Minimizing packaging clutter

Clutter doesn’t just come from things you buy (or are given) — it can also come from the associated packaging that sometimes winds up sitting around your home or office. That might be the manufacturer’s packaging or the packaging added by a company like Amazon.

Excess packaging is part of the problem. Sandy Barker wrote abut this on her blog, Off the Beaten Track: “My eye cream comes in an even more ridiculous array of packaging: inside a jar, inside a plastic shell, inside a box, inside shrunk-wrapped plastic.”

The following are some strategies for limiting the packaging debris that comes into your space and dealing with it when it’s unavoidable.

Choose products that minimize packaging

Amazon’s frustration-free packaging initiative began in 2008, and since then many more products have been added to this category. These products are easy to unwrap and the materials are fully recyclable. Toys, electronics, and such don’t need to come in those hard-to-open and non-recyclable plastic clamshells. An added benefit of buying a product with easy-to-open packaging is you’re less likely to procrastinate in putting it into use because getting at the product isn’t a struggle.

You can tell when a product, such as this Belkin surge protector, is part of Amazon’s program because the description says it ships in easy-to-open packaging, and you may be given the option of standard vs. frustration-free packaging.

Amazon also has its Ships in Own Container program, where the product ships in the box from the manufacturer, without putting that box inside an Amazon box. You can tell a product is part of this program when the product page says: “This item’s packaging will indicate what is inside. To cover it, select Ship in Amazon box on the checkout page.”

I buy my cases of toilet paper from Amazon because my local store doesn’t carry the product I want, and I appreciate that Amazon ships it without a second box that I have to break down and put in my recycling bin.

Of course, you can look for products with minimal packaging when buying from places other than Amazon. If you’re shopping at a local store, you can choose to buy products with less packaging than others. And you can look for companies like Green Toys, where “all products are packaged in 100% recyclable cardboard — no additives like blister packs, twist ties, or cellophane wrappers.”

You can also avoid packaging altogether if you buy from bulk bins using a refillable container. There are some stores that specialize in bulk purchases for things like cleaning supplies and shower gels, and many grocery stores have some bulk food bins.

Recycle what you can

Many packaging materials are readily recyclable: cardboard boxes, glass containers, etc. Some may take a bit more effort to recycle, such as packing peanuts. My local UPS Store takes these, and if yours doesn’t you may find another shipping and packaging store that will. And as we’ve noted on Unclutterer before, a number of cosmetics companies, such as Aveda, will take back any packaging (and accessories) that aren’t accepted by your local curbside recycling program.

You can also try offering packing materials (boxes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, etc.) for free on places like Craigslist or freecycle, since people who sell on eBay or have other reasons to need packing materials may want them.

You may want to save some for your own reuse, perhaps for shipping off gifts. But be realistic about how much of this stuff you’ll really use.

If there’s no other good option, use the trash can

Have you ever bought a meal kit from Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, or one of the many other such companies? If so, you’ll be familiar with the freezer packs that come with these kits. Blue Apron will allow you to mail them back for free, but in other cases you’re stuck with them.

And there’s really no good use for the multitude of packs you can acquire if you use such services regularly. As Kiera Butler wrote in Mother Jones, the companies are no help:

Many blithely suggest that customers store old gel packs in their freezers for future use. Unless you happen to have your own meat locker, that’s wildly impractical. I tried it, and in less than a month the packs — which are roughly the size of a photo album — had crowded practically everything else out of my freezer. …

As Nathanael Johnson at Grist points out, Blue Apron has also suggested that customers donate used freezer packs to the Boy Scouts or other organizations. I asked my local Boy Scouts council whether they wanted my old meal-kit freezer packs. “What would we do with all those ice packs?” wondered the puzzled council executive.

I know many people are loath to throw things like this in the trash, but that’s a better option than having them just sit around your house, unused and taking up space.

Book Review: A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos

Like many of our readers, I find one of the most daunting projects is organizing and digitizing our family photos. Fortunately, when I was at the recent NAPO conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Mollie Bartelt, co-founder of Pixologie and author of A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos. She gave me a copy of her book to review.

If you’ve inherited family photos or you just want to get your own photos organized and digitized, this book is for you. It is well written and easy to read. It provides advice on many different scenarios (family photos, a professional photographer’s collection, etc.). As well, the book explains how to incorporate physical photos and digital photos into one organized collection.

In the first part of the book, Bartelt explains how to get started. She describes the time, space, tools, and equipment needed manage this type of project. I was rather confused when I saw dental floss on the list of required tools. However, Bartelt goes on to explain that dental floss can used to remove photos that are stuck in old-fashioned “magnetic” photo albums. Sliding the floss carefully underneath the photos will unstick them without having them curl up at the corners. This makes it much easier to scan them.

Bartelt also recommends which photos to keep and which to let go. For example, to remember your family’s trip to the zoo, you can keep a photo of your children in front of the elephant enclosure. There is no need to keep a dozen pictures of the elephant itself.

Prior to organizing your photos, Bartelt suggests building an age chart for family members to help determine what year photos were taken. For example, if Charles was born in 2010, the photo of him beside a cake with six candles (his sixth birthday) would be from 2016, and we would know that he was in the first grade that year. Anne would have been four years old and in preschool.

When sorting photos, Bartelt provides suggestions on how to choose major categories and how to divide the major categories into sub-categories. She discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each method and provides real-life examples of projects that have used each method.

When it comes to digitizing photos, it is important to determine a file name methodology before the process begins. Bartelt has several suggestions but her preferred file name system is YYYY-MM-DD-description; where the description can be the event or people in the photograph.

Bartelt explains that for the digitizing process, all-in-one printer scanners can produce good quality digitized photos. However, using the flatbed option is very time consuming if you have a lot of photos to scan. Some scanners have an auto-feed function but this may damage photos because they are forced to bend around rollers before they are scanned. Pixologie, the company Bartelt co-founded, offers photo organizing and digitizing services. They use an E-Z Photo Scan’s Kodak PS80 Photo Scanner. This is a high-speed, straight-feed scanner that produces scans of very good quality. It is very useful for scanning many photos very quickly.

A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos provides valuable information on recommended settings for scanning photos. Most family photos are scanned at 300-600 dpi as superior quality JPGs. Historians and professional photographers should scan at 600-1200 dpi as TIFF. She also describes how to store digital photos both on- and off-site and how to incorporate a digital photo collection into a recently digitized collection of physical photos.

If you’re considering a photo organizing project, whether it be your family photos or the portfolio of a professional photographer, I highly recommend reading A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos before you start. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking the advice offered by Bartelt.

Collapsible colanders save kitchen space

The colander is a utensil that finds its way into most kitchens. Unfortunately, many people sacrifice a great deal of cupboard space storing colanders. With diameters around 11″ and heights of more than 5″, the typical colander has a large footprint.

Regain some of that space by switching to a collapsible silicone colander. This colander, (similar to the one that I own), has a handle and is less than an inch flat when collapsed. There also is one on the market that doesn’t have a long handle and looks more like a traditional colander. It also is less than an inch flat when collapsed. This colander can also be used as a vegetable steamer!

If you like to have both hands free to pour from a heavy pot or to wash and peel vegetables, check out the colander with handles that stretch over the sink.

You can find all three types of colanders available in a package deal from Squish.

Let a collapsible colander bring more space and less clutter to your kitchen.

 

This post was originally published in June 2007.

Using wedding registries to avoid gift-related clutter

I have mixed emotions about wedding registries. On one hand, I tend to agree with Miss Manners, who recently wrote:

Registries are never proper, not for weddings, not for baby showers and not for birthdays. Not for christenings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, sweet sixteens, graduations, engagements, coming out, announcing gender, changing gender, getting a job, losing a job, buying a house, divorcing, retiring or dying.

It is simply never polite to ask someone to buy you a present. Everyone is just going to have to go through life’s milestones without the explicit intention of reaping material rewards.

However, the practical part of me knows people are going to create registries, and they do help avoid couples getting gifts that get shoved to the back of a closet. If you’re going to create a wedding registry on Amazon or elsewhere, consider the following to help ensure the gifts you receive won’t become clutter.

You won’t develop a whole new personality after the wedding.

If you’re an introvert and throwing a fancy dinner party for 12 makes you shudder, it won’t suddenly sound appealing after you get married. If you tend to eat take-out meals and easy-to-prepare foods, you’re unlikely to become interested in gourmet cooking in the near future. So select items that match the person you actually are, not the person the registry checklists might presume you are. If your tastes and interests evolve later — as they certainly can, in unpredictable ways — you can get what you need for future-you when that time comes.

Consider the other members of your household.

I have cats who eat cut flowers, so vases would never go on my list. And any quilts and other such bedding needs to be machine washable, because hairballs happen. Consider what items may or not be appropriate given your specific family members. Do you need to avoid easily broken items? Are there medical conditions to take into account?

You still need to store the stuff.

Make sure everything you’re asking for will have an appropriate storage place in your home. And if you’re considering things you’d use once or twice a year — sports gear, Thanksgiving dinner kitchenware, etc. — consider whether or not you’d be better off renting or borrowing these items rather than owning them.

Consider items beyond the traditional housewares.

Your registry can incorporate consumables (such as wine) and experiences (such as museum memberships). Another option: Ask for donations to a charity of your choice. Rather than looking for cash donations, some couples have created registries of things they will turn around and give to local homeless shelters or other nonprofit organizations — making it clear to the gift-givers that this is their intention.

Add items to your registry as carefully as you would choose them if you were buying them yourself.

Are the items on your list things that you’ll love having in your space? Alternatively, are they just really practical items you need to have? (I once got a couple the paper shredder that was on their registry.) If not, consider whether they really belong on your list.

Getting organized for barbecue season

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, the warmer weather is upon us and that means it’s time to enjoy a few barbecued meals. Whether you’re going to grill vegetable brochettes or beef steaks, here are some tips to help you prepare your favourite meals in an organized way.

Prepare your barbecue

Before you get your first meal ready, it is important to check your barbecue and give it a good cleaning.

If you have a propane barbecue, check all connections and hoses for leaks using soapy water. Replace any hoses that are cracked and/or leaking. Clean ports with a brush to remove debris. Remember, blocked portholes can cause fires. For charcoal barbecues, remove any charcoal, clean out all of the ashes and ensure the vents are clear.

Grease is flammable so make sure you clean grease buildup from the cook box and grease tray regardless of the type of barbecue you have. Also, look for thin or rusted through spots in the cook box. That could be a sign that it is time to replace the barbecue.

It is important to clean your grill at the start of the season and between uses. Choose a bristle-free brush for cleaning your grill. Experts recommend that people throw out their wire bristle brushes because of the danger of  bristles coming loose, sticking to the grill, transferring to food and accidentally being eaten.

Here are a couple of videos with detailed cleaning and maintenance tips for gas barbecues and charcoal barbecues.

Collect your barbecue tools

Many barbecues have a series of hooks attached to the frame where you can hang your grilling tools such as meat fork, basting brush and tongs. If you don’t have pre-installed hooks, you could add some magnetic ones to your barbecue or install a pegboard system on a wall that is close by.

We live in an apartment block and we’re not permitted to have barbecues on our balconies. We have common barbecue area near the swimming pool. A utensil caddy with a handle is ideal for carrying cooking utensils back and forth to this barbecue area. Marinades and sauces are transported in a condiment basket.

Healthy cooking

Thermometers are essential for ensuring food is thoroughly cooked (to kill any nasty bacteria) but not overcooked – no one likes to eat burnt foods.

The ThermoPro TP03A Digital Food Cooking Thermometer is inexpensive and very easy to use. It provides a fast and accurate readout of the food’s temperature. My favourite thermometer is the iGrill Mini. It is magnetic so it easily sticks to the barbecue frame (or my stove). It connects via Bluetooth to my iPhone so that I can see the temperature of the food even if I’m not standing right next to the barbecue.

Using the same plates and utensils for raw and cooked meats may transfer harmful bacteria to your cooked foods. Always wash your dishes in hot, soapy water after they have been in contact with raw foods. Check out these food safety tips for barbecuing.

Are there things you do to make your grilling experience more organized and productive? Please feel free to share your tips with other readers.

Hanging coats

If you don’t have a closet near the front door to your home, a free-standing coat rack might be a good way to keep jackets, scarves, backpacks, and umbrellas from ending up on the back of every couch and chair in the adjacent room. Here are a few different options.

The Frenchi Furniture Black Metal Coat Rack has 12 hooks at two different heights. This would be great for hanging purses or for younger people who can’t reach the top hooks. Although umbrellas could hang on the lower hooks, if wet, they would drip all over the floor.

 

Monarch Specialties’ Contemporary Coat Rack in silver finish has a sleek look for modern designs. There are no lower hooks on this rack so it might not be a great option for a home with young children.

 

The LCH Standing Coat Rack made from solid rubber wood has a more natural look. Hooks at multiple heights would be an easy reach for kids and ideal for hanging purses and umbrellas.

 

Busy families may decide to use a garment rack instead of a coat rack. The HOMFA Fashion heavy-duty garment rack has space for coats, scarves, umbrellas, and the shelves provide a convenient place to store backpacks and shoes.

Check out ten more inspirational coat rack designs over at Remodelista.

 

This post was originally published May 2009.

What makes you switch your ways?

For a business course I’ve been taking on change management, I’ve recently read the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It was published back in 2010 and Erin talks about it briefly in relation to a video interview with one of the authors.

Although the book is seven years old, its content is 100% current and presented me with a whole new way of creating change — not just at work but also in my life in general.

The Heath brothers tell us to forget about the reward-punishment dichotomy of the carrot-stick approach to change.

For real lasting change to occur, it needs to be appealing on three levels:

  • It needs to make sense.
  • It needs to resonate emotionally.
  • And it needs to be clearly articulated and have easy-to-implement steps.

They talk about these three points using the analogy of trying to ride an elephant. Logic (the Rider) can only go so far in directing the change. Emotion (the Elephant) is a much stronger element and can’t be forced to go where it doesn’t want to. And finally, if the path isn’t easy, neither the Rider nor the Elephant are going to want to make the change in direction.

As I said, the book opened my eyes to a new way of managing and encouraging change, but as with all methods, you need to take into account your audience. In a work situation, I didn’t do that and had to twist and turn to avoid a staffing disaster.

I’ve been trying to convince staff to adopt a new program, and was facing resistance. After reading Switch, I realized I was neither appealing to the Elephant nor making the path easy. So, armed with a hugely motivating presentation, I held a staff meeting where I was going to do a bang-up job of getting staff excited about the program before diving into the details of how we could all work together to make the transition easier and better for everyone.

Unfortunately, one staff member hates emotional appeals — I mean, despises them! He sees red whenever anything “motivational” floats before his eyes. From the first slide in the presentation, he turned confrontational and spent the rest of the hour-long meeting arguing against something that logically he and I have agreed upon as necessary and practical.

The next day, he and I spoke and we agreed that in the future, any time that I plan on motivating staff, he will be excused from the meeting and I will send him an email logically extolling the virtues of whatever change I am proposing to the rest of the staff.

Although it was an intensely frustrating hour, I learned a great deal from the confrontation, the main point of which is that when you are discussing change with anyone, you need to know what will best appeal to them.

If you want to change teenage behaviour at home, for example, neither logical nor emotional appeals will likely work very well. You need to make the change easier than not changing at all.

No matter your approach, however, if you are looking to make any sort of change in your personal or work life, I highly recommend reading Switch before embarking on the journey.

Where to start organizing your home

Many people are overwhelmed by the idea of organizing their homes. When there is so much to do, it can be difficult to know where to begin. If you’re in such a state, let me suggest four ways you can get started. Hopefully one of the methods will be a perfect match for you!

  1. Start by organizing the area you first see in the morning. If your first activity is to walk into your closet to pick out your clothes, then choose to organize your closet. If you get coffee, organize your kitchen. If you hop into the shower, then tackle your bathroom. The idea is that the first thing you see in the morning can set your mood for the whole day, so you should at least start with a sense of calm and order.
  2. Start by organizing the area you first see when you come home after work. Your home should be an area of rejuvenation and relaxation. If the first thing you see when you get home from a long day at work makes you stressed out, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Is there a mess in the driveway that could be cleared? Do you pull into your garage and curse because you can barely get out of your car? Is your home’s entrance in complete chaos? Whatever is the first place that causes you stress when you come home, start by clearing clutter there.
  3. Start with the area of your home that makes you seethe. Without putting too much thought into it, what is the one area of your home that you avoid because of its mess? Your instincts will quickly call to mind the one space that drives you nuts more than any other area of your home. Get started in that space to get the worst of the worst cleaned first.
  4. Start at the top and work your way down. In the same way that you dust before you sweep, tackle the areas up high in a room and then work your way toward the floor. Think of your work as if you’re completing an archeological dig.

As you’re working, keep in mind that even the smallest steps help your space to be more organized than it was previously and that there is no reason to be overwhelmed by the task in front of you. Good luck with your organization endeavors!

 

This post was originally published in May 2008.

Sock Purge: Getting rid of mismatched socks

Hate matching up sock pairs while folding laundry? One way to save you time is to have all socks of the exact same color and style.

Every so often (when most of your socks are worn out), throw away all of your white sports socks and replace them with six pairs of new, identical white sports socks. Be sure to alternate the style or brand between purges so if an old sock accidentally doesn’t get purged, you can identify it when it tries to sneak back in to your drawer. All of your socks will have the same amount of wear, they all will match, and it will save you time during folding.

If you’re a man who works in an office, do the same with black and brown dress socks. Three styles are faster to sort than 18 pairs of different styles.

For your children with similar sized feet, you could buy a dozen pairs of the same sock and split them between the kids. Alternatively, you could buy each child a different brand/style/color of sock. For example, your daughter could have white socks, and your son could have white and grey socks.

Our family has subscribed to this process for many years and we love the simplicity it brings to our laundry days.

 

This post was originally published in May 2007.

Being organized about protecting your computer (and your smartphone)

You’ve probably heard about the ransomware attack that hit numerous computers earlier this month, with hospitals in the U.K. being some of the major victims. When computers became infected with the malware, their files were locked unless a ransom was paid to unlock them.

While this specific attack probably didn’t affect you, it’s a good reminder that you can take an organized approach to protecting yourself from future attacks by following a couple simple strategies. These won’t protect you from all malicious attacks, but they are critical parts any strategy for keeping your computer files safe.

Keep your software up to date

The computers that got infected this time were those that had not installed the relevant security update from Microsoft, which was released two months prior to the attack. And some of computers were running Windows XP, a version so out of date that patches weren’t even being released unless special support contracts were in place. (Microsoft later made the necessary patch available to everyone.)

Whether or not you enable automatic updates of your computer’s software, it’s important to install any security patches promptly. This is not a time to procrastinate! Besides the operating system (Windows, OS X, macOS, etc.) you may need to install security updates to software such as your web browser — I just did an update to Safari. Adobe Flash Player is another bit of software that gets frequent security updates.

While updates can be complicated in corporate and industrial settings — think about operating systems embedded in things like MRI machines — in most cases it’s much simpler for those of us with our personal computers.

Keep your smartphone updated, too

Smartphones and tablets can also need software updates for security purposes, so don’t overlook those. The phones that get security updates the fastest are Apple’s iPhones and the Android phones that come directly from Google rather than from a third party vendor. As Kate Conger explained on the TechCrunch website back in March:

Google has spent the past year working with third-party manufacturers and phone carriers to improve its update system for Android, which is often criticized for not being fast enough to protect users from known vulnerabilities. And while Google says it has made some progress in this area — Android issued security updates to 735 million devices from more than 200 manufacturers in 2016 — about half of Android users still aren’t receiving important security patches. ….

While Google-manufactured Pixel and Nexus phones and tablets receive automatic updates, hundreds of manufacturers that run Android on their devices don’t push security updates to their customers immediately. This practice can leave customers waiting for months to get updates, and their devices are vulnerable in the meantime.

Also be aware that some older phones may no longer have guaranteed security updates, so you may need to replace your phone to keep it secure. As Google notes for Nexus phones (with a similar statement for Pixel phones):

Nexus devices get security updates for at least 3 years from when the device first became available on the Google Store, or at least 18 months from when the Google Store last sold the device, whichever is longer. After that, we can’t guarantee additional updates.

Do your backups

We’ve written about the importance of backups here on Unclutterer in the past, and ransomware attacks are just one more reason these matter so much. Backups won’t protect your computer from being infected with malware — but if you have good backups in place, you could use them to recover from any such attack.

Organizing the recipes: choosing categories

Thanks to Neven Mrgan, I recently discovered the cookbook Made in India: Recipes From an Indian Family Kitchen and its three ways of organizing recipes.

  • Standard table of contents, with entries such as starters and snacks, vegetables, meat, fish, sides, breads, desserts, etc.
  • Standard index, with entries such as cauliflower and cinnamon, followed by the recipes using those ingredients
  • Alternative contents, with categories such as midweek meals (30 minutes or so), cooking in advance, party food, and low-fat.

This got me thinking about all the many ways you might want to categorize recipes, including:

  • By meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack
  • By meal course or type of dish: appetizer, main course, soup, salad, dessert, etc.
  • By main ingredient: chicken, fish, eggs, etc.
  • By dietary restrictions: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, etc.
  • By holiday: Christmas, Lunar New Year, Passover, Thanksgiving, etc.
  • By preparation time: quick recipes vs. time-consuming ones
  • By status: untested vs. old favorites
  • By cooking method: outdoor grill, slow cooker, etc.
  • By source, such as your grandmother or Bon Appétit magazine
  • By part of the world outside of your own: Indian, Italian, Korean, Thai, etc.

And of course, you might want to subdivide these. Desserts might be subdivided into cakes, pies, etc. Indian recipes might be split by region within India. And you might want to know which recipes use a specific ingredient even if it isn’t the major one.

So how do you ensure you can find the recipes you want when they could be filed so many different ways? This is fairly easy if your recipes are stored on your computer, tablet, or smartphone — perhaps in an app such as Paprika or Evernote. Depending on the software you’re using, you can either add multiple tags or place the recipe into multiple categories. If you’re setting up your own categories or tags, it helps to consciously create a master list so you don’t wind up with unintended duplicates. Also, a master list can help ensure you don’t overlook a categorization you’re going to wish you had later.

Alternatively, your digital solution may just involve using the search function to find the recipes you want, such as the ones that use a specific ingredient that you happen to have on hand or all the gluten-free appetizers. Just be sure that each individual recipe includes the key words you’ll be using when you do your searches.

If you’re organizing in binders or recipe file boxes, though, you’ll need to choose a primary organizational scheme that serves you best, day to day. You can certainly combine two or more — for example, you may have one binder for untested recipes and one for those you know you like, with each binder having the same categories inside.

I concur with the contributor on the Chowhound website who wrote, in reply to a question about organizing recipes:

It really depends on how you think. I arranged my binder according to how I categorized each individual recipe in my head. For instance, my Chinese food section has all sorts of stuff that would otherwise cross several different categories (vegetable, main dish, pork, chicken, et al), but since I think of all those recipes as “Chinese”, then that’s where they go.

And for the secondary categories, you could decide to emulate the Made in India cookbook and create lists of recipes that fit into the secondary categories that are important to you. You could also make copies of a recipe page or card and file it in multiple places, but that can get cumbersome. For example, if you wanted to note something you changed when making a recipe, you’d need to note it in multiple places.

Finally, no matter how you categorize your recipes, you can always re-organize them if the categories you create don’t quite work for you. As with most organizing solutions, we often don’t get it exactly right on the first pass.

Are you able to disconnect?

Here in Spain, today is Labor Day. At this particular moment, instead of being at my desk, I’m in our apartment in La Rioja, Spain’s wine country, recovering from having eaten too much yesterday at a home-style restaurant that keeps serving food until you’re ready to explode — and then they bring out dessert.

But forget about my bout of over-eating; the thing to focus on here is the fact that I’m in the process of completely disconnecting from work and having a bunch of laughs with friends.

Sometimes that disconnection is difficult for me. I love my job and often find myself thinking about it outside of work hours — in the shower, while falling asleep, while watching a movie, when I’m out for dinner. And when I’m not working, I am thinking about articles for Unclutterer, or thinking about how I could squeeze more out of each day.

Shep Hyken, in an article in Forbes, says that working outside working hours is normal, especially the higher up you go. However, he also believes that everyone has the right to disconnect from work and even quotes the cheesy line: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

With smartphones and constant connectivity, it’s often hard to leave work at work, or any other passion, for that matter. So what can we do to truly disconnect from the need to be productive?

The Huffington Post offers several ways of organizing disconnection time:

  • Make time off a priority
  • Delegate tasks
  • Meditate mindfully
  • Use your smartphone to remind you to disconnect more
  • Write about your stress in order to release it

And SmartChic goes even further with ten disconnection ideas:

  • Prepare your next day before leaving work
  • Set limits and stick to them
  • Derail work thoughts when you are outside of work with fun distractions
  • Relax with a hot shower when getting home from work
  • Exercise
  • Get hobbies that are not productivity-related
  • Have non-work friends
  • Spend time with (chosen) family
  • Do something creative
  • Turn off electronics

These are all really good ideas, but to be honest, I’m exhausted just reading about all the ways to disconnect.

Let me give you my foolproof way of disconnecting. I learned how to do it when I went through a health crisis decades ago and was forced to do nothing.

Ready?

  1. Sit on the sofa or in a comfy chair
  2. Focus on a blank patch of the wall or the ceiling
  3. Let your mind wander with no judgement about any thoughts that may occur to you

And that’s it. No rules, no disconnection productivity tips, no processes to learn. Disconnecting is about disconnecting. Remember, as En Vogue sings, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.