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Posts Tagged clutter

The Purpose Of Stuff And The Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

Recently I came across this post about “The purpose of stuff” and I thought it was a really great way of thinking about the items in our lives.  To Summarize, we have all this stuff in our lives and they largely fall into four distinct purposes: Functional, Aesthetic, Nostalgic, and Dream Placeholders.

posessions-tiny-house

I liked this line of thought and realized that this frame work is useful, but it contains a lot of pitfalls.  For example: Functional.  There are a lot of things that could be deemed functional in our lives, kitchen gadgets are the first thing that comes to mind.

Many of us have drawers stuffed with gadgets that will peel garlic, steam broccoli and core an apple.  The kitchen gadget industry has come up with a solution for every possible problem.  The truth is, much of these purpose built items don’t make us better cooks and most of these things serve an outlier need.  How often do you actually core apples?

So I wanted to offer up some questions that can help you navigate around the pitfalls of each of these.

Functional:

There are things that we simply need to get through our daily lives.  We need a bed to sleep on, a fridge to keep food in, a towel to dry our hands and so on.  Much of what is in my tiny house has a very strong functional purpose, but it’s easy to say we NEED something.  What most people fail to do is examine motivations and take a step back and understand the motivations.

compact-can-openerA perfect example for me was: do I need a washer and dryer?  I was convinced I did, but I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in my house.  It was then I took a step back and said “I hate folding clothes, why would I want to have a thing in my house that caused me to do things I hate doing?”

Now it would be easy to say, well everyone wears clothes, clothes get dirty, you need to wash them, therefore, you need a washer.  That is a pretty logical argument, it’s how most houses are built, and how it’s been done for a long time.  But I was willing to ask myself, what if I didn’t have a washer/dryer?  So I said, well maybe there is someone that I could instead pay to do my laundry in lieu of buying an expensive compact washer/dryer.  Low and behold I found a company that will come to my house, take my laundry, wash/dry/fold, then bring it back to me… for $15!

Ask yourself these questions around functional items:

  • What assumptions am I making about this item and the “need” it fills?
  • What are other ways I could achieve this same end result?
  • Is there something I could use instead that does this in a smaller form or is multi-purpose
  • How often do I actually do this function?
  • What if I didn’t have this thing?  What would the impact be?

Aesthetics

There is a great quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  Aesthetics is very important in a small space and for minimalists, we have very little so we must be intentional with all our decisions.  When it comes to minimalists choosing beautiful things for our lives, we need to be discerning.  This is the case where less is more, not out of some dogmatic adherence, but by have a few beautiful things we bring focus and honor to their purpose: enrichment through beauty.

have-nothing-that-is-not-useful-and-beautifulThe trouble with aesthetic items we can have too many of them, which leads us to have a cluttered feel.  Focus on a few select things that allows you to enjoy them without being distracted by other things.  If you find yourself not appreciating it’s value each day, it might be a sign it needs to go.

Ask yourself these questions around Aesthetic items:

  • Where will this item have a home, a spot, in my house?
  • How do you want your space or home to feel?  How does this item help you achieve that goal?
  • Is there enough space to draw your focus on this item each day?
  • What items will distract you from enjoyment of this item?

Nostalgic

This is the most difficult of them all, because we are human beings and as such, we are inherently laden with flaws and complications.  Nostalgia is a powerful force of the human experience and its valuable, healthy and an important part of life.  There are times when it can weigh us down.

memories-posessionsIf you ever have watched a show of Hoarders, you hear over and over again how people don’t want to throw something away because it reminds them of their late spouse, passed away family member or some other part of their past.  While hoarding is an unhealthy expression of this need to connect with the past, we can all relate to these feelings.

For me I spent a significant amount of time sifting through my memory boxes and was able to organize into a few albums and boxes.  I then placed the whole thing into a large waterproof container for safe keeping.  I think what I really need to do is get better is spending a little more time enjoying these memories.

Ask yourself these questions around nostalgic items:

  • Is it possible to keep this memory from some other prompt?
  • Is this a healthy memory to keep coming back to?
  • Would a picture of the item suffice?

Dream Placeholders

I have a soft spot for nostalgic items, but when it comes to items that are place holders for our dreams, hope and even fantasies I take a pretty hard line.  Dream placeholders are things that we involve in our lives that nod to a life we wish to live, the are things that we want in our lives, but we don’t have them, so we instead have things that remind us of that.  Dream placeholders are toxic. Period.

We should have goals, but the difference between goals and a dream is that goals are things we work towards, we are driven to achieve and we make meaningful progress towards; dreams are things we just remind ourselves that we don’t have them with no end in sight.

born to liveIt’s the difference between someone saying they hate their job and going home only to do it all over again, versus a person that works 9 to 5, only to come home and work on their side hustle until midnight.  It is the difference between people who say they want to live in a tiny house and the people who I’m going to do it and are building their dream home weeks later.

Dream placeholders can be toxic.  Living this lifestyle is one of purpose, of intention and of pursuit of your best life.  If you can’t actively pursue something, then it’s best to come to terms that it will not happen and move on.

Ask yourself these questions about Dream Placeholders:

  • What have you done in the last week to achieve this dream?
  • Why haven’t you achieved this already and is it just an excuse?
  • Does this item serve a function in getting you closer to your goals?
  • Should I lay this dream to rest and move on?

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you make sure the things in your life are meant to be there?
  • What tricks do you use to keep down clutter?

5 Things You Can Discard Today

Stuff. Collection. Keepsakes. Junk. Clutter. Call it what you will and spell it how you may. It is still a four-letter word in the tiny house community. Stuff is one of those multi-description things that has the ability to hold you back, weigh you down, and otherwise keep you from true freedom! In the book Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk writes: The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.

Storage Unit

Yet still, getting rid of stuff can be difficult at best. There has been conversation before about the freedom’s gained by downsizing but for us it was about taking the things we loved so much and sharing them with others. We weren’t actively using them so why not let someone who would use them, have them. Doing so allowed us to have a more peaceful, clutter-free home and helped our transition into a tiny house a much easier one. Hopefully following these tips will allow you to experience the same freedom.

1. Kitchen Drawers

Doesn’t everyone own and use two sets of ice tongs and a minimum of four ‘sporks’ from your favorite Taco Bell? If this is you perhaps you should consider paring down. A good way to do so is to institute a 3-bin system. This systems consists of two boxes and one drawer. First empty out your kitchen drawer into the first box. As you use each utensil place it into the second box. If you need to use it again take it out of the second box, use it, and return it to the drawer. It now warrants enough usage to keep. Anything that remains in box two or box one at the end of a pre-determined time get discarded.

2. Coffee Mugs

Service of four and two for guests. That is pretty much all you need. Beyond that you can purchase mugs for about $0.25 at the thrift store. Then you can use it and discard it again and not feel guilty for the purchase.

Coffee Mugs

3. Receipts

Yes, it is wise to keep gift receipts in case someone doesn’t like something, won’t use something, got multiples of something, or the gift is dysfunctional. However, if the receipts are just general purchases there are more efficient and space-conscious ways of keeping receipts. Consider a program/App like Evernote or a scanning program that typically comes with a new printer.

4. Periodicals

Magazines have become a decorating accessory through the years. No guest room is complete without a stack by the bed and on bathroom is ready for guests without a small library. But if the year is 2015 and the periodical is from 1999 chances are it is out-of-date and of little interest to anyone. Consider changing out magazines and even books with newer, more fresh material that is more enjoyable to read and more current in its topics.

Magazines

5. Electronics

The nostalgia for a Motorola pager is great. All Jedi know that. However, the user for one is non-existent. This applies to Blackberry’s, Razr flip phones, Kyocera brick phone, and Sony Walkmans. De-cluttering is not limited to the kitchen. eJunk is a very real problem and it seems the average family has quite a collection of useless devices. Perhaps the problem is not knowing how to dispose of them, parting with them after such an initial expense, or just said nostalgia, after all. Fight the urge though and gain space back by permanently burying that coveted 5-disk changer that was once so popular.

Your Turn!

  • Do you have a problem getting rid of things around the house?
  • Is your kitchen the first place clutter builds up?

How To Get Started: A Practical Guide Part 5

Today we are going to talk about how to start reduce your stuff.  I feel that it is important to start reducing things down before you even build your Tiny House because after you weed out things, you will begin to see how little your really need.  Inevitably you will still need to get rid of some things even after you do this when you move into your house, but I feel 2 passes are needed for most.

I should note that discussing consumerism and materialism prior to this step was an important choice in order.  We have now established a backdrop which should frame your mind when approaching these things.  So I am going to first offer up some tips then some techniques to start organizing.

Tips:

  1. Start small: Don’t try to tackle your house, or even an entire room, try just one are ie: your desk
  2. Everything has a place and everything in its place:  have a designated spot for everything
  3. Put it away now: Once you get things clean, if you use something, put it back right away
  4. Use an inbox and keep it empty:  This applies to mail, email, etc.  your goal is to have it empty at all times.  It comes in, you respond or calendar then file it.
  5. Setup a file system: Papers and emails seem to pile up on people, so take the time to have a file system, I digitize everything and I’m done
  6. Setup a system for pending items:  Where many people get into trouble is what to do with pending items, so setup a system to organize things that in holding

Techniques:

Box Method:

This is simply my favorite approach, it is effective and simple.

Find a box, any box, size appropriate for your stuff of a certain area.  The important thing to remember is to tackle one defined area at a time, usually you can define an area by its function.  Your desk is a great place to start (then later move on to your clothes, then the kitchen, etc.).  Take everything and I mean everything!  Out of and off of your desk (with the exception of your computer and desk lamp) and put it into the box.  No cheating now, just do it, I want every drawer empty, the desktop clear and the floor clear too if you have stuff piled up.

Now once you have done this, write today’s date on it and take this box and put it under your desk or within arm’s reach.  That’s it!  No just kidding, as you begin to work and find that you need things go to the box and pull out that one single item.  If you need a pen, get one pen, not all of them.  If you need ruler, take it out of the box.  Continue doing this for a month, hence the date you wrote on the box.  At the end of the month schedule 20 minutes in your calendar to sort through the remains.

When you do this take your box and set your trash can right next to it and begin considering each item.  For 95% of all the things in that box, you will end up throwing away.  A few items will be something that you use every now and then, but with no consistency, but you feel that your really really really need.  Then ask yourself:

  • Is this something that I could borrow easily when the need arises?
  • Could you achieve this function of the item, in another way?
  • Is there something in my desk that can do this function?

For many things you will find that you can borrow them or you don’t really need it.  There are those things that you just have to have.  You emergency inhaler is a good example, however the snow globe that Deborah in accounting gave you 4 years ago and that has been sitting the back of a drawer is not.

Throw away or donate the remains and you will have an area that is cleaner and has the things that you need, now just want.

100 or 300 0r ____ item challenge:

For some people a solid goal is what they need; Arbitrary goals mean they can’t take the first step, so I use this technique with those folks.  The concept is you set a goal for yourself in terms of number of items then eliminate down to that number.  What I suggest for determining the number is nothing above 500, but what ever number you choose, shave off 50 items to push yourself.  Now the rules for this is that each item counts as a single item.  For example, a fork, knife and spoon are three things, not a set of one.  There are some things I will give you a pass on to not count on your list, I don’t count fridge, stove, toaster, microwave type of things.  I do however count clothing, 1 shirt = 1 shirt.  Depending on the situation I will say items specifically for your work/income are not counted, but I would push many people to include them if possible or do a 100 item challenge on your work place, we spend a good amount of time at work, less stuff means we can think clearer, work better and more effectively.  Check out this guys website on this: http://guynameddave.com/100-thing-challenge/

Going Paperless

As if being greener isn’t motivation enough, going digital, as I call it, means that you are able to reduce the tangible items you need. Digital files take up no space if you have them stored online, with the added advantage of being able to access them from anywhere.

How to get started on this?  First you need a scanner, depending on how much paper volume you have, you might want to invest in an auto-feeding model.  I have yet to try out, but am anxious to try the Neat Receipts system which includes software to organize it all.  However you do this, please please please! backup and be really paranoid about it.  Combined with backing the files up, they become safer than real world things. I currently have my computer setup to automatically mirror my hard drive to another within the computer (google RAID), then I have 3 external hard drives that are backup to, then finally I have another that sits in a fireproof box at my house and another in a safety deposit box at the bank.  The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements.

But this extends beyond receipts. books which can take a ton of space can now fit on your Kindle, instead of renting and DVD’s get a Roku Box, for music I have it on my ipod and also online on a platform called OpenTape, I also put all my recipes in a wiki and finally I organize my documents on a free online file manager called Xoda.  The point is, I look at everything I have and look for a digital equivalent, then back it up religiously!

Down & Dirty Organizing

Here are some videos of a lady who read this book Unclutter Your Life in One Week.  Now I should put in a side note, she is a scrapbook / photography blogger, so you will see her drop things about scrap booking.  Regardless of that fact she does a great demonstration of practical tips about how to reduce your stuff and how to organize what is left.

unclutter your life

A few key points she mentions:

  • All thing have a place and are in their place
  • Try to get things off the floor
  • Only have things that you love

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