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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!

What Do You Need?

This weekend it was cold and dreary out, so I decided to tackle all my belongings, start to thin things out in preparation for moving into a Tiny House.  While I am about 1-2 years away from such a move (purchase the land and build my house), I knew there was a lot of things that I could get rid off.  I was able to reduce my belonging by about 50% by removing unessential things, junk and stuff I didn’t need anymore.  I should note I first donated, then recycled and finally if I had to, threw away.

The exercise got me thinking about what do you need?  I started a Mind Map (using xmind, a favorite of mine) to consider how I would integrate my tiny house, my stuff, food production, water, and energy.  When I got to stuff, I started to think, what does it mean to live simply?  The idea came to me, it’s a lot like going to college, simple, small etc.  When you move into a dorm room you have next to no space, but you need to have everything you need to live.

Now some will be quick to point out often in college you have a cafeteria, a gym, laundry facilities, etc.  I agree, but I really like what Gregory Johnson  over at Resources For Life says about this, living in a Tiny House means you need to “outsource” things.  So instead of a bowflex, you get a gym membership, instead of a full kitchen, you eat out (quite common in NYC).  Etc. Etc.  These things cost money, but in the end, you are saving a lot and with no debt it isn’t as bad, plus it afford you more free time.

So when we consider moving to a college dorm room we know a few things: it is small, must be multifunctional, must be meet all your needs.  Sounds like similar circumstances in a Tiny House.  So if I were to make a list of what would it include?  Well here is suggested shopping list for a dorm Click Here.

The other thing to consider when trying to have a rough idea of what you will need is the 100 item challenge.  Here is Tammy’s list of things that she has in her house.

Finally I realize that no matter how slim I get things I will need to thin out some more when I make the final move.  So here is my plan.  Once I have constructed my Tiny House I plan to park it outside where I am currently living for 1 month.  I will move into my Tiny House with nothing.  The idea behind this is that any time I need something, I go into my old place and get just that one item.  Now this means I do have to pay rent for 1 month extra, but I should be able to swing it.  As I need things I will go get them, extra exercise for sure, but the point of the exercise to shift to an intentional way of life, so if I have to get on my shoes, go outside, unlock the door, walk up the stairs, find that one thing, then I will think about it.  At the end of the month I will have stuff left in my old place where I will sort through it all.  Is there things that I can do without or absolutely need?  I figure at the end of the month there isn’t much that I absolutely need need need if I didn’t use it in that time.

Below are two things that will help you along your way to reducing your things.

Here is a great book on getting your stuff under control and life simplification:

Here is a video that I like about one guys quest to simplify:

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