By Susan Caplan McCarthy
I’m recovering from surgery I had last week to remove part of my thyroid which had nodules too large to biopsy (just had the follow-up appointment and there were no signs of cancer). This was my second surgery this year (in March I had a hysterectomy). Before this year, the only surgery I’d ever had was to remove my wisdom teeth in 1982.
I spent the first three months of 2018 going to multiple doctor appointments; having multiple ultrasounds, much bloodwork, and an MRI before having surgery that confirmed I did not have ovarian cancer.
Throw in five or six colds and this has been a draining year. I wasn’t surprised in October when I was told that I should have part of the thyroid removed … I’d had multiple doctors during the year look at my neck and say, “Huh, I can see that standing over here. What’s your doctor doing about that?” And now, it’s out.
So, did I meet all my personal or professional goals for the year? No way. I’m disappointed by some of the failures, most of which involved distractions that I inadvertently turned into priorities.
My Resolution for 2019
I’ve been intrigued by bullet journaling for a while but each time I dip into learning how to keep this to-do list/planner/journal system, I’ve ended up overwhelmed by the terminology and the variety. I’m spending some time between now and the end of the year figuring out how to get started for 2019.
Some of the things I find appealing about bullet journaling are the daily reflection on goals, the habit trackers, and the open-ended quality of the system. There’s no need to fit my life into someone else’s idea of a planner and I can create what will work for me. (I find the open-endedness both appealing and intimidating; weird, huh?)
I realize that creating and using a bullet journal will encompass other goals and keep them on track, so to keep myself focused on what I want to accomplish, I’m thinking that my goal for 2019 will be to keep a bullet journal.
Do you keep a bullet journal? I’d love to hear your tips or learn about your favorite blogs or vlogs.
A Year of Decluttering
I hope that you’ve enjoy the free program, A Year of Decluttering. Although you’ll continue to receive the daily emails with the task of the day until the end of the year, you can now download the entire year as a pdf book. I’ve included a couple of checklists to help you track your way through the program, if you want to do it again or if you joined late in the year.
You can track yourself day-by-day or by themed groups of items. And, of course, now that you can see the entire year, you can go at the pace that works for you.
I’ve had a few questions about what I’ll be doing in 2019. I’ll start a new Year of Decluttering, just not as a daily program which took MUCH more work than I envisioned. Each month will have a theme (self-care, paper, digital, small spaces) that will be the focus of weekly articles and may include a checklist to help you stay focused on the tasks during the week.
Other weekly articles will focus on goal-setting, habits, motivation, creativity, and productivity – skills that help you understand why you want to declutter and keep you motivated because you can see life beyond the stuff in your closet.
Create Space for Your Life
I’ve been a teacher for over twenty-five years, mostly in non-conventional settings. Teaching works with one of my strengths, a love of learning, which usually looks like this – read tons of books and articles, take copious notes, winnow it down into a class, and teach that class.
The first course I’ve created for A Less Cluttered Life is a self-directed program called Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life. I’m pleased with this program because it doesn’t just talk about eliminating stuff around your home but focuses on helping you to clarify your goals.
While talking to people throughout this year, I found that individuals express overwhelm, embarrassment, and confusion when they talk about the clutter in their home. I realized that telling people to box up the stuff they haven’t used in six months, regardless of what it was, was going to add to their stress.
So, this program is about you. Your goals for your life. Your vision for your home. Your schedule and priorities. Your stuff and the things that you use every day. Your family and the others who live with you creating solutions that keep the clutter at bay.
Will you end up with a home that’s empty but for a few pieces of furniture? Only if that’s your vision for your home (and everyone else in the house is up for living in a minimalist space). My hope for you is that this program helps you clarify what’s most important to keep and allows to release the things you know won’t benefit your life.
To learn more, about Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life, click here. Curious if you’re clear on your reasons for decluttering? Download this free 12-page workbook.
I have a few more programs in the works that focus on goal-setting and keeping as well as being productive as opposed to merely busy. I’ll be releasing them throughout the winter.
When I was trying to think of a name for my business and website, I adopted A Less Cluttered Life because I saw that it could come to encompass not just stuff but schedules as well. I think that living a simpler, less cluttered life doesn’t involve eliminating goals and dreams along with physical stuff but decluttering the things, thoughts, habits, and activities that don’t help us do the things that make our life personally meaningful.
I think that when we create space in our life for what has purpose and meaning, instead of what merely keeps us busy, we can better help others, as I hope to continue to help you on your journey to declutter what isn’t essential.
Don’t forget to download your two free item – the pdf book of A Year of Decluttering and the 12-page workbook on clarifying your reasons for decluttering. Happy New Year!
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I was teaching a decluttering class a few weeks ago and one of the participants asked if it was possible to have organized clutter. And the answer is – oh, yeah.
You’ll notice in January that a lot of stores will advertise “solutions” to get organized, one of those perennial New Year’s resolutions. The solutions will involve bins, rolling carts, plastic drawers, freestanding cabinets, and other handy items.
The idea is that you’ll tuck stuff into these containers so that you’re looking at streamline containers instead of scattered craft supplies, extra clothing, piles of paper, toys, jewelry, sports equipment, cleaning supplies, shoes, and so on.
Although the idea of reducing visual clutter is a good one, if you’re storing things that you don’t use and have no specific plan to use in the future, then you’re organizing clutter.
So, What Is Clutter?
Basically, clutter is anything that’s out of place. So, some of the clutter in your home may be stuff that needs to be put away. If you aren’t sure where something belongs, then your solution will be finding a dedicated ‘home’ for those things.
Items that you don’t use and have no plans to use are also out of place because the items don’t belong in your home.
The Hazards of Organized Clutter
For years, I followed my parents’ habit of buying boxes, bins, shelving units, over-the-door pocket organizers and other tools meant to organize all the stuff I tried to fit into my room. The stuff was “organized” in that similar items were grouped together, and I knew where things belonged. But there was too much.
To pull anything out of its box meant I had to rearrange boxes to get to the correct one (of course, always the one on the bottom of the pile). I was forever dedicating my evenings to organizing because I had too much stuff and touching anything caused the fragile balance to shift toward chaos.
I was organized and yet surrounded by clutter. I could reconfigure my piles of stuff, but the piles were still there.
Before You Buy Another Organizing Tool ...
The containers, tools, and gadgets meant to organize you will only work after you’ve decluttered. Organizing things that you don’t need will only waste your time and money. Intentionally moving things into bins so they are out of sight also puts them out of mind. On one level, you’re telling yourself the items are unimportant; on another level you’re making them important by investing money on storing these unnecessary things.
I’m not saying that all organizing tools are useless. Without the six-drawer organizing cart I keep my cardmaking supplies in, I’d make a big mess every time I made cards. This organizer is useful because I use the stuff in it. If I stop making cards, the cart and all it contains would be clutter.
I think decluttering is much more difficult than organizing because decluttering involves getting rid of things you’ve owned, sometimes for decades. Decluttering involves admitting that something you’ve devoted space in your home to isn’t important.
Hiding, I mean organizing, no, I mean hiding, things in colorful plastic totes saves you from making those decisions.
Make the decision to declutter. Push through the thoughts and feelings that tell you that holding onto something you don’t like and don’t use would be for the best.
Organized clutter is still clutter.
If you haven’t already, check out my new program, Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life. In this self-directed guidebook, I show you how to reduce your feelings of overwhelm and stop the thoughts that encourage you to hold onto things ‘just in case,’ by helping you figure out your real reason for wanting to declutter. When you know your goals for your life and your home, you’ll know what’s worth keeping and what won’t help you. Curious if you’re clear on your reasons for decluttering? Download this free 12-page workbook.
When you declutter, it’s natural to focus on the stuff. You think about the clear countertops and coffee table, you imagine not wrestling with hangers as you try to pull clothing from your closet, and you envision the time you’d save not looking for the paperwork you thought you’d filed.
Instead, thoughts run through your mind convincing you that it would be a mistake to get rid of those items that you haven’t used for years (but, you might need someday). Or that your Aunt Sally might be bothered if you don’t keep the lamp that she cleared out of her home by giving to you.
Throw on a mix of emotions – guilt, annoyance, fear, embarrassment – and slogging through your clutter feels like moving through a muddy pond.
However, there are benefits to releasing clutter, and I don’t just mean organized cabinets and clear spaces.
You’ll Have More Time
When you eliminate clutter, you’ll save time cleaning because you won’t have to shift things out of the way. You’ll also save time organizing your stuff; by which I mean, you’ll stop shuffling items from one place to another in a quest to make it all fit. And, when you shed stuff, if you do it with your goals for your life in mind, you won’t buy more stuff to replace what you’ve eliminated.
You’ll have more time for relationships with your spouse, partner, friends, kids, grandkids, and any other significant people. You won’t shop for fun because you know that’s what led to your cluttered situation. Instead, you’ll pursue hobbies and interests that are meaningful to you. Yes, those hobbies and interests will require stuff, but you’ll use the stuff. You won’t be laden down with things that you thought you’d use but don’t.
Maybe you’ll use your time to volunteer or to develop your spirituality or to travel and explore both locally and at a distance.
You’ll Have More Money
Maybe you’ll sell some of your belongings. (Or, maybe you’ll realize you’d rather have the time and so you donate the items instead.) You’ll spend less time browsing in stores (because you’re busy with the people important to you and doing the things meaningful to you), which means fewer impulse purchases.
When you do purchase something, you do so purposefully, knowing how it fits in with your current interests and needs as well as the space in your home.
You’ll Have More Love
Because you’ll have the time for others, your meaningful relationships will deepen. You may now have the time to meet others who share in your interests by taking classes or attending events.
You won’t feel stressed while spending time with someone because you’re busy thinking about the tasks you need to do at home.
You’ll Have More Health
Too many things too close together makes it hard to clean, which creates a build-up of dust and perhaps mold. Also, you won’t feel anxious in your home because clutter is demanding your attention.
And, remember how you’ll have more time? Perhaps now you can start that walking routine (bonus – with a friend or family member) or you’ll have the time to go to the gym or to take a dance or yoga class.
Maybe your clear counters mean it’s easier to prepare meals instead of grabbing to-go meals because you won’t have to clear space and wash the dishes in the sink before you even start on the meal.
Obviously, clearing your clutter won’t eliminate every struggle in your life. However, the process of decluttering helps you clarify what is most important to you.
Curious if you’re clear on your reasons for decluttering? Download this free 12-page workbook.
I’ve created a program about decluttering that focuses on helping you develop your vision and goals for your life. Clear Your Clutter and Create Space for Your Life uses journaling to help you determine what things and actions are most meaningful to you. You’ll also learn how to assess each room and storage space in your home to identify what you want to get from those spaces, so they support your vision for the life you want to live.
Add in instruction on how to plan your decluttering efforts so you don’t end up overwhelmed, as well as how to make time in your schedule so to get things done and you’ll clear your clutter and create space to do and have the things most important to you.
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.