Archives for Unclutter Your Life in One Week
Below is the final excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week we plan to run on the site — this time on how to determine how many towels and washcloths you need in your linen closet.
This is from the Tuesday chapter, “Your Bathroom” section:
“During its second season in 1967, the television show Star Trek aired an episode called ‘The Trouble with Tribbles.’ In this episode, a member of the crew of the Starship Enterprise is given a cuddly, furry tribble as a pet. Unfortunately for the crew, the tribble reproduces at an alarming rate and thousands of tribbles end up eating all of the grain on the ship. The crew runs the risk of dying of starvation out in deep space since their food supply has been so greatly depleted. I won’t give away details about the ending of the episode, but since the show went on to run for another season and a half, you can probably guess that they found a way out of the furry situation.
I mention this episode of Star Trek because I remember thinking about it the first time I cleared the clutter from my linen storage. I was convinced that my bath towels and washcloths had multiplied. I remembered buying one of the towels before I started college, but I had no memory of how I acquired the dozens more in the years since. It was as if they had spontaneously reproduced while the doors to the linen closet were shut.
To determine how many towels and washcloths you need, use this simple math equation:
(House residents + Guest bedrooms) x 2 = Sets of bath towels and washcloths
The logic behind the equation is that you have one bath towel and washcloth in use and another set in the linen closet ready to go. Since houseguests only need towels while they’re staying with you, they don’t need extras in reserve. Most guest rooms can accommodate two people, so multiplying the number of guest rooms by two usually provides for a towel per guest. (I’m using the term guest room in a general sense; in our house the guest room is an apple-green pullout couch in the middle of the living room.) If you have four people living in your home and zero guest rooms, then you should have eight bath towels and eight washcloths: (4 + 0) x 2 = 8. If you have three people living in your home and two guest rooms, then you should have ten towels and ten washcloths: (3 + 2) x 2 = 10.
This equation might not work for everyone, but most people find it to be a good starting point. If you’re a whiz at laundry, you might be able to get by on one set of towels per person. If you’re particular about having a new washcloth every day, you might need more washcloths in your collection. If your towels are falling on your head every time you open your linen closet, it’s time to trim your collection.
One nice thing about getting rid of towels and washcloths is that animal shelters worldwide are more than eager to take used linens off your hands. They are used to provide soft spaces for animals to rest, to dry off recently bathed animals, and to clean up messes. In addition to towels and washcloths, most shelters also take old sheets and tablecloths. Give your favorite animal shelter a call before you make your donation to make sure that they have a need for your unwanted items, and wash the items you plan to donate.”
Below is another excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week — this time on how to have a social life in this busy world.
This is from the Friday chapter:
“One of my biggest complaints about adulthood is that it’s difficult to simply hang out with friends. In high school, you could call up your friend and say, ‘Hey! A bunch of us are hanging out at Kara’s place. Stop by if you want to hang out.’ No one scheduled ‘hanging out’ on their calendar. No one knew at the start of the night what might transpire by the end of the night. And no one ever left at eight thirty, tapping at her watch, saying she had an early day tomorrow.
When I graduated college, I was completely unprepared for having to schedule time to hang out with friends. The first time one of my friends told me that she had to check her calendar to see when we might be able to grab lunch together, I laughed so hard I made myself cry. Oh, to have so few responsibilities that we could hang out whenever we want!
Review your list from the Foundations chapter that identifies the things that matter to you most. Is spending quality time with friends and family on your list? What else is on your list? Schedule the time now to live the remarkable life you desire.
- Don’t turn your back on your routines. A little time every day spent on basic routines will provide you with more time in your schedule to pursue the things that truly matter.
- Plan at least one social event a week. Make a date with your friends or loved ones and keep that obligation. If the people in your life are really a priority, then you need to respect the time you spend with them. Say no to less important requests for your time and keep your date.
- Plan at least one stay-home event a week. If you’re already a social butterfly, make a commitment to staying home at least one evening a week and taking care of yourself.
- Keep a list of things you want to do, and do them. Have a list on your smart phone or carry a small notebook with you, and record things you want to do. I have lists of wines I want to try, new restaurants that are getting good buzz, day trip locations, bike trails I’ve discovered, and dozens of other things that have caught my attention. When you’re organized and focused on what really matters, you’ll never have the opportunity to say, ‘I’m bored.’
- Pay money to take a class. When you spend money on a class, you’re more likely to make a commitment to attending it. If you want to have more variation in your meal plan, take a cooking class at your local cooking school to give you ideas and confidence. If you have always dreamed of going to Rome, sign up for Italian language classes at the local community college to get you prepared. If you wish that you and your significant other would go out dancing, take a ballroom dance class together. If finances are tight, look for free classes listed in your newspaper and make the extra effort to attend.
- Stop making excuses. You can come up with reasons for why you can’t do something until you’re blue in the face. Instead of wasting the energy coming up with those reasons, use that same energy to find ways to make it happen. You’ll be surprised by your ingenuity.”
Below is another excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week — this time on how to efficiently participate in a meeting.
This is from the Wednesday chapter, “Communication Processes” section:
“You might not realize it, but meeting attendees have some control over how quickly a meeting runs and they certainly impact the quality of the discussion.
- Be prepared. Read the agenda at least a day in advance of the meeting. Come to the meeting with relevant materials. Have a pen and pad of paper with you. Turn your BlackBerry to vibrate. Know who else will be at the meeting. Know the goal of the meeting, its location, and its start time. Arrive at the meeting on time.
- Respect others. How many times have you been in a meeting where a presenter has had to repeat information because Gary and Stephanie were focusing on their laptops instead of paying attention the first time something was said? Not only does this type of distraction waste Gary’s and Stephanie’s time, but it also wastes the time of everyone attending the meeting. Focus your attention on who is speaking. Make eye contact. Show that you’re listening. Avoid making snide comments to your neighbor. If you’re having trouble concentrating, write down in excruciating detail everything the speaker is saying. It will give you something to do, and you can review your detailed notes later if you spaced out on what was being said.
- Think before you speak. Before you contribute to a conversation in a meeting, ask yourself: 1) Is this comment helpful and relevant to the topic being discussed right now? (If it’s not, save it for after the meeting.) 2) Will this comment be helpful to everyone in the room or just one individual? (If the comment is only helpful to one person, save everyone else’s time and talk to that specific person after the meeting.) 3) Can I craft my comment so that it takes less than thirty seconds to express? (If you can’t, keep crafting. If you’re not presenting, your comments should be brief.)”
What do you do during meetings to help speed them along? Add your ideas to the comments.
The following is an excerpt from my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week, which comes out next week on November 3. If you have pre-ordered the book, THANK YOU! and also don’t forget to sign up to receive the special PDF bonus worksheets. And, to let you know, the electronic Kindle version is now available for pre-order (still no word on the other e-book formats).
Now, on with the excerpt from the Thursday chapter, “Working While at Work” section of the book:
“… try these strategies for improving your productivity when you don’t really want to work:
- Similar to what you might do when exercising, play music with a fast rhythm.
- If you drink caffeine, consume it in small, frequent amounts instead of just one large cup at the beginning of the day.
- Set time-specific goals in two-, five-, or ten-minute increments. Identify what you want to accomplish in a very short amount of time, and then set a timer and go for it.
- Isolate yourself. Remove the desire to procrastinate by not having any other options but to work.
- Acknowledge that you’re procrastinating. Often, just realizing that you’re putting something off is enough to get you working.
- Challenge a colleague to see who can get the most work done in a set time period.
- Ask someone to help you stay accountable. There are professional motivators who will call you once a day to see how you’re doing, but a trusted and willing friend or coworker can do the same thing for free.
- If the task doesn’t require much though, listen to an audiobook while you work. Agree to only listen to the book when you’re working on the project you don’t want to do. This way, you’ll be interested in hearing more of the story each time you take on the undesirable task.”
The following are the most common questions I have received about Unclutter Your Life in One Week since I signed the contract to write it almost a year ago. If I don’t answer your questions in this post, feel welcome to leave them in the comments. I’ll try to check in over the course of today and tomorrow and respond to the questions that have been asked there.
- Is the book a reprinting of posts from the website?
No. Obviously, it is the same message and tone as the website, but the vast majority of content is new for the new medium. “The Weekend” chapter of the book does include a portion of the text from the post “Saying farewell to a hobby,” and that is because a.) it’s my favorite post of all time, and b.) it fit in perfectly with the chapter.
- Will there be an electronic version of the book?
Yes, and it should be available for pre-order this week. I’m also under the impression that it is going to be available in the three most prominent electronic formatting types. I have no idea what the price will be through the different retailers. Prices are set by the publisher and retailers — unfortunately, authors have no say in how the prices are set.
- Will there be an audio version of the book?
Simon and Schuster doesn’t decide what books will be released as audio books until after the first wave of hardcover sales. I don’t know what formula they use to make this decision, so I won’t even try to predict the answer to this question.
- Can I see some of the text from the book before I buy it?
Yes. Currently, Amazon.com has a chunk of the chapter “Foundations” up on its website. Go to the book’s page, and click on the link “See all Editorial Reviews.” An excerpt of this chapter should appear after the advance reviews.
- Is the David Allen who wrote the Foreword to your book THE David Allen?
Yes. I am truly honored that he wrote the Foreword. His book Getting Things Done is a life-changing text.
- Can you print the Table of Contents?
Here is an abbreviated version –
- Erin’s Story
- Monday: Your Wardrobe, Your Office, Your Reception Station
- Tuesday: Your Bathroom, Fixing Your Files, Household Chores
- Fall Cleaning Guide
- Wednesday: Your Bedroom and Commute, Communication Processes, Kitchen and Dining Room
- Thursday: Living Spaces, Productivity, Your Home Office
- Spring Cleaning Guide
- Friday: Scheduling Strategies, Work Routines, Living with Clutterers
- The Weekend
- Celebrating and Maintaining Your Success
- Did you write this book?
- Is it available outside the U.S.?
Yes. It should be available November 3 in Canada, Australia, Britain, and most other English-speaking countries. Foreign rights are still being negotiated, but I know a publisher picked it up in France and others are in the works.
- Will you do a book tour?
This questions receives a big “sort of” as an answer. I didn’t want a book tour in the traditional sense because sitting in a bookstore talking about my book for 45 minutes is not really my style. Instead, I’m going to have casual meet-n-greets in bars. A small bookseller will have books available, people can talk to me one-on-one, and readers can also get to know each other. Once these dates are set, I’ll post them on the site. As of right now, these happy hours are being planned for New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. More cities may be added.
Yesterday morning, my UPS delivery woman crushed my productivity when she brought me advance copies of my book:
I couldn’t stop staring at the books in the box. I was transfixed. I may have even cried a little — okay, more than a little. Writing a book has been at the top of my life’s to-do list since the first time I ever made a life to-do list. And writing this specific book has been a goal since I began my personal uncluttering adventure. Seeing the finished book in print and being able to hold it in my hands was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
Unclutter Your Life in One Week would not be possible without you, Unclutterer.com readers. In fact, you’re the first people thanked in the acknowledgments section of the book. As a sign of my appreciation, I want to offer you all something in return. I wish that I could give you a discount on the book, but the publishers and retailers have a tight lock on that part of the process. So, here is a special bonus that I can give without ruffling any feathers:
If you order Unclutter Your Life in One Week online before it is available in stores November 3, I will e-mail you PDF copies of the worksheets in the book as a free, special bonus. Simply fill out the special bonus form to redeem your PDFs. For those of you who have already ordered the book, feel welcome to fill out the form to get your copies.
All PDFs will be e-mailed to you on November 3. The PDFs are copies of worksheets in the book so that you don’t have to recreate them on your computer to use them — I’ve done the work for you already.
I have decided to do this promotion on the honor system. I am trusting you and taking your word for it that you ordered the book. And, along those same lines of the honor system, I’m also requesting that no one posts these PDFs online after you receive them. I want to offer something special just for Unclutterer readers, so I hope that you respect my requests.
This is a limited offer and it will disappear the night of November 2 from the website.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the book’s content on the site, answering your questions about the book (for example: yes, my publisher has assured me that there will be an e-book available for pre-order and yes, it is being translated into French), and letting you know where and when I’ll be talking about and signing copies of the book. Thank you, again, for being such wonderful readers and making all of this possible.
(Thanks also to Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution for the special bonus idea.)