March, twice-a-week workouts with a personal trainer in April, four-times-a-week workouts on your own in May, etc.
After you have identified why you want to be more organized and have a rough idea of the resolutions you wish to achieve, your next step is to create a detailed plan of action. This Resolution Action Plan should include very specific language and planning. You need to identify exactly what you want to do in concrete terms and then the exact steps of how you plan to achieve these steps. Create milestones — small goals — for each resolution and rewards you will give to yourself when you reach each milestone.
Similar to last year, I will be taking on 12 monthly resolutions in 2012. Some of the resolutions are organizing and uncluttering related, but most are personal in nature, so I won’t be writing about them the way I did in 2011. I will check in with you over the course of the year, however, to see how you are doing with your resolutions and to provide tips for making and keeping your 2012 Resolution Action Plan. What resolutions do you have on your Plan for 2012? Good luck, and I wish you great resolution success in the coming year.