Let It Go

Maybe you have a hard time getting rid of things. Maybe you feel guilty about getting rid of that "perfectly good" toy
you don't like anymore. Stop. It may be perfectly good for someone, but
that someone isn't you. There's nothing inherently wrong with you
getting rid of it. Who are you worried about offending? (As the Ikea ad
says "Many of you feel sorry for this lamp. You are crazy. It has no
feelings.")

Read more about overcoming entropy and guilt in the Discardia post, "Getting Rid of Stuff".

Bag 1: Books

How would you like to have 52 grocery bags worth of clutter gone from your house? You can do it.

Here's the first one. Set up a double-bagged grocery bag (it'll be heavy…) and head for the bookshelves. Fill the bag if you can with the following:

– reference, technical and travel guide books which are now out-of-date (Tip: if no
computer in your house is running that version of that software, you do
not need a book about it)

– books you haven't opened in 5 years and which you don't feel like reading within the next month

– books which you bought intending to read, but still haven't gotten to several years later and don't want to start this month

– books you didn't like

– books someone gave you that you don't want to read

– books for a hobby you no longer have

– cookbooks for foods you don't eat anymore

As you take books off the shelf make sure they don't have anything important tucked inside them and that if they're inscribed to you, the inscription and source don't have the emotional pull to make this worth keeping.

Remember: putting the books in the bag does not remove them from the universe. If you later decide you want to read one of them, odds are very good that the local library or used bookstore will have a copy. Maybe even this copy.

Now, what do you do with this bag once you fill it up? You can take it to a used bookstore that buys or trades books and possibly turn it into cash or books you actually want. If you're having a yard sale soon you could sell the books. Or you can just drop them (or at least the ones that didn't sell) off as a donation to the library or charity. Just get that bag out of your house. Bag number one, done.

Field trip: The Library

This weekend visit your nearest public library, especially if you haven't been for years. You'll be amazed at what they have for free that you'd normally pay for. DVDs, music, books on tape (and CD), bestsellers, big pretty coffee-table books, fancy cookbooks, books in many languages, and lots more.

The selection isn't limited to what you see in the building, either. Your librarian can help you get just about any book in the world.

Go take a look and find something wonderful.

While you're there, ask where you can donate books. We'll be talking about that tomorrow…

Friday Freedom

Maybe you'll take the rest of the weekend off, but before you do, take fifteen minutes to a happier home. Tonight set your sights on the kitchen. Ready?

Find 10 things that you don't want in your kitchen anymore. You get more bonus points the bigger they are.

Kick them out to the trash, put them in your charity bag or start a yard sale box.

Gone. Done. Better.

Outbound Traffic

If you don't already have them, take a moment right now to set up places for things that are about to depart your home.

– You probably already have wastebaskets, but do you have a Recycling Area? The kitchen is a good spot. If you're lucky like me, you can put the recycling all together in one paper bag and just drop the whole bag in the big bin outside. Get in the habit of sorting your mail over this bag and spare yourself the stacks of junk mail around the house.

– If you use the library (and you should since it's FREE, after all), dedicate one spot for items ready to return to the library. A canvas bag on a shelf in the front hall is good. Save yourself having to hunt for something to carry Library Goodies away in and for bringing the new loot home.

– Set a Charity Bag (or box) up in a corner where it's handy but not in your line of sight from the spots where you sit to relax. Whenever you come across something that's not trash, but you also know you'll never really use it again, walk right over and put it where it belongs. Next time you're heading out for errands, grab that stuff and drop it off at Goodwill or wherever. (Personally, I rarely have anything making it worth waiting for a receipt, so it takes almost no time to make my home nicer and someone else's life better).

– Make a Give Back Basket and put in it all the things that need to go back to the person they were borrowed from. You can also put small gifts and your own loaned items there. When someone visits or you're heading to their place, take a quick look in the basket for anything to give them.

– Find, buy or make an aesthetically satisfying tray to act as your inbox for bills and receipts. Don't muddy it with non-financial stuff – get a separate inbox for that if you need one. The Bills Box is where you should keep the postage stamps.

If you don’t use it, don’t pay for it.

What do you shell out money for every month? Sure, rent or mortgage, utilities, food, but what about non-essentials? Take a look at your routine expenses and the time you spend enjoying the results of them.

How many hours do you watch those extra cable channels? What's does that mean you pay per hour? Do you still plan to be spending that much time that way or are there other things you'd do if the temptation wasn't there? Do you read the paper every day? Is it worth the subscription? What about the magazines you get? And that gym membership? Are there free exercise methods you'd use just as often?

It doesn't matter if it's a small expense, if it's not giving you a benefit you find useful or beautiful, then stop spending that money. Save it or spend it on something that matters to you more.

Go for the Record

This will take less than an hour and your home will be much nicer afterwards. Ready?

1. Prepare two empty paper sacks (or other bags or boxes that you don't need to keep). Make sure additional bags are handy.

2. Select an album to listen to. You will work steadily through the entire album, so make it a perky one that you like all the songs on.

Good:  The Beatles – Abbey Road, The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill, Cherry Poppin' Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot, The Clash – London Calling, Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True, Devo – Duty Now for the Future, The Police – Ghost in the Machine, Propellerheads – decksandrumsandrockandroll, Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot, or just about any Talking Heads, funk or swing album.

Bad: songs that make you cry, gregorian chants, Leonard Cohen, new age ambient space pudding.

3. Start the music. Get as far down the following list as you can. Don't stop and do other things; do them after this album finishes.

4. Take a large trashbag. Empty all the little trash containers in the house into it. Put it by the door.

5. Take one of the empty paper sacks. Put all the recyclables in it. (If your neighborhood requires separating them into paper, glass, etc., you may need multiple sacks at this step.) Keep today's paper if you haven't read it yet, otherwise recycle 'em all. Put any catalog you are not actively planning to buy from in the bag; they will send you another any day now, you know. Put the sack(s) by the door.

6. Carry all dishes into the kitchen and gather them by or in the sink. Ditto any dirty pans, etc. around the kitchen. You should fill crusty pans with hot water and a bit of soap now to make washing easier later.

7. (optional step for multi-person households) Take one bag for each shared room and put into it all the stuff that doesn't belong in that room and isn't yours. (Put your own doesn't-belong stuff on your bed and deal with it after you finish the rest of the list or during the last song on the album). Write "IS ANY OF THIS YOURS?" on the side of the bag and leave it in the middle of the room.

8. Put your dirty clothes in the dirty clothes basket. If you do not have one, put a piece of paper on the fridge and write at the top "SHOPPING" and put "laundry basket" under that.

9. Hang up or put away the clean clothes.

10. Put dirty towels (especially the ones from the kitchen!) in the laundry basket. Put out fresh towels. (If you only have one set of towels, put "more towels" on the shopping list and only move the dirty ones if you have time to do laundry right after this album).

11. If the sheets are dirty, take them off and put clean ones on. (If you only have one set of sheets, put "second set of sheets" on the
shopping list and only move the dirty ones if you have time to do
laundry right after this album).

12. Wash the dishes or load the dishwasher.

13. Carry out the trash and recyclables.

14. If you are blessed with laundry facilities in your building, start the laundry. Don't forget to check the pockets for forgotten items!

15.  Use your cobweb duster to clean up the ceiling corners and around ceiling lamps. (If you do not have a cobweb duster and have ceilings too high to reach with a short duster, put "cobweb duster" on the shopping list).

16. Use your short duster (I like a big ostrich feather one) throughout the house. (If you don't have one, put it on the shopping list).

17. Sweep the hard floors.

18. Vacuum the carpets.

19. If you got this far, you obviously have a very clean place already and should now fix yourself a tasty beverage. You may dance to the rest of the album.

Start trying to do this one-album cleanup regularly until you can get to where you do it every week. I like to do it Wednesday or Thursday night so the house is looking pretty good when the weekend starts. Those with pets and/or children may need to do it much more often, though, of course, sheets only need to be changed when dirty.

Slay the Vampire

I highly doubt that anyone seeking a less cluttered life is someone who finds way too much time on their hands. So where is all your time going?

Put a piece of paper up where you'll keep seeing it (on the fridge is a good spot) and all week write down where your time goes. "90 minutes reading blogs", "30 minutes cooking dinner", "110 minutes commuting", "8 hours working", "20 minutes lunch",  etc.

At the end of the week, compare what you did to what you wish you were doing. What's the biggest chunk of time invested for the least payoff? What could be completely or mostly eliminated and replaced with something more important to you?

What do you love?

Today you get to think about the good stuff.

Go for a walk or sit somewhere comfortable. Listen to music you really like or enjoy some silence.

Now, remember the things you really like to do. If you magically had no obligations for three days – no lost opportunities or work piled up when you came back and no expectations of you  – how would you spend your time?

What did you love best to do as a kid?

Think back over your whole life and write down what you've loved doing at different ages.

Next, circle the things you still love to do. Keep writing down any new ones you remember.

Tomorrow, we'll start taking a look at how you get to do the good stuff more often, but for now, just daydream about the best of times.

And happy new year!

Identify Your Anchor

What would you love to be rid of by New Year's Eve next year?

What is slowing you down or getting in your way? Draw a bullseye on it in your mind and start looking for ways to purge it from your life. What's the first thing you can do to chip away at it or minimize its impact on you? Write that thing down on your planner on the first day where you have a free hour. Do it.