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/

5 top tips to letting go of sentimental items

Love letters - keep or toss?

I was watching a fabulous show on Foxtel last night called Real Simple, Real Life (based on my favourite magazine Real Simple in the States). They were going through a woman’s treasure chest (it literally was a chest) helping her to sort through all her sentimental items from the past 50 years. It really got me thinking – why do we have so many emotions tied to “things”?

I love another blog called Small Notebook and what they said on this topic really resonated with me.

When it comes to keeping sentimental things, the fewer things you keep, the more special they are. The opposite is also true. Too many sentimental things become less loved and more burdensome.

Keepsakes are meant to give an inspiring glimpse and momentary remembrance of the past.  They aren’t meant to be a full historical archive that will consume someone’s current life.

If you need to lighten up your sentimental keepsakes, follow these important tips:

Keep: love letters your husband wrote when you were dating
Don’t keep: cards and letters from former boyfriends

Keep: an invitation from your wedding
Don’t keep: the paper napkins and matchbooks embossed with your name

Keep: your baby’s hospital hat and bracelet
Don’t keep: your baby’s stroller and car seat

Keep: a photo of your 3rd grade softball team
Don’t keep: all the trophies and medals you won (or take the award plates off)

Keep: a special birthday card from your grandma
Don’t keep: every birthday card from your grandma

It’s hard to let go of sentimental items, believe me, I know. But do we really need all of them?

To read more go to: http://smallnotebook.org/2008/09/22/holding-on-to-sentimental-things/

How tragedy can have a silver lining

Don't dwell on the stuff

“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.”~Dalai Lama

The worst is over in Brisbane re the flood peak – however it is the aftermath of the cleanup that is going to be the biggest challenge. I always try to look on the bright side of situations and think of the opportunities that may arise. Whether is be the sheer will of human spirit and complete strangers helping each other, through to family time spent together playing games with the power out and happy memories this may create.

When it comes to loosing everything in a fire or a flood, we have to remember it is just “stuff” – as long as you are alive and you have support from others to continue on, the stuff is secondary (if not heartbreaking).

Here is a great article from Zen Habits “Letting go of attachment from A to Zen”, that I found to be helpful:

If there’s one thing we all have in common it’s that we want to feel happy; and on the other side of that coin, we want to avoid hurting. Yet we consistently put ourselves in situations that set us up for pain.

We pin our happiness to people, circumstances, and things and hold onto them for dear life. We stress about the possibility of losing them when something seems amiss. Then we melt into grief when something changes—a lay off, a break up, a transfer.

We attach to feelings as if they define us, and ironically, not just positive ones. If you’ve wallowed in regret or disappointment for years, it can seem safe and even comforting to suffer.

In trying to hold on to what’s familiar, we limit our ability to experience joy in the present.  A moment can’t possibly radiate fully when you’re suffocating it in fear.

When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important: letting go is letting happiness in.

It’s no simple undertaking to let go of attachment—not a one-time decision, like pulling off a band-aid. Instead, it’s a day-to-day, moment-to-moment commitment that involves changing the way you experience and interact with everything you instinctively want to grasp.

The best approach is to start simple, at the beginning, and work your way to Zen. Read the A-Z here: http://zenhabits.net/zen-attachment/

 

Seeing the world…one bit at a time

The majestic Milford Sound NZ

Seeing that today is Saturday, I thought my post should be more orientated towards pursuits of pleasure. My number one pleasure is travelling – whether that be just a day trip out around my home city of Brisbane Queensland or heading to the other side of the world to discover Turkey like my husband and I did in 2010. Hint: you MUST go to Turkey.

In February I am “jumping the ditch” to New Zealand, firstly for a Professional Organisers conference in Christchurch, then heading off on my own down south to the beautiful Fiordlands to explore Milford Sound. My husband and I were there last year after he returned from six months in Afghanistan (the contrast between brown Afghanistan and green NZ almost blew his mind) but unfortunately a snow storm hit so we couldn’t get in. As an image of Milford Sound is still on my vision board, it is imperative that I make it back.

This time I shall be on my own, travelling by bus, staying at a backpackers in Queenstown, eating two minute noodles – and I can’t wait!  Now…where are my hiking boots?

How to make and KEEP your New Year’s resolutions…

By Sue Shellenbarger at The Wall Street Journal

Ready, set, GO!

Pam Hild has been trying for years to get her holiday preparations organized. Her usual habit was to leave decorating and party arrangements until the last minute, and she sometimes forgot about gifts she had bought and stashed in closets. “I was always a raving maniac over the holidays,” says Ms. Hild of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Several weeks ago, she resolved to try a new approach. With help from a professional organizer, she started planning weeks in advance, posted a calendar of tasks with deadlines on her refrigerator and figured out how she would get back on track when she slipped up. For the first time, she is completely ready, days in advance. Getting there required going beyond just making a resolution. “You have to change your thinking and be able to maintain it.”

In one study of how emotion and cognition interact in decision-making, Dr. Shiv asked some subjects to complete a challenging mental task, memorizing a seven-digit number, while others were asked to remember only two digits. When the same subjects were later given a choice between eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake or a healthy fruit salad, Dr. Shiv says, those who had memorized seven digits were more likely to choose the cake, suggesting that the mental exertion affected their ability to repress the desire for instant gratification and make a healthy choice.

Dr. Shiv recommends a carrot-and-stick approach to a resolution: Focus most of the time on the emotional rewards you will reap for changing your behavior. If you want to lose weight, visualize yourself feeling the benefits, thinking, “If I work hard, I will look so good, and feel so good,” he says. As a stick to help you get started on your new habits, evoke the emotional consequences of failing to change. “Visualize yourself feeling fat, and think, ‘If I don’t work out, I will look like a heavy thing,’ ” and be less satisfied with yourself and your social life. Over time, your resolution “is going to get tagged with those emotions,” which will kick in automatically even when the cognitive parts of your brain are worn out, he says.

Linking your new habits to other pleasant changes can help. Kate S. Brown, a professional organizer in Sarasota, Fla., says some of her clients who struggle with disorganization do better when she has them buy new files that are aesthetically appealing. “If you like color and you create a colorful file system, it creates happy feelings when you use it,” she says.

Mary Dykstra, a Grand Rapids, Mich., professional organizer, coaches people to set specific, realistic goals, then to break each goal into small, measurable steps, with a timetable. This will help avoid the common pitfall of attempting too much, such as losing 40 pounds in two months, and setting yourself up for failure, she says. Also, line up in advance the supplies and resources you need for each new step. If you plan to organize your office, get the shredder or files you need. If you are quitting smoking, get nicotine patches and other cessation aids.

Read the complete article from the Wall Street Journal here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703581204576033824100634278.html

When in doubt – simplify!

By Leo Babauta from Zen Habits

Sit back & let it all go...

It’s the time of year when everyone is in a crazy rush: to shop to decorate to get ingredients to go to parties to travel to get last-minute work done to go to the kids’ Christmas pageants to go caroling to get those to-dos done.

There is a single answer to just about all your problems — Christmas or otherwise:

Simplify.

It’s the answer to your time-management problems: instead of trying to figure out how to manage your schedule try simplifying it. Do less. Say no to projects and meetings. Cut back on commitments. Have less on your schedule and you’ll eliminate the problem of trying to manage it all. You’ll also have less stress and love life more.

It’s the answer to your financial problems: instead of trying to manage all your bills and debts try simplifying. Spend less. Shop less. Do without for a bit. Cut back on your bills. Have fewer credit accounts. Eliminate debt and have less stress.

It’s also the answer to your storage problems: instead of trying to find more storage for all your stuff try simplifying. Reduce clutter. Having less stuff requires less storage (even a smaller home) and is less stressful. You’ll also save lots of money in storage and maintenance.

For more go to: http://zenhabits.net/always-simple/

 

The Little Book of Procrastination Remedies

Post written by Leo Babauta

What does your future hold?

Procrastination is one of those topics that, it seems, I can’t write enough about. There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate, and that’s a fact of life.

It’s deep within us. We think we’re going to do something later, or read that classic novel later, or learn French later. But we always overestimate how much we can do later, and we overestimate the ability of our later selves to beat procrastination.

If our current self can’t beat procrastination, why will our future self do it?

I thought I should cover some of the best procrastination-beating strategies, in light of my recent book, focus. People seem to want ways to beat procrastination, so they can actually get down to focusing.

Here’s a quick guide.

Why We Procrastinate

Let’s take a quick look at what makes us procrastinate. There are several reasons, which are related in various ways:

1. We want instant gratification. Resting on the couch is thought of as nicer, right now, than going on a run. Reading blogs is easier, right now, than reading a classic novel. Checking email or Facebook is easier, now, than doing that project you’ve been putting off. Eating chocolate cake is tastier, right now, than eating veggies.

2. We fear/dread something. We might not write that chapter in our book because there are problems with the writing that we haven’t figured out (often because we haven’t thought it through). Or we might be afraid we’re going to fail, or look ignorant or stupid. We’re most often afraid of the unknown, which has more power because we don’t examine this fear — it just lurks in the back of our minds. Dreading or fearing something makes us want to put it off, to postpone even thinking about it, and to do something easy and safe instead.

3. It’s easy – no negative consequences right now. When we were in school and had a teacher looking over our shoulders and scolding us if we didn’t do our work, we tended to do the work (until some of us learned that we could tune out the scolding, that is). But when we got home, sometimes no one would be looking over our shoulders … so there wasn’t any immediate negative consequence to watching TV or playing games instead. Sure, we’d get a bad grade tomorrow, but that’s not right now. The same is true of using the Internet or doing other kinds of procrastination tasks — we’ll pay for it later, but right now, no one is getting mad at us.

4. We overestimate our future self. We often have a long list of things we plan to do, because we think we can do a lot in the future. The reality is usually a little worse than we expected, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking the future will be different yet again. For the same reason, we think it’s OK to procrastinate, because we’re going to do it later, for sure. Our future self will be incredibly productive and focused! Except, our future self is also lazy, and doesn’t do it either. Damn future self.

Four Powerful Solutions

Now that we know the problems, the solutions aren’t that hard to figure out. Just don’t put them off, OK? To find out what they are click here: http://zenhabits.net/procrastination/

 

Where does this belong?

By Written & Curated by Patrick Rhone of Minimial Mac.

Hey. You. Yes, you! Come over here. I’m going to tell you a secret. OK, well, it’s not really a secret. It’s more of a question. A most important question. One that, when asked, can provide a wealth of productive power…

“Where does this belong?”

Want to know how to organize a messy desk? Take everything off, put it in a box, then take each item out, and ask that question.

For some items, the answer is obvious. For other items, maybe they don’t have a place – find one. Maybe the answer is not “on the desk” or even “in the room”. Maybe the answer is not even “in the house” or “in my life”.

Answering this question can not only make the clean up quick but also ensure quick work when things get out of control again. Because, everything belongs somewhere and now you know where that somewhere is.

The thing is, this question works with more than just clutter.

Want to make your task list more powerful? Ask that question of each task. Sometimes the answer is “as an immediate action”. Sometimes the answer is “on a context specific list” or “broken into smaller chunks”. Sometimes, the answer is “as part of a greater project or goal”. But, sometimes, the answer is “with someone else” or “done at some future date” or “not done at all”.

Want to get your email inbox under control? Never look at another message without asking the question. Does it belong in the inbox now that you have looked at it? No? Perhaps in a separate folder of things you need to take action on or respond to. Perhaps in a folder for reference on a project you are working on. Perhaps read and archived. Perhaps in the trash.

But, where the question becomes truly powerful, is when you apply the question to everything. Because if something does not have a place in your home, in your relationships, in your job, or or in your life, perhaps it should not be there.

 

How to be a positive person

By Leo Babauta from Zen Habits

Just think happy thoughts!

I’m a pretty positive person — I consider it one of the keys to the modest success I’ve had in creating new habits and achieving things in the last few years.

Positive thinking, as trite as it seems, has changed my life.

I’m not going to sell you on it, but if you’re interested, here’s the condensed guide to changing your own life:

  • Realize it’s possible, instead of telling yourself why you can’t.
  • Become aware of your self-talk.
  • Squash negative thoughts like a bug.
  • Replace them with positive thoughts.
  • Love what you have already.
  • Be grateful for your life, your gifts, and other people.
  • Every day.
  • Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • But be inspired by them.
  • Accept criticism with grace.
  • But ignore the naysayers.
  • See bad things as a blessing in disguise.
  • See failure as a stepping stone to success.
  • Surround yourself by those who are positive.
  • Complain less, smile more.
  • Image that you’re already positive.
  • Then become that person in your next act.
  • Focus on this habit first, and you’ll have a much easier time with any other.

‘A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.’ ~Herm Albright

A brief guide to life…

I just love this post written by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

Just stop and breathe...

Life can be ridiculously complicated, if you let it. I suggest we simplify.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, which I’ve stolen as this site’s subtitle, is the shortest guide to life you’ll ever need:

“Smile, breath, and go slowly.”

If you live your life by those five words, you’ll do pretty well. For those who need a little more guidance, I’ve distilled the lessons I’ve learned (so far) into a few guidelines, or reminders, really.

And as always, these rules are meant to be broken. Life wouldn’t be any fun if they weren’t.

the brief guide

less TV, more reading
less shopping, more outdoors
less clutter, more space
less rush, more slowness
less consuming, more creating
less junk, more real food
less busywork, more impact
less driving, more walking
less noise, more solitude
less focus on the future, more on the present
less work, more play
less worry, more smiles
breathe