book review – you have too much sh*t

Almost everyone has too much stuff. Identifying it and doing something about it can be challenging.

This month’s book is a very short, very straightforward, slightly vulgar read. The title is an indication to what you will find inside. You can buy the book or download the free ebook. Either way, it won’t take you long to read and you might implement some of the ideas to help you let go of excess stuff.

“To find real value in material things, it’s helpful to discover a deep appreciation of the things you use every day.” – Chris Thomas

Thomas is British, and his informal tone and colloquialisms are reflected in the text. You’ll find the same sentiments in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go, albeit in a bit more refined manner.

Do you prefer a more informal approach in your reading?

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national clutter awareness week

The last week of March is Clutter Awareness Week is the U.S.

In a consumerist society, we accumulate lots of stuff and much of it becomes clutter. People frequently tell me that they feel overwhelmed by their clutter and they don’t know how to deal with it. My advice is: just do something.

The first step in tackling clutter is being aware of it. What appears to be clutter to me might be something desirable to you. If you value the things that you own, treat them well. When you toss things in boxes or pile them in a corner, you’re probably forgetting what you have and you’re definitely not getting pleasure from them.

Coach Cheryl Richardson says that clutter can prevent us from letting anything new into our lives. Whether your clutter is physical, digital or emotional, letting go of it will open you (and your spaces) up to new possibilities.

Start by bringing awareness to your surroundings. If there is clutter that prevents you from moving forward, make a change. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be a start.

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Product review – Household/Family Organizer

So, yesterday was Organize Your Home Office Day. I’m guessing that no one is going to be distraught that I didn’t bring it to your attention sooner.

Seriously, though, having an orderly home office can save you time and anxiety, especially when you’re preparing your income taxes or looking for information that you need immediately.

Your home office might not be an office at all, but a corner of a room or a kitchen counter, instead. Wherever you choose to keep your household paperwork is your office; creating a system for storing and retrieving documents will make your life easier.

You don’t need to buy expensive file cabinets or use bulky containers that take up lots of room. A household or family organizer will serve as your command center and will start you off on gathering necessary paperwork so you can find documents quickly. You can buy pre-made organizers or you can create one with a three-ring binder, page protectors and dividers.

The sections you create will depend on your household’s needs. For example, you might have a section for School (lunch menu, class roster, school calendar), Activities (sports, scouting, or gym calendars), Food (takeout menus, monthly menu planner, simple recipes), Contacts (neighbors, relatives, service providers), Maintenance (appliance manuals, breaker locations).

I suggest having a cover page with your name, address and phone number, in case a babysitter or houseguest needs to refer to it. If you have kids, create a page for babysitters with their names, bedtimes, food preferences, etc. Don’t try to cram your entire life into one 3” binder, though. If you need to, you can create several binders for different purposes.

Keep your binder(s) in your home office or in a more accessible spot, like the kitchen or family room and make sure that everyone knows where it is. Remember to replace items when you get updated information.

You can find lots of free, printable forms on Organized Home’s Web site. Pinterest has lots of free printables, as well. Don’t get caught up in making a fancy binder; the reason you’re putting together an organizer is to make your easier, not more stressful.

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financial literacy month

Many of my clients struggle with excess shopping. They might shop as a hobby or because they don’t realize they already have the thing they’re looking for. Either way, they end up with less money and more things they don’t use, causing physical and mental clutter.

March is Financial Literacy Month, making it a good time to take a look at what you’re spending.

One of my favorite columnists, Michelle Singletary, writes about financial issues for The Washington Post.

Her article last week reminded readers that spending may be fun in the moment, but it’s important to save for the long term. She makes a great analogy about savings being like winter clothes – you need them to protect yourself.

Do you have trouble saving money? What goal would you like to save up for?

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Book Review – Zero Waste Home

Yesterday I was driving behind a van that had one of those stick figure families on the rear window. The father was golfing, the kids were doing ballet and soccer and the mother was shopping. Unless she is a professional shopper, I can’t imagine why she would want her character portrayed with shopping bags.

I had just finished reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and the thought of shopping as hobby is the absolute antithesis of the Zero Waste Movement, which Johnson adheres to.

While I often talk about consuming less and simplifying, I felt like a complete planet-destroyer after reading the book. I agree that it’s important for us to tread gently on the planet; however, some of the solutions she proposes will seem absolutely bizarre to many people. Purchasing used clothes at thrift or consignment shops? Sure. Unraveling silk thread from a used shirt, to use as dental floss? Not so much. In her description of how her family has been successful, she appears overzealous and patronizing instead of encouraging.

Johnson claims that her family creates less than a gallon of garbage a year. They achieve that feat by refusing packaging, reusing objects, recycling when necessary and composting. Most people will not be able (or willing) to reduce their trash so drastically; however, there may be some steps you can take to reduce your footprint.

In The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, Amy Korst takes a more accessible approach to reducing garbage. [Full disclosure: I had this book on hold at the library and grabbed Johnson’s book off the shelf, thinking they were written by the same person.] Korst’s project started as a one-year experiment, which she and her husband decided to continue. She also is more realistic about the challenges of living without producing trash.

Although trying to eliminate all the packaging in your life may not be practical, the first step you can take is to refuse things you don’t need. Don’t pick up paper you won’t read – sure, it can be recycled, but why waste the resources? Don’t accept free samples of things you won’t use – they’ll end up getting trashed. Finally, don’t take home things you don’t need, like pens from a trade show.

I never really thought about where the toilet paper goes after it leaves my home’s pipes. Now that I’ve been made aware, though, I cannot see myself forgoing toilet paper.

Do you live a zero-waste life? What can you do to create a little less trash?

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random acts of kindness

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week!

I’ve never heard of it, either, but it’s a good time to declutter and donate things you don’t need that someone else could use.

Do you regularly perform random acts of kindness or is it helpful to have a reminder?

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what are you collecting?

I think I’ve developed an early case of spring fever. I’m in a clearing-out-the-spaces, let-the-sun-shine-in mood. When I get this way, I have to face all the stuff I’ve been holding on to and evaluate whether it’s earning its keep.

Mr. Potato Head? Sorry, the kids have moved on.

Dishes I want to sell on craigslist? No takers, you’re getting donated.

Barbie collection that’s just attracting dust? Not so fast (imagine the sound of tires screeching).

I have narrowed down my many collections to just a few special ones. I love seashells and have them displayed in a lamp and a jar. I love quilts and I have four that I use. I love making stuff and I’ve been thinning the buildup of craft supplies.

And I still love my Barbies. Not just any Barbies, mind you, but the ones with the fancy costumes. No one plays with them; they stand in their boxes, looking ornamental – or forlorn – depending on your viewpoint.

I have sold or donated about half of the collection. The hard part has been resisting the temptation to add more. Whenever I see one in an exquisite design, I remind myself that I have enough and that if I really feel that I have to have another, I need to let go of one I already have. That’s tough, given that I really like the ones I have.

Want to learn more about why people collect stuff and why it’s hard to let go? Take a look at page 80 in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go. Do you have a collection that’s special to you?

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