How to declutter your life

It's time to start...

It’s time to start…

When it comes to decluttering your home and your life, there are many excuses not to start and many road blocks that hamper you along the way. If we let the overwhelm consume us, it is a lost cause before we have even begun! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Zen Habits had a great blog recently that shared many of my favourite tips. So take a read and see if they help you in your organizing endeavours:

Declutter Your Life

There was a time, about 8 years ago, when my life was cluttered. I had too much stuff, and it kept coming in all the time. I had too much to do, and didn’t know how to simplify my schedule. I was in need of some decluttering, and I knew it.

The question became, how to go about it? How do you start when you’re facing a mountain of clutter, and another mountain of commitments, and piles of files and mail and email and other digital information?

The answer became clear, as I got started: start simply. Keep it simple as you go. Simple, each step of the way.

That said, I found complications that made things harder at every turn. I’d like to help you with some of those here, briefly, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to start decluttering.

Start Decluttering

How do you get started? As simply as possible:

  • Take just 10 minutes today to sort though a pile, or declutter a shelf or table or countertop.
  • Put everything into one pile, and start with the first thing you pick up (no putting things back in the pile).
  • Ask yourself: do you really need this? Do you use it regularly? Do you love it? If the answer to any of these is no, then recycle, donate, or give it to someone who might want it. Put it in a box for these purposes.
  • Put things back that you need/use/love, with space between things. This is their “home” and you should always put them back there.
  • Stop after 10 minutes, continue tomorrow for another 10 minutes, and so on, one small spot in your home at a time.
  • If you want to do more than 10 minutes, go ahead, but be careful not to overdo it in the beginning or you’ll think it’s difficult and not want to continue.

Keep Going

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, here’s how to keep going:

  • Keep decluttering in small bits. Pick an area to focus on each week.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just get it simpler. You can always declutter it more later.
  • Put your box of donation/recycling/giving away in your trunk, to get rid of next time you’re out. Email friends/family to ask if they want things — often you can find a good home for perfectly good things you don’t really use (that workout equipment).
  • If you’re on the fence, use a Maybe Box (put things that you think youmight need in a box, mark it with today’s date, put a reminder on your calendar 6 months from now to check on the Maybe Box. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you probably don’t need it and can get rid of it.
  • Get help. Sometimes you just can’t bear to part with yourself, but if you can get an outside person to make the decision (friend or family member), they are usually much more dispassionate and ruthless.
  • Enjoy the space. Once you’ve decluttered an area, really focus on how much you love the simplified space. Once you’re hooked on this simplicity, you’re more likely to keep going.

Read the entire article from Zen Habits here.

Image courtesy of http://www.getorganized-stayorganized.com/

Double Duty Furniture Cuts Clutter

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it's both!

Is it an ottoman? Is it a storage chest? No it’s both!

Furniture. It plays an integral role in making your home a cozy, comfortable place where you want to spend time.  Whether you are in a tiny New York City apartment or have just chosen to simplify your life and downsize,  multipurpose furniture plays even a bigger role to combine form and function – especially when it is stylish.

Finding piece that serve more than one purpose saves money. A sofa bed solves three problems – seating during the day and a place to sleep at night and it cuts your costs in half! A sofa bed in a child’s room can transform it into a guest room when needed.

Multipurpose furniture comes in all shapes and sizes. Ottomans with storage compartments offer seating, a place to rest your feet and somewhere to hide the kid’s toys, books, blankets etc. Small stools can work as side tables and seats. Beds can have storage drawers built in underneath.

But before looking for multi-function furniture, define how your family plan to use the space. Do you need storage, function or both? A piece doesn’t have to be used for its intended purpose; use your creativity. I have an antique french dresser as my home office storage and filing system and it looks gorgeous – the mirror even makes the space look bigger. I also use an antique bottle crate I found at a flea market to hold all my smaller bits and pieces in the kitchen. It looks great and is functional storage to boot!

But the main tip – it doesn’t matter what storage you have; at the end of the day make sure every item in your home goes back to the place you have allocated. It is the only way you will keep clutter at bay.

Image courtesy of  http://www.rangkep.com/

Top Tips to Downsize your Wardrobe

All your shirts in a row...

All your shirts in a row…

Downsizing your wardrobe can be one of the most dreaded tasks – you can try and put if off for as long as you can, but reality hits you every morning when you can’t find anything to wear. But it needn’t be!

A recent blog post by Small Notebook highlighted some handy tips for tackling this task:

…I get the general idea that if you haven’t worn a garment within a certain amount of time, you most likely never will, and it’s just taking up space. What’s more important to me is not how long it’s been since I’ve worn it, but why I haven’t worn it.

So if something has remained on the hanger, I start questioning it: Is it the right color? Is it too long or too short? Does it make me look frumpy? Is it worn out? Or do I just have too many clothes?

Understanding why I’m not wearing something helps me make better choices on future shopping trips, and I think that’s smarter than simply tossing clothes just to replace them with more later.

Tips on keeping clothes in other sizes:

• Keep only the clothes that you’ll be happy to see again. Keep the best stuff, not everything.

• Don’t save any clothes that are worn out. The maternity pants that you wore every day during those last weeks because they were the only pair that still fit (and therefore have drops of chocolate ice cream stains on them, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) can be thrown away.

• You want to keep them in a box in your storage space, not in useful closet space with your current size.

• Go through them every year or so to see if you can size down your collection. Even classic styles can change every five or seven years. (Think how different denim looks now from a few years ago.)

• If you think it’s not likely you will wear them again, don’t save them, but don’t be afraid to set clothes aside in case you can wear them in the future. That’s kind of the whole point of storage space: using it for good, not for clutter.

To read the entire article click here. 

How to achieve a balanced life

 

Which way should you turn?

Being that today is 1/1/11 and I was contemplating today’s blog at 11:11, I thought it should be about creating a balanced life – something this is at the top of everyone’s New Year’s resolutions.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I love Zen Habits http://zenhabits.net/. Everything that Leo Babauta writes about always seems to strike a cord with me.

In this article, Leo explains how to find your balance, and do what you love. So…what can you give up this year that can be replaced by something you would love to do, if only you had the time?

How to achieve a balanced life

The first thing to point out is that work isn’t separate from life — it’s a part of it. For some people, it’s not a fun part of life, but for others, it’s a passion. Either way, it’s a part of our lives, good or bad.

Of course, when people talk about a work-life balance, they mean that we should find a balance between work and our personal lives, which is definitely true. But it’s important to realize that if work is really something you love, you don’t need to cut it short in order to spend more time at home in front of the television.

So the key is to remember that what we’re looking for is a balance between the things we love — not just work and the rest of life, but work and family and hobbies and chores and everything else.

What Do You Love? What are the things you love to do?

That’s the question to start with. My friend Norm loves photography, but I think he also really enjoys jiu-jitsu and spending time with close friends, among other things. For myself, my favorite things in the world include spending time with my family, writing, reading and running. What’s on your short list?

One of the things on your list might be your work — or the work you want to do (as opposed to the work you’re doing right now). But others could include your favorite hobbies or other passions, ways to relax and have fun, exercise or other outdoor activities, reading and learning, shopping or eating or entertainment, volunteering, or spending time with people who are important to you. There are as many other possibilities as there are people in the world, of course.

Create your short list now, and then continue to the next section.

Creating Space in Your Life

It’s time to take a Big Picture look at your life — how are you spending your time right now? How long do you work (and how much of that time is spent on doing what you really love about your work)? What do you do before and after work? What do you do on your days off?

Now think about all the things you do, and how many of them are on your short list. For the things not on your short list, what can you eliminate? Some things might be big commitments that are hard to get out of — but over time, you can get out of them.

Learn to say no, and learn how to tell people that you can no longer commit to doing something. It’s not always easy, but remember that this is your life, and you should do what you really want to do, not what others want you to do.

Really think hard about how you can eliminate the non-essential things in your life (the non-short list stuff). Work on this over time, and create the space in your life that you need for the things you love. Be sure to allot that time you’ve created to the things on your short list — don’t just use it up with television or other space fillers.

Finding That Balance

Once you’ve created space in your life for the things you love, it’s just a matter of finding the right balance between them. You could have a life filled with all the things you love doing, but it could still be almost all work. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that if you love your work and it doesn’t have negative consequences (on your health or family relationships, for example), for many people it’s better to have other things balancing out their lives.

Why is a balance between several things that you love better than just one thing that you love? Well, there are a number of reasons that would depend on your situation. For one thing, if you have an office job you might not be getting outdoors enough, or getting enough exercise, and your health might suffer. Another reason is that you might have family and/or friends and if you work all the time you’re neglecting them — and those relationships will suffer. You might also get lonely if you work all the time. Another major problem is burnout — working all the time (or doing any activity all the time) can lead to stress and fatigue, and could make that activity less enjoyable.

Variety is a good thing — it keeps life interesting. So mix things up a bit. For some ideas on how to do this continue reading here:

http://zenhabits.net/how-to-find-that-elusive-balance-between-work-and-life/

Traveling Lightly Through Life

 

‘A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu

Pack all your troubles in your kit bag!

By Francine Jay of Miss Minimalist.

I’m often asked what inspired me to become a minimalist. The answer: I fell in love with traveling lightly.

After over-packing on a few trips—and suffering the misery of lugging around a heavy suitcase—I vowed never to check a bag again. On my first trip to Europe, I opted for a small carry-on instead (replacing my wardrobe of clothes with a packet of laundry detergent).

The experience was exhilarating! I was mobile, flexible, and fancy free. I felt like I could go anywhere, and do anything, when I wasn’t loaded down with stuff. And I thought, wow, if it feels this great to travel lightly, how wonderful would it be to live this way?

I began to edit the contents of my home with the same fervor as I had my suitcase. As I slowly ditched the extra “baggage,” I could feel the weight being lifted from my shoulders.

Lighten your load

Excess possessions are like excess luggage: they can tie us down, get in the way, and drain our sense of energy and adventure. (Have you ever passed up a job offer because of the hassle of moving, or a vacation because there was nobody to “watch the house”?)

Conversely, the less stuff we have to worry about, the more nimble we become—and the better able to embrace new opportunities and experiences.

To regain our freedom, we simply need to lighten our loads. We can accomplish that by borrowing a few packing techniques:

Start with a clean slate. Travelers start with an empty suitcase, and select each item that goes into it. Take a similar approach when decluttering: empty the entire contents of the drawer, closet, or room you’re working on. Then carefully consider each item, and decide whether to return it to the space. Choose what to keep, rather than what to toss.

Question every item. In a small carry-on, every item must pull its weight. Demand the same of your household possessions: have a conversation with your stuff, and ask what value it adds to your life. If the answer is “not much,” give it the heave-ho.

Set limits. To keep his bag light, a traveler might limit his pants to two, his shirts to three, and his socks to four. Use a similar strategy to keep your stuff under control: decide, for example, to own only five sweaters, fifty books, or the amount of craft supplies that’ll fit into one storage box.

Use modules. Take inspiration from packing cubes, and gather like items (cosmetics, office supplies, video games) into separate “modules.” Consolidating your stuff helps you see how much you have, weed out duplicates, and keep a lid on further accumulation.

Think versatility. To save space, light packers favor items that do double- or triple-duty (like clothes that can be dressed up or down, and layered for different climates). Use the same principle in your home: choose versatile or multi-functional items (like a sleeper sofa, or all-purpose saute pan) over single-task ones.

Digitize. Digital music, books, and documents are not only easier to transport—they’re also easier to store. Use technology to transform physical possessions into bits and bytes: scan paperwork, convert CDs to MP3s, and buy electronic books instead of paper ones.

Live on the edge. The light traveler addresses her needs as they arise; if she runs out of toothpaste in Tokyo, she simply buys some more. Adopt a similar philosophy at home: instead of stockpiling stuff or holding on to “just in cases,” acquire things on an as-needed basis.

Continue to read this article here: http://zenhabits.net/light-life/

 

Downsize your work and your life!

By Leo Babauta from Zen Habits

One word says it all...

How much of your day is spent doing administrative tasks, and not creating or doing other important work?

How much time do you spend responding to emails and IMs and social networks, making payments, doing paperwork, filing, sitting in meetings, driving, doing errands, and so on? How much of that could be cleared up for more important work?

Imagine this for a moment: you have no administrative tasks, only the core work that you love doing. Your day has been cleared for creating, building, doing high-impact projects. Isn’t it lovely?

Is this a pipe dream? Perhaps for some, who have little control over their work. But if you have a larger degree of control, let’s explore the idea of “frictionless work” or even “frictionless living”.

If you have little control, consider a change.

What Are Your Admin Tasks?

Take inventory of your work: what admin tasks take up your time? Add to this list over the course of the next couple of days, because you’re probably forgetting some.

Now ask yourself: which of these can be eliminated? Many of you will probably answer, “Very few”, because you’re used to the way things are done. “This is how things are done.” But that’s an artificial limitation — instead, ask yourself how it can be changed. How might it be possible? Think radically different.

To eliminate tasks, you might have to make major changes over time, but the beauty is that you’ll also be freeing up time. Consider some examples:

If you do a lot of paperwork, can you require forms to be filled out digitally, perhaps online? This will eliminate a lot of work, and if the database is set up right, eliminate filing.

If you spend a lot of time on calls or email, can you provide other ways for people to get info or get things done? Perhaps put up an FAQ online, so common questions are answered (like Google does for its product support), or provide web pages where people can automatically download products or get other things done without you as the bottleneck? Or can you route those requests to someone else?

Also unsubscribe from newsletters and notifications and so forth, so you don’t have to spend time processing them in your inbox. Consider each email that comes in and ask yourself: “How could this be eliminated?”

Can you eliminate meetings, or at least get out of them? How can you get the info without meetings? How can projects get done without the meetings?

If you worked at home, you wouldn’t have to commute, or do a lot of other tasks associated with working in an office. It’s not always possible, but often you can work towards that goal.

Can you drop clients or parts of your business, losing a little income but eliminating all the admin work that goes with it? The free time could be spent creating something that would more than make up for the loss of income.

Can you eliminate features that aren’t completely essential, so you don’t have to do all the work to support those features (similar to how I eliminated comments)?

Can you stop worrying so much about growth, customers, competitors, statistics, and so forth — and focus instead on what you love doing?

A great quote by web designer and developer Sam Brown: “I used to stress a lot about my business, my clients, the amount of work I was doing and my competitors – but the minute I stopped worrying about all of that and focussed on just doing great work that I was happy with it really made a big difference, to me and my business.”

If you think a task is necessary under the current conditions, consider changing the current conditions.

These are just a few ideas and questions to get you started, but you can see that by radically rethinking your work, you might be able to eliminate a lot of admin tasks.

And free up time for what truly matters.

This concept of eliminating admin work can apply to your personal life as well. Imagine your personal time with as few chores, errands, paperwork, and commitments as possible. You’d be free to … well, do what you love most.

I can’t claim to have done this completely, but I have made huge progress towards a frictionless life. Of course, I still have chores to do (washing dishes, laundry, etc.), but I’ve eliminated a lot of personal tasks:

I don’t pay bills anymore. I either pay them in advance if I get a big lump payment, or I set up automatic payments each month. In fact, because all my transactions are electronic, I never go to the bank.

I don’t file personal paperwork anymore. I’ve gone paperless, so all documents that I needed to keep are scanned, and everything else is already digital. Even contracts are done digitally.

Housework is minimal. Admittedly, my wife does the laundry, but we share in cooking and cleaning duties, and most of it is painless as we have a pretty sparse home. It’s fairly clean all the time.

Errands are minimal too. Mostly it’s going to the grocery store or post office, and we moved last year so those are within walking distance. So we often walk to those errands, getting a nice workout and enjoying the outdoors in the process.

There isn’t much else we have to do, except things with our kids and each other. The fun stuff. Much of the friction of living has been eliminated.

It’s not always easy to change your work and your life to get rid of the friction of admin tasks, but once you do, it’s simply lovely.

However, there will likely be a temptation to fill up your freed time with more email, social networking, blog reading, and so on. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but before you do, consider how you really want to spend your time.

Do you want to remove the friction just to fritter it away with distractions?

I’m a big fan of doing nothing, of solitude and relaxing and playing. So if that’s how you use your freed time, I’m jumping with joy.

You might, however, spend this time creating, and that’s one of the true wonders of creating frictionless work and a frictionless life.

Spend your time doing what you love, living your passion, making something new and beautiful. You’ll be glad you did.