7 ways to move through your clutter from the inside out

Woman in painWhen it comes to clutter, many people think it is just being messy. You can hear them while watching an episode of Hoarders: ” why can’t they just tidy up and throw things out?”

In many cases it is a lot more complicated than this and it has to do with the mental and emotional road blocks which the person in question is facing, resulting in the clutter being a by-product rather than the underlying problem.

A recent article on the website Houzz gave some great tips to move through some of these road blocks:

Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back.

Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.

 1. Come to terms with whether you’re naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.

2. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don’t want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.

3. Tackle your top problem area. What’s the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.

4. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.

5. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off in sanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.

6. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.

7. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don’t use.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of: scentsandmoods.wordpress.com

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10 Ways to Reduce and Simplify Your Stuff

To fold or not to fold...

I was talking to a client with 3 young children on the phone yesterday and her biggest problem is she just can’t get on top of the washing – whether it is folding it, ironing it, putting it away – it just kept piling up all over the house. My advice to her was, will the world end if the washing isn’t folded? Her priorities have changed from when she was a single, care free, house proud woman to a sleep deprived mother of 3 and I suggested that she stop beating herself up and be more easier on herself. I think we can all take this advice when it comes to house work!

This morning I read a blog from Small Notebook that also touched on the same topic that I thought I would share:

If you’ve come upon a brick wall in your efforts to reduce and simplify, take heart.

I’m afraid we have the idea that if we can declutter enough, if we can reduce our possessions, if we can stop being concerned about having things, then our lives will become simple, and it simply isn’t true.

Owning fewer things definitely helps, but it doesn’t solve everything. The process of reducing doesn’t even end because there are always more papers or something to go through later.

But we do have a few other tricks to simplify and make things easier.

1.  At our house each family member gets one cup in the morning and uses it all day. (“You want a drink, child? Where is your cup?”) At the end of the day there are four cups to wash, not sixteen.

2. There is no possible way, no chance, that I could keep my family’s stuff picked up all by myself. Even though I have seriously decluttered, there is still too much mess for one person. Keeping it all picked up is something our family does together, five minutes at a time with a song playing, and we all help to pick up each other’s things, not just our own.

3. Organise your stuff, but know when to stop. Organising your stuff should save you time, not consume it.

4. Put hooks on the wall in the entry way so you have a place to hang coats and bags and keys. When your family comes home tired, it needs to be as easy as possible to put things where they should go.

5. Fake it. Move all the papers on your messy desk into a tote bag, or simply close the door to a disorderly closet. One day you’ll have to deal with them, but you don’t need to have everything simplified right this minute.

6. Don’t let the dishes pile up. I know all too well the feeling of “I can’t do the dishes because the sink is too full of dirty dishes.” It’s a downward spiral.

7. Keep your bag ready by the door so you have the essentials you need, without having to remember them every time.

8. Box up half of your child’s toys and rotate them every once in a while. You don’t need to get rid of them, but they don’t all need to be on display or on the floor. Better yet, let your child decide which toys he is done playing with for a while. Do the same with children’s books.

9. Declare toy-free areas. My kids can play with their toys in their bedroom and the living room, but my bedroom and the kitchen get to stay toy-free.

10. Give up. I have a quilt that goes on the couch, and I used to keep it nicely folded. I was folding this quilt four times a day because I was the only one who cared. Why?! Now I just throw it on the couch and it looks fine.

Read more here: http://smallnotebook.org/2011/03/01/10-ways-to-simplify-without-becoming-a-minimalist/

 

 

 

7 secrets to packing & travelling light

And no waiting for luggage at the carousel!

I am heading to New Zealand next week, firstly for a conference and then I am taking some days to explore the South Island, particularly Milford Sound.

I am so looking forward to it, but now the challenge begins – how can I take two weeks worth of clothes into a cabin bag? (I am flying Jetstar Light and I know they are Nazis when it comes to weight restrictions!)

So I thought I would share with you my tips for packing light:

1. Coordinate your clothes around one or two basic colors (preferably black and white). This cuts down on the number of shoes and accessories you have to bring.

2. Take as few clothes as possible. Plan on laundering.

3. Wear and carry washable silk clothing whenever possible. It is as warm as and as cool as cotton. It dries overnight.

4. A lightweight rain coat can double as a windbreaker or a coat to keep the chill off in fine weather.

5. Take older clothes that can be discarded along the way.  Think how much shopping can fit in the space.

6. Jeans – never take them as they take so long to dry, take lighter weight pants.

7. Two pairs of shoes – walking and a bit dressier. That is it!

 

7 Top Tips to Finding the Elusive Work-Life Balance

There has to be more to life than this?

As well as the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I have also joined another Facebook challenge called the 30-Day ‘Tude Challenge!  In this group we have shared our goals for the beginning of the new year and what we can achieve in 30 days, step by step.

My goal was to spend less time in front of my laptop and more time in the “real world”. Unfortunately the horrific floods in Brisbane put a stop to that as I was constantly online researching and sharing information via social media to try and help those affected (while making sure the waters didn’t get to me!)

But then lo and behold in my inbox today came my fix of Zen Habits. He always seems to nail it on the head for whatever situation I happen to be in and today was no different: Finding the elusive work-life balance. Here are the seven tips that were outlined (No. 4 was particularly important for me):

1. Set a time to shut off work. Working all day and night means you are nothing but your job. Your life belongs to your employer (or if you’re the employer then your life belongs to your employees or customers). Take ownership of your life — find variety and ways to burn off stress and find enjoyment in life! Start by setting a time each day when you shut off work. Whether that’s 5 p.m. or 5:30 or 6 or 7 or 9 p.m. Some of you can set it even earlier if you start earlier — say 4 p.m. or something like that. Set that time and make it happen. After that shut-off time you will not do work or check email or think about work.

2. Find something to immerse yourself in after work. What do you love doing besides work? Do you love to read or run or play sports or hang out with friends or play with your kids or build model ships or play games? If you don’t already have a passion then pick something that sounds fun and give it a try. It doesn’t have to be expensive — it could be as simple as hiking around your neighborhood or volunteering at a charity or helping friends with household projects. Schedule it as soon after work as possible. And while you’re doing it try to completely immerse yourself. Don’t think about work — only think about the after-work activity.

3. Learn to be mindful and present. It’s not easy to just switch your mind off work but it’s a skill you can learn over time. The way to learn this isn’t to try to block work from your mind — it’s to learn to bring your mind back to whatever you’re doing after work. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing: it could be household chores or exercise or talking with someone or taking a bath or eating. Whatever it is … that’s all you want to focus on. Your mind will inevitably slip into something else. That’s OK. Bring it back gently and without reprimand. Slowly with practice you will get better at being present. Which means your work won’t always be on your mind.

4. Take breaks at work. Not everyone will have this flexibility but it’s worth doing if you can manage it. Basically if you’re working for 8 or 10 hours you don’t want to do it non-stop. You need to find balance even at work. So at least once an hour get up and walk around. Get outside if you can and take a walk. Stretch and massage your shoulders and get your blood moving. Do some squats or pushups if you want to start getting fit. Talk to someone. Drink water. Eat fruits and vegetables. Your break just needs to be 5-10 minutes but it’s important.

5. Increase your skills while at work — to prepare for leaving work. If you are very skilled at what you do then you become worth more. In fact it’s often possible to quit your job and start your own business if you’re good enough. And it doesn’t take a lot of money to work for yourself — you can start a business with practically no money. I started mine while still working full time: my job funded my startup business. Even if you don’t go into business for yourself you’ll be worth more with a high skill level. So devote your work hours to learning and perfecting your work skills.

6. Find ways to increase your income while decreasing hours. As your skills increase your value increases. Slowly pick jobs or projects that earn more money per hour. This often means changing jobs but it might be a promotion or change in roles. It could mean starting your own business or becoming a consultant. If you already have your own business or work for yourself then you should slowly be picking jobs or business projects that pay more for every hour you spend working on them. By increasing income you can decrease hours and free up more time for yourself.

7. Learn that you are not defined by work. You can be happy without your job. Your value isn’t completely tied to your work. For example: I’m a writer but it’s not the only thing I am. I’m also a father and husband and know that those are my most important roles — not my role as a writer. I am more than that as well: I run and read and learn and help others and am constantly experimenting with life. I can do things other than my job and be fulfilled. So can you. And once you discover this you’ll free yourself to find a life outside of work. Then balance is simply a matter of logistics — you just need to make it happen by taking small steps.

Read more here: http://zenhabits.net/life-balance/

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/

 

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/

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/