by Susan Caplan McCarthy
When you hear the word productivity, you probably think that it’s all about doing more by working faster. Well, yes and no. Productivity, that land of lists, tickler files, and timers, can help you work with intention on the things most important to you.
You’ve probably crawled into bed on more than a few nights and wondered what you did all day. You know you were busy, but at the end of the day, none of it really seemed important. Too many days like that and you might start wondering about your purpose in life – is it about running to the grocery store, doing laundry, answering emails, sitting in meetings, photocopying reports, and emptying the dishwasher, again?
I think when we declutter our homes or otherwise try to simplify our lives, it’s because we want more meaning to our days. We create a vision for our life as well as our home. We want a more peaceful relationship with our partner and so we ban the kids’ toys and the treadmill from the bedroom. We want to expand our relationship with friends and family, so we clear the dining room and living room, creating space to entertain.
By being productive, we are doing things on purpose. When we consider why we are doing something, we are building our motivation. When faced with two activities, one that helps us to achieve our vision for our life versus an entertaining distraction, we have a better incentive for doing the more difficult, more meaningful task.
Five Tips to Help You Be More Purposeful
The tips below may seem like nothing earth-shattering; but, here’s my question to you – Do you do these things? I know that too often I don’t.
Schedule It. The tips listed below will only work if you take the time to do them. Although we think we’ll find time and squeeze it in, putting a task on our calendar creates a higher likelihood that we’ll actually do it.
Write It Down. I know, this sounds so simple, write writing things down helps us clarify our thoughts. Write down all the thoughts about things you need to do at some point. Write down your goals. Write down what you’re grateful for. Record your progress on a project. Instead of keeping a vague thought rattling around in your mind, writing it down makes it a bit more ‘real.’
Break It Down. A project involves multiple steps and, usually, a deadline. Make a list of all the things you need to do to accomplish something. Do you need to make phone calls? Have meetings? Look up something online? Clear the bed in the guest bedroom?
Review and Reflect. At the beginning or end of each day, week, month, and year, review what you want to accomplish during that time. Reflect on your progress. This allows you to monitor if you are doing the things that you want to do and you’re keeping tabs on whether these things are important or not.
Make Course Corrections. You know how you broke your project down into multiple steps? You know how you’ve been reviewing what you’ve accomplished each day-week-month? You do this so that you can make course corrections. Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds in a year. You know that by June you should have lost 25 pounds and by March 12 or 13 pounds. If it’s March and you’ve lost five pounds, you know you are off course. Chances are, if you were reviewing your progress each week, you would have realized well before March that you weren’t losing the pound a week you needed so to accomplish your goal.
Although these are simple tips, do you do all of them? While you may be in the habit of writing things down, maybe even breaking some projects into manageable steps, do you take the time to reflect on your progress and make course corrections? If you do, you won’t discover you’ve been busily unproductive.
More to read:
What’s Your Why for Clearing the Clutter?
The Simple Living Side to Productivity
Envision a Clutter-free Life with this Time-Travelling Visualization
Which of your habits helps you to feel productive? Comment below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Chances are that at some point in the not-too-distant past, you decluttered an area only to notice a month (or a week) later that clutter had crept in. You sighed in exasperation, cleaned the area again only to have the clutter reappear. At some point, life got busier than usual and by the time you lifted your head and looked around, the clutter had not only returned but spread. Ack!
Ack! Ack! Ack!
Unfortunately, no matter how much effort we put into decluttering, we’ll always have to engage in maintenance. While picking up things that clutter our spaces here and there during the week does help, you already know that a routine of daily maintenance is best. But, yeah, life, time, and all that stuff.
What Is Clutter?
Although we may think of clutter as something that can be thrown out, clutter can also be anything that’s left in the wrong place. A mug put away in the cabinet is in the right place. A mug sitting on the coffee table hours after someone finished with it has become clutter.
This is why organized folks will often recite the axiom, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ Annoying but true. Look around your home, when something doesn’t belong where it’s been left, it sticks out.
The Ten-Minute Tidy-Up
A ten-minute tidy-up is a laser-focused, high-speed clean-up. Each person’s tidy-up time will look different. However, a tidy-up does not involve:
A tidy-up is not cleaning. Nor is it decluttering. You don’t:
A tidy-up does involve returning items to their home. This could mean:
How to Select Your Space to Clear
Now, if you are at the beginning of the decluttering process, you may be frustrated doing a tidy-up because you’ll see projects that need to be done and you might get drawn into decluttering. I know, it’s difficult. You want to be done with decluttering, but, realistically, that’s going to take a while.
How to Make these 10 Minutes a Habit
Some of the challenges I find doing a tidy-up revolve around making it a regular habit. Once or twice a week probably won’t be enough. If you do it every day, then it will become a part of your day. If you only do it every so often, it’s easier to brush off the task until “tomorrow.”
Create Calm in Your Home
Although ten-minutes won’t organize your home, it will create time to put away things that were moved out of place during the day. This can help create calm because as you move through your home you won’t be faced with looking at loose ends and things to do. As you continue to declutter your home at your pace, you’ll remove excess items that don’t really need to be in your home and you’ll also make decisions about where to store items.
This will make you feel more organized and calmer because you won’t have to decide where to put something, you’ll know. Don’t wait until you’ve finished decluttering to start a ten-minute tidy-up habit; maintaining the work you’ve done is just as important as starting to declutter a new area in your home.
Do you do something like a ten-minute tidy-up every day? What tasks do you tackle? How did you build the habit of this daily task? Leave a comment below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
At one point in my life, I had so many books that I asked my brother to build me bookshelves. When he saw the many many boxes of books, he built a structure so sturdy he could lay down on one of the shelves. I thought the piece was oversized, but, when I loaded up the shelves, I was piling books in front of other piles of books.
I was afraid the thing was going to go through the floor.
Whenever I moved, there were more boxes of books than of clothing. I learned that I could carry a banker’s box full of books (and, bonus, those boxes had handles).
I had a vision in my head of someday owning a room filled with shelves of books. A personal library that would speak to my interest in varied topics.
However, this interest didn’t always translate into knowledge. There were months when I bought more books than I read. I had scores of books I’d never opened. I didn’t really own those books. I owned the paper and glue and stitching they were made of, but I hadn’t appreciated the authors’ insights into human emotion through the trials of their fictional characters; I learned no new facts that could intertwine with my knowledge and experiences and expand my intellect.
The books sat on the shelves until I moved and couldn’t taken the behemoth bookshelves my brother had built to my new apartment. So, I stacked books on the floor when I ran out of space on my new Ikea bookshelves.
One year, I saw that my town library was having a book sale and was seeking donations. I filled boxes that filled my car’s trunk. I did the same the next year. After that, I got in the regular habit of culling my books once or twice a year.
When I upgraded to a smartphone, my favorite apps were Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle. I could buy eBooks that I’d always have with me! Squeeeee! And, they were a couple of dollars cheaper than paperbacks.
But, I didn’t have a tablet, I used a smartphone, so the digital reading experience wasn’t particularly appealing. And, then, I realized that if I wanted to pass along the book to a friend whom I thought would enjoy it, I couldn’t.
Also, I realized I disliked cluttering my digital library with books I wouldn’t have held onto if I had them in physical form. And, although I could hit ‘delete,’ somehow that felt like more of a waste than passing along an unwanted book.
And, so, I’ve decided that when I do buy a book (because books are my weakness and, yes, I’m working on that), I’ll buy it as a paperback or hardcover over an eBook because I can give them to someone else to read. However, I am giving myself rules:
Do you have a weakness for books? Have you curated – or started to curate – your collection? Have you given yourself rules about buying or keeping books? Add your story about books to the comments below.
By Susan Caplan McCarthy
You pick up an item and think, “Hmmm, I don’t know what to do with this.” You hold the item for a few minutes while options drift through your mind. Then, you decide to – decide later. The item gets set aside.
An hour or two later you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and you can’t tell what you’ve done even after all that time decluttering.
The problem is, you haven’t really decluttered. All you’ve done is reviewed what you own.
Why You’re Failing at Decluttering
There are any number of reasons for why you keep setting stuff aside, unable to decide whether it is valuable to you or it is something you can release. None of these reasons have anything to do with the amount of clutter you have – even if you feel overwhelmed looking at that clutter.
See, you aren’t really overwhelmed by the clutter, you’re overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make and the emotions you feel about having to make these decisions.
How to Minimize Your Stuff When You're Reluctant
If there are areas in your home where you have no problem decluttering, then work on those areas. However, if you find that you are moving items from one pile to another and you aren’t meeting your goals, you may need assistance to both address your reluctance with addressing the change in your life as well as to declutter.
Therapy – If you aren’t in therapy, it may be time to find a therapist. Explain that you are having difficulty making decisions while decluttering your home. Although it’s reasonable to expect that this person will ask for some of your history, you want someone who can help you with this particular situation as opposed to having you talk about your relationship with your parents or ex session after session.
Professional Organizer – You may also need to hire a professional organizer who works with people who hoard or who have chronic disorganization. You may not have a hoarding disorder, but these individuals have gone through extra training to help people who have a difficult time letting go.
Body Double – If you can’t afford to hire a professional organizer, consider getting the help from a patient, caring friend who has no connection to the items. Here’s an important trick – have them handle the items and show them to you so that you don’t touch the items. This is called body doubling and it helps distance you from the emotions you may feel while handling an item. You sit there as the person takes an item out, shows it to you, and then puts it into a trash bag or a donation box according to your decision. Your body double does all the physical work.
Time – If you don’t have a deadline for leaving your home that you must adhere to; then, declutter items that you can (maybe kitchen items or things like partly burned candles that you have few emotional attachments to). When you encounter a box of items that you can’t decide what to do with, close the box, write the date three or six months from now on the box, and look at the items again, at that time.
The requirement here is that you (or your body double) take the items out of the box so you can see what the items are as opposed to building up in your mind the importance of the items … only to find out that most of the box was filled with old grocery lists and word search puzzle books.
Why Organizing Books Won’t Work
Although you may think that you need a new, better book about decluttering and organizing, remember that your issue isn’t with the action of decluttering but the emotions surrounding the items. You want to get to the point where you can decide to release the items that you know aren’t important to you.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Organizing your photos is one of those tasks that’s easy to put off. And, honestly, it’s not one of the first decluttering projects that you’ll want to tackle. Photos don’t take up much space, which masks the number of photos … and decisions … that need to be made with that “small box” of pictures. Also, since photos are images of the events in our lives, they can be tied up with a lot of emotions.
Gather Your Photographs
Your first step should be deciding what you plan on doing with your photos. Knowing this up front is useful because once you start gathering your photos, you may feel overwhelmed by their numbers.
Bring your photos to one location in your home. If you plan on organizing your photos at the dining room table, you want to move the boxes and albums into a corner of that room. If you’ll sort through photos while watching television, keep the photos near your television-viewing chair.
What about digital photos? Download images from phones and tablets to a file on your computer and then back up everything to a flash drive and cloud storage, just in case one system fails.
Look around your home at the framed photos hanging on the walls and sitting on flat surfaces. Are these images still important to you and do you still find it valuable to display these images? (This could be an opportunity to rearrange some of your favorites to new locations or realize you want to update some frames.)
Sort the Photos
You can sort envelopes of prints, photo boxes, and albums by year before you start looking at individual images. This can help give you a sense of story while looking at the photos instead of feeling as if you are bouncing around through time.
If you are happy with your albums, you can leave them as is. If you want to pare them down, then treat the albums as loose photographs.
Although it would be great to think that you’d only have to look at each image once or twice, you may end up flipping through photographs multiple times. The first time you toss duplicates, blurry images, and generic scenery shots that require little decision-making. Then, in the next round(s), you decide which images are the best representatives of different events.
Keep the Best
You may think it will be easier if you keep every photograph; but, then chances are that you’ll value what you have less than if you keep the best images. Why? If you’re flipping through album pages (or scrolling through digital images), where you face ten images of your son blowing out his birthday candles, it won’t hold your interest.
Also, looking at dozens of generic pictures of the scenery is sort of ‘meh.’ Think of putting together an album like telling a story. You don’t want the author to describe in detail every step the main character takes to get to their meeting with the antagonist. A few details anchor the setting and the action.
Now, your album doesn’t literally have to tell a story about every event. However, keep the images that highlight why that day or trip was an important memory.
Curate Photos Stored in Albums
If you have well-curated albums that you or family members regularly look through, kudos! On the other hand, if you (or a family member) kept albums out of a sense of obligation, then you may have albums filled with generic shots of the landscape or images of people taken from so far away that you have to squint, while your nose is pressed against the page, just to hazard a guess as to whom you are looking at.
The sticky albums from years ago create an acidic environment that can destroy photos over time. If you value the images, you may want to remove them from these books. There is an adhesive remover, Un Du, that can be used. You can also search online for other techniques that involve working photos off the pages with dental floss.
If you decide that you will take apart old albums, scan the images, and reassemble the best pictures into new albums, it is okay to decide that you’ll keep the best twenty-five percent and release the rest.
Digitize Print Photos
You can scan the print photos that you cherish so you’ll have a back-up. You can do this yourself if you have a scanner or you can hire someone to do it for you. However, consider that these are your only copies of these photos you care the most about.
If you hire someone to scan hundreds of photos, consider someone local (check the website for the Association of Personal Photo Organizers) who will do the work themselves (or, you could hire a patient teenager). After I heard someone mention that some companies will send your photos oversees for scanning, you want to find out where your images will be scanned.
Also ask how the digitized images will be organized. (Will it matter if you presort photographs into years or themes?) You’ll have a lot of work ahead of you to identify the year, location, and individuals in the images, so the pictures will be searchable.
Before saving images, just for the sake of saving them, consider why it’s important to you and your family to do so. It’s expensive (or time-consuming) to scan photographs, so consider if you need everything or a selection of the best pictures.
Professional photo organizers recommend backing up digital images in three locations, say on your computer, in cloud storage, and on a flash drive or external hard drive).
Organize and Store Your Photographs
Whether you create a physical or digital album or keep prints in a photo box, you’ll want to decide how you’ll organize those images. Will you organize them chronologically or will you sort them into themes (vacations, birthdays, holidays, first day of school, etc.)?
Also, label the backs of photos with the location, people, and (rough) date. When I found some old photo albums at my parents’ house, I went to my aunt to see if she could identify some of the relatives in the pictures. The overweight, blond great-aunt I sort of recalled from my childhood used to be a slender brunette? I didn’t have a clue.
Schedule onto your calendar time each month to go through the pictures you’ve taken in the past thirty days. Delete what you don’t want, backup what you do. Share pictures on social media or mail a print to an older relative who isn’t online.
If you keep up with the pictures you take, then in the future you won’t have to face a backlog. Remember, going through your photographs can take countless hours, so keeping the best will highlight your efforts and your memories.
How do you organize your photographs? Comment below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I recently borrowed from my library, Destination Simple: Everyday Rituals for a Slower Life by Brooke McAlary. I’d probably seen it recommended on one of the minimalist blogs I read, and it had been on my to-read list for a while, so I was happy to get a copy through inter-library loan.
I’ve been reading books and listening to talks on productivity – both to get rid of the feeling of being busy while getting nothing done as well as to work into a program. One of my strengths has always been my love of learning and I find that I learn a topic so much better when I plan to teach the information.
So, seeing the email that Destination Simple was available for pick-up would be, I thought, a break from productivity techniques. Ha! I was so wrong!
What Productivity Is … and Isn’t
When I started reading about productivity, I thought it would be all about doing more and doing it faster. Not so. Productivity is about doing the right things, which, of course, depend on your personal goals. Trying to do everything is not productive, it’s busywork.
Being selective about how you want to devote your time, energy, and attention is being both effective and productive. Instead of focusing on what you’ve done during the day, you consider what you’ve accomplished.
If all day you worked at top speed, checked a ton of stuff off your to-do list, but crawled into bed with the frustrated sense that you got nothing done, you were busily unproductive.
Simple, Intentional Living
Advocates for simple living talk about being intentional in their decisions. I’d never really thought of being intentional as being productive (again, thinking that word meant doing more and doing it faster).
However, reading Brooke McAlary’s book (yes, I’m finally back to talking about that), made me realize that if you simplify your life and make more intentional decisions, you will be more productive by focusing your time, energy, and attention on the things that matter most.
Single-tasking – Brooke recommends focusing on one everyday activity and devoting your full attention to it for one-to-five-minutes. For example, brushing your teeth, handwashing the dishes, or making a cup of tea. Productivity experts will tell you that multi-tasking involves bouncing your attention between tasks as opposed to really doing multiple things at the same time.
Of course, you couldn’t single-task through entire days (listening to podcasts while at the gym probably makes your workout more enjoyable); however, intentionally single-tasking makes you more mindful of what you are doing.
Unplugging – Brooke recommends 15-to-30-minutes away from all screens each day. Productivity experts will tell you to avoid checking emails throughout the day, but instead at specific, scheduled times.
They’ll also tell you that you should unplug while focusing on top priority tasks. While you may be doing something while searching the Internet or immediately responding to all notifications, that doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing anything.
Emptying Your Mind – Productivity expert David Allen (and others) recommend doing a ‘brain dump’ where you list on paper all the stuff in your head. From a productivity perspective, getting things on paper gives your mind a sense of ‘doing’ something with all the information rattling around in your head. Instead of the constant stream of thoughts, “Oh, yeah, I need to remember to…,” putting it on paper gives your mind the sense that a task or thought won’t be forgotten.
Brooke suggests this as more of a stream-of-consciousness journaling exercise. In either case, you’re doing something with those thoughts about the past, future, and what you need to do.
Three Things – Each day, select and then do the three tasks that will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The three tasks don’t include maintenance activities (responding to emails, making the bed, cooking) that will keep you busy but not productive.
Your sense of accomplishment could be based on: working on a presentation, assisting a student or coworker learning to do ‘x,’ babysitting your grandchild, meeting with a friend, going on a sales call, leading your daughter’s soccer team practice, etc. Notice which three activities will give you the best return on your time investment for the day.
Accomplish Something Every Day
Now, these four tasks aren’t Brooke’s entire list of things that will help you live a simple life. By doing the exercises in her book (I’d highly recommend reading this brief 114-page book), you will make more intentional choices about your days.
Although “a slower, simpler life” may not seem productive, making intentional decisions to do what “gives you the time and space for more of what you enjoy” will allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I struggle developing habits. Part of my problem is that I set in my mind what a new habit should look like and go for this result right away. For example, I’m determined to do an hour of aerobics five times a week. However, if my schedule is tight and I realize that I’ll be able to fit in, say, 30 minutes of aerobics, I won’t do any exercise because I can’t hit my goal of 60-minutes. (Crazy, huh?)
I’ve got a not very productive mindset of all-or-nothing.
Go for Small Wins
Small wins a just what they sound like. You decide on the smallest, easiest goal that your mind offers absolutely no resistance to … and, you go for it.
So, when I think that I must exercise for 60 minutes but the resistant corner of my brain is shooting off excuses, I can knock down that goal. Forty-five minutes? Thirty minutes? Fifteen minutes? Hmm, I do have a workout video with 10-minute routines.
Ten-minutes of exercise doesn’t sound like a lot. And, it isn’t. However, once I get used to doing a 10-minute exercise routine, chances are that I’ll think, “Hey, I’ve got my sneakers on, so why don’t I do another ten minutes?”
In a month, I’ll likely be at, or near, my goal of 60-minutes of aerobics. And, if at some point during the month I realize that I don’t have time for a full workout, it will be easier to convince myself to exercise for 30-minutes because a week or so earlier, that was my goal.
I’ll get out of that all-or-nothing mindset because developing the habit was a more fluid process.
Build New Habits
What are some habits that you’d like to develop? I wouldn’t recommend developing all of them at once, however, if you have a morning habit that you’d like to develop and another habit as part of your evening routine, you could give it a try to work on both.
Maybe you’re tired of waking up tired and you realize that you should go to bed earlier than 11 p.m. If you decide to go to bed 30-minutes early, 10:30 p.m., chances are your body and mind will protest like a toddler and you may even find yourself staying up later as a backlash against this sudden and dramatic change.
So, instead, go to bed five minutes earlier – 10:55 p.m. This won’t seem like a significant difference … and, that’s the point. After a few days, this will become your normal bedtime. Tweak it another five minutes. If you’re thinking, “Wait, go to bed ten minutes early?” Then, stick with going to bed five minutes early until going to bed five minutes earlier than that is “just” five minutes earlier than your normal bedtime.
Chances are that you’re thinking that these tiny tweaks are ridiculous and that you should just exercise for 60 minutes or go to bed 30 minutes early. How’s that working for you? Yeah, me either.
Maybe it takes a month or two to tweak a habit until you’re at you goal. During that time, you’ve been benefiting from the partial goal and in a month or two, you’ll be going to be bed earlier and exercising at your goals.
On the other hand, if you keep thinking all-or-nothing, chances are, you’ll hit your goal a few times but, in a month or two, the habit will be nonexistent.
Small Wins that Can Become Habits
Turn Small Wins into Habits
So, why do incremental changes seem worthless? Because, we don’t want to think about the process … we just want the result.
Remember, once a small habit becomes a natural part of your day, stretch it a bit more until over time you have the habit you want.
If all at once works for you, fantastic! Every so often, you may discover that you can make a spontaneous change to your habits. Don’t dissect your behavior, shout “woo-hoo” and go on with your day. Otherwise, go for the small wins.
Working on habits connect with being organized? I've written a brief book, Why Can't You Stay Organized? that focuses on the habits and mindsets that will help you stay organized while you declutter. Available for $0.99 on Kindle.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Although I love the idea of less stuff cluttering the spaces around me, I don’t know that I could go to the extremes Fumio Sasaki highlights in his 2017 book, Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism.
He starts off his book highlighting the personal stories of the new wave of Japanese minimalists. I’m not sure that I could live in a room containing a mattress (that gets folded into a “couch” during the day) and a multi-purpose table.
Although, I do see that having so few things would encourage you to spend more time in nature; to go to classes, concerts, and performances; and to spend time with friends in coffee shops, restaurants, and museums; I’d like to have enough plates, cups, and seats so to invite others for a quiet night at home.
Fumio Sasaki gives you 70 tips for decluttering, or saying goodbye, to your stuff. You really don’t need a goal of fitting all your possessions into a backpack to use these basic tips. Use the information to reduce your belongings to a point where you feel comfortable.
These are some of my favorite quotes from the book, I hope they inspire you along your decluttering journey. Please share these sayings with the people around you who could do with less overwhelm.
I've just published a mini-eBook, Why Can't You Stay Organized, that's available for $0.99 on Kindle. If you feel frustrated that you keep undoing your decluttering efforts, learn the habits and mindset that will keep you organized.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
When I started A Year of Decluttering on January 1, 2018, my thought was that I could help others declutter their homes by breaking the project into small, daily tasks. By encouraging participants to limit their action to 15-minutes, I figured this would create a game-like, doable challenge.
In some cases, I’d already done a task. (Years ago, I’d uploaded my CDs to my computer and then sold or donated the physical disks.) In other cases, I knew I could give another look at a category of stuff that I’d sorted through a while ago. In some cases, I was abashed to realize I’d been ignoring items that I kept moving around my home.
Challenges with Decluttering
While I like simplicity, my husband is fond of stuff. An example, when we got a new 8’x8’ shed, he decorated it with numerous signs and four flag poles. Only the back wall of the shed is unadorned (because it backs up to trees).
We have numerous tchotchkes throughout the house. He started me on both a squirrel and dragon collection. There are shelving units in the living room where I can count my belongings on a single hand (with fingers left over); the rest is his stuff.
As someone who enjoys empty spaces, it is frustrating to see stuff everywhere. It’s also a reminder that not everyone wants to declutter and that questions such as, “Do you use this?” and “Do you like this?” are answered with, “It’s mine.”
However, doing and writing A Year of Decluttering has made me realize that I still have a lot of my own stuff to clear.
Clearing Stuff Day-by-Day
Okay, this isn't a day-by-day accounting as no one wants to read about the minutia of 180-odd days. Here's some of the things I've worked through during the past six months.
Day 2: Smartphone Apps – Day 158: Bookmarked Pages – Day 179: Phone Contacts – Instead of scrolling through Facebook during bored moments, I’ll look to see if I still use the apps I have, and I’ll check that bookmarked pages and downloaded documents are still useful for me. It’s so easy to save stuff that has no relevance.
Day 3: Mugs – Out went 18 mugs.
Day 4: Baking Pans – Seeing the popover pan that I’d used only twice prompted me to start baking popovers once a month.
Day 10: Expired Condiments – Day 17: The Refrigerator – Day 22: The Freezer - I was appalled when my nephew pointed out that the A1 sauce had expired a couple of years ago! I replaced some condiments and realized there were other things that could get used before they expired. I’m good about using up stuff in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, so I still don’t know how I ignored looking at the contents of the refrigerator door.
Day 36: Photos You’ve Saved - I moved three photo albums of vacation photos from my bookcase to the seat of my husband’s (unused) exercise bike. For a few months(!) I kept telling myself to flip through the albums or toss them. I checked that the pictures were backed up on my computer, but the albums still sat there. And sat there. And, then, one day, I popped them in a trash bag. No regrets as I hadn’t looked at the albums for years; but, why did it take so long to get rid of them?
I recently scanned the photos from two albums of photos of my pets from back before digital cameras. Out when the prints that I never looked at after I put them in albums.
Day 42: DVDs – This task prompted me to watch seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then pass the series to a friend’s adult daughter who was also a fan.
Day 56: Excess Glassware – The nice bartender gave us a beer glass? I got a pair of etched wine glasses as a gift? Each time, a glass on the shelf had to go so everything would fit in one cabinet.
Clothing (multiple days) – I have a small wardrobe and so I wear things even if I don’t like them. However, that shirt with the overly large neckline (is it supposed to keep sliding down and revealing my shoulder?) finally had to go.
Day 112: Articles You’ve Printed from Online – I started taking online courses about organizing and productivity and I was printing the handouts as well as saving them to the computer. When I went to print the handouts on a class entitled “Going Paperless,” I realized I had to stop printing these documents.
Day 126: Garden Tools – Day 154: Damaged Garden Ornaments – Day 169: Pots from Garden Plants – As a new gardener, I was building up a collection of things I thought I should have if I was going to garden. Sigh. Owning items that I wasn’t using wasn’t helpful.
Day 134: Broken Patio, Lawn and Beach Chairs – A month after this task, I “suddenly” noticed one of those quad camp chairs sitting in its carrying case and leaning against the wall of the patio. It looked like the thing had been infested by caterpillars. Last year. Ick. Out.
Day 148: Old Mop or Broom – The worn-down broom left by the previous owners is still in my basement. And why am I keeping the sponge mop that I haven’t used for two years?
Days 174 & 175: Materials from Former Interests and Hobbies - Since I crochet when watching television, I tend to have bags of yarn surrounding the couch and half-finished projects crowding the area where I sat. I worked through my yarn, making hats that I donated to charity, until I was down to a single small bag of yarn. I got rid of the knitting needles that I was rarely using. I recycled a few coloring books (although, after my March surgery, I spent a lot of my recovery coloring, it wasn’t a habit I engaged in at any other time).
Six More Months
So, how are you doing with your daily decluttering tasks? I know, not all tasks apply to everyone, so remember that you can always return to a task that requires more time or sort through some digital clutter. If you know someone who’s complaining about their clutter, tell them about A Year of Decluttering. Yes, they can still join and it’s still free (and they can always go to past tasks if they have the time).
Also, I realize that one of the challenges with decluttering and getting organized is trying to maintain that order. I’ve written an eBook, Why You Can’t Stay Organized: 18 Tips for Decluttering and Staying Organized, that’s available at Amazon.com for only $0.99! If you are frustrated that you are fighting against the tide of clutter in your home, these habits and mindsets can help.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.