Decluttering and organizing is not an end in and of itself. It is a path to enriching your life by being able to do the things that matter most to you. When your physical “things”, when your home, office, car, garage, etc. are decluttered and organized, you make better decisions as to what comes into your life, your home, your office. You get clear on what is most important so that only those things that you love and that serve your highest purpose get that important real-estate. I live my life that way and I want to spread a message of hope and support. The hope is that you will see how it is possible to live a more peaceful, less stressful, less overwhelmed life. My goal is to help you spend your time doing what matters most instead of decluttering and organizing all of the things that aren’t getting you anywhere in life.
I was told about this book by an acquaintance of mine so I read it….in about 30 minutes. And then I did the activities. It was simple!
The reason I am writing about this book is that I’m finding life to be overwhelming for a lot of people (I include myself in this group). And sometimes I think people need to get back to basics in order to re-set and get things back on track. This book is good for that.
In the introduction, the author – Brooke McAlary – says, “For most people, the journey towards simplicity starts with decluttering their stuff clearing out wardrobes, or sorting through books, photos and decades of sentimental items. As they look around their home in frustration, they declare, ‘That’s it! I’m buying fewer shoes/clothes/tennis racquets/toys/books/CDs. I’m sick of clearing this stuff out!’ But fast-forward twelve months and you’ll find many of them are back at it, grumbling about how they would prefer to be watching TV, relaxing, drinking a beer or playing with their kids. Instead, they’re clearing out the garage again.”
The chapters in the book deal with single-tasking, getting down morning and evening rhythms (not routines), brain dumping, three things, gratitude and tilting. I explain these below:
- Single-tasking – immersing yourself in a task you do regularly and not doing anything or thinking about anything else
- Rhythms – identify needs and wants for mornings and evenings which sets the tone for the day in terms of things that should be done
- Brain dumping – writing out all kinds of things that are swirling around in your head, possibly keeping you up at night, that you get out on paper
- Three things – if you get nothing else done in a day, write out three things that are most important and get those done. If you get more done, awesome.
- Gratitude – while you’re writing down the brain dump and three things, you might as well write down things you are grateful for. It helps to re-wire your brain for looking at the positive in life.
- Tilting – the opposite of work/lifebalance. When there are things that come up or take more of your time, deal with them and don’t beat yourself up about the other things that you can’t get to. For example, your child is sick. Take care of your child and don’t worry so much about the dishes. It’s kind of like three things – if you get more done, great, but there is only so much time in a day so priorities trump balance.
The book is an easy and quick read. It’s a good place to start if you are looking for small steps to get where you need to be. Here’s a link to the book: Destination Simple
If you haven’t read my last post (part 1), read that first.
Another chapter that the author, Shauna Niequist, writes about is called Simplicity. I am all about simplicity whenever possible so I was eager to read this chapter. To sum it up, she discusses how simplifying her material possessions gives her great joy, helps her make better decisions and she sees only things she loves. Her energy is free to do other things rather than decide which one of thirty outfits to wear or to buy meaningful gifts for others instead of just picking out something because it’s on sale.
“As I’ve been aching for simplicity inside myself – in my heart, in my spirit – I’ve been surprised to find how much simplifying my material world has created space not just around me, but inside me.”
“For some people, getting dressed is a delight, a way to tell the world who they are, a creative and inspiring process. Some people get a little charge of energy from the pure variety of what they buy and put together and wear. I’m finding that I get a little charge of energy from knowing exactly what I love and what I don’t, and being clear about the two. I’m more inspired by a near-uniform, a narrow set of parameters that make me feel most like myself. I love wearing black, white, gray, and blue. I love classic shapes, stripes, jeans. And I love the flash of metallics, like gold sandals and jewelry. I find such delight and energy in this newly simple way of dressing – that actually I”d been practicing for a long time, only now my closet reflected it.”
“In the kitchen, in the closet, and throughout the rest of the house, I kept finding that the more I let go of, the happier I was. It almost seemed like the less stuff there was in our home, the more freely I could breathe, the more deeply I was able to think.”
“The other benefit I’m finding in these newer, narrower parameters about what I wear and what fills my cabinets is that I’m finding I make better decisions when I make fewer decisions. When I open my closet and see only things I love, and relatively few of them, when I open my cabinets and see nothing but white plates, those are just that many fewer decisions to make in a day that always, invariably, make that day just a couple ticks easier, and I’ll take it.”
“I find myself filling my cart and my shopping bag differently these days, too – do I want to manage this? Clean this? Find a place for this? Will this bring me ongoing joy, or will it be just another thing to store, just another thing to clutter up my mind and home? I’m bringing fewer and fewer things into our home, and I’m shopping for other people in new ways, too – what are timeless, useful gifts, instead of easy-to-pick-up knickknacks? Or even better, what experiences can we share, instead of what items can I fill their home with?”
“How we live matters, and what you choose to own will shape your life, whether you choose to admit it or not. Let’s live lightly, freely, courageously, surrounded only by what brings joy, simplicity, and beauty.”
If you are interested in the book, here’s an Amazon link.
I was told to read this book by a friend who is also my client and I’m glad she told me about it. (Disclaimer: the author of this book talks a lot about how Christianity is a big part of her life. I am not trying to convert or push or judge as far as religion goes and that is not my purpose for this post. The parts of this book I will discuss here are about decluttering and organizing.)
The author, Shauna Niequist, uses stories, poems, everyday language to describe what has changed in her life. She was basically a go-getter, type A, nonstop action type of person. She worked hard, played hard and had little time to stop and think about where her life was going. When she did stop, she realized many things she was unhappy with that made her slow down and take stock of her life.
One of the stories left an impression on me. The chapter is called The Man in the Tuxedo. It is about a man who was dying of cancer and left a video of himself to his family and friends. The video of this man wearing a tuxedo and giving a toast would be played at his adult children’s weddings as his way to toast them even if he wasn’t alive. At the same time, the author herself, Shauna, was going through a situation in which she had to make a big decision regarding taking on an opportunity through work. Shauna had asked for advice from a friend about whether she should take the opportunity or not. The friend then showed her the video of the man in the tuxedo. Shauna then realized that the “opportunity” she had worked for for so long was just more work in disguise. She declined the opportunity and was told graciously that another project was waiting for her if and when she wanted it. Her relief at knowing that she hadn’t obliterated her career as well as knowing she could be home more with her family was something of a turning-around of her life and priorities. The man in the tuxedo taught her that, in the end, her family and people closest to her were more important than working more and harder.
I almost feel like I need to make another disclaimer – this book isn’t about everyone quitting their jobs or not saying yes to opportunities in life. It is about knowing what you really want out of life and making sure you’re on track with it. It goes along with my tagline and motto – Make Room in Your Life for What Really Matters.
And that is why I not only declutter and organize people’s homes, cars, offices, etc. but I want to know what matters to my clients because those are the things that they should hold on to. Everything else is just shiny or new or fun-for-the-moment or a gift you can’t bring yourself to get rid of. Everything else really isn’t important when all is said and done. We can’t LOVE everything. That is reserved for only the few truly special things in life.
If you are interested in the book, here’s an Amazon link.
Ahh… to-do lists.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
For me, the following works well:
- scheduling things on my calendar that most people don’t think to schedule as an actual event.
- keeping a running list in a Google document that I can access online or offline, on my phone or tablet or computer until I can schedule it
- writing out the most important things to get done for the next day the night before. That has brought immense clarity to days that would have been more aimless had I not really focused on what was most important and urgent for the next day.
Comments are welcome! What works or doesn’t work for you?
I am reposting the article below that I read on Thrive Global as I think the ideas here might resonate with some folks:
To-do lists are popular and effective, but there’s a good chance you’re making yourself less productive.
To-do list is a time-honored system. It’s beautiful in its simplicity: make a list of what needs to be done and in an order of importance, do them, and then, one-by-one, cross them out. When executed well, to-do lists yield pretty impressive results.
Millions of people rely on them to get work done. They help us to prioritize our actions. And they give us a structure to get things done.
Your brain loves ordered tasks. Studies have shown that people perform better when they have written down what they need to do.
“Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective” notes professors Baumeister and Masicampo.
Writing your tasks, goals, and things to do provides clarity. It helps you structure your life in a more manageable way.
For many of us, a productive life is based on a system of listing achievable goals and doing everything we can to achieve them.
But that system has a major flaw.
To-do lists don’t account for time
Time plays a major part in getting stuff done.
Time is the raw material of productivity. Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest it carefully.
To-do lists don’t show how long a task will take to complete. It’s easy to tackle the simple tasks and leave important but the time-consuming projects undone.
Tackling your lists of things to do without deadlines is an ineffective way to work.
You also likely to choose the short and easy tasks almost without fail. Tasks that take less than five minutes to do, leaving big, important projects untouched.
Most items on to-do lists are never done because you keep adding to them without any accountability system to help you complete them.
According to the Zeigarnik effect, people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
This effect, in essence, means that uncompleted tasks on your to-do list will stay on your mind until you finish them.
All those undone items can lead to stress and insomnia.
This can only lead to an overwhelming feeling that makes it difficult to fully immerse yourself in any task.
Define what your ideal day would actually look like
Jason Womack, author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, recommends a different approach to getting organized and getting things done.
He suggests you write an “Ideal Day” scenario for yourself to make the most of each day. Knowing what “ideal” means to you gives you a goal to work toward, he says.
How do you want to spend your day? What tasks HAVE to be done today? What time of day can you do your best work?
With that scenario in mind, you can then divide the day into sections and match to-do list activities to different times.
Those moments of clarity can make a huge difference in how you use your to-do list and get both urgent and important work done without wasting time.
Schedule everything on your calendar
Put everything on your calendar and then work and live by that calendar. It also enables you to better determine which projects to take on and whether you should be saying yes to more tasks in any given week.
Adding dates, and or due time to your list — especially to your most important tasks can help you accomplish them at specific times of the day.
Add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!
To make to-do lists work best for you, put your calendar to good use. Many people schedule the day or week, rather than arranging it into to-dos without deadlines, accomplishes a couple of things.
Schedules also employ a sense of urgency that you don’t get with a priority-based structure.
Add estimations to each task
You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.
It’s better to say, “I only have 40 minutes to do this task today”, rather than arranging your tasks in order of importance without a specific timeline.
Tasks need a little more detail to make to-do lists work effectively for you.
Adding those details (time and how long tasks will take to complete) — and then looking at them before starting a day’s work — might take more time, but it will help set expectations and get work done right.
Try scheduling out every single minute of the day from 8am to 5pm tomorrow, if you can. Plan breaks on purpose.
Schedule emails, social media or notifications. You will see a drastic improvement in focus, self-awareness and how you use your time throughout the day.
Break big project into small tasks, list each tasks and assign timelines to every single one of those tasks
If your to-do list isn’t clear, your tasks probably won’t get done — and they certainly won’t be prioritised. They will only lead to more stress.
Take a few minutes to think through that big project. What are its component parts? What will be the real effort and time required? Write it down. Then start working on the component parts.
When the overwhelming work becomes something small you can focus on, your focused-brain can hone in on exactly what you need to do, single-task and crush long-term goals.
Before you go…
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Staying on top of snail mail and the clutter it creates is at the top of the list for many as a tedious and loathed task. But making time to address what arrives in your mailbox each day can mean the difference between a daunting pile of junk or a neat and organized must-deal-with pile. Follow these steps daily to help keep both mail and clutter under control.
Make Checking Your Mailbox a Daily Mission
Whether the mail piles up in the box or on your counter, it will still be there for you to deal with. Take a few minutes each day and establish a routine to deal with anything that arrives in your mailbox. Once you bring mail into your home, it should only take a few seconds to sort and organize. I use these three categories when sorting through my mail: recycle, requires action or read.
On any given day, your mailbox is probably filled with junk you don’t need to keep. Grocery ads, credit card offers, solicitations, and catalogs accumulate quickly. Stop the influx of junk mail into your home by recycling any unwanted mail immediately. Check out these resources for help in halting junk mail completely: catalogchoice.org, directmail.com, or ecocycle.org.
Place bills that need to be paid, invitations that require RSVPs or anything else that needs action from you in a designated spot. Bills can be dealt with once a month, while invitations and similar items should be addressed as soon as you can consult your calendar.
We subscribe to magazines to read about hobbies, current events or any information that makes us happy. But when those magazines start piling up and creating clutter, it may be time to rethink the number of subscriptions coming into your home. I suggest paring down to three subscriptions and making sure you truly enjoy what’s being delivered to your house each month or week. Once you are finished reading a magazine, it’s time to recycle it or pass the copy on to someone else who might enjoy reading it.
Establishing these habits to deal with mail and the clutter that it can quickly create will go a long way in saving both precious time and energy. And you may just have a bit more time to read those precious magazines.
The before-and-after photos in this post are showing how small changes can affect how things look in your home. In each set of photos, you will see that excess “stuff” was gotten rid of to make way for the possessions that my clients actually wanted. It was amazing to see how many things people were living with that they didn’t know, didn’t remember having or didn’t care to have anymore.
Ways that Organization and Decluttering Helped Clients:
- Time to devote to kids
- More efficient in business
- Save time by not looking for the “thing you just had”
- Ease painful memories
- Utilize current space for optimization and saving time
- Organize craft areas to spend more time creating, not looking for supplies
- Better decision-making on what comes into your home
How Do You Feel About Your Organization?
- “But, I’m not a hoarder…”
- “I have things under control…”
- “I am constantly reminded of _______ and it reminds me of painful memories.”
- “I am embarrassed to have people over to my house.”
- “I can’t find things I know I have.”
- “I don’t have time to get organized.”
- “I can’t keep it under control once it’s organized.”
What Are Your Fears of Decluttering?
- I will discard something I’ll later regret
- I will be judged for my clutter or lack of organization
- Getting rid of something means I don’t like that object
- Getting rid of gifts people have given me is rude
- The more I have of _____, the more people will respect me and think I am successful
- I have so many things, I don’t know where to begin
- My time is better spent on other (important) things
and more! I hear almost all of these concerns as well as the good things that have come out of decluttering and organizing.
It is a process and taking steps toward it is not always easy. Contact me if you need help!