Decluttering

A Tip for Avoiding Piles

Garbage can

Piles. We all have them. They start as innocuous little stacks. They might even appear neat, at first. Good intentions are nearly always behind them. But piles are a slippery slope.

Part of having a place for everything (a mantra I firmly believe in) includes having a place for the discards. Oddly enough, the discards tend to make up a substantial portion of the clutter in people’s lives—they stick around much longer than intended. Luckily, there are some really easy solutions. For example:

Add a trash can. This basic necessity is very often absent from a cluttered room. When helping a client, I often find piles of paper merely waiting to be disposed of in a trash can … in another room. Adding a small trash can to most rooms makes a significant difference in deflecting clutter—especially in the foyer, office, laundry, and mudroom areas. (Recycling this paper would be even better, but let’s take baby steps …)

Relocate the laundry hamper. The most common reason dirty laundry piles up in the wrong place is that the hamper is either inaccessible or inconvenient (or both). Think about where it would be most useful to have your hamper—the location of the pile is usually a good hint—and then put the hamper there if you can.

Designate a bag for donations. I highly recommend always having a Goodwill bag at the ready. It is more likely to be filled and prevents the piles from happening elsewhere.

Put store returns in the car. A small basket in the trunk is great for holding items to be returned. Keep the item in its original bag along with the receipt, if you can.

Set aside clothes for consignment. I keep these items on hangers all together in the back of my closet. I make a trip to the consignment store at the start of each season. With the clothes already cleaned and corralled, it doesn’t feel like a big chore. Also, by separating them, I am not dealing with them every time I open my closet.

Bag children’s outgrown clothing. I have a bag in each child’s closet to hold clothes they outgrow, and I add to it frequently. Then, once a season, I move those clothes to the attic for long-term storage (until we decide whether or not to go for #3!) .

Corral presents for others. Designate one area where gifts are stored until they are given. Might seem a little too Type A, but I can’t tell you how often I unearth gifts meant for others while helping clients clean out. They couldn’t find the original gift so had to purchase another!

All of this comes down to convenience. If something is inconvenient, most people simply won’t do it. By providing these much needed collection points, the ease of putting things in the right place outweighs the temptation to let it pile up.

While these tips might seem fairly obvious, it is just like eating right, exercising daily and going to bed at a decent hour … Advice we hear routinely and yet we still struggle to do it sometimes. So hopefully this gentle reminder will help nudge you in the right direction.

An Abundance of Extras

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We will soon be moving to a new house, and with that comes a lot of planning. The new house has a fair amount of additional storage, and I was happily plotting where things would go … particularly in the closets. And that’s when I noticed a word excessively present in one area.

Extra.

In a hall closet, I was planning to put extra craft supplies, extra fabric, extra artwork & frames, extra lamps, extra blankets … and more. For someone who diligently avoids clutter, I had somehow nearly filled an entire closet with only extras. Yikes.

I was humbled. And embarrassed.

What am I saving these things for? Why the extras, particularly for such superfluous categories? To be fair, some of the things were genuinely saved for when we moved to a bigger house, which is now happening … Some of them … I don’t know.

I’ve got some sorting to do. If the extras are not pretty immediately employed in the new house, out they will go. And hopefully that closet will dwindle down to much less content.

We’ve all got stuff we can get rid of—even when we might think otherwise. What extras might you be holding on to?

Let’s Not Have It All

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I am pretty confident that I don’t want it all. I have a feeling you might not want it all either.

I’ve talked before about the power of editing, and here is a terrific quote I just came across by the authors of Rework,

“Be a curator. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. … it’s the stuff you leave out that matters.”

So, so true. All and more are not the answers.

If we really have it all, that means our homes are packed to the gills with stuff that someone else deemed worthy. And if we do it all, we might not be honoring how we actually want to spend our time.

Perhaps this is simplifying things a bit, but I think you know what I mean.

This year, maybe we can aim for something different—not less and not more, but right for me. If we ask ourselves with every purchase and every commitment, “is this really right for me and my family?” I think our lives will start to lead us down a beautiful path.

Right for me means identifying and embracing what brings us joy. And perhaps letting go of the rest.

Maybe this means backing off some commitments or cleaning out a closet or two. Maybe we need more time outside or maybe more time on the phone with our best friend who lives across the country. Whether we need more or less of something can only be determined by our own circumstances. But certainly it should be what’s right for us and what brings us joy—not what some magazine (or blog!) says we should be doing with our lives.

Happy 2015. Let’s make it a great year.

Photo by me. One of the first blooms from my new japonica. Nothing like a big, bright white flower on a gray winter day.

Keeping It Simple: Uniforms

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from everlane, a favorite store. their 2014 fall/winter line just launched—don’t miss it.

Having a smaller wardrobe, I tend to wear the same things over and over. More or less a uniform, you could say. With two young children, it just accidentally evolved this way to make my life easier. Little thought input, maximum looking good/feeling good output.

Preston often talks about a “runaround uniform” and I love that idea. A go-to look for those days where you don’t necessarily need to look extremely professional but still presentable. A perfect solution especially for stay-at-home moms.

Another way to view this is “worst case scenario” dressing. Meaning, your go-to uniform will work no matter where you go (work, errands, appointments, park) and how you feel (exhausted, bloated, rushed). A big part of this is finding and choosing clothes that fit. Once you’ve landed on those core pieces that always feel right, just keep wearing them! Invest in a few pairs of the same perfect pants, the right tops and the amazingly comfortable shoes. No need to reinvent the wheel each morning.

Variety is not the key here. Sounds boring or strange? That’s okay. You won’t care because your mornings just got a heck of a lot easier. And no one else will care either—I promise.

Everyone’s uniform will look different and of course change from season to season. I don’t aspire to be extremely fashionable—just to feel comfortable and look good enough with the ultimate goal of keeping things simple.

Are your clothes making your mornings easier or more complicated? How could you simplify? More tips for decluttering clothes here and here.

A Tip for Avoiding Impulse Buys

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My 3 criteria for all purchases (needed, non-toxic and beautiful) are wonderful in theory, but sometimes they still aren’t enough to stave off an impulse buy. So then I ask myself another very important question:

Where am I going to store this?

If I cannot imagine where it will go or what I will get rid of to accommodate the new item, then I don’t buy it. Annie wrote about this a while ago, and called it “living within your spatial means.” Brilliant concept. And it really works. If I am unable or unwilling to make room for something new, I probably shouldn’t be buying it.

Usually this does the trick. More on keeping out the clutter here.