Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stop Clutter: Borrow Not Buy

One way to stop possessions from accumulating in your life is to not own everything you use, just to borrow items. Of course, you've still got to keep these temporary possession organised (with their own homes) to stop them from cluttering, but consider some of the following:
  • Join your local library. Borrow books, magazines, movies and albums, depending on the library. Generally you can also reserve books if you're after something specific and are happy to wait.
  • Ask your friends. Most of your friends will be happy to loan you their books (I know I love to know my friends are reading the same books as me, just be sure to finally return them), plus some friends will loan out their clothes (I borrowed one of my cousin's dresses for a formal, rather than buy a dress I'd only use once). I've even heard of friends who live close together than jointly own some rarely used kitchen appliances.
  • Rent rather than buy movies. Stick to only buying DVDs of movies that you believe you'll re-watch (kid's ones frequently fall into this category). Otherwise choose from renting from your local store (watch out for coupons and find out about discount days to make it even cheaper), renting through an online site that posts the DVDs to you, or watch movies from over the web (although if you're outside of the US, lack of choice and download speeds may limit you).
  • Hire that designer bag or frock. Here in Australia a number of websites have recently started up that will hire out designer gear to you for a few weeks, for far less than the cost to buy it new. Great for if you like new bags and dresses regularly, and don't like to wear the same thing.
  • Hire the glasses for your next party. Many bottle (liquor) shops will allow you to borrow glasses to use if you buy enough bottles of alcohol from them, with the payment of a deposit. This means you don't need to own heaps of glasses that you will rarely use.
I'm sure you can think of plenty more ways that you can borrow (whether for free or with a payment) items. So before you buy something, think of whether you can get away without owning it permanently.

(image: Shandos Cleaver)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Product Recommendation: kikki.K Daily Notes Notebook

One of the most difficult forms of paper clutter to tackle are all those notes, ideas and things to do jotted down on random bits of paper and post-its. You could instead write them (or transfer them into) a notebook, but kikki.K have created a notebook that goes one step further: the Daily Notes Notebook, which has sixteen tabs to help organise your notes and make them easy to find. There are eight printed tabs (Books, Films, Gift Ideas, Music, Misc, Bars/Restaurants, Shops and Websites), plus eight more plain tabs for you to label yourself. There's also a small pocket to file items such as loose notes, receipts and business cards.

(image: kikki.K)

How-To: Declutter Your Kitchen Cupboards

No one has yet invented cupboards with an infinite capacity, so one day, as you keep on buying more gadgets, crockery and utensils for your kitchen, your cupboards are bound to get full. And even if they aren't yet full, most kitchen cupboards could do with being re-organised to improve the ease and speed of access to items, particularly for when you're in the middle of cooking. Follow these steps:

  1. Take everything out of all the cupboards and drawers, and put them on the dining table or a clean surface.
  2. Place similar items near similar items. This will help you detect duplicate items, where you only need a single item. Put one aside to be given away or chucked out. (Make sure you throw out old items in future, when you replace them, rather than keeping both.)
  3. Is there anything that you never use? If you haven't used something in the last year, you probably won't use it in the future. Put these also aside to be given away or chucked out.
  4. Finally, are any of the items broken, and need replacing? Make a list.
  5. Now, it is time to repack your cupboards. If there are any items that are infrequently used (such as special Christmas items), put them in a difficult to get to place (such as the top or back of cupboards), or store them elsewhere (such as in your garage).
  6. Frequently used items should be placed as easy to get to places in cupboards - generally at the front, or even out of the benchtop. However, try to minimise the number of things out on your benchtop, otherwise this will clutter them.
  7. Finally, make sure things that you use together (such as all your baking trays, pans and utensils) are stored together.

Happy cooking!

(image: Shandos Cleaver)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Recommendation: Sorted!

Sorted!, from Melbourne-based personal organiser Lissanne Oliver, is a guide to organising your life, with 42 organising 'recipes' covering the areas of Work, Paper, On The Go and Living, along with sections on Truths and Techniques. Originally written and published in English, it has also been translated into four languages. It's available from the Sorted! website:

You'll also find on the Sorted! website a monthly newsletter to sign up to, and a blog, although unfortunately it hasn't been updated in awhile. Lissanne also has her own blog,, with a wide variety of organisational and decluttering posts.

(image: Sorted!)

Start Decluttering Your Office NOW

The best time to start decluttering is always right now. So, this helpful post from Unclutterer on Five uncluttering things you can do in your office right now should help you get started without even leaving your desk.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Website Recommendation: Becoming Minimalist

I can't believe that I haven't yet mentioned Becoming Minimalist, a minimalist/decluttering blog about a family of four in the suburbs becoming minimalist. Two of the great features of this blog are the benefits of minimalism section, with 23 different posts ranging from "not tied to the past" to "more opportunity for rest", and the stories category of posts, where different personal stories (as submitted to the share your story page) are posted. Whilst you may not want to embrace minimalism, many of the same strategies for becoming minimalist share much in common with decluttering.

Inspiration: Apartment Therapy

Apartment dwellers have more likely to need to declutter compared to people living in houses. After all, if you have no built-it cupboards, just a parking space rather than a garage and no garden, let alone a garden shed, there's not many places to squeeze all your junk into (and then quickly shut the door before anything falls out).

So, Apartment Therapy is a wonderful site for people living in apartments to turn to for some inspiration of what your place may look like once you declutter and add some pizazz. I particular like the Home Tours section for real world examples of people's apartments, including (usually) their size in square feet.

(images: Apartment Therapy)

Stop Clutter: Storage, Storage and More Storage

It's hard to stay neat and tidy if your possessions don't have a home. Your t-shirts may go in a certain drawer, cutlery in the top drawer in the kitchen, your toothbrush in the toothbrush holder, but what about everything else? In order for your home to not be cluttered, things must have their own home. Which means one thing: storage.

Storage may take many forms. From custom built wardrobes and kitchen cabinets (I recently stayed in a house where even the fridge was hidden behind the cabinetry) to boxes large and small, you need to consider a variety of storage options for your home, to meet all your needs. Some smart storage choices you may like to consider are:

Stylish hat boxes to go in your wardrobe and store hats and other accessories, particularly scarves and belts. (Kaysa Box, Ikea)

Woven boxes to go on shelves and store trinkets and odds and ends. Multiple identical boxes look particularly pleasing on a bookcase. (Byholma Basket, Ikea)

Cosmetic bags to keep all your makeup together; consider one for your everyday makeup and one for special occasion makeup. (Apple & Bee Fold Out Bath Bag,Ciao Bella Travel)

Shoe racks to double the space for storing shoes in your wardrobe. (Discontinued, Ikea)

Dividers in your kitchen drawers other than just cutlery trays, especially for your large utensils, to make it easy to find what you're looking for. (Utensil Tray with Grip Base, Howard's Storage World)

A hat stand for frequently used coats, jackets, hats and umbrellas. (Breton Hat Rack, Freedom)

Small plastic boxes with dividers, generally used for craft, are great for any bits and bobs, such as the elastic bands, bread-ties and batteries, that accumulate in kitchen drawers. (Solution Box 1002AB, Craftainers)

Just remember that the more you own, naturally the more storage you need to have. And sometimes rather than getting more storage, that you may not have room for, you should really be getting rid of some of your stuff.

(images: Ikea, Ikea, Ciao Bella Travel, Shandos Cleaver, Howard's Storage World, Freedom, Craftainers)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AARP The Magazine Clutter Challenge

Most things in life are easier to do if you feel you have some company, even if it is only virtually, and decluttering is the same. If you're a resident of the US and 45 years or older, be motivated to declutter the best you can by joining the ATM Clutter Challenge. The challenge consists of posting an essay of 200 words or less in the group forum, along with a before and after photo in the group photo area, with prizes awarded for the most dramatic improvements. And even better, there's a deadline: 28th February 2010 if you want to be eligible for a prize!

How-To: Declutter Your Computer

Computers these days seem to have so much space on them - so many giga- or terabytes of storage. In contrast to the past, when hard disk space was so much more expensive, it can be tempting to never delete anything, to never "virtually declutter" your computer. However, the ease of using your computer can be improved by following some of these steps:

  1. Regularly go through the list of installed programs and uninstall any old programs that you no longer need, including those programs that you installed and didn't use more than once. If you still want the program installed, for just in case, remove short cuts and menu items used to access the program, so it is easier to find the programs you do regularly use.
  2. Conversely, make sure it is easy to run the programs you regularly use. I have a Mac and have shortcuts for all the programs I regularly use, and only those programs, in the dock at the bottom of the screen. When I used to use Windows XP, I had two rows of shortcuts in the toolbar.
  3. Minimise the number of icons and documents on your desktop. As their number increases, it becomes hard to find the one you want, and if you already have any programs running or documents opened, you need to minimise them to acess the desktop icons. There is a program on Windows computers that runs by default and prompts you to move unused icons to a sub-folder.
  4. Develop a system for storing documents (instead of keeping them on your desktop!) In your Documents or My Documents folder, create sub-folders for the different documents you store. Choose your own folder system, and every now and again alter this system to stay up-to-date with your current use.
  5. Regularly go through and delete old documents, including from the location where downloaded documents are automatically saved. (Ideally documents you are permamently keeping should be moved to an appropriate folder.) If you're uncertain whether you should delete something, move it to an archive folder or burn it onto a CD or DVD first.
  6. Empty your recycle/trash bin. It's easy for a huge number of files to accumulate here if you never empty it.
  7. If you have a Windows computer, every now and then run a system defragmentation (generally overnight). This basically attempts to store entire files together, rather than split up into fragments, improving the speed to run programs and access large files.
  8. This is also a good time to make sure your virus protection program is up-to-date (plus a full virus scan has recently run), your operating system is up to date and your files have been recently backed up.

Additionally, there may also be a utility application already installed on your computer that will help you detect temporary files and other files taking up space on your harddrive that can be safely removed.

(image: Shandos Cleaver)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stop Clutter: More Help to Stop Shopping Needlessly

Do any of these sound familiar to you?
  • "I don't want to wait!"
  • "Hey, at least I didn't buy the $150 version. Buying the $50 one is like saving $100!"
  • "I deserve a treat, it's a reward for such a long, hard day at work."
  • "You only live once."
  • "It's an investment."
Then check out 5 Lies We Tell Ourselves to Help Up Continue Spending at Fabulously Broke in in the City (a sister blog to The Everyday Minimalist) for more help to stop shopping for the wrong reason.

How-To: Lighten Your Suitcase

Packing as little as possible when travelling has a practical purpose above reducing clutter: lightening your bag for checking in and when hauling it around. Follow these steps to pack less when you next travel:
  1. Work out in advance what you need to take. Write a list or start making a pile of everything. Ensure that you only get out what you need, not things with the thought "what about" in your mind.
  2. Make sure your clothes work together. There's nothing worse than getting to your destination and finding out that there are no tops to go with a pair of shorts or skirt.
  3. If you're intending to go shopping during your travels, allow for this. Pack less, and wear some of your new clothes plus have room for your purchases
  4. Shoes are one of the most bulky and heavy items in your suitcase. Minimise the number of shoes you'll take. For most destinations you probably won't wear those high heels you're thinking of taking - stick to a pair of decorative sandals or thongs instead, that are comfortable to walk in, but can be dressed up. And the repeated advise to wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane is a good tip - particularly in the cool air-conditioned environs.
  5. Take advantage of accessories to make your outfits more versatile without the weight. A scarf is good, as are plenty of earrings. (But make sure you pack any valuable jewellery in your carry-on; cheap costume jewellery is fine in your check-in.)
  6. Take advantage of gadgets. Use your mobile phone to store addresses and use as an alarm clock. Download PDFs of the relevant Lonely Planet or purchase language guide applications for your smart phone or iPod Touch. Store backup copies of your documentation in your email account after scanning. Use an electronic book reader to replace that stack of books.
  7. Think small when it comes to toiletries. Due to the new limits on taking liquids into cabins (100mL maximum), there are many more travel size shower gels, shampoos, conditioners and other products out there. My local Coles supermarket has a section in the toiletries aisle just for travel products. Even if you're putting your toiletry bag into your check-in luggage, it's still a good idea to minimise their size.
  8. Finally, remember that most things will be available to buy at your destination if you do forget them (or decide you really do need it, after leaving it out of your suitcase), particularly a variety of clothing. (Sunscreen is the one thing I've found less readily available and more expensive to buy in some non-Western countries.) Just make sure you've got your wallet!
(image: Shandos Cleaver)

Stop Clutter: Doing Rather Than Shopping

gThere are many reasons that we shop. Often it may be from necessity: the weekly grocery shopping, buying new clothes for work, buying a new fridge after the current one dies a sudden death. However, then there are the times that it is simply due to boredom, or to forget about your worries, or to make yourself feel special. And if you look at objects around your home that you don't really need, and that are cluttering your home, you'll probably find that many of them were bought during such shopping trips, not during ones based on needs.

So one one of stopping clutter from forming, is to reduce the amount of time spent shopping without a need in mind: shopping for the sake of shopping, shopping as a pasttime. Find something else to do when you need a distraction and time-out, such as:
  • Visit a new exhibit at a local art gallery
  • Go for a walk somewhere you haven't been before
  • Meet up with friends in the park for a picnic afternoon
  • Hit the gym for a workout
All things where you are doing something, but where the end result isn't likely to be a armful of shopping bags.

(image: FreeFoto)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inspiration: Quotes #2

Here are some more quotes to inspire you to declutter:

"To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one's mind and the psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use." - Anais Nin

"Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness." - Henry David Thoreau

How-To: Get Started

If you're using the new year (and the summer holidays here in Australia) to start decluttering your home, check out a selection of my how-to posts for places to get started:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stop Clutter: Banish Paper

Take a look around your room now. The chances are that there is some loose paper - bills, catalogues, coupons, newspapers, letters - lying around somewhere. And that this isn't the only room in your house with bits and pieces of paper. Here are some ways to stop the influx of paper into your home:
  • When you get your mail out of the mailbox, before you put it down anywhere, go through the bundle and immediately chuck junk you don't want into the recycling bin. Similarly, when you open the mail, immediately chuck items you don't want or need, and those envelopes, into the recycling bin. Stop it even becoming a pile somewhere.
  • Designate a set place in your home for putting paperwork, such as a small basket or a spot on a sideboard. This should be the only place where paperwork piles.
  • About once a week go through this paperwork pile. Should it be actioned (such as paying a bill?) Should it be chucked (such as a leaflet for an event that has now passed or you have decided to not attend)? Should it be filed (such as your latest bank statement)?
  • File your paperwork somewhere - don't just perpetually leave it in the pile. See How-To: Declutter Your Paperwork for steps on filing either in paper or digital format.
  • Cut down on the amount of paper you receive in the mail. If you don't ever look at the catalogues you receive, get a sticker requesting no advertising material to be addressed. Request to receive bank statements and utility bills electronically, if you have the option.
  • I tend to find that bits of paper pile up in my purse and handbag after a shopping trip. Periodically, go through everything and chuck out the old bus tickets, shopping lists, receipts (unless you need to file them). This can even be done if you're waiting at a bus stop or train station and need to fill in time.
  • Make sure you also keep on top of piles of magazines and newspapers by occasionally going through them and getting rid of old copies you no longer want. (If you want to keep back issues, it's usually best to keep them stored away in a magazine holder.)
(images: Freedom)

Bringing in an Expert

If you needed electrical work done or your roof painted, you’d probably bring in an expert, who does that for a living. So, what about decluttering? Whilst professional organizers haven’t been around as long as electricians and roof painters, a growing number of them can be found in cities all over Australia and the world.

Susanne Thiebe, a professional organizer from LessMess in Sydney, says that most people hire her because they “have tried various self help methods through books, TV shows or seminars”, but they find that “getting organized personalized solutions which are mostly not available through books. A solution that’s right for someone in America doesn’t necessarily work for a client in Australia.”

Working in both homes and small offices (and with a lot of home-based businesses), Susanne has found that there is “no common ‘worst area’” for clutter. With both a lack of motivation and know-how holding people back from decluttering, she adds, “it doesn’t really matter where you start; it has to fit the situation and timeframe. The most important thing is to start and not to fret about where and when.”

To keep on top of clutter and not let it get out of hand, Susanne recommends to “accept that being organized takes time and commitment. Have a time plan and routine and stick to it. I tell my clients that they should do a 5 minute organizing job per day or ½ hour every three days. For the rest of their lives!” And her final tip? “Don’t walk through your house empty handed – there is always something to tidy away.”

If you’d like to contact Susanne and LessMess to get assist with organizing your home, go to their website Alternatively, view the list of professional organizers who are members of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers Inc to find someone in your area.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stop Clutter: Organised Grocery Shopping

Shopping more wisely won't just help stop clutter forming in your wardrobe, it is also the solution to stopping clutter forming in your pantry and fridge. And whilst clothing doesn't have a shelf life (unless you're very fashion conscious), food that is cluttering up your pantry and fridge will eventually go off, meaning a cluttered kitchen is more of an issue. So, here are some ideas for being organised when grocery shopping:
  • Aim to go grocery shopping less often. It's easier when doing lots of little shops to inadvertently buy something you don't need, but you just spot on the shelf looking tempting.
  • Always go shopping with a list! This is by far the most important rule about being organised when grocery shopping.
  • Before grocery shopping, go through your pantry and fridge and work out what you currently do and don't have. Add anything that you don't have, but need, onto your list. Don't feel the need to add things that you don't really need onto the list (or maybe add it with a special symbol, to indicate it should only be bought if on special). A good idea is to start writing the list when you first notice something you need to buy, although it's always helpful to do a final look over your shelves.
  • Make sure you know what you currently have on your shelves, so that you don't buy any of those items when shopping. Try to aim to use your existing items up in meals for the upcoming week, especially for items with a short shelf-life.
  • I find it helpful to plan in advance some meals to make, including ones that use up items I already have, and then add the ingredients that I need for these meals to my list.
  • When shopping, be familiar with your supermarket and only go down the aisles that have items on your list. This will both save you time, and reduce the temptation to buy extra items - especially if you skip the fizzy drink and confectionary aisles!
A recent book that advocates some of the above ideas, plus focuses on minimising your grocery bill (to $21 for the week!), is The $21 Challenge, which is currently available in Australian bookstores. Check out the book's website for a sample chapter.

Don't miss my old post How-To: Spring-Clean Your Pantry for steps on how to get rid of the existing clutter in your pantry.

(images: Shandos Cleaver)

Stop Clutter: Make Smart Wardrobe Choices

In celebration of the start of the new year, this is the first of a series of tip articles on stopping clutter from forming, concentrating on some of the most clutter prone areas. First up, here are some ways to focus on making smart wardrobe choices to stop your wardrobe from becoming cluttered:
  • With most of your items, look for quality over price. Look for good quality items that will last longer, rather than cheap items that will quickly wear out and date. This will also save you time in shopping.
  • However, I make exceptions for t-shirts with prints. I prefer to have new ones to wear regularly, so buy cheaper ones, rather than pay the ludicrous prices that some fashion labels charge. And I regularly donate my old t-shirts to charity.
  • Choose items that will work with other clothing already in your wardrobe, e.g. colours that work together, tops and bottoms that work together. Before you go shopping, look over your wardrobe and have a fresh idea in your mind of what it contains.
  • Know what colours work well on you. If you're unsure, ask for advise from people you know well - they'll know what current items look best on you, partially due to their colour. Don't buy the latest fashionable colours without knowing that they'll look good on you.
  • If you have a full wardrobe but simply have to buy something new, try to get rid of something at the same time. For example, if you're buying a new pair of jeans, get rid of one of your older pairs.
  • Finally, don't buy items that don't quite fit, unless you plan to have them altered and know that they will then properly fit. This is probably my number one area in making fashion mistakes!
Don't miss my old post How-To: Refresh Your Wardrobe for steps on how to declutter your wardrobe.

(images: Shandos Cleaver)