Saturday, April 26, 2008

Decluttering by Doing

I’ve been asked by several people if doing something, i.e. an unfinished hobby project or a household repair, counts as decluttering for the challenge. According to my opinion, it does. We declutter to rid ourselves of anything unwanted, unloved, unused and unneeded, and doing these jobs replace the decluttered stuff with good stuff instead.

Then, we go on to talk about how unfinished things make us feel. Some feel mad, some feel guilt and some feel frustration with themselves, but not one person I’ve known has felt good about unfinished things in their life.

In my eyes, the completion of an unfinished thing is one of the top three ways to declutter. Why? Well, let’s start with the obvious: physical clutter. The item in its unfinished state, i.e. a box full of pictures that you want preserved in an album or a small hole in the wall from the doorknob, doesn’t make you feel good when you see it. It might be something that nags at you, like the unfinished pictures project, or unsightly, like the hole in the wall.

Additionally, you may have other pieces of the project that, by themselves, are clutter. For the pictures, you may have a photo album and a myriad of scrapbooking supplies. For the hole, you may have tools and supplies for patching the wall. Once the project or repair is completed, those items will no longer be sitting around waiting to be used. So, you’re actually decluttering many items instead of just one!

Then there is the mental clutter. If you’ve walked by that hole and every single time you see it, you think “I need to patch this”, mental clutter is growing in your mind like cancer. That thought will infect all other thoughts around it and poison them. That small “need to do” thought will become thoughts where you attack yourself (Uh, I can’t believe I haven’t taken care of this yet), where you attack others (Those darn kids need to stop running in and throwing open the door) and, worse, when your ability to overcome this clutter gets weaker by the minute (Geez, I can’t do anything right….which leads us to feel defeated and why bother doing it at all).

For the picture album example, it gets worse. Undone things that would result in happiness are the ones that make me feel the worst, anyways. It’s put away in a cabinet and one would think that it doesn’t enter our thoughts too much. In my opinion, we are happiness and fulfillment driven beings. When we are denying ourselves of these things, the resulting feelings permeate our more conscious thoughts, and, the negative feelings we are experiencing throw a shadow over many areas of mind.

You may not realize how unfinished “happiness items” make you feel bad now, but, when you complete them, you should notice that you tend to feel better than the item should make you feel. That is because the happiness that you now receive from the unfinished item (being able to share and enjoy those pictures more readily is but one part). Overall, you may be feeling something more--joy, a sense of being connected to your past, and a surge in your motivation meter, for example. All of those feelings allow us to feel a more authentic sense of happiness than just the literal representation of a photo album.

I encourage you to Declutter by Doing during your 365 Days of Decluttering journey. You will love the results!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Focus Challenge – Month 2

For our 2nd month’s Focus Challenge, I thought it would be fun to gather suggestions from other challengers. So, I sent an email out to several people asking for their best idea(s). Thank you to those who submitted an idea!

For the next week, the focus challenge is to find one of these items in your home & decide if it is clutter—OR—to look in one area each day for your decluttering item of the day.

* Address sticker sheets received from various charities
   (How many do we really need to keep?)
* Business cards from companies or people we won't ever use
   or don't remember
* Warranty cards/manuals/receipts for products we don't have
* Souvenirs
* Medicine cabinet
* Desk drawer (or the area where we put pencils/pens)
* Glove compartment

Let's keep this fun! Tell us what your decluttered item was by posting a comment. That's a terrific way to show appreciation to the great challengers that helped supply ideas! :-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Life is Sweet When Shared With A Friend

I'm sure many of you know that friendships are a valuable thing. We don't get to pick our family, but we do pick our friends!

Believe it or not, I didn't have much clutter in the grand scheme of things when deciding to commit myself to decluttering one item each day for 365 days. What I needed in my life was building the routine of doing something each day, so I chose decluttering. Decluttering is easy for me, because I have already done the major decluttering that has led me to FLY, and because I employ the "Do It Now" principle in my life. With the exception of paper clutter, my nemesis, I deal with much of my clutter in the moment. But, decluttering doesn't end. We all consume. We all buy. And we all have the potential of letting clutter in the door or keeping it here when we get more stuff.

The Flyladies & More forum, where the 365 Days of Decluttering Challenge first began, is a network of friends that I find invaluable. By sharing my challenge with those friends, I have also gained a much deeper respect for each of the individual decluttering challenges my fellow friends are taking. Some have been waiting for the right inspiration & the right push to prompt them to begin dealing with the clutter overwhelming them. They have found it! The changes they are making in their lives are the most awesome & inspirational things that I have seen in a long time. Others have decluttered now & again throughout the years, but this time they are learning the value of consistent decluttering. They are excited by their results as well.

I could have done this all by myself but, thankfully, I asked some friends to join me. Decluttering my life is so much sweeter when shared with my friends!

I definitely encourage you to share your 365 Days of Decluttering Challenge with your own real life or online friends! There are several good reasons for doing so--Accountability, Fun, Inspiration, Support.

You could even take turns decluttering together at each of your houses. That would make the work easier--especially if you have very good (and honest) friends. They won't let you keep the junk. Right? Hopefully! ;-)

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

How I Define Clutter

Defining what is or is not clutter is a very personal choice, in my opinion. Just as one man’s trash is another’s treasure, the same is true for clutter. To me, clutter is anything that I do not use, want, love or need (the real one--not the guilt-causing kind!)

When I declutter, I look for the obvious. Such as stuff that was laid down here or there to deal with later and now I do. My procrastinated filing falls into this category too…the paper was put in a pile but I still need to do the real “work” and deal with it so it will no longer be clutter).

I also look at my stuff with someone else’s eyes and, with that different perspective, I decide if it is clutter or not. I look at my clothes, my furniture, my knick-knacks, my housewares, etc. When I see these things with this perspective, it is so much easier to see the clutter for what it really is. I don’t see it as an emotional attachment, a fear of not being able to have what I need when I need it, etc. I see it as an inanimate object that has no more meaning than I am placing on it at that moment…and, remember, I’m seeing it as a stranger would.

Finally, I allow reason to override emotion. I need peace more than stuff. I want to see every single thing as something that I would choose to bring into my home today.

If I purchased the item, I will evaluate it in today’s dollars—not ones I’ve already spent. Would I buy this today? If the answer is no, then it is out of my face and out of my space. There is no guilt allowed. The money is spent and there’s nothing I can do to undo this buying mistake. I don’t allow that object to own a time period of my life sufficient to justify its purchase.

This way of thinking was not how I started, I assure you. I grew up not having much. If anything was useable (and I admit that I used the definition loosely sometimes), I felt I had to keep it.

Having those things around me didn’t make me feel more secure. Instead, I felt unsettled. I was keeping the past very close and always worrying over the future. The present wasn’t even in my thoughts. When I started letting go of things, the priorities changed. The present became of utmost importance. This is the time I controlled. And what I wanted to feel right now was fulfilled, happy and peaceful. I can’t change how I felt in days past and I have no way of knowing what the future brings.

No matter how you choose to define clutter, please remember: surrounding yourself with things that make you fulfilled (not wanting), happy (not sad) and peaceful (settled) will allow you to make “the present” the true gift it is.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ever felt afraid to declutter?

Or felt any kind of apprehension about dealing with your clutter? It’s not a glamorous job and many times we feel that doing it is going to make us feel bad, one way or another.

Looking at the clothes in my closet is just going to make me feel bad for not wearing them, and wasting that money.

If I even think of giving away that gift my Aunt gave me, I will feel so horrible.

I don’t have clutter.

(Everything is stuffed & hidden away in closets and cabinets.)

So, we put the job aside for another day…and another passes, and another.

My best advice is to allow yourself to do it little-by-little so that you don't feel you gave up or lost so much. For example, set up a declutter system. Choose 1 thing from each room or 7 things in one room, etc. Then, do that each week (or each day if you feel that motivated). That way you're not faced with a huge declutter process, i.e. declutter a drawer.

I'm the type that will pull everything out, reminisce about the stuff or somehow get lost in daydreaming about it…I need to replace these bath towels but when can I go? Well tomorrow I have to... and then Friday's no good because....Then I snap back and am in left field because one thought leads to another. I also see the huge mess that I’ve made and feel deflated that I now have to clean it.

If all else fails, remember to start small! Don't have an "all or nothing" attitude. Adopt a babystep...anything I do today is better than yesterday, kind of mentality.

TODAY choose one thing...tomorrow one more…and on and on. Decluttering doesn't have to be "a project" or something to set time aside for; it just has to be started. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. To me, decluttering is about A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE OR ATTITUDE more than a project that gets crossed off a "to do" list.

AND...the one thing counts if it was something small, huge, garbage anyways, etc. If you deal with a piece off the desk pile, or table pile, etc. it counts. If it's a holey sock in the laundry that doesn't just get thrown back into the drawer but in the trash (over here they get a new life as a hand glove for cleaning), it counts!

In my experience, and even for others that I know, we have found that decluttering is liberating, a bit addicting and, yes, fun! So much of our responsibility in life feels hard. Doing this one thing that frees our life from visual clutter, mental clutter, etc. is absolutely terrific! Serious.

I dare ya....can you find one thing to declutter today? :-)

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Blog Tag - I'm It!

I've been tagged by my friend Patricia at Digiheaven Designs. Here are the rules for this tag.

1. Link to the person that tagged you and leave a comment on their blog, so that their readers can visit yours. (Her name is linked above).
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share 7 Random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 random people at the bottom of your post, linking to their blog. Let each person know by leaving a comment on their blog. (Sadly, I'm so new to the world of blog that I don't know 7 people...If any of our fellow 365 Days of Decluttering Challengers wants a link for their blog, post a comment and I'll add ya!)

My 7 random facts:

1. My brother's full name & my full name (using my maiden name, of course) have the same amount of letters.
2. I was deathly allergic to bee stings from age 5 until about 15.
3. My 2nd grade teacher wanted to promote me past 3rd grade to 4th but my mom wouldn't allow it.
4. The only TV shows I watch are on HGTV.
5. I scored 95 out of 99 on the ASVAB that I took to enter the U.S. Marine Corps. (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery--the test you take to decide your military job :-)
6. For approximately 30 years, I've lived in California. That's *nearly* all my life and I don't want to live anywhere else.
7. I am a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant.

Now, I need to tag 7 people…As noted above, that will come with time. :-)

For now, I’ll start with Amy, Kristianna, Anna and Paula.