Six tips to help you make a change

According to the article “Stress and the Decision to Change Oneself” in a 1994 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, there are six factors that significantly improve a person’s chances of making a change in his life:

1) A stressor disrupts or threatens to disrupt a valued role-identity, 2) one attributes responsibility for the stressor to an aspect of self that one believes can be changed, 3) one has access to structural supports for self-change, 4) one believes that one can effect self-change, 5) the perceived benefits of self-change outweigh the perceived costs, and 6)others provide social support for self-change.

Since this quote is from a professional journal article and not written in Unclutterer-speak, let me rework it without the jargon:

  1. You don’t like how you’re behaving.
  2. You know you are responsible for making the change; no one else can do it for you.
  3. You have access to information that can help you change.
  4. You believe you can change.
  5. You believe making the change is worth it.
  6. Your friends and family support your change.

Thinking about my transformation from a clutter bug into an unclutterer, I realize that all six of these factors were present. I was stressed out and overwhelmed all the time and I hated it. I knew I needed to sort through my stuff and that I would be upset if someone else just dumped it. I did research to find out how to unclutter my life (if only would have been around back then, this would have been a much easier process). I varied my intensity, but most days I believed I could change how I was living. I also believed that making the change would help my marriage, friendships, stress levels, and time management issues. And, everyone around me was willing to lend a hand if I would have asked for it.

If you’re having difficulties on your path to becoming an unclutterer, is it because you’re missing one of these six factors? What is keeping you from changing? Do you agree with this list? Share your views in the comments.

An alternative to parchment paper

I’m always looking for ways to save a little cash and to free-up storage space in the kitchen. Recently, while standing in the grocery aisle grumbling over the price of parchment paper, I realized that I was about to make a bad purchase.

For less than what I spend per year on parchment paper, I could buy two reusable Silpat silicone baking mats and simply store them flat in my cookie sheets. I’ll save money and storage space.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier. Now I’m worried there are even more obvious things like this that I’m missing. What substitutions have you made in your home to save money and storage space? Share your substitutions in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: The IceBlok

iceblokAll Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

One of the reasons I hate refreshing cold beverages in the summer heat is the “shocking splash of wayward ice cubes.” Thankfully, the IceBlok set puts an end to such shocking, horrible events. Made from space-age material (I’m assuming), the IceBlok will keep terrifying ice from falling into your face. From the product description:

Simply add ice to glass, slide IceBlok in, and sip beverage; IceBlok stays in place to keep ice out of your face.

Stop using straws that do the exact same thing, and get yourself an IceBlok!

Thanks to reader jsn for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

A year ago on Unclutterer



Uncluttered aphorisms

At Unclutterer, we abide by the motto “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” In addition to this motto, we also have a number of uncluttered sayings that work their way into many of our posts:

  • The less you own, the less you have to clean. This applies to quantity of objects as well as square footage in your home.
  • One in, one out. If you buy something new, you need to get rid of whatever it’s replacing.
  • If you get it out, put it back. An especially great rule to implement to keep your home and office orderly.
  • Guilt is not a reason to keep something. This one is self explanatory.

What mottoes or principles inspire you to keep clutter out of your home? Share your motivating sayings with us in the comments!

Disaster uncluttering: Looking back

Today we welcome back Unclutterer programmer, Gary DuVall. In the In the first, second, and third posts in this series, he discussed how to prepare yourself and your home in case of a disaster and what to do if it unfortunately happens. This is his final post in the series. He is writing for us based on his personal experience of losing everything he owned in a fire.

By January, life started to feel normal again. The fire, the struggles with the insurance company, and finding a new place to live were all behind us. We were rebuilding and moving on.

We realized we hadn’t given much thought to the loss of our things but had spent all of our time worrying about our general predicament (Where will we live? I can’t believe this happened. How do I go to work tomorrow?) We discovered just how little the material stuff meant to us. This realization presented us with the peculiar ability to remain positive (for the most part) during the process. We talked about this being an opportunity rather than a devastating blow. (Losing intimate, irreplaceable items from our families, friends, and shared experiences did, for a time, bother us; however, that also faded.)

Thumbing through the more than 30-page inventory that listed what we once owned made us realize just how much we had, and, perhaps more importantly, how much we didn’t want to replace. So far, we have only replaced 20 percent of what we previously owned. To be comfortable, we don’t need a lot of stuff. Everything we have repurchased, we have been very thoughtful about quality and where everything will live in our home. No clutter.

Did we make mistakes along the way? Sure we did. We didn’t have an inventory prepared ahead of time, despite telling ourselves we’d “get to it one day.” Receipts we had kept prior to the fire weren’t filed in our records box, resulting in their loss. We hadn’t read through and understood completely our insurance policy, which, had we lost it in the fire, could have left us at a vast disadvantage. Knowing what we do now, these aren’t mistakes we’ll repeat in the future.

When we look back at what happened on June 27, 2008, we look at it for what it is: an experience nobody should ever go through. But, at the same time, it was an experience that afforded us a rare “reboot” button. We were able to re-examine and take stock of what we had, and act decisively toward a new beginning.

As strange as it might be, considering the setbacks, inconveniences, angry phone calls and other problems I’ve written about during the course of this series, I like to think we ended up better for it in the end.

Surprisingly bad multi-taskers

At Unclutterer, we love touting the benefits of multi-use items. However, there are times when maybe product designers go too far with their melding of purposes. Gizmodo recently identified “10 Gadgets With Too Many Stupid Features,” and we wanted to share a little of their humor with you.

My favorite misguided objects:

Spinning rims with LCD television screens. I definitely think these are a car accident in the making.

The cell phone razor. Just imagine if you accidentally turn on the razor when you intend to answer a call. Oh! Ow! My lip!

Okay, maybe the “Mug-Mouse” is fun, but how would you ever wash it??

Click on the first picture in the series, the “Gun-Knife” to start scrolling through the slideshow. Then, click on the right side of each image to move between the gadgets.

Time to toss expired makeup?

Marie Claire magazine has some helpful bathroom uncluttering tips in their article “Has Your Makeup Expired?“:

“Like food, makeup has an expiration date, and over time cosmetics can harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to infections,” states Dr. David Schlessinger, a board-certified oculoplastic surgeon and ophthalmologist, and medical director of Schlessinger Eye & Face. “The risks are multiplied when these products are shared among friends.”

Check out the dates below and find out when you should toss your makeup stash.

Expiration dates — beginning from the time you first open these products

  • Powders and shadows: 2 years
  • Cream shadows: 12 to 18 months
  • Foundation: 1 year
  • Lipstick & lipliner: 1 year
  • Mascara & eyeliners: 3 months
  • Makeup brushes: Clean weekly using a mild detergent
  • Makeup sponges: Replace weekly, or when sponge becomes soiled

My makeup case is full of things that belong in the trash (eye shadows, especially). I’m going to go and immediately take care of this potential bacterial hazard.

A year ago on Unclutterer



Muji launches online store for U.S.

Muji, the makers of simple home and office goods, has finally launched an online store for U.S. consumers. For the past year, I’ve been stopping in at the SoHo location in New York City whenever I’ve been in town to get my hands on Muji goods. Now, they can appear right at my door. Happy news!

If you are unfamiliar with Muji, check out some of my favorite goods:

A map handkerchief of New York (talk about a multi-tasker!):

Stackable bathroom storage containers:

Splash proof speakers with amplifier (great for hooking up to my iPod or iPhone):

Bag organizer:

Chronotebook (it’s a day planner):

Ask Unclutterer: Storing sports equipment

Reader Jesse submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Do you have any suggestions for outdoor storage of sports equipment. We have a variety of balls, frisbees, and discs that right now just get put into an open bucket. It’s not great for the equipment and doesn’t look great either. Any suggestions?

Sporting equipment is rarely simple to store. Your bucket idea actually sounds better than most of the equipment storage I’ve seen people using in their garages. But, I agree, it can be an unsightly solution. Since things like bats and balls have rigid sizes, they take up a lot of space and they always seem to be in places they don’t belong.

My first choice is to recommend that you create an area in your garage or backyard to be your sports center. If you can make this space in your garage, I recommend a sturdy storage system that can hold more than just sports equipment. Elfa and Ikea both make excellent products for holding pretty much anything you would store in your garage. (Be sure to check out the components individually. Ikea’s Broder has sports attachments.)

If you’re not in favor of putting out the money for a full system, here are some additional options for your sports center:

  • Ball Claws: They attach to your walls and hold onto basketballs, soccer balls, and footballs.
  • Frisbees and discs can be stored in a nice bag on a shelf in the garage. I like this Prostyle bag, for instance.
  • You can use a baseball and bat storage system over fence tops or on a rod, like this holder:
  • A large barrel might also be nice to let air circulate around your sports equipment.

I’m interested in hearing from our readership on this question. What do you use to store sports equipment in your home? Let us know your solutions in the comments.

Thank you, Jesse, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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: Cupboard clean

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Pieter Pieterse’s pantry porn:



There really isn’t much to say about this pantry except, “WOW!” In the description, Pieter explains that all of the plastic storage is Tupperware. Also, moving the shelf heights helped a great deal to organize the space. I’m in awe.

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.