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A Room Full of Junk - ClutterOf all the emails I get, one of the most common things readers ask about is how to get rid of clutter in your home.  How to to declutter, how to make decluttering easier, how to make a start, how to stop it building up again and so on.

There is a section in my e-book Organized for Life about how to get rid of clutter in your home and I’m working on a new e-book just about that topic alone!  But I have been promising a newsletter article about it, so here goes.

Decluttering is a habit.  It needs to be a lifelong habit, because it’s never finished.  You will always have new things coming in, and you will always have to make decisions about what to keep, and when things are no longer worth keeping for you; you must learn to declutter as a regular habit.

The reason some people seem to manage to keep their lives free of excess stuff which is not in place and is not being enjoyed and/or used is that they developed habits to keep it this way..  If you don’t make it a habit, then you can have a big cleanup, but it will creep back.

Reducing the amount of mess and muddle involves sorting and organizing things, and making decisions about them.  Making decisions is hard, which is why I like to write about it.  It’s hard because we doubt ourselves and don’t trust our own judgement.  It’s hard because we are often not in the habit of making certain decisions on a regular basis, but we are in the habit of putting those decisions off, lest we make a bad one.

There are many ways you can approach your decluttering, depending on the volume of stuff you want to shift, but they all involve making decisions.  Depending on your situation, you may have a number of categories into which your stuff may fall, but the basic ones are always the same:

-    Throw away – garbage, rubbish, trash, recycling, no good to anyone
-    Sell or give away – good for somebody else, but no good to you any more
-    Keep and put it where it goes, or find a place for it

These three things may have sub categories, but that’s basically it.

If you need to, you can add a fourth category for items you’re undecided about.

Now, given that I’ve said it needs to be a continuous, ongoing and never ending habit, you may as well set in place your own systems for where to put each item when you’ve decided which category it belongs to.  

For example, you hopefully know where your garbage and recycling goes, but there may be instances where you need to arrange for extra rubbish removal, a trip to the tip/dump, or for specialty recycling people to collect something (for example old cars, scrap metal etc).  You may need to allocate a place to put rubbish/trash/garbage temporarily until you have built up enough to arrange its removal.

For things to sell or give away, you need a permanent place in a closet, attic, shed, garage or basement where you keep these things, and you need regular trips to the charity shop to unload it as it builds up.  If you have decided it’s worth your while to sell some items, they need a dedicated storage place where they go, and you need to be prepared to move some items from the ‘sell’ to the ‘give away’ category if it becomes clear you can’t sell it or it isn’t worth selling it.

For things that go to charity, if you are not in the habit of doing this regularly, you might not even know who to call or where to drop it off.  This will hold you up, so you need to address this and find a convenient charity bin or the phone number of a charity which will collect, and speak to them to find out what they will accept.  Charities are not there to provide a rubbish removal service – you need to check that the items are actually useable.

A potential hold up with the ‘give away’ category is thinking you must give the items to family or friends rather than charity.  Don’t waste a lot of time on this and get bogged down in it.  If it seems appropriate, let your friends and/or family know you have a stash of stuff you will be giving away, and invite them to come and take what they want before you move it on.  Set a definite time by which you will give the stuff away, and remember, other people don’t necessarily want or need your old junk.  Leave the choice with them, and don’t wait too long.  If they really are interested, they will show up and have a look through it.

For things you want to keep, move it first to the correct room then fine tune its exact location as you go along with your normal home tidying.  Remember, when finding a place for everything, that things generally logically go in the room in which they are used, and like items, or items used for the same purpose, should be grouped together.

What about things you’re really having trouble deciding over?  They might be sentimental items, letters, essays, ornaments, gifts, things that look like they might be really useful ‘one day’.

Think about how much space they are taking up, whether you are getting enjoyment from them, how they make you feel, how exactly you think it might be useful.

Some things are worth keeping, in my view, for historical and family history reasons.  Things like photos, home movies, letters (letters can be a touchy one, and sometimes they do need getting rid of – but they can often be a fascinating insight into someone’s life, or a unique view of a period of history.  If in doubt, KEEP letters.)  If you have a lot of study papers, you might find that copious notes are not worth keeping, but some of your essays would give you pleasure to glance at in the future.  If you’re not sure, or not in the right frame of mind to confidently decide, box it and label it clearly.  

Ornaments, knick knacks, furniture and decorative items are a matter of taste.  If you are not really enjoying an item but it is sentimental, just take a photo of it and let it go.  If you have boxes of pretty things your grandmother left you, but you don’t like it all or have space for it, just choose a few of your favourite items, and put the rest away in clearly marked boxes until you are ready to decide.

Always clearly label any boxes of stuff that you put away.  Label them very clearly and legibly, and in detail.  You’ll thank yourself later.  You could even photograph the contents of the box with a box number or title included in the photo!  Then you can see what’s in there without unpacking.

Now, about when to declutter.  Yes, you might set aside a Saturday morning or afternoon to work on an area like the garage as a project, but this alone will not work in the long term.  You need to be doing it constantly, regularly.  It needs to be part of your routine.  

In my e-book I recommend a room rotation system for the ‘fine tuning’ tasks of keeping your surroundings nice.  That includes detailed cleaning and removing items which are no longer of genuine value to you.  This system is recommended by the lovely Flylady, who follows Pam and Peggy’s Sidetracked Home Executives system, but the system is way older than that.  It’s a very sensible and practical way of getting the details done without spending inordinate amounts of time on it.  We want clean, organized surroundings, but we don’t want to give up our life to it!

There are a number of ways of doing this, but basically you concentrate on one room at a time (perhaps one room a week, with a set amount of time allocated, not too long all at once), and do what you can do in that time.  You do some sorting of items to let go of, then move to dusting etc.  This is a separate task from your normal daily and weekly cleaning routine, and the goal is to LIMIT the amount of time you spend on it, but keep it up REGULARLY.

By the time you come back to this room, enough time will have passed that a little dust and cobwebs have crept back, and there might be some more clutter items to get rid of.  Or if it was really bad to start with, you will just be gradually reducing the clutter.

What will happen though, is that you will establish a habit of spending regular time on this.  You must limit the time!  You have other important things going on in your life, and this is just part of it.  Keep the balance, and refer to my article about time boxing.   

If you feel the need to make a dramatic difference very quickly to lift your spirits, concentrate on one main area where you spend a lot of time, for example the living room/lounge room.  Move out whatever you can that does not belong here, group things, then start sorting and making decisions.  Go for large items and items of greatest quantity first, so you can see fast results.

Making a start can be the most difficult part of getting something done we have been dreading.  Deciding to do it for just a few minutes is a strategy that works for me when I have this problem.  I might then stop, and do the same thing again later, or I might continue for a bit.  Either way, I get past the inertia this way.  

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Storage

Molehills, or Mountains?Following from my previous article about de-cluttering, I’m going back to how we often feel before beginning the task of turning back the tide of clutter.

Feeling overwhelmed is often the main reason why people avoid making a start on de-cluttering, and it can also be the main hindering factor in getting started on or continuing with a lot of other things.

It tends to start slowly and creep up on us, just as those unattended to things have crept up on us slowly.  Sometimes we might not even notice it, putting that odd, annoying feeling out of mind, until it has built up so much that we feel noticeably paralysed.

Father and child with folded clean washingYes really.  I know, it’s so much trouble, it’s hard to do, it’s often much easier to do it all yourself.  And of course if you do it all yourself you can feel all self-righteous, you can complain, you’ve got an excuse for being tired and grumpy, and you know it’s being done RIGHT.

Hmm, something doesn’t sound quite right about all that does it.

The people I’m talking about delegating chores to, your children, your partner, or others with whom you share a home, NEED to share responsibility for household chores.  Sure, they might not realise this until they have left and had children of their own or been responsible for running a home of their own, but they do.  And if it’s your children, it’s your job to provide the leadership they need by making sure they do share in the chores.

It’s easy for collections of things such as books, CDs and DVDs to become jumbled up as we use them, and the more you have, the more daunting the task of sorting them out as they get messy.

Having our collections in a mess can hinder our enjoyment of them, and sorting them out can actually be really fun. 

You collected these things presumably because you liked them and they interest you, so let yourself really enjoy them.  If the idea of getting them in order doesn’t appeal to you at all, consider whether you are still really interested in keeping them all.  Perhaps you’ve moved on, and are interested in other things now, and this stuff is just getting in your way.

I have a friend with a large collection of music CDs, which often look messy, but are actually re-sorted every week as he prepares for his radio show.  He enjoys them so much that it’s no chore at all to go through them, and because of frequent use they are often not sorted alphabetically on shelves, but in piles on the floor according to themes and styles and release dates.  From time to time though, they do go back into alphabetical sorting.

I like to keep books, even if I’ve read them already and may not be likely to read them again.  I like the look of them, I like to be able to get something out to refer to it if I want to, and I like the reminder that I read all those books.  Many of them are things I do enjoy reading again, and think my family might enjoy too.  Once in a while, I purge some of those I’m not interested in keeping.  This helps slow down the need for more and more bookcases.

We’ve started to get quite a few DVD movies in the house too, and these are kept in two basic sections – those suitable for children and those which are not.

Our desk if we have one, can be our most valuable resource for being organized.  After all, it’s here that we attend to our paperwork and administrative tasks, here that we keep our computer, and in this area that we keep our filing and stationary.

What, you don’t have a desk?  Just a box of papers and the kitchen table or bench?  Just your laptop on the bed?  Just a corner with a table?

Well, it doesn’t matter where it is, but everyone needs a desk or a designate place where they can do their paperwork.  This is the place you open mail, do your filing, fill in forms, fill in your calendar or diary or planner, make phone calls, do stuff on the computer, write down your goals and plan your time. 

Keeping it all in one place is the first thing, and keeping that area tidy and organized so that it is most useful to you is the next thing.

So, all your kids’ school notices, all your mail, your diary, your notebooks, your computer, your pens, paper, calculator, scissors, stapler, envelopes, stamps etc, all go here.  Not some of it on the kitchen bench, some of it in the car, some in your bedroom.  All in one place. 

Like anything else, keeping an organized desk means an allocated place for everything.  All your filing filed, all your pens and pencils together, printer paper and writing paper together, a place where all incoming paperwork and mail lands and stays until it has been dealt with, a place where your children’s incoming art and school work lands and stays until it is dealt with, a place for your drink, a place for your glasses.  If possible you should have a phone on your desk.  This is often also a good place for a charging station if you have room, for your re-chargeable batteries and your mobile phone and your cameras.

We get disorganized because things we need to do are left undone, put off, not planned for, not made room for.  The answer to this is routines.  If you’re a fan of FlyLady you know all about them, and if you’ve read my e-book you’ll know it’s the basis for my approach to being organized too.

Routines are about designing your life.  Yes, you can have your own custom designed life, incorporating all the things that matter to you, in order of priority. 

When you see people who just seem to have it all together so effortlessly, no dramas, no last minute rushing, no regular crises, do you think it happens by magic?  What about the things in your own life that are working well.  They happen because you have made a conscious choice to do things a certain way.

The things that are not going so well – those are more likely to be an unconscious choice, no choice, just reaction, just letting things slide.  We can choose not to live like that.

Simple routines and habitual ways of doing things make life much easier.  It’s not something that can be set up in one day, because there are so many little things we need to do every day to keep our life running smoothly.  It takes time, and habits need to be established.  The idea is to establish routines and habits for ourselves that get things done in a way which is most efficient and convenient for us. 

Establishing these things requires that we first accept that we actually want to do them.  If we are in a constant state of rebellion against our mail or the kids’ school notices or the dishes or the laundry or putting things away or using our calendar/diary/planner, we’re not going to get it together. 

If there are things that you don’t exactly have under control at the moment, think about them and whether they matter.  Are there things you want to let go of that are not really necessary, or is this stuff that really is essential.  If it’s basic, essential stuff that needs to be done for your life to be how you want it to be, then think about it and embrace and accept those things.  It might sound a little silly, but then how silly is it to rebel against your own decisions?

Why do you want to be organized?  What does it actually mean?

Is it about tidiness?

No.  There are people who appear to be very untidy, yet they are still organized.  There are also people who are very tidy, but still disorganized about some things.

Is it about cleanliness?

No.  There are people who are not bothered by dust and dirt but are still organized.  There are also people who are obsessively clean, but are still disorganized about some things.

So what does it mean then?

There are different categories of being organized.

With regard to your belongings, it means you know where everything is and can find things quickly and easily.  Your things don’t become lost or damaged un-necessarily.  You can find your keys, your phone, the TV remote, those papers you need, your clothes, the glue, the spare light bulbs etc.

With regard to your time, and your ability to get done the things you need and want to get done, it means you know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and why you’re doing it.  You’re not floundering in indecision and self doubt.  You feel confident that at any given moment you are doing what you need to be doing – the best thing to be doing at that moment.

So, in the last couple of weeks I managed to do some kid de-cluttering.  No, I didn’t get rid of any of the kids, they’re all still here trashing the joint, but I saw that I needed to make room for new clothes and toys that had been coming into the house lately, and also take some steps to make my daily life easier.

My little boy has just turned 4, and likes to dress himself, but I had been wasting precious time in the mornings trying to explain to him that it’s winter now (I live in Australia) and shorts, T-shirts and sandals are no good. 

Sometimes the most obvious things stare you in the face for a while before you get it.  And I’ve been through this stage with my older kids so I should know.  All I had to do was put all the summer clothes away!

At this age, he’d grown out of most of them anyway, so I collected a bag of stuff for the charity shop.  Problem solved!  All that is in his drawers now are clothes I’m happy for him to wear now, that fit him.  The most I have to do now is help with shoe laces.

My two, two year old girls had grown a lot lately, so I’d bought new clothes, and I needed to make it easier to find their clothes too.  It can be hard to let go of good clothes, but if they’ve grown out of them, they’ve grown out of them.  With the girls stuff, the best things are offered to friends first who have slightly younger girls, before going to the charity shop. 

With a new puppy in the house who loves to chew, especially plastic, keeping the toys sorted out has been an issue.  My son received some lovely new toys for his birthday, and I invested in some extra clear plastic boxes – my favourite organizing items.  Yes, I do go on about clear plastic boxes – I just love them!

I run this little business from what is probably supposed to be the dining room of this small suburban family home, but is way too small for the big table my family sits at for meals.  It is sort of a whole room, but feels like a corner because it is in the corner of the house with two rooms leading off it. 

There are double sliding doors on one wall leading into the kitchen/meals area, and a double archway with no doors leading into the lounge room/family room.  I can keep a good eye on the kids from here, and get to my desk easily while I’m cooking, cleaning, washing and so on.  It contains an Ikea desk, a filing cabinet, a couple of chairs and a piano, and until recently one overloaded Ikea Billy bookcase.

The problem with my office until recently, was lack of storage.  The two drawer filing cabinet was broken and overloaded, and books were in piles on the floor with nowhere for them to go.  So, I have finally treated myself to a new, three drawer filing cabinet and three new Billy bookcases.  I chose black metal for the filing cabinet and dark brown for the bookcases.

It’s one of those little habits you can develop a little bit at a time, and grow it until it encompasses a lot of what you do and makes your life much easier.

How many times in a day do you notice some little thing that would take 2 seconds to attend to, and you leave it, ignore it, walk past it, or just get annoyed by it?  Lots?

Here are some examples. 

- You look at the floor and it appears dirty, and you think it will take over an hour to do a full vacuum, but you could just take a minute to pick up the bits of fluff and dirt you can see, and use a dustpan and brush for that little pile of cornflakes on the kitchen floor.  It won’t hurt you, and you’ve removed the most obvious distracting signs of dirt.

- You dump a new pile of papers on your desk, and notice that the last pile of papers you dumped there is still there.  There could be people living in that pile before too long.  But you could just take a few minutes to sort the stuff into folders, open the mail, read some items that can have a decision made and be dealt with very quickly, and take that coffee cup to the kitchen with you.  It might hurt a little bit at first, but it’s only a few minutes of your life, and it will grow on you.

Hello readers.  There were over 33,000 of you when I last published this newsletter, and the more time that has passed since I last published, the harder it has been for me to do it.  Knowing that once I start I must keep going as promised has fuelled my procrastination.

I have been wondering whether to offer an explanation, and if so, how much to say.  Well, there comes a time where you just have to make a decision and get on with something, whether or not you are going to do it right, in order to be able to move on, so here goes.  I'm here and my fingers are moving on the keyboard.

I have, as so many of us have, struggled on and off with depression and anxiety since I was quite young, and had a major flare up, breakdown, overload, or whatever I should call it a while ago.  That's it, that's the truth, and whilst I have no intention of

giving up on this project, this little business, this writing endeavour that I embarked upon over 2 years ago, I did hit a rather large hump, and as many of you will understand, the longer I left it, the harder it has been to get back into my routine.  

Time has not been the issue, as is the case with so many things we avoid doing.  Nor has it been a lack of desire to continue with something I enjoy immensely.  Just the usual human weakness of finding it harder the longer I left it.  I have to get my confidence back, begin whether or not I can find the motivation, despite the fear.

Being a newsletter about organization, I have been writing little bits and pieces on the various topics on my long list, but distracted and put off by the obvious current disorganization of my own life.  Perhaps it is because my washing and dishes are currently all done that I feel able to write at this moment.

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Anshula Ohri, Toronto,
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"Before I met Yvette I had many opportunities in front of me but I was feeling overwhelmed and I had no confidence in making the decisions.  I was feeling stuck and confusedd.  My career has progressed in a positive direction and I am now functioning better in physical and emotional health.  Thank you Yvette for your help.  This was one of the best decisions I have ever made."

 

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"The coaching with Yvette was very beneficial. In just a few weeks I had achieved so much. I am so thankful. I found Yvette to be very patient, professional and reassuring. I would definately recommend NLP now that I have seen the difference it has made to my life. I have left the past in the past and I am happier within myself."

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Western Australia

"Your belief in me gave me the confidence to work out ways of improvement, knowing how important it is that these answers be found by me within me to enable them to be so powerful and successful. I loved the CD you sent as your voice is so easy to listen to and reassuring as it imparts great words of wisdom and strengthens the concepts taught within your life coaching sessions. These life skills are amazing!"

Lynne from Lowood,
Queensland, Australia

"I consider myself very fortunate having chosen Yvette for coaching.  It has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I started from a place where I was stuck in procrastination and everything seemed so overwhelming that I didn't really know where to start.  I love the freedom and empowerment I now feel.  Yvette's methods are personalised and very effective.  I have looked forward to every coaching sesssion."

Heather
Melbourne, Australia

"Yvette is a great coach who inspires you to overcome the obstacles that she finds in working with you.  She is highly motivated and has worked hard to increase her knowledge in many areas that in turn help her clients.  Yvette draws on her own real life experience adn studies to help those of us who have to juggle many responsibilities and mangage the conflicts in thinking that come from that.  I am looking forward to working with Yvette again in the near future"

Liz Jarvis, CSI Business Solutions, 
NSW, Australia

"Through my coaching experience with Yvette I was able to shift my awareness onto my value system as opposed to staring at my circumstances each day and feeling pulled in a hole.  It's powerful because I want meaning, I want to live up to my values and what's right and good for me!  So, I truly learned the value of letting go and receiving the abundance of knowledge for every situation that gives life, love and meaning to who I am and what I can do, with this fearless self awareness."

Keri, 
New York, USA

"Yvette.  Many thanks for a wonderful experience... Our sessions were productive, really interesting adn I so looked forward to them each week with anticipation of what I can learn about myself and my behaviours.  Every session seemed to flow right on topic of what was present in my relaity at the time and your effortless guiding of my strategies never ceased to amaze me.  I highly recommend you as a life coach and thank you again for the experience."

M Shears, 
Melbourne, Australia

"I really questioned my future career ambitions and thanks to Yvette I changed direction from something I felt I had to do, to something I know I will love to do.  I was stuck on this topic for quite some time and Yvette really helped me shed light on this.  I changed the MBA I signed up for and feel excited about my careeer and all the opportunities in the future."

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Wollongong, Australia