Monday, November 30, 2009

How-To: Refresh Your Wardrobe

Nearly everyone's clothes wardrobe needs a clean-out about twice a year, or once at the start of every summer and winter. In my opinion, however, too many guidelines make the assumption that everyone's wardrobes are crammed full with impulse purchases that we never wear, and simply concentrate on clearing out the wardrobe to make room for new season purchases. I'd like to focus on some additional areas, that are applicable even if your wardrobe isn't bursting at the seams, in particular making use of what you currently have.

Start by taking all of your items out of your wardrobe and drawers. Go through everything one-by-one. Do you wear the item? Some items, particularly formal clothing, is only rarely worn, but with most other items if you haven't worn it during the last year, there is probably no point in keeping it. Be truthful with yourself. A good question to ask is, do I feel good wearing this item?

Before putting aside an item that you no longer wear (whether to swap with friends, sell on eBay or give away to charity), next ask yourself whether you can make any alternations to it so that you would wear. (For example, adjusting the fit, shortening the skirt, changing the buttons.) If the answer is yes, put it into a pile to be altered, whether by yourself or professionally at an alternations shop. It is much cheaper to alter something you already own than buy new, quality clothing.

The next check you should make with the item is to inspect whether it is damaged. (Make sure you in particular carefully check pantyhose.) If the item is not repairable, it should go in a pile to go in the bin or be turned into rags. If it is repairable, put it into a pile to be mended, either by yourself or at an alternations shop. Similarly, if it is stained, put it in a pile to be soaked or treated with stain removal. (And if after treatment the stain persists, it should then go into the bin or be used as a rag, rather than going back into your wardrobe, unless you have a special place for old clothes to wear when doing painting or grubby work.)

Finally, check whether there are any dry-clean only items that are due to be taken to the
drycleaners, or whether anything (particularly white items) could do with a bulk soak. With your shoes, it is time that they had a polish or do the heels need replacing on any stilettos?

When putting all the items back into the wardrobe, organise
everything in the way that you prefer, whether by type of clothing or where you wear the item. Try to put everything on nice coathangers that will not damage your clothing (not the thin wire ones from drycleaners) and neatly fold everything. Look into buying shoe racks (Ikea always have cheap ones) or clear boxes for your shoes, if you don't already have any, and neatly arrange accessories in hat boxes or from hangers. A neat wardrobe should make it a pleasure for you to decide what to wear.

(images: real living & Ikea)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Website Recommendation: Unclutterer

I came across a great website today via Twitter, unclutterer.com. There is a section Ask Unclutterer that answers questions submitted by readers, plus a handy forums. You can also follow the site on Twitter, via the account un_clutter that posts tweets about the latest articles to be added.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Release Your Books

bookcrossing n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise

I came across a link today to the website BookCrossing, which encourages people to engage in bookcrossing, and submit details of books they've 'released' or 'caught'. So, if you're wanting to declutter your collection of books but can't bare the thought of permanently losing contact with them, consider 'releasing' them to the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Move Your Magazine Addiction Online

Many people read newspapers online these days, rather than subscribing to them or physically picking up a copy from the newsagent. But what about reading magazines online? I know that reading them online can't substitute for the ease of flicking through the glossy pages of the latest issue or filling up holders with the whole year's issues, but there are some offerings out there online that may help you to stop buying issues that will end up as clutter.

Homes, etc: Notebook: have a wonderful website that delivers up a wealth of home hints, recipes ideas and general help for your life. With the large array of articles dating from their years' of back issues, there is bound to be something that fits what you're looking for and it's easy to find old articles with the search option. Check out the recent article on decorating with botanicals.

Cooking: The best Australian website for recipes is Taste. With recipes taken from the magazines delicious., Super Food Ideas, Good Taste, Vogue Entertaining + Travel, Notebook: and Country Style, it'd be hard to find a recipe that isn't included in their archives. It is also possible to search for articles from a particular publication. Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to highly rated and featured recipes.

Fashion: Vogue has a decent website, particularly for checking out the latest fashion shows, although the standout feature of the site are the forums. With the most popular forums including those devoted to fashion and shopping (not surprisingly), there's a strong band of devotees. Madison's website is also good to check out, mainly for the most wanted and luxe to less stories, although it would be nice if there was a new story more than once a month. For a round up of all the latest fashion and gossip magazines, both in Australia and overseas, with new posts added daily, check out the blog Girl with a Satchel. It'll help you decide what is worth buying this week.

Current Affairs: The Monthly magazine's website offers up for free online reading one of its monthly essays each month, plus an article each from The Nation Reviewed and the Arts & Letters sections. All articles from previous months are also available for free. The articles from the current issue with an M symbol next to them are restricted to subscriber access only, with an online subscription costing $40, a saving of $19.95 off a print subscription. Check out John Birmingham's recent essay on A Short History of the Media Future or the Nick Cave essay, The Good Son, from the August issue.

(images: Notebook: and Madison)

Freecycle and ReUseIt Networks

You may already give away items you no longer want or need to your friends and relatives, but what about if all your relatives live far away or no-one you know wants your old, still functional items? Alternatively, you may be planning on giving away items to a charity, but what if they won't take them (such as old electrical items or just odd items such as old camping equipment)? In both cases the recent invention of Freecycle andReUseIt networks will come in handy.


Both networks essentially operate on people giving away old items for free, to a network of people in their local community, using the internet for communication. So, if you've got some camping equipment or baby clothes you no longer use, you can post an offer, people contact you (hopefully) and someone comes and picks it up (easy to do, as they live close by). Additionally, people may be able to post about items they want (boxes for moving are often a favourite). Both networks operate globally, usually with one of the two in most urban areas in the main countries they operate in (US, Canada, UK, Australia are the main countries listed for ReUseIt).

Donating to Charity

One way that you can thoughtfully dispose of your unwanted clutter is to donate items to charity. This is especially useful with old clothes, furniture and bric-a-brac. Here are the websites of a number of charities in Australia that will accept material donations:
Generally the easiest method is to leave your items at one of their stores (but make sure you don't leave items outside after-hours, as many of these items are stolen), but there are also pick-up services with the details listed on the above websites.

Just remember that electrical goods and stained mattresses are unable to be taken, due to government regulations, and it is best if only good quality items are left with the charities, so that they don't need to spend precious money disposing of items unable to be sold or used, and that should have only gone to a bin.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stop Clutter: Tip #2

One problem most people have when they are sorting through their existing clutter is a reluctance to throw things away because "they might need it someday". This is one of the main reasons that clutter also accumulates in the first place.

If you find yourself going to throw something away but then stopping because you think you might need it someday, ask yourself these additional questions. What is the percentage chance that I will ever use it? Am I likely to use it in the next month? In the next year? What is the cost to me of replacing this item if I do need it? How much storage space does this item take up? If it turns out that you are unlikely to ever use it, the item costs next to nothing to replace and/or takes up a large amount of space, maybe you can convince yourself to let it go.

Turn Clutter Into Clever Storage

Solve two problems at once with the article in this December's RealLiving issue on how to "Turn clutter into clever storage". There's a preview of the article online, but you'll have to grab a copy of the magazine (which arrived in Australian newsagents today) to see the full article.

(images: RealLiving website)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Go Electronic

One thing I love about computers is the ability to store things electronically that would otherwise have cluttered up my home. Whether you are short on space, need to move regularly or just want the convenience of accessing stuff remotely, a review of what you can store in electronic format is beneficial.

Consider the following areas:
  • Photos: The majority of photos taken these days are digital, meaning rather than amassing a large collection of photo albums or messy, unfiled photos, you can just store them on your hard drive, although you still may want to print out some of your photos to create albums. Additional benefits also include the ability to easily share the photos online or to back them up to prevent their loss.
  • Financial documents: Check out the recent post I devoted to decluttering your paperwork. Ideally you would choose to start receiving most of your documents electronically, so they never create that dreaded pile of clutter in the first place.
  • Music: Even if you don't want to put your music onto an iPod or other MP3 player to play your music on the go, you still may want to consider setting up a computer or an MP3 player dedicated to supplying music (and video) for your home entertainment system. Scroll through the list of songs available, rather than trying to find the CD and risk your CDs being scratched. There are many options these days for buying music directly online to download, bypassing the step of owning CDs.
  • Recipes: Rather than keeping torn out pages from magazines, scan the recipes or type them up on your computer. They'll be easily searchable by recipe title and maybe even ingredients (handy for when you want to know what to cook with leftover ingredients).
  • News: Whilst paper newspapers are handy, whether to read on the way to work or during lazy weekend breakfasts, most newspapers can be read online these days. Considering how thick they often are and that most will end up in the recycling bin in a few days, reading your news electronically will help reduce your living room clutter.
  • Books: Not a common option yet, one day many of the books we will read will likely be stored electronically.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspiration: decor8

When decluttering, it helps to have some inspiration on what you would like to transform your home into, rather than just aiming to have it well decluttered and, umm, tidy. Think about the beautiful spreads in home magazines, with all the furniture and homewares so elegantly positioned (and not a hint of clutter anywhere).

I've recently found an inspiring blog online: decor8. Every post is packed with beautiful images, making me wish I could transform my home to look just like them. I particularly like the images from the recent post on online store Pale and Interesting. So, next time you need some inspiration, spend some time reading through decor8.

Stop Clutter: Tip #1

Today, I really need to do cleaning up. I have piles of stuff, well, everywhere. It all started with going away last weekend, and not putting everything away, and then adding some more... You know how it goes!

To stop this from happening, for both myself and anyone else in future, try and put everything away as soon as possible. Everything should have a home, and return to that home when it is finished with. Ideally, everything should be put away before you go to bed - everyday! You may already apply this rule to your children and their toys. Use the same rule for yourself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Recommendation: Affluenza

Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, written by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, is a 2005 publication that focuses on the issue of "affluenza", which is basically when people try to make themselves happy and achieve a status in society through materialism.

One of the chapters in the book is "Wasteful Consumption", which basically focuses on how buying stuff that we don't need, and may never use, we create waste (particularly food waste) and clutter. "We waste billions on clothes and shoes we never wear, exercise equipment we never use, and CDs we never listen to. Uneaten food quickly finds its way to the garbage bin, but these items can be stored for years, so most houses have cupboards, or even rooms, where unused stuff is hidden away. For many the idea of a 'spring clean' now has more to do with disposing of the year's accumulated paraphernalia than with dusting and carpet cleaning." (Hamilton, C. & Denniss, R. Affluenza, Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2005, pp 104-105.)

If this sounds like you, and you want to explore this mindset in the hope of reducing your material consumption before it becomes clutter, I thoroughly recommend the book. It is also available as an Adobe Reader digital download from Dymocks.

(images: Dymocks)

Store Recommendation: Howards Storage World

It's hard to think of a store that offers more storage options than Howards Storage World. No matter which room of the house or what type of storage, Howards will usually always have plenty of options. Along with stores located in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Ireland, Spain and the Middle East, there is also the ability to browse the catalogues and purchase online. Additionally, The Organisation Station on their website has both articles and tips on getting organised.

How-To: What do you want?

Are there any particular areas of your home that need a declutter, and you're not sure how to start? If so, leave a comment for me below, and I'll write a post on that area soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free listings on eBay from tomorrow!

From tomorrow, 11 November, until 6 December, all eBay.com.au auctions with a starting price of 99c or less will have zero insertion fees (usually 30c). This is a great time to sell some of your small bits and pieces that may or may not be bid on, without the cost of listing the items.

Important: For full details, click here (category exclusions apply, sellers must have received an invitation for the promotion, listing upgrades and final value fees still apply, etc).

How-To: Declutter Your Paperwork

One of the top items that creates clutter, both at work and at home, is paperwork. At home you'll have bills, bank statements, financial records, receipts, contracts and various other items of paperwork, with new items arriving each day. Additionally, come tax-time or when you're applying for a loan or moving house, you'll need quick and easy access to the relevant documents. There are two ways of dealing with this paperwork: electronically and in hard-copy.

Many people are increasingly moving to receiving paperwork electronically, and storing it in electronic format (i.e. not printing it out), often for environmental reasons. Some service providers may even penalise you for still receiving paper bills as a cost-cutting measure. If you want to move to storing your paperwork electronically, follow these steps:
  1. Request to receive your bills and other documents electronically. Look for information on the most recent document received, or check out the company's website.
  2. On your computer, create a financial folder, then create a set of folders inside this folder, with one folder for each category (e.g. "Phone", "Contents Insurance") or each company.
  3. When you receive a document via email, save the document to the relevant folder. It's easier to just go to the one folder, rather than to search through all your email.
  4. Similarly, if you view the document after logging into a website, again save the document to the relevant folder. Often you can only access documents going back the last year or so on websites, and charges will apply if you need to have sent older documents.
  5. When completing financial transactions or purchases on line, save a copy of the confirmation as a PDF document to the relevant folder.
  6. Ideally, if you still receive paper versions of any documents, scan the documents and save them along with the electronic documents. If you need to keep the original paper version of the document, keep a folder for this.
  7. If you have bulky paper documents, such as Product Disclosure Statements, Terms and Conditions brochures and manuals, often an electronic copy of such documents can be found on the company's website. Save this document to the relevant folder and recycle the original document.
  8. Because you are relying on these electronic documents, with no hard-copy backup, ensure that you back up the data, whether to discs or online. Additionally, make sure the data is kept secure, with a password required to log-on to the account under which the documents are stored, and optionally data encryption switched on.
  9. Finally, occasionally delete old documents that you no longer need, so that your folders do not become cluttered. Alternatively, if you want to keep everything, you may want to create additional sub-folders, such as one for each calendar or financial year.
If you still want to store your documents in paper format, or you have extensive paper documents that you need to get on top of, before you move to storing documents electronically, follow these steps:
  1. Purchase one or more folders, sufficient to fit all your documents in, along with one or more packets or plastic sleeves.
  2. Use one plastic sleeve for each category (e.g. "Phone", "Contents Insurance") or each company. Order the plastic sleeves in an order that makes sense to you, and, if you are using multiple folders, divide the plastic sleeves between the folders in a way that makes sense to you.
  3. Regularly file the documents away in these folders - at least at the end of each week or after you have paid the relevant bill. Unfiled paperwork can easily go missing.
  4. Occasionally, go through the documents and get rid of any documents that you no longer need (such as old electricity and gas bills, unless you need to keep them for tax purposes). However, if the document has any personal information on it, ensure that you firstly shred it. (Simple shredders can usually be bought at electrical goods stores from about $30.)
(images: kikki.K)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday File Fling


Another event that is part of Planet Ark's National Recycling Week is the "Friday File Fling". The reason behind this event is that office paper has a surprisingly low recycling rate, due to the large amounts of paper that is just filed away. This event aims to get offices to go through paper filed in filing cabinets, desk drawers and in-boxes and either re-use the paper or recycle it (keeping in mind mandatory retention periods for some documents and the need to shred sensitive documents).

This is a great way to do some decluttering in the work place and get everyone involved. Alternatively, you may like to apply the principles to your home office. Check out this step-by-step guide.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Store Recommendation: Freedom

A few days ago, I received in the mailbox the latest Freedom Summer catalogue. They have a great page in the catalogue showing the range of storage solutions they have available - for the living room to the wardrobe to the laundry, including boxes, baskets, units, etc. If you want to deal effectively with clutter, you need to have plenty of attractive storage. Check out the options available at Freedom here.

(images: Freedom)

Organising your Desk

I found this great article on the kikki.K website listing their top 5 tips for organising your desk, whether at the office or home. Even if your workplace doesn't have a "clean desk" policy, I find having a tidy desk always makes me more productive. And make sure you don't forget the final tip on adding personality to your workspace!

(images: kikki.K)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Aussie Swap Events Coming Up!

During Planet Ark's National Recycling Week (9th-16th November), there will be Big Aussie Swap events happening all around Australia. To join in and get rid of some of the clutter around your house, and do your part for the environment at the same time, visit recyclingweek.planetark.org or call 1300 733 712.

(images: Planet Ark)

Disposing of Out-of-date Medicines

Previously I've discussed getting rid of old beauty products and sunscreen. One other item in your bathroom cabinet that you should also get rid of when past its use by date is old medicine. However, it's best not to get rid of them in the bin or by flushing them down a sink or toilet (where they could pollute waterways). Here in Australia the Federal Government has a Return & Disposal of Unwanted Medicines program (www.returnmed.com.au), which allows you to drop off unwanted or out-of-date medicines at your local pharmacy. Most other countries, such as the UK, also have similar programs.

Reduce Your Paper Printouts

Paper is one of the chief causes of clutter both at home and at work. Keep track of your printing, and its impact on the environment, by downloading the Paper-Less Alliance's Paper-Less Print Logger widget at www.paperlessalliance.com.au/software.