From the forums: best uncluttering ideas ever

I was recently browsing the Unclutterer forums when I found this gem of a thread: Your Best Decluttering Idea Ever. I went through and pulled a few great ideas submitted by Unclutterer readers. Take a look, and share your “best decluttering idea” in our Forum or in the comment section below.

Zora writes:

“Back when there were only cardboard jigsaw puzzles, I cut out the top of the box, to get the picture, and then put all the pieces in a sturdy plastic Ziploc bag. Matching labels on picture and bag. Instead of a stack of large, flimsy boxes, I had a jigsaw puzzle collection that fit into a drawer.”

Great idea! For more on storing puzzles and tabletop games, check out this post. If video games are more your thing, we’ve got you covered here.

Back on the forums, reader anitamojito writes:

“I set some limits with objects I have a weakness for, such as books…I am not buying another bookcase to accommodate my habit.”

It’s important to recognize that collections aren’t inherently bad. Once you’ve identified your gathering of like items a legitimate collection, you can get down to maintaining an enjoyable, vibrant and uncluttered collection.

Lastly, greymac writes:

“Well, for me my best ever (besides just getting started!) was to get rid of ALL of my unfinished projects. Some I trashed, some I gave away — like several of the needlework projects I was obviously NOT going to finish — and some I actually finished myself. I’m slowly getting better at limiting myself to only 3 or 4 projects at a time — and feel much more energy to attack my clutter than I felt when I had dozens of unfinished piles vying for my attention!”

Boy, this one hits home for me. For years, I lived with the clutter — physical and mental — of unfinished projects. Not only were the pieces lying around, the guilt I associated with each was constantly nagging at me.

The answer for me was to take a weekend, consider each one in turn and decide — honestly — if I was ever going to finish the project. If the answer was no, off it went.

Incidentally, a similar practice can help you with “app clutter” on your smartphone. Much like unfinished projects, long-neglected apps simply sit on your phone and do nothing. Here’s a good way to identify those you actually want and those you don’t.

  1. Move all of your apps off of the home screen. Yes, all of them.
  2. As you use an app over the course of a week, move it to back to the home screen. You can even devise an order to identify which you used most often.
  3. At the end of the week, give those that never made it back a good look. Do you really need it on your phone?

A big thanks to everyone who contributed to the forum discussions. If you’ve got a single, fantastic uncluttering idea, please share it below.

Being mindful: National Situational Awareness Day

Did you know that tomorrow is National Situational Awareness Day? September 26th was officially proclaimed in 2016 as the day that we should take a few minutes to really think about and be mindful of our surroundings.

What is situational awareness? According to Pretty Loaded, the organization that developed the day, it is:

Situational awareness is really just another way of being mindful of your surroundings. Developing this skill will make you more present in daily activities, which in turn helps you make better decisions in all aspects of life.

The concept was developed during World War I and focuses on personal safety, as does the site Pretty Loaded. However, situational awareness extends beyond security. We all practice situational awareness without thinking. For example, we don’t cross a busy street because we know that it’s highly likely that we will get hit by a car. Similarly, most people will think twice about walking down a dark alley in an unknown city.

Situational awareness can help you with your organizing challenges as well. Recently in the forums, someone asked how to get started in uncluttering, stating that decision paralysis was causing a block. Let’s take a look at this paralysis from the point of view of situational awareness.

We have in front of us a drawer full of who knows what. Many people who have trouble uncluttering state that what blocks them is the idea that everything they hold onto might come in handy at some point in the future.

First off, let’s forget about everything else in the house. We are focusing on just this current situation, the drawer. Nothing else exists. This helps take off the pressure. We’re not uncluttering the whole house, only one small piece of it.

Next, as we take each thing out of the drawer we ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. In what situation might this item be useful?
  2. What level of probability will this situation actually happen?

We then put the item in one of three piles:

  1. We can’t imagine using the item.
  2. We can imagine using the item, but we don’t think the situation will come to pass.
  3. We can imagine using the item and see a real possibility of the situation arising.

When we finish the drawer, items in pile A get donated or tossed out. Items in pile B get put in a box (with or without an inventory) and  dated six months in the future. If we don’t touch the box in those six months, the contents get donated or tossed out without any more decision agony. And finally, items in pile C go back in the drawer. Later, once everything in the room has been sorted, we can reorganize what’s left for better access.

By approaching uncluttering using the concept of situational awareness, we take a skill we all have (avoiding putting ourselves in front of moving vehicles, for example) and extend it to an area of our lives that causes us confusion and pain (getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose).

This same technique can be used for any area of organizing, from prioritizing our time to reorganizing the kitchen cupboards for ease of use. As mentioned above, situational awareness is really just another term for being mindful and present in the moment.

So, now over to you. How are you going to use situational awareness day to help you organize one part of your life?

Unclutter your storage spaces with “a thing a day”

Many people new to uncluttering will begin the process with a simple technique called “a thing a day.” (I learned about the method a few years ago in the Unclutterer Forum.) There are a couple of positive aspects to using this simple method in an effort to clear clutter. First, it’s not overwhelming. If you choose to focus on one thing, it’s likely to be a lot easier and quicker to complete every day. Second, it’s also a momentum builder. By doing one uncluttering activity each day, you get an opportunity to practice creating order, so that it feels like a typical part of your life, rather than a chore that you dread doing. And, as your space becomes free of unwanted items, you’ll be able to create a plan to keep it organized.

Another benefit of using ATAD is you can begin the process wherever you’d like. Your one daily thing can be retrieved from any room of your home. As this becomes a regular part of your routine, you might look for one thing in several or all rooms, though based on a recent study done by IKEA, you may want to start with your clothes closet. The results showed that despite the fact that the average person owns 88 pieces of clothing, only 25 percent of them are actually worn. This may be because most people are reaching for their favorite (or most comfortable) items frequently and leaving other pieces for another time.

If you find yourself in this situation, you can likely free up a bit of space by selecting specific articles of clothing that you hardly reach for as your first items in your ATAD journey. Sure, you’ll have some things that you may only wear on special (infrequent) occasions, but you may want to take a look in your closet for specific items that you haven’t worn in two seasons or more. You might want to focus on removing one thing every day over the course of several weeks so that you can systematically go through each piece of clothing.

Would you be surprised to learn that the same study also found that a large number of Americans say that having a laundry room is high on their wish list? As it turns out, that’s not the only room that they covet — just about any room with added storage capacity seems to be highly desired.

When looking for new homes, a whopping 93% of Americans want a laundry room, 90% want linen closets in their bathrooms, and 85% want a walk-in pantry.

That’s probably no surprise as many people often feel that a lack of storage is the root cause of overstuffed and cluttered spaces.

While changing the size of your closet (or adding more storage) can be a huge undertaking, selecting one thing that you can part with will be much less daunting. As you start thinking about how you might include ATAD in your day-to-day life, have a look at the rest of the IKEA findings.

Image credit: IKEA

Building a custom home: Four steps to help you stay organized

There’s a wonderful discussion happening on the Unclutterer Forums. The topic: Building a new house. Quite honestly, it has me feeling a little envious. Building a custom home has got to be an exciting experience. At the same time, I suspect that it also can be a little overwhelming because there are so many things to consider and decisions to be made.

The process can go smoothly and with fewer hiccups if you do a bit of planning ahead of time. A key step would be to get everything out of your head and to organize all the necessary information in an easy to use system.

Think about changes you’d like to make

Start thinking about the home you presently live in. What seems to be working well? You’ll want to make sure those elements are present in your new home. What are some things that need to be improved upon? Do you have particular solutions in mind? Walk through each room in your current home and record the things that you would like to change.

Keep a list of “must-haves”

Once you’ve walked through each area in your home, you’ll have a better idea of the features that are most important to you. Create a list or chart of each room with the specific features you would like to have (hidden storage areas, extra outlets). Be specific about the things that you think would make each room function better based on your current lifestyle, and include any elements that you would find it difficult to live without. Your list will likely start out as a wish list and then get refined once you begin working with your contractor.

Collect important information in one central location

Speaking of contractors, consider using a binder (with tabbed pages) or a digital notebook (like Evernote or Springpad) to keep track of builders and other professionals (architects, designers) that you want to contact or who have given you proposals. Your binder, digital notebook, or a website like Houzz.com is also a great place to keep track of your ideas. Be sure to also include a copy of your budget in your notebook. That way, you’ll be able to find it easily and see the budgeted dollar amounts as you think about features you want to include in your new home.

Plan your next move

It’s never too early to start preparing you current home for your departure. You will get a timeline for completion from the builders, so you can schedule time to unclutter your current space. Then, when it’s time to pack, you’ll only be handling the things that you will be taking with you. To help you stay on track, consider using a moving checklist.

Building a custom home can be fun and managed without feelings of stress. With a solid plan and understanding of the process, you can successfully see your plans come to life. Keep in mind that you can always get more information before you make any final decisions. There are lots of articles (like 10 Things to Consider when Building a Home) and books (check out Building Your Own Home For Dummies) on building your home from scratch — as well as the mistakes to avoid — that can be great resources for you.

If you were to build your dream home, what uncluttered features would you include in the space?

On the Forums: signed books, uncluttering vs. frugality, and the minimum number of condiments

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

Giving thanks

Unclutterer is taking the day off today for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.

Check back tomorrow for another installment of our Unclutterer’s 2010 Holiday Gift Giving Guide. If you’re outside the U.S. and you’re not enjoying a day off from work, jump into the Forums and join the conversation. Some great discussions are currently underway:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On the Forums: How much clothing, minimal kitchens, and Hoarders

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

On the Forums: Justifying purchases, staircase storage, and survivalists

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

On the Forums: Furniture rental, foreign coins, and Christmas

Ask Unclutterer is taking the day off today, but some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

On the Forums: Sentimental’s cousin, textbooks, and clutter and weight

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

On the Forums: Two challenges and a discussion on uncluttered vs minimalism

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our new forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.

On the Forums: Merging two households, pantry clean-up game, and organizing bags

Some great discussions are currently underway on the Unclutterer Forums:

Be sure to check it out and add your thoughts to the mix. Remember, you can start your own thread (which our system calls a “topic”) by clicking the “Add New” link under Latest Discussions on the Forum homepage.

If you use an RSS reader to follow your favorite blogs, you can easily keep track of what’s going on in our forums. Add the feed for latest topics or all the latest posts. You can even follow specific topics using the RSS link just below each topic’s title, or create an RSS feed of your own by adding topics as favorites.