Why do we keep the things we do?

Our family completed two international moves in the space of 14 months and have not really had time to settle in our current house. So, it didn’t take much effort for recent home repairs wreak havoc in our basement. As I was sifting through stuff that I didn’t even remember we had, I started reflecting on why we keep the things we do.

Emotional connections

We keep some things is because we have an emotional attachment to them such as Grandma’s teapot or the toy cars from our youth. We’ve written a lot about sentimental clutter over the years so if you are dealing with sentimental items, reading these posts can help you decide whether or not to keep the items or let them go.

A need to be prepared

It’s great to be prepared. When the smoke detector starts its incessant “I have a dead battery!” beeping in the middle of the night, having a spare battery in the kitchen drawer is certainly handy. But is there a need for keeping a circular saw you use once every two or three years? We’ve written about renting seldom used tools as an option for reducing clutter. What about the huge roasting pan you use only at Thanksgiving? It could be shared among family members and whoever hosts next year’s family dinner, gets to store the pan for the year. Alternatively, you could always use disposable roasting pans.

No one wants to be caught off-guard so think about what you absolutely need in an urgent situation and what you’re keeping for non-urgent, just in case scenarios.

It’s for a special occasion

Many people have items they use only on rare, special occasions. I’m not talking about holiday decorations which are only used during holiday periods (it would be odd to see Christmas decorations in July). I’m talking about the “good dishes” that can only be used during a candlelight supper with dignified guests.

In reality, using special things all the time, or at least more frequently, does not make them less special. By using them, we are acknowledging the privilege of owning them and every time we use them we are creating special memories. Treating your own family members as dignified guests at a candlelight supper every month will give your children something to remember.

There are people, (and I am one of them) that use the term, “saving for special occasion” as an excuse to not use high maintenance items such as a dry-clean only clothing or hand wash only dishes. If this is the case, then it is likely you’re really keeping these things for one of the other reasons listed here.

It was a gift

If there is an emotional connection to the gift, follow the advice on dealing with sentimental clutter. Unclutterer Jeri wrote a great post on how to deal with unwanted gifts that provides some great information as well. Remember, you can keep something if it was a gift, you don’t have to keep it because it was a gift.

Some people keep items because they are going to give them as gifts “when the time comes.” I would suggest “the time” be scheduled in a planner, calendar, or reminder list. If there is more than one gift per person per occasion, then it is probably safe to unclutter those items.

The price

When people say, “It was free!” they really mean they didn’t pay any money for it. That is good deal if you need, want, and use the item. However, factor in a portion of your real-estate costs (mortgage, rent, utility bills) plus any maintenance time and costs for “free” items that you never use you realize that they are not really free. Liberate yourself and unclutter the freebies.

At the opposite end of the scale, it may be hard to part with items that were expensive. In most cases, thanks to mass-produced market goods and depreciation, the longer you own an item, the lower its value. Therefore, selling an item sooner, rather than later will reduce your loss. For example, if you buy a grandfather clock for $5000 in one year it would be worth about $4800 but after five years it would only be worth about $4100. Selling it sooner would result in more cash in your pocket. This depreciation guide may help you determine how quickly your assets decline in value.


Sometimes it’s our dreams that cause us to retain clutter. We dream of creating that perfect scrapbook so we head out to the craft store to stock up on supplies. Inspired by the latest sports superstar, we shop at Athletes’ World for all the latest equipment so we too might become the next draft pick. There is nothing wrong with trying something new, but ensure that it is an achievable goal. You may not have the patience for scrapbooking or the time to practice a new sport.

Before you start buying to fulfill a dream, make a plan to achieve it. Schedule time in your planner to practice, take a few lessons with rented equipment, or buy only the minimum amount of supplies. If, after a few months you’re still “really into it,” and practicing regularly, then treat yourself to some extra equipment.

If you’ve got a stash of sporting goods, or craft and hobby supplies lying around that you haven’t touched in months, either make a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goal to get involved again or let the items go.

It’s not my clutter

There are times when we store items for other people. For example, our children are in university so we are storing many of their things. We don’t mind, but we fully expect they will take their things once they have graduated and settled in their own homes. If you’re storing items that do not belong to you, here is some advice that might help.

Here’s some more advice in case you are uncluttering other people’s things. Remember to get their permission to unclutter and if possible, go through all the items with them when making decisions about whether to keep things or let them go.

Trouble uncluttering

If you’re having trouble uncluttering, you’ve come to the right place. Unclutterer provides plenty of resources and motivation to get you moving. You can check out our Organizing Jump-Start, look through our posts on Resources and Services to learn where and how to dispose of items, and read all of our tips to help you unclutter.

Now I shall return to my basement to unclutter and organize. I should have it completed well before we have to move (again) next year.

The pleasure of small tasks fulfilled regularly

Carrying on with the idea of routines, I recently saw a quote on Gretchen Rubin’s site that talks about the pleasure of a single task repeated.

Even one task fulfilled at regular intervals in a man’s life can bring order into his life as a whole; everything else hinges upon it. By keeping a record of my experiences I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me.

The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

It reminds me of a surprising but small shift in attitude in my life almost a decade ago. Almost all my life I had the privilege of living with a dishwasher, but at that point in my life, we lived in a tiny apartment with no counter space and no dishwasher. Having to wash dishes by hand made me groan every time I looked at the ever-growing pile of dirty plates, glasses, and cutlery.

At the time, I had just begun my journey to being more consistent in the pursuit of my goals. I had decided that to help me make that happen, I would be more consistent with small tasks around the house and doing the dishes daily became one of those routines I started.

Instead of seeing the washing up as an onerous, boring task, I turned it into a moment to meditate, to breathe, and to disconnect from the stresses and worries of the day. And it worked! I went from hating the chore, to feeling empty if I didn’t do it. Through one small change, I added a sense of calm and order to what was normally a chaotic day.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten out of the habit, but recently have picked it up again. There’s nothing quite so satisfying than sitting down to write with the counter empty and clean, the bed made and the floor swept. This has nothing to do with the idea of external clutter equals mental clutter or that cleanliness is next to godliness. It has totally to do with a sense of fulfillment that the quote describes.

As chaos theory has demonstrated, the micro is the macro and vice versa. Coastlines are made up of the same shapes when looking from space down to looking at the almost microscopic level. Plus, Dirk Gently tells us that everything is connected, so being consistent with small tasks that have no emotional weight to them helps maintain consistency with more emotionally charged goals like writing and publishing a novel.

In what ways do you use small chores and tasks regularly fulfilled to create order and consistency in your life?

Tech tools for keeping New Years’ resolutions

As January yields to February, many people find themselves sliding on their commitment to New Years resolutions. Five years ago, I wrote an article on technology to help you keep those goals active. Since technology evolves at such a rapid pace, I thought an update was in order. Back in 2013, I wrote, “When deciding on a resolution(s) for the new year, keep three things in mind: acknowledge your feelings, have a plan, and take your time.” Resolution needn’t be written in stone by January first, so don’t stress if you’re still working on it. (I know someone who makes Groundhog Day Resolutions.)

As for your feelings, do your best to stay positive. Identifying a good support team can help immensely. An action plan will work wonders and help decrease feelings of being overwhelmed. I recommend breaking things down into small steps.

Some of the most popular resolutions are:

  • Get healthy
  • Earn more money
  • Become an active citizen
  • Travel

Here are some current examples of hardware and software to help you achieve each of those goals.

Get Healthy

Every January, millions of people vow to improve their health by either losing weight, adopting a healthier diet, or exercising regularly. For improving physical health I love Couch to 5K. Available for both iOS and Android, this effective, great-looking app can get you running five kilometers in just nine weeks. As a former couch potato, I can confirm that it works.

As for mental well-being, I’ve fallen in love with Headspace. It’s a great introduction to guided meditation in everyday life that is very beneficial. You needn’t be a cloistered monk to meditate effectively, and Headspace is proof of that. Just like Couch to 5K, Headspace is available for iOS and Android.

Earn More Money

Who doesn’t want a few extra dollars? I won’t dive into organizing your finances in this article, but I will recommend Betterment for helping with long and short-term investments. Betterment was founded in 2008 and it’s a quite nice product. They have low fees, a great app and, in my experience, great advice that’s always available.

Become an Active Citizen

This often gets overlooked, but it’s great for your community and sense of self-satisfaction. Countable keeps you up-to-date on what’s happening in U.S. politics, from bills to news from your local representatives. You can call your reps, share video messages with elected officials, read non-partisan news summaries, and prepare for upcoming votes.


Kayak is still my favorite travel app. It is as close to a portable travel agent as you can get. It handles everything from finding a flight to hotels, car rentals, attractions, things to do, and much more. Kayak polls several top travel sites and airlines for flights that match your criteria. The results can be filtered by airline, number of stops, airport, price, and duration. You can also sort by cost, duration, and departure time. The app is available for the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Windows phone, and Kindle Fire.

There you have it. I hope there’s something here to inspire you to an exciting, fulfilling year. Good luck!

Making your resolutions a reality

On either the last day of the old year or the first day of the new year, many of us created lists of resolutions. If you’re like me, getting organized appeared in some fashion on this list. For example my specific resolution back in 2008 was to get my laundry mess under control.

Generating the resolution and committing it to paper or a hard drive is a terrific way to start the process. Unfortunately, though, the resolution won’t become a reality unless more work is done. (Wouldn’t it be great if just writing it down was really all it took?!)

If you don’t set a course of action and stick to it, then your resolution will be nothing more than words on paper. I want to walk through my process attack, which is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, to help you see how lofty goals can easily become experienced reality.

  1. Commit your resolution to writing. It doesn’t matter if you write your resolution on an index card, in a Moleskine notebook, or in an virtual Evernote notebook. Formulating your idea into concrete words helps you define your purpose and gets you started on your path to change.
  2. Reflect on your resolution and identify your motivation for change and where you see yourself once the resolution is complete. If you can’t see where you’re headed or why you want to get there, your resolution is pretty much destined for failure. There is no need to establish any other form of reward system, because you’ll see yourself succeeding! In my case, I need to imagine the calm I will have from not having piles of laundry cluttering up the floor of my laundry room.
  3. Brainstorm methods for completing your resolution. Even if the ideas seem ridiculous, write them down anyway. What are all of the ways that you could possibly reach your goal? What steps could you take? What is currently standing in your way? What resources could you obtain to help you get what you want? Empty all of your thoughts on the matter onto a piece of paper.
  4. Evaluate your brainstormed ideas and create what Allen calls “keys” to organization. “Identify the significant pieces. Sort by (one or more): components, sequences, priorities. Detail to the required degree.” This is the stage where you create your plan.
  5. Once your plan is set, make decisions as to the exact steps you will follow to achieve your goal. Without these concrete steps, you won’t know how to move forward. For my laundry resolution, my exact steps involve a lot of removing current barriers to success. (Buy light bulbs on Saturday morning at the grocery store to replace burned out bulbs in the laundry room.) If you’ve never written an exact step, or what Allen names “next actions,” you may want to read the entry on this topic on Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders GTDwiki here.
  6. Start!

Good luck to everyone with their organization resolutions! Feel welcome to tell us about your process for success in the comments section to this post.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

The only way past is through it

In a recent interview with Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project, author Greer Hendricks hit the nail on the head when it comes to overcoming procrastination. When faced with a task she doesn’t feel like doing she reminds herself that “the only way past is through it.”

This adage doesn’t apply to every task we’d rather not do. In fact, there are many times that the best way to overcome procrastination is to cross the task off your list altogether, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Instead, let’s focus on those tasks we dread but cannot avoid.

I have one of those coming up and if I want to do my day job well, there is no way to avoid it or cross it off my life. I have to face it and go through the experience no matter how unappetizing it feels.

At the beginning of February, I have a conference to go to. The sessions don’t really appeal to me and I have to leave the conference early due to other commitments at home. So, in a discussion with my boss, we decided that my objective for the conference is to meet as many people as possible in similar positions as me.

It’s pure networking and I hate it. When I ran my own business, it was the one thing that would make me want to stay in bed hiding under the covers. It was this weakness that limited the growth of my business. I’m not a meet-and-greeter. I don’t like and have a hard time doing small talk.

But in this case, what’s best for our company is that I get to know my peers in other parts of the country.

Being an introvert, the idea of putting myself in front of total strangers and interacting with them horrifies me. And yet, I know it’s what I need to do. Fortunately, there are many tools to help me. Apart from Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, there are a whole slew of books on being an introvert in an interactive world that can help me push through the dread and reach the other side where satisfaction and success wait.

How do you deal with tasks that you simply can’t put off?

How consistent are you?

I have a great app, called TimeHop, that reminds me each day of what I’ve posted on social media one year ago, two years ago, and so on. The other day it reminded me of a word I’d chosen to represent all my good intentions for one particular year: consistency.

The promise included running regularly, writing daily, doing a better job of avoiding the foods that make me feel unwell, etc…

However, I obviously didn’t pay much attention to the promise to myself because years later consistency is still my weakness. Other than yoga classes, exercise is an on-and-off thing. Writing regularly became writing almost never. And I still battle daily the urge to eat foods that cause me health problems.

Why is this so?

Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits wrote a great article about this issue in his post 10 Reasons Why We Don’t Stick to Things. In summary, the ten reasons are:

  1. We don’t take it seriously.
  2. We just forget.
  3. We run from discomfort or uncertainty.
  4. We give in to temptation, out of habit.
  5. We rationalize.
  6. We renegotiate.
  7. We dislike the experience and avoid things we dislike.
  8. We forget why it’s important.
  9. We get down on ourselves or give up in disappointment.
  10. There are too many barriers.

I’m guilty of all ten reasons. Let’s take my health as an example: While do not have celiac disease, I am very sensitive to gluten. When I include gluten in my diet, I suffer from fibromyalgia-like symptoms (I get brain fog, I hurt all over, and I become increasingly inflexible), my rosacea flares up, and I gain weight as if I were eating double the calories I’m consuming.

  1. And yet, when faced with eating better, I say “m’eh, tomorrow” as if my health wasn’t important.
  2. Put a shortbread cookie in front of me and it’s in my mouth before I remember that I’m not supposed to eat it.
  3. Given that the anti-gluten craze is at an all-time high, I feel uncomfortable telling people I can’t eat it because I don’t want them to think I’m some sort of food fad follower.
  4. I adore anything that is wheat-based: bread, cake, pie, cookies, pizza — you name it; if it has wheat it in, I love it.
  5. My favorite rationalization is that “one day won’t hurt me” but then one becomes two, or three and then a month.
  6. I also tell my body that it’s overreacting and that a little gluten won’t hurt it, that tomorrow I’ll do better.
  7. I’m not a fruit fan, and hate having to make myself other food, or choose not to eat out. It’s too awkward and uncomfortable to make healthy choices.
  8. And once I’m off gluten for a while and feeling fantastic, I completely forget what it’s like to be in pain and fuzzy-headed.
  9. When all of the above reasons for not avoiding gluten don’t work and I indulge on pizza and sandwiches, I tell myself that it’s impossible and I should just learn to live in discomfort.
  10. And finally, Spain has a bread-based culinary culture. While there are more and more non-gluten options available, they are usually more expensive and rather cardboard-like in taste and texture. As a foodie, eating healthily is a nigh impossible task.

I could run through the same exercise with my fitness regime, my writing, and to be honest, with any goal I’ve set myself. When it comes down to the word consistency, however, all ten reasons are excuses. There’s only one question I have to ask myself.

How much do I really want this?

I’ve achieved a lot of goals in my life, and difficult ones at that. And in every case, the success has come from being able to answer this question with the following:

I don’t just want this, I am driven to follow this path to the end.

If consistency is a challenge for you as well, perhaps the words of others might help you create that drive for success that you’re currently lacking.

Year-round resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are an ancient ritual, stretching all the way back to the Babylonians and the Romans who made promises to their gods to do things better in the coming year.

However, just because something has been done for a very long time, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessary, or even useful. And, to be honest, how many people do you know actually follow through on their resolutions? Fitness centres rely on resolutions for a influx of income knowing that the majority of new clients will only attend classes for a few weeks, but will actually pay for several months, or even a full year.

One of the main reasons that I don’t like New Year’s resolutions is that they set us up for a fall and create a failure mentality. Despite knowing that we are unlikely to follow through on our resolutions, we promise ourselves quite often outrageous things, possibly even fundamental changes in who we are. (For me that would be resolving to go to networking events in the city and thus go against my introvert nature.)

When we make unrealistic resolutions, we are basically telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough as we are and need to change. All you need to do is look at common resolutions to see how poorly we think of ourselves:

  • Lose weight (I’m fat.)
  • Be more positive (Life sucks.)
  • Get out of debt (I’m not financially responsible.)
  • Improve my career (I hate my job.)
  • Learn something new (I’m ignorant/uncultured/lazy.)
  • Get organized (I’m a disaster.)
  • Be nicer (I’m a grump.)

And the list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for introspection and self-improvement, but doing it once a year in a fervor of self-punishment is not the best way to achieve a goal.

I believe a much better way is the following:

  • Know yourself. What type of person are you? What works for you? What doesn’t? Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies is a great book to read if you want a simple and efficient way of answering these questions.
  • Examine your life. What’s working? What isn’t? Don’t look at your perceived faults and failings. Take a look at where you want to be and where you are in that process. By doing so, you remove the personal judgement and make it an objective review of your objectives. Burnett’s and Evans’ The Designing Your Life Workbook is a good tool for that.
  • Monitor your progress and set up regular reviews. As I have been doing with my Bullet Journal experiment, check in regularly with your objectives. Progress needs to be examined on a weekly basis at the very least (if not daily), the circumstances need to be reviewed, and minor alterations in course need to be made. For me the Bullet Journal system has been working very well so far.

So, instead of asking you what you resolutions are, I’ll ask you what goals you are working on and what progress you’re making with them.

Four ideas for creating New Year’s resolutions

Are you considering some resolutions related to uncluttering and organizing? I always find it interesting to see how other people have approached this, because other people’s ideas can inspire some of my own. I’m hoping some of the things I’ve seen recently might inspire you, too.

Ask others for their ideas

A recent Mutts comic strip had one character who made a list of resolutions — for another character, not for himself. While that’s obviously not what I would recommend, it made me think that sometimes other people who know us well may have helpful insights and suggestions.

Consider resolutions to minimize your shopping

In The New York Times, Ann Patchett wrote about her 2017 “year of no shopping.” She did indeed shop for groceries and such — and as an author and a bookstore owner, she also bought books. But she didn’t buy things such as clothes and electronics, and only bought things like shampoo if she had used up everything she had on hand. She obviously comes from a life of abundance, but perhaps her experiences could still inspire others. The whole article is worth reading, but the following are a few excerpts:

My first few months of no shopping were full of gleeful discoveries. I ran out of lip balm early on and before making a decision about whether lip balm constituted a need, I looked in my desk drawers and coat pockets. I found five lip balms. …

The trick of no shopping isn’t just that you don’t buy things. You don’t shop. That means no trawling the sale section of the J. Crew website in idle moments. It means the catalogs go into the recycle bin unopened on the theory that if I don’t see it, I don’t want it.

Not shopping saves an astonishing amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his collection of short stories in front of 1,700 people in a Washington theater. Previously, I would have believed that such an occasion demanded a new dress and lost two days of my life looking for one. In fact, Tom Hanks had never seen any of my dresses, nor had the people in the audience. I went to my closet, picked out something weather appropriate and stuck it in my suitcase. Done.

Patchett has decided to continue her no-shopping approach for now, even though the year is ending. That sure sounds like a resolution that worked well for her.

Look for things to stop doing

Oliver Burkeman, writing in The Guardian, had a list of three suggested resolutions for the new year. I’m not usually a fan of such lists, but this was one I liked. The following was his second resolution:

Select something to stop doing this year. … I mean something worthwhile, but that, if you’re honest, you don’t have time for. In our hyperbusy era, there’s an infinite number of potential things to do: emails to read, groups to join, ways to become a better person, parent, employee. Yet still we proceed as if “getting everything done” might be feasible. It isn’t. … Quit your book group; stop struggling to make dates with that hard-to-pin-down friend; accept you’ll never be a good cook. Not because those things are bad; because it’s the only way to do other things well.

I also liked his third idea: “Resolve to cut everyone a massive amount of slack, including yourself.”

Note: One of my own 2018 resolutions is to get back to reading more books, and I’m definitely not quitting my book group. But if I’m going to read more books, that means I need to figure out other things to stop doing.

Keep doing what works

Louise Hornor had a line in her quilting blog that resonated with me: “I resolve to keep on doin’ what I’m doin’.” If you have found ways of managing your stuff, your papers, and your time that work well for you, there’s no need to change.

Avoiding one-size-fits-all uncluttering rules

Apartment Therapy recently ran an article by Shifrah Combiths entitled 9 Things No One Needs Anymore and Should Declutter. The list includes DVDs, DVD cases, CDs, file cabinets, a stockpile of pantry and household items, wall calendars, physical inspiration (mood boards, etc.), paper lists, and take-out menus. The recommended alternatives were almost all digitally focused: streaming services for movies, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service, scanned papers, etc.

The good part about this list is it can challenge you to think about whether the physical items you have are indeed the best answer for you. Maybe you really do want to eliminate one or more of these things from your space and use other options.

But I can think of many situations where eliminating these items isn’t the best choice. Combiths acknowledges some of these, noting that people may want DVDs for road trips and CDs for playing in the car. Some people’s minds work better with wall calendars, and they also help some families.

But the following are some other reasons people may want to hold onto the items that “no one needs any more:”

  • They aren’t comfortable using digital options. My father, who is in his 90s, is not going to scan his papers and keep them in the cloud, as Combiths suggested.
  • They live somewhere with slow internet connectivity. Streaming movies just isn’t a good option for everyone.
  • They have budget constraints. Streaming services cost money. Keeping some DVDs and CDs (especially ones that children play repeatedly) and borrowing others from the library may be better options for some people. A good scanner costs money that people may not have, too.
  • They just work better with paper, at least in certain circumstances. Some people really like their paper lists, even if they acknowledge the benefits of digital ones. You’ll still find a wide variety of paper lists for sale: to-do lists, shopping lists, and more — as well as paper planners that include both calendars and lists. And not everyone is going to find that a Pinterest board works as well for them as a physical vision board.
  • They have a real need to stockpile at least some items. I stockpile a lot of water, some food items, cat litter, and more because I want to be prepared in case of an earthquake.
  • They are movie fans who like all the supplementary material that comes with DVDs and usually isn’t available from a service like Netflix. They may also like more obscure titles that aren’t readily available through streaming services.
  • They have disabilities that make digital options less attractive. For example, not all websites work well with screen readers. And Hulu was recently sued because it didn’t provide the audio description tracks that are available for many movies and TV shows, describing what’s going on for those who cannot see it.

So yes — you may well find that you don’t need all or most of the items in the Apartment Therapy list. But it’s perfectly okay if you do if you do need or want some of them. Lists like this are useful if they get you to reconsider what you’re saving, but you’re the ultimate authority on what works for your particular situation.

What does it mean to ‘honor’ mementos?

beastieWe talk a great deal about “honoring” the mementos you chose to keep in your home. This exact word we picked up from Peter Walsh, but it’s a concept most everyone in the organization business has understood for years. In short, when we say that you should “honor” your mementos, we mean that if you’re going to the trouble of keeping something in your home, you should at least treat that item with respect. Being shoved in a messy closet, typically, is not honoring an object.

How you chose to honor something is a personal choice and full of seemingly endless possibilities. I thought that I would discuss one of my collections to give you an idea of how you could choose to honor something in your home. My example is concert posters.

When I was in journalism school working on my undergraduate degree, I was convinced I was going to be the next Cameron Crowe. I interviewed every band that came through town (Everclear, Jackopierce, mid-1990s groups) and every legend who set foot on campus (Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Patty Smith, Debbie Harry). When I wasn’t in class, I worked as a disc jockey for the local commercial station and had an internship with the company that booked all of the shows at the region’s concert amphitheater. In my mind, there was nothing standing between me and being the next Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone.

I was exactly like most people in their early twenties. I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to grow to become. I still love music, though, and it will always be a part of me. Plus, if I hadn’t gone through my Cameron Crowe-obsession stage in college, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

So, how do I respect those memories? I frame them. I put concert posters in ridiculously ornate frames and hang them in my hallway. They’re fun. They make me smile. And, most importantly, they’re treated with respect and honored in a way appropriate to their memory.

I don’t have concert posters from every show I’ve attended. I only have kept those that are the most important to me. The one in the photograph above is from a secret concert the Beastie Boys performed a number of years ago in DC. Bad weather delayed the band so they bought pizza for everyone who stuck around to hear them play. By the time they went on stage, only a hundred or so people were still at the venue. I saw the show with one of my closest friends and it felt like we were watching the band at a small house party. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I framed the poster from the show and hung it on my hallway wall in tribute to that night.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

How do you deal with slips in your projects?

One of the main goals of Unclutterer, apart from helping readers lead a more organized and streamlined life, is to help you create long-lasting change in your routines, habits, and life. Many of our articles revisit similar themes so that you can keep moving forward with your goals, revising what you are doing well, and identify when you need a course correction.

In my case, I am trying to merge my work and home life personalities. At work, I am decisive, productive, proactive, and passionate. At home, I never make decisions, ignore projects, react before thinking, and live with neither ups nor downs.

As regular readers know, I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system to transfer my work personality to my home one. And while the system has helped me keep my head above water during a stressful period at work, I’ve let my passivity to life stay in control and have pretty much converted my Bullet Journal into a solely work-related tracking system.

So, something needs to be done, and I think I’ve found the trick: the Moleskine app for my iPad Pro. One of the reasons I’ve let the personal life slide is because the work list was taking up a full page, leaving me with no room to add personal stuff and I refused to have a single day in two different pages in my Moleskine notebook. Sure it’s an excuse, but it was enough to derail me.

However, with the Moleskine app (available for iOS) I can have multiple notebooks and yet have only one item to carry. The app is free if you want the basic notebooks of Weekly Planner, Plain Paper, Lined Paper, and Grid Paper. You can buy other notebooks for Photos, Recipe Tracker, Travel Journal, and Wine Journal, but for now I have no interest in those ones. If you are an avid cook, travel writer, or wine lover, these journals might come in handy for organizing your thoughts.

By using the app, I’ve created five different journals:

  • Weekly Planner: to schedule my days and know what’s coming up. This planner looks into the future and includes both work and home.
  • Work Journal: to organize all my work-related tasks. I love the color and pen thickness options in the app and can keep track of all my tasks and priorities in a vibrant, colorful way.
  • Home Journal: to keep my personal-related actions, desires, and ideas front and center. This journal is copied from my work one and will hopefully, over time, instill my home personality with the more active traits from my work personality.
  • Connection Journal: to remind myself to connect with my social circles. As an introvert, I could easily go through a week only talking with work mates, but friends and family need to be taken care of or they won’t be there when my introverted self decides it wants company.
  • Time Tracker: to make sure I take time for myself each day. I can easily be busy, busy, busy, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep without taking even 15 minutes to read, write some fiction, or just stare at the ceiling. This journal looks at what has actually happened each day and serves as a good reminder that without personal time, I will burn out completely and start cutting myself off from the rest of the world, which is the exact opposite of my goal.

Wait a second… Five different journals? Isn’t that a lot of work?

Yes, it is, but the changes I want to make in my life are big and doing any less has proved too easy for my (nearly) 50 years of habits to take control and derail my plans.

I love my iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil — it’s the closest I’ve ever seen to a digital notebook, and now that I can use my favorite notebooks in digital format, I couldn’t be happier. Productivity and perseverance thanks to technology.

What changes are you trying to make in your life? Are you aware of any slips? What are you doing to correct them and maintain momentum?


The slow cooker: Uncluttered kitchen cooking

As fall nears and the weather cools, I start looking forward to a good bowl of chili while watching my favorite football team play on a Sunday afternoon. My thoughts of chili then progress into musings of stews and soups and all the wonderful things that can be made in my slow cooker.

I like using a slow cooker because it means that I dirty it and no other pots or pans during meal preparation. There are a few exceptions when an additional pan is needed to brown or sear meat, but these instances are rare. After the meal has been served, cleanup is as simple as moving the empty crock from the slow cooker to the dishwasher. The slow cooker is definitely an uncluttered kitchen solution.

If you don’t currently own a slow cooker, there are really only two features that I see as essential components. The first necessary feature is a separate, removable inner crock. The second feature is a temperature indicator that has at least three settings: Off, Low, and High. I have never found use for any of the other slow cooker features currently on the market. A crock pot with these two features also has the benefit of usually costing less than $30 and will last you many years.

The majority of the recipes I make in my slow cooker are in my head. However, I took a trip recently to my local bookstore and saw that there are now dozens of slow cooker recipe books in publication for people seeking printed recipes. Also, an internet search for “slow cooker recipe” yielded thousands of recipes from online sources. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of the slow cooker cookbooks on the market:

Enjoy your uncluttered cooking experience!


This post has been updated since it was originally published in September 2007.