This is the first in a series of 52 weekly tips to help you simplify your life. Each week for the next 52 weeks you'll receive a new tip. By the end of 52 weeks your life should be much simpler than it is today. My suggestion is to make a journal of the process listing the actions you take over the 52 weeks. It will give you a very graphic illustration of where you started and where you end up.
Don't procrastinate! Read the article and plan to take immediate action. Anything you put off until tomorrow is very likely to get put off until the day after and the day after that. Ultimately, it won't get done. Remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Two other things to be aware of. First, you may look at the tip for the week and say, "Oh, that's simple! I don't need to do that." Or "I've already done that so I'll skip this one." Yes! Many of the tips will be very simple, but give them serious thought because you're likely to realize it probably wouldn't hurt to at least go through the motions. You may find you really do need to do whatever it is. And, even if you have already done it. Review what you believe you've done. You may find you didn't do it as in depth as it really needs to be done.
Second, these tips are generally going to be short and to the point. I'll give you just enough details for you to undertake the process, but everyone's lifestyle, homes, vehicles, relationships and so on are going to be different. So, you'll need to take the basic guidelines and make them work for your particular life. This first tip is a pretty major process which is why it's the first in the series. It will take longer than others to complete. It's also a little longer than the average article. So let's get started.
Let's get started. I don't care who you are, only the most avid and experienced minimalist will not have much clutter in his or her life. You are most likely not one of those minimalists. That's why you're reading this blog and article. So, step one is to admit that you have clutter around. Once you've made that confession the process becomes easier.
Where do you start? Pick any room in your house or any of the other habitats I mentioned at the top of this section. Open every closet, ever drawer and every cabinet and look at every shelf in every room. You will find "stuff" you may have wanted or maybe even had a definitive need for in the past, but now it's just taking up space and collecting dust.
Here is a list of items to go through and set aside to dispose of:
· Clothes you no longer wear
· Shoes that are worn and/or you no longer wear
· Cosmetics & Toiletries
· Books you've read and won't read again or will never read
· Vinyl Records, Cassettes, CDs, Videocassettes & DVDs
· Old, broken or no longer used Electronics
· Kitchen Storage Containers - they multiply like rabbits
· Pots, Pans and Kitchen Utensils no longer used or useful
· Kitchen Appliances - broken, seldom or never used
· Canned & Packaged Food (unless you're a "Prepper"), go through the freezer, too
· Old Telephone, Membership and other Directories
· Stacks of unfiled and never used Recipes
· Soiled & Worn Out Towels
· Games whether Card, Board or Computer
· Outdated Prescriptions
· Parts for a vehicle you no longer own
I think you get the picture. Nothing is sacred if you are really going to declutter. Go through EVERY closet, cabinet, drawer (especially don't forget the catch all "junk drawer" we all have) and shelf. You're going to go through every item one by one and make a decision. The decision is to Keep OR Dispose of. If you find yourself wavering and leaning toward keeping something, ask yourself, WHEN was the last time you wore, read, used whatever it is? If it's been over a year, then you really don't need it.
If you're having a real hard time in letting something go, allow me to suggest this. Put whatever it (and other things that may fall into this same category) into a carton. When the carton is full seal it shut. Do not mark anything on the box except the date you sealed the box. One year from that date, if you didn't open the box to take anything out, you don't need anything in the box. Just dispose of the box without opening it. You'll never miss whatever was in it.
Do this room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, cabinet by cabinet and shelf by shelf. Take EVERYTHING out and put back only something you KNOW, without a question, you will definitely wear or use soon and regularly. By the way, this includes the basement, attic, garage, storage shed and any rental storage unit(s) you may have. If you find boxes you moved to your current habitat from another location and those boxes are still sealed several years after the move, they automatically go in the disposal pile. Obviously, you don't need whatever is in them.
Some things to be especially aware of include:
· Old Military Uniforms
· College and Graduate School Text Books
· Tax Returns, Receipts, Checks and other paper over 7 years old
· Old School Papers
· Copies of Expired Insurance Policies
Chances are you're never going to be in the military again. You probably don't fit in those uniforms any longer, anyway. Plus, unless you've been in the military recently, the uniforms have probably changed. Did you actually ever read those old college and grad school text books when you were in school? Probably not! So, when do you plan to read these, now, obsolete text books? You get the picture, again, I'm sure.
There are no sacred cows. Even the children need to participate if you have youngsters still at home. I know this may sound cruel and heartless, but once this stuff is out of your life, you'll never miss it. Oh yeah, and as far as anything that qualifies as keepsakes, take a picture of it to remember it by in your old age.
By the way, you may not want to get rid of the piles and piles of unmounted photos and slides you've been collecting for years and meaning to put into photo albums. You may not even have a working slide projector any longer. Hey! We're in the 21st Century and it's a digital world. Make it a weekly project to go through the photos and slides. Then scan and digitize the keepers and put them in online albums or even store them in folders in the "Cloud." If you have old family 8mm, 16mm or videocassettes, hire someone to transfer them to digital format and store them like the photos.
The same is true for all the vinyl lp and 45 records, 8 track cartridges, cassettes, CDs, VHS (and BetaMax) video cassettes and DVDs you may be holding onto. Unless you're some kind of purist and must have the original media you can probably find most of the music, movies and vintage TV shows in your collection on Pandora or one of the other online music or video services.
You won't accomplish all this decluttering in one day or even a week if you worked on it everyday. So, make a plan and start the plan today while it's fresh. You'll probably end up going through this process another time or two until you finally get your life pared down to what you really want and need around you. Believe me, you'll feel reenergized and you life will be much simpler when you're done.
You're going to end up with piles of stuff, probably in trash bags and cartons. What are you going to do with this stuff? Don't even think about saying I'll put it in the basement, garage, shed until I can get rid of it. That's no different than picking up a pile of rocks and moving them from one place in the yard to another place in the yard. You still have a pile of rocks. So, part of your plan is to have an immediate way of disposing of everything immediately that has now been identified as no longer needed clutter.
Here are a few suggestions:
· Recycle anything recyclable
· Trash anything not recyclable and useable by someone else
· Donate Clothes and other useable items to the Salvation Army, a Veteran Domiciliary, Hospices, Homeless Shelters and other places of this nature and take a receipt for tax purposes if you can use the deduction
· Sell items you feel you can sell at yard/garage sales and flea markets
· Take books, records, cassettes, CDs, videocassettes and DVDs to used bookstores or donate them to libraries, hospitals or prisons
· Consign items to consignment stores
Have a fun time. You'll laugh and cry and relive many memories as you go through this process. And please leave some comments about your experience with the process. Your comments may very well help others get through the process.
One more gentle reminder. There are only two more days after today to take the brief survey I posted a week ago last Wednesday. This coming Wednesday is the last day and I really appreciate your response and assistance. Here's the link SURVEY