Unitasker Wednesday: My Critter Catcher

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

Does seeing bugs or spiders inside the house make you cringe, run away, or even scream? But does the idea of killing a living creature that’s just trying to survive fill you with guilt?

critter catcherWell, now there’s My Critter Catcher, a tool that can help you send the little monsters on their merry way without you having to actually approach them.

It’s based on the idea of those grasping tools that are designed for people with limited mobility, but instead of grips at the end of the tool, there is a soft-brush sort of scoop.

When you see a spider or other insect roaming about the house, all you need to do is place the scoop over the little guy and pull the trigger, gently trapping it inside the scoop. Take it outside, open up the brushes and off the spider or bug goes, still alive and free. All without you having to get anywhere near it!

Not sure, exactly how it works? Don’t worry, there’s a demonstration video with the young and the old showing us how convenient and eco-friendly the tool is.

While watching the video, I found myself asking how they got the bugs to stay still long enough to slip the tool over them. In my house, no matter how quickly I try to scoop up bug (or to be more honest, flatten it with a paper towel — I’m more of a survival of the fittest type), they always seem to see me coming and get out of the way before I get to them.

Thanks to my high school friend Cathy for posting this on Facebook (although the video was a different one, with a manly-man saving a woman from certain death-by-spider — I didn’t post that one because honestly who wants to see such rampant sexism?).

Living as paperless as possible

In my post about conference handouts, a reader asked me how I manage to live/work without a filing cabinet.

The easy answer is that I’ve organized both my work and personal life in a way that I don’t need to keep papers.

At home, everything I need to hold onto fits into about half a dresser drawer:

  • The deed, mortgage, our wills, and insurance papers (kept in a small fireproof safe)
  • One year of utility bills

And that’s it. Seriously. We don’t have children, so no need for filing report cards, badges, artwork and such. The Spanish medical system is centralized and efficiently run, so I don’t need to keep any of my own medical records. Apart from this writing gig, I don’t run my own business so don’t need to hold onto any receipts or the like. And since I’m rather anti-paper, I recycle almost everything that comes into the house. Finally, taxes are all done online and are accessible throughout the year, meaning I have no need to keep previous years’ tax forms.

At work, my role as Academic Director is about as paperless as a job can be. All my written communication with staff is done through email or WhatsApp. Student reports are stored in Google Drive spreadsheets and sent to parents monthly. The paper reports the teachers fill out are kept in one of three inbox trays (one per trimester), and in June they are all shredded.

And as I have no part in the administrative/financial side of the business, I don’t have any legal requirements to hold onto anything.

When I still lived in Canada, however, and ran my professional organizing business, I had to hold onto more paper, but I still didn’t have a filing cabinet, or even a drawer. Instead, every year, I bought myself a plastic multi-pocketed folder with an elastic closure. On the tabs for each pocket, I put the expense/income category and every day of the week, I would take five minutes to update my accounting program with anything new and store the piece of paper in its corresponding category.

The folder lived on top of my desk, beside the computer, easily accessible, portable and tidy. When the tax-year finished, the folder would go in an airtight plastic bin in the basement, and I would buy myself a new multi-pocketed folder.

I had such a simple filing system because I am a horribly disorganized person. I studied library science and records management but almost never worked in the field because I could never decide on just one set of stable categories. When asked, “where should I file this?” my brain would come up with at least 10 different options depending on the context of the potential future search.

Through many years of trial and error, I discovered the best way to be organized is to have as little as possible, and in more recent years, have as little legal responsibility as possible.

Now it’s time to turn the question to all of you: at home and at work, what papers do you honestly and truly NEED to keep and what are you keeping out of habit?

And once you’ve figured that out, check out Jacki’s article about organizing documents at home or the Office Organization archive for tips at work.

Agrihoods: rich whim or affordable future?

In a recent post, I talked about chef-sharing services where instead of having to cook, someone can order home-cooked meals. While it could reduce the need for and cost of a kitchen, it doesn’t quite go with my earlier premise of a new minimalism where the cost of ownership increase so much that only the top 1% of the population will be able to indulge in non-shared ownership.

In Detroit, Michigan, a new initiative has begun – the first fully urban agrihood creating produce and fresh air for a whole neighbourhood. Before going into details, let’s review exactly what an agrihood is. The website This Slow Life quotes NPR which describes an agrihood as:

…development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture – a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production – a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park – that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

Up until recently, agrihoods have mostly had the look and feel of a hipster’s alternative to a golf course. All around the U.S., communities are cropping up where developers sell the concept of getting back to nature to families who want to participate in the alimentation cycle of the family. As the NPR quote suggests, these predominantly rural communities are developed with an eye of drawing in new buyers. It’s consumerism masking itself as environmentalism. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t address the issues of increased food costs and decreased corporate food quality.

This is where the Detroit project is different. Developed by the Michigan University Farming Initiative, this urban agrihood isn’t a new development – it’s a redevelopment of one part of a highly urbanized area. There’s no interest in drawing in new buyers – the MUFI agrihood will feed 2,000 households for free.

And not only that, it will use an abandoned building (which Detroit has a surplus of) to create a Community Resource Center that will teach nutritional literacy and address worries of food security.

By being run by volunteers, the program greatly reduces the cost of food for those who live around the farm.

I sincerely hope that this project has phenomenal success and begins to become not a one-off curiosity, but a model for sustainable urban redevelopment not just in American cities, but urban centers around the world.

Perhaps they will even become popular in my own city in the north of Spain, where any piece of open land gets claimed by some gardening-loving local who grows his or her own vegetables, raises chickens, and maybe makes their own cheese from a few goats. In fact, there is one right below my bedroom window with sheep whose baa-ing gently wakes me up in the morning.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to see neighborhoods of apartment dwellers starting to come together to fill up the roundabouts with vegetable plots and mini volunteer-run orchards?

How about where you live? Can you picture an agrihood redevelopment happening in your neighborhood? Maybe even in place of what’s currently a big-box supermarket?

Getting rid of the kitchen: social media dining

Unless you’ve been sitting on top of a mountain meditating the last five years, you’ll know the term food-porn: the exhibitionistic display on social media sites of everything we eat. I’m guilty of this, especially when it comes to the food we make at home. We love to cook and we love to share what we cook, and not just in our Instagram accounts. We also love to have people over for dinner and often when some service we use regularly does a great job, we take a cake or perhaps homemade donuts to them as a token of our gratitude.

In my search for examples of a non-ownership world, I’ve discovered a network of sites taking social media dining to the next level, like an Airbnb for meals. You join an online community, find home-based chefs in your area and look at what they are offering. You order your meal and arrange its pickup or delivery. You get a home-cooked meal without having to pay the price of a personal chef.

At first glance, this service doesn’t seem much different from the rest of the take-out options we have, but if you think about it, a home-based chef doesn’t have the high overhead a restaurant has. Nor does the home-based chef have to market; she just needs to be a member of an online community. Plus, in the majority of cases, a home-cooked meal is going to be a lot healthier than one you can get as take-out.

There is of course, one major problem with the service: in most places, it’s illegal to sell food that has been prepared in a home kitchen.

According to the digital news outlet Quartz.com, however, some U.S. states are looking to change that. California, for example, is looking at introducing a new category to its food and safety regulations, allowing home kitchens to prepare and sell food.

So, what does this mean for a non-ownership world? Back in the early 2000s, a friend of mine moved from Toronto to New York, where she said that her kitchen was so small and the local supermarkets so expensive that she found it more practical and economical to have a binder of local take-out options and only prepare breakfast at home. I’m pretty sure that if a social media dining community existed back then, she would have tossed out the take-out menus and would have enjoyed home-cooked meals on a daily basis.

Think about it… if you only had to prepare breakfast, you wouldn’t need a large kitchen. A kitchenette would be sufficient really, saving on space and energy costs. You wouldn’t need a large fridge, or even an oven. A combination microwave and grill would cover your needs. A coffee maker and a small stove top would round out all the appliances you’d need. One or two cupboards for dishes and glass. Someone dedicated to the social media dining lifestyle could pretty much do away with a kitchen altogether.

In many large cities, like New York, space comes at a premium. Put the kitchen in a walk-in closet and you have more space for living, perhaps an actual dining room, instead of having to perch on the edge of the sofa, hoping not to spill anything on the fabric.

Finally, many of those who are going to inherit a non-ownership world – the teens and twenty-somethings – have no idea how to cook and next to no interest in learning to do so. For them, social media dining has all the benefits of living at home without having to wash the pots and pans afterwards.

If you want to give social media dining a try, check out one of these communities – they might have someone in your area ready to cook for you: Josephine, MealSurfers and Umi Kitchen.

Active meditation, or why I love ironing

Whenever I tell people that I love ironing, especially large items like sheets and duvet covers, I get the strangest looks, like I had just told them I scrub my floors with a toothbrush.

“Your sheets?!?” they say aghast.

Yes, my sheets, and dishtowels, along with all my shirts and any trousers that aren’t denim.

Why do I love it so much? Apart from the oddly comforting vision of wrinkle-free fabric, when I’m ironing, I don’t think about anything else. It’s just me, the fabric and the steam-iron, putting order to my inner and outer world.

And it’s not just ironing that I love. Sweeping and doing the dishes create the same sense of tranquility for me. In fact, if I owned a store, whenever I didn’t have clients, I’d probably be outside sweeping the sidewalk and humming to myself.

This type of imposed order on chaos could be compared to the creation of a Japanese Zen garden. Just as a Zen priest rakes the gravel into near-perfect abstract patterns to help focus his thoughts and reach a deeper level of meditation, my household chores help me disconnect from the stresses of work, family, and daily life.

I’ve tried seated meditation in the past and it doesn’t work for me. I have poor posture (too many years at a desk job) and a very active brain. Between the pain of trying to maintain a sitting position for more than a minute and the million and one thoughts that pass through my mind, meditation just doesn’t happen.

In the 1970s, a new term for active meditation – Dynamic Meditation – was popularized by the Indian mystic Osho, although now the term is used to describe any sort of meditation that includes movement. The idea behind it is that since it’s difficult for modern people to sit still, the body can be in movement while the brain and spirit go on the meditative journey.

Here is how I meditate dynamically while getting my household chores done:

  1. Put on music – It doesn’t have to be soothing music. In fact, the other day, I listened to a selection of Greatest Hits by the rather out-there Army of Lovers. The point of the music is to create some background noise that reminds me of the existence of the outside world.
  2. Organize what I’m going to iron – It sounds silly, but to invoke the right frame of mind, I have an order to my ironing:
    • Handkerchiefs, tea-towels, cloth napkins: These small quick achievements make me happy and begin to disconnect me from any stress I might be feeling.
    • Trousers and shirts: These are the tricky things, and as they need the deep concentration if I’m not going to miss a part or burn the cloth, I am forced to pay full attention to the task at hand.
    • Sheets and duvet covers: At this point when I’m relaxed and highly attuned to the movement of cloth and machine, I can take my time and let my thoughts drift while my hands do the work.
  3. Admire the results – One of the rewards of raking gravel in a Zen garden is later sitting and looking at it, so if you don’t admire the neatly folded pile of sheets and crisp shirts on hangers then you are getting only half the benefit of the active meditation.

Apart from ironing, sweeping, and doing the dishes, other household chores that I’ve turned into active meditation include: weeding the garden, shoveling snow off the driveway, raking leaves, and even painting the house.

The next time you groan at the thought of the pile of ironing waiting for you to get around to, or the latest snowstorm demanding your attention, try looking at it as a chance to meditate and free yourself from the stresses and cares that have been building up inside you.

Conference handouts: do you ever refer to them?

If you have ever been to a conference, I’m sure you’ve received more than your fair share of handouts and other paper, from the organizing body, speakers and vendors. Plus you’ll also have whatever notes you take.

Conferences sometimes can feel like the New Year, a perfect time for resolutions, vows and promises to ourselves about what we’ll get right to work on when we’re back at our desks. But like most New Year resolutions, our good intentions get buried in the day-to-day details and mini-crises that make up a normal workday.

Years ago, in my most minimalist stage, I refused any and all handouts, relying on my memory. I had the theory that if a presentation didn’t cause a strong enough impression that it stuck in my brain, it wasn’t of much importance or priority to me.

The there are those who go to the other extreme, not just collecting everything they can, but also organizing and archiving it so that they can access the information at any point in the future. My mother was the latter type and although she didn’t refer back to every piece of information from every conference, she quite often pulled out some useful tidbit or other when working on a new project.

I just got back from a conference in Barcelona where I learned a lot about things that we are either in the process of implementing or could introduce at work. And since I’m no longer so minimalist, I took copious notes and after getting home, I downloaded the handouts/presentations of each of the sessions I attended. I was also given marketing material about products and processes the vendors offered. Between paper and electronic documents, I probably have a full day’s reading.

Assuming I actually look at it all, which I won’t.

I will hold onto my own notes and the presentation notes until I finish the projects we are working on that prompted me going to the conference. And the marketing materials will go straight into the recycling bin as will materials about the conference itself.

That’s me though. I don’t have a filing cabinet, or even a single drawer. I hate collecting paper. (Okay yes, I am still a minimalist at heart.) If you are someone who does like to hold onto information, however, here are some things to think about when it comes to deciding what to keep:

  1. Determine what part of your job the handout relates to. Make a note of it on the handout and store it with your other files on the same topic.
  2. If it’s not connected to anything you currently do, is it something you want to try in the future? If so, create a “future plans” document on your computer and add the basic ideas to it. Toss out what you picked up from the conference,, because when you finally get around to the idea, it’s highly likely you’ll need to research the topic again to find out the latest advances.
  3. Are you ever involved in running events? I am, so parts of my notes include my impression of the conference itself: what they did well and what wasn’t quite so good. I put these notes in with my event planning files (which in my case are all electronic — I really do hate paper).
  4. Record the vendor details in your preferred contact management system, along with a note about why you might be interested in working with them, and get rid of the marketing materials. Vendors are always happy to provide you with new information at any time (which these days can almost always be found online).

What do you do with conference handouts? Have I missed anything? Share your tricks and tips in the comments.

The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?

My twenty-something friends talk about all the various ways of streaming music, movies, series, and books. (Recently I heard that not a single singer in Spain sold more than 90,000 albums in 2016 [article in Spanish]). They also have a belief that they will never earn nearly as much as their parents did (youth unemployment in Spain is higher than 40%). This got me wondering how far a sharing economy based on music-streaming and social media models could take us?

Back when Unclutterer started, PJ Doland had a great series of articles about extreme minimalism, talking about someone who actively rejected ownership on a grand scale. But what if extreme minimalism wasn’t a choice? What if with the steadily shrinking middle class and the rise of the uber-rich, owning things became prohibitive for a large portion of society?

A coworker told me recently about the years she spent in Nicaragua where amongst the poorest levels of society, there isn’t a strong concept of ownership. If one person in the community has something (like a newly drilled well in the case of my coworker), it is considered to be the property of the whole community.

Jacki has talked about office sharing and Jeri wrote about sharing items to reduce clutter. To add to my growing awareness of the disownership trend, I saw an article about co-owning a home with friends and what risks and traps to avoid.

The creative part of my brain has put all these pieces together and has formulated a question that I find myself very curious to explore: What would a non-ownership world look like?

I’m not talking about a Utopian socialist/communist society. I am talking about the next steps of an increasingly corporatocracy that excludes more and more people from belonging to it without the support of friends and family.

That question has prompted me to take a new look at the Extreme Minimalist Monday theme. Occasionally over the next little while, I am going to take a look at the extension of sharing/streaming technology into day-to-day life and how it might affect the level of clutter/organization in the lives of people who participate in it.

Let me give you an example.

Here in Spain, social media Influencers (yes, with a capital “I”) talk about the importance of carving out a unique fashion style and always being on the edge of whatever is coming next. Obviously these Influencers don’t have TARDIS-like closets that are infinitely larger on the inside than the outside, so they have to do something with all the clothes they discard when they move onto the next trend.

And so Chicfy was created (website in Spanish). It’s an app that’s part Instagram and part eBay. Users create their store, put up photos of the clothes they want to sell, (usually relying heavily on the selfie photography style) and gain followers. These followers then buy the clothes and when they tire of them rework them into a different style that will encourage their own followers to buy something.

At some point someone needs to physically buy (or sew) the clothes, but instead of sitting unused in a closet, or ending up in a landfill, they get passed along, the way children’s winter boots used to go from oldest to youngest siblings until the soles wore out.

I personally don’t know anyone who uses the app, and the song that they use to advertise the service is an incredibly irritating earworm that has become a streaming hit. For an extreme minimalist, it could be a good way to opt out of the consumerist society that demands we buy only new, while still staying on the edge of what’s considered fashionable.

Now then, taking this to the next level, will buying new clothes become something only the rich do, while the rest of us buy progressively more worn-out wardrobes along some social-media-created scale of affordability?

Is good enough the real enemy of good?

Pareto Principle: the 80-20 ruleWhen it comes to productivity, you’ll often see people quote the aphorism often attributed to Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” If we worry about being perfect, we won’t get anything done because perfection is impossible to achieve and we will never move on to other projects.

Or alternatively, we fall victim to the Nirvana fallacy, not starting anything because we know it will never be perfect.

One of the supposed cures for perfectionism is to ascribe to a belief in good enough. For most of my life, I’ve been a huge fan of the Pareto Principle, that 80% of the result from 20% of the effort is good enough. For the most part, it has worked too. I’m productive, I clear away to-do lists quickly, and my house is livable.

Then I met my husband. He’s not at all a good enough person. But neither is he a perfectionist. He’s a “do the job well until it’s finished” person. Yes, he does have perfectionist tendencies and believes that everything can always be improved upon, but he doesn’t let his perfectionist ideas get in the way of getting things done.

When facing most household and work projects, I used to get to 80% and say to myself: “Wow, what a difference. It’s mostly functional and much better than before.” And I’d stop. My husband, on the other hand, keeps going until he gets to 95% and everyone who comes into the house says: “Wow! That’s impressive!”

If I’m going to be honest with myself, impressive is much better than mostly functional.

This got me thinking. Why am I really a good enough person? Is it because I want to be productive? That I don’t want to fall into the never finishing or never starting traps? Not in the slightest. It’s because I’m lazy. Saying that good enough is a decent place to stop, allowed me to quit working on something. I didn’t need to put in more effort because I wasn’t really interested in great, only in good enough. And, having made this confession to myself, I realized that perfect is not the enemy of good. The true enemy is good enough.

  • At work, when preparing emails to clients, I’ve had to send out the email a few times because of errors in the mail merge fields.
  • In the kitchen, the plastic containers were mostly accessible, but getting that one we use only rarely was a real pain to reach.
  • On the bookshelf, everything fit but it wasn’t as visually appealing as it could have been.

Since adopting a good (or great) approach to projects instead of the borderline good enough, my productivity is even higher at work, my kitchen is much more usable, and my house always generates a “wow” any time someone new visits.

How about you? Which for you is the bigger enemy of good? Perfect or good enough?

Flattening the Never Finishing Monster

We want to again welcome guest author Alex Fayle, the writer and professional organizer behind the helpful anti-procrastination website Someday Syndrome. This is his third post of three in a series on fighting procrastination.

We’ve vanquished the Getting Started Monster, conquered the No Momentum Monster and now all that’s left is to finish up. You’ve uncluttered your space and managed to keep at it until everything is nicely streamlined. You’ve even put things back where they belong.

Well, almost everything. You have a few things that don’t fit in your current storage spaces, so you’ve left them on top of your desk while you figure out what type of storage you need for them exactly.

And then months pass with them still on your desk. A few bits and bobs not done don’t really matter you tell yourself every time you see the pile of things waiting to be given a home.

But it does matter because from that pile of things not put away the clutter starts to grow again, creeping out from that spot to take over the office again.

When we don’t finish projects we leave the door open to chaos. We let the Never Finishing Monster into our lives and everything around the place needs just a few adjustments to finish, but nothing’s totally completed. The baseboard is missing on the living room trim. The bedroom needs curtains. The email inbox still has a few dozen messages from two months ago waiting to be looked at.

Why don’t we totally finish? Because often we leave the fiddly bits to the end, the stuff that we’re not quite sure what to do with, or the stuff that we hate doing.

Dedicating Time

Fortunately, unlike getting started and moving forward, there is a trick to kill the Never Finishing Monster — it’s called the Get It Done Sprint.

I use this all the time with my writing. I’ll start a project and move it forward slowly and steadily but as I get closer to the end of something I slow down to a crawl that wouldn’t win a race against 80 year old snails.

When I notice that I’ve reached this point, I schedule a block of time (for my writing projects a week is usually a good amount of time) where I dedicate several hours a day getting the project done. The Never Finishing Monster doesn’t stand a chance against such dedicated effort.

It’s like the end of a 10km race — you pace yourself throughout the race until the finish line comes into sight and you sprint to the end.

Apply this same thinking to your organizing projects. When you almost reach the end, change your approach to the project and commit to getting it done within a very specific (and very short) timeframe. Schedule a day to go buy the supplies you need and enlist (or hire) help to put in that extra bit of effort to wrap up the project.

And don’t delay. Schedule the sprint as soon as possible. The longer you leave the project unfinished, the less likely you’ll get around to it and the more likely all your hard work will undo itself.

So tell me, what’s left to get finished in your house and when will you schedule the Get It Done Sprint that will squash the Never Finishing Monster flat?

Vanquishing the Getting Started Monster

We want to welcome guest author Alex Fayle, the writer and professional organizer behind the helpful anti-procrastination website Someday Syndrome. This is his first post of three in a series on fighting procrastination.

Has this ever happened to you?

You decide to get your bedroom, kitchen, garage, or whatever organized. You get a book and read about it. You watch an organizing show and take notes. You then plan out how you’re going to tackle the room and what you want it to look like afterward. You know all the steps that it’ll take to go from start to finish. You even know how long it will take and you have resources lined up to help you.

And yet you do nothing.

You know that the block comes from a combination of inertia and a fear of the unknown, failure, success, or whatever. You could probably talk for an hour about why you’re not starting.

And yet you still do nothing.

If you think this post will give you some trick, or little game to play with yourself, I’m sorry to disappoint. There’s only one thing to get yourself started – and that’s getting started.

Yeah, real helpful, I know. Unfortunately it’s the truth. If you aren’t willing take action, take even a small step toward your dreams, then there’s nothing I can do to help you.

Achieving your dreams requires work. Once you get into it you might not think of it as work because you enjoy it so much, but it’s hard work.

My passion is writing and yet every time I go to start a new project, I create a huge monster out of Getting Started and play at running away from it, doing everything but actually typing words into the computer. And then by simply opening up my computer and writing the first sentence the monster disappears and my passion for writing takes over again.

In the meantime, however, I’ve let the Getting Started Monster distract me for huge blocks of time.

Don’t let the Getting Started monster hold you back from your uncluttering projects (or any other project you haven’t got around to yet).

Fortunately it’s easy to beat the Getting Started Monster: simply write down each time you start something and keep a log of all the projects you’ve successfully started. Then post the log wherever you most procrastinate about not moving towards your goals. That might be the living room, the bedroom, the back deck, but I highly doubt it’s the office, so don’t post the log there.

This log celebrates the moments when you started taking action and serves as a reminder of the number of times in the past that you have started something so that when you feel the big scary Getting Started Monster creeping up behind you, you can look at your list of new starts and say “Ha! You don’t scare me! I start things all the time!”

By choosing to get started, you take active control of your life and you don’t let your fears or inertia keep you from achieving your goals.

So tell me – what version of the Getting Started Monster have you vanquished recently?

Instructions for decluttering your home (in less than 500 words)

Again we want to welcome guest author Alex Fayle, the writer behind the helpful anti-procrastination website Someday Syndrome.

One of the most frequent questions I ever get asked about organizing is the process. How do you make the decisions to get rid of things? While there are many tips and tricks you can use to ease the streamlining process, it all comes down to 5 easy steps:

  1. Set yourself a goal “I am going to sort half this room before bed” or “I’m going to streamline the contents of this one box.”
  2. Figure out broad categories and where you are going sort each category into.
  3. Sort your stuff, moving systemically through the space, and not bouncing back and forth.
  4. Purge what you don’t want.
  5. Stop when you’ve reached your goal.

Use the sorting time to reminisce about the objects — don’t make any decisions at this point. Allow the emotions to come up and clear themselves out so that when it comes to the streamlining stage you are free from the emotional ties and can make more objective decisions about them.

If the idea of sorting overwhelms you, give yourself some early victories and do a walk-through of the space, choosing to remove a few large things that will open up the space quickly.

After sorting:

  • Take one category and if you can, move it out of the space in which you are working, and into a clear space (like the dining room). This allows you to concentrate on the one category and not have to face the rest all at once.
  • Ask yourself two questions: Need it? Love it? If you can’t say yes to either then get rid of it. Life is too short to fill out our spaces with things we’re indifferent to.
  • Take the things you are not going to keep out of the house as quickly as possible. The longer they stay the more likely they will come back into the house.
  • Give yourself rewards – for example out of fifty childhood books you’ve never reread but have kept for sentimental reasons, keep five and store them in a place of honor where you can see them and appreciate the memories associated with them.

There are two instances in which you stop for the day even if you are not done:

  1. If you find yourself hitting a “brain fog” where nothing makes sense or you find yourself holding on to everything you are reviewing.
  2. If you have hit a manic state and start tossing everything without looking at it.

Simple, yes? So now tell us, what are you going to streamline this week?

Sharing space and dealing with moments of chaos

Today we joyfully welcome Alex Fayle, author of the blog Someday Syndrome, as a guest author. He is a former procrastinator who now helps people break the procrastination obstacle so they can find freedom and start living the life they desire. Also, he’s a really nice guy. Welcome, Alex!

There are many wonderful things about living with others, but dealing with their clutter is most certainly not one of them. Living with my partner (and before that roommates) has always been a special challenge during times of emotional stress.

You see, when I’m sailing through life, everything finds its way back to its place quickly because I put everything away as soon as I use it. However, when I’m feeling chaotic, you can’t see the bedroom floor and nothing goes back where it belongs. I nest using clothes and papers.

When I lived alone, it didn’t bother me. When I was feeling this way, I’d just wade through the clothes to find the bed, knowing that I’d get out of the funk and get things cleaned up sooner or later.

Now that I live with my partner in a very tiny apartment, I can’t let the chaos take over too much.

We’re both human, though, and the chaos does hit, sometimes at the same time but usually at different moments (meaning one wants to clean while the other is in a nesting mode).

Living with others offers a challenge to staying organized because if one person is feeling chaotic, their clutter encourages others to let their own organizing slack off: “If his stuff is all over the place, why should I clean up mine?”

Say you’re in a chaotic moment and your partner starts ranting at you about the mess you’re leaving around. What would you do? In my case, my inner teenager comes out and I want to make the mess even worse just to get back at the unfair authority-figure ranting.

Let’s say however, that you’re more mature than I am, and recognize the ranting is not an attack on your intrinsic goodness. Instead, you use it to move yourself out of the chaos, dealing with the physical side first and letting the emotional clutter clear itself out. How wonderful, no?

But what happens if it’s your companion(s) that let the clutter take over? How do you deal with it?

Here are 3 Definitely Don’t and 3 Possibly Do actions.

Definitely Don’t:

  1. Don’t nag. It’ll just bring out the inner teenager and they might rebel and do things on purpose just to piss you off.
  2. Don’t get judgmental. People in a negative state don’t need negative reinforcement. Besides, it’s not like you’ve never had moments of clutter, hmmm???
  3. You can re-order the place yourself, but don’t do it with a “how great am I?” nor with a martyr attitude. Do it because you want to or not at all. A superiority complex will only cause more problems in the end.

Possibly Do:

  1. Live with the chaos and hope that the person will snap out of it soon. After all, you go through chaotic periods too, I’m sure.
  2. Suggest an order the house day and make it a big fun event. Put on music, dress up in maid outfits (or at least tie funny colored scarves on your head) and do a re-ordering.
  3. Re-order the place on your own and hope that the calm space will bring calm to the other person/people.

Now it’s your turn. How do you deal with the clutter in the home caused by multiple people experiencing the ups and downs of life at different rates