Category Archives: Organization

Decluttering – Setting the Intention

You’ve decided to  look into decluttering your space.  The first question is Why declutter now?

Are you moving and have too much stuff for your new place?  Is the shape of your household changing with a birth, partner, roommate or even a pet?  Have you suffered a loss and must process the belongings of someone dear?  Are you seeking to simplify your home-life?  Have you just had enough of your current habits?

Reasons matter.  If you’re making space so your SO can move in, you may be full of excitement.  Getting rid of some clothes or books might feel like a small sacrifice to be with someone you love.  If you’re moving to a smaller place because of a job loss, however, it might feel like surrendering parts of yourself

We attach emotions to items, and our emotional state reflects our relationships with our physical space and belongings.  It’s important to be aware of how we feel when undertaking this process so we can be honest with ourselves.  If you’re struggling to separate the feelings from the items you’re trying to process, ask a friend or family member you trust to join you.  They may be able to spot trends before you do, or just help keep your spirits up.

The next question is What is your end goal?  It’s important to have a clearly defined  vision of what you want to achieve.

Check with yourself, and if needed someone close to you, to make sure your goals are realistic.  While we sometimes buy things to fulfill our fantasy selves, we also may set goals which are not in keeping with our actual lifestyles.  Your end goal should be something that can be maintained easily, and should make your life better.  

For some people, an open ended goal such as “have less stuff” can be too broad and feel overwhelming.  It can also encourage jumping from one area to another, without ever fully processing any single area.  If this is an issue for you, select several smaller goals and work on them one at a time.

Don’t be afraid to start small either.  Your first goal can be clear a quarter of a table, or process one shelf of books.  While small goals can sometimes feel silly, remember they are part of a larger vision for your life.  Particularly if you are a busy person, small goals may be more achievable, because you don’t need to devote large blocks of time all at once.  

I’ll keep writing on this subject as I continue my journey.  It’s always a work in progress!


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Remember The Milk

I am starting fresh with Remember The Milk, a great site/app that serves as an external brain for me when it comes to reminders.  I had been using it with great success and fell out of the habit when i wasn’t paying attention (meaning i got lazy).  Here’s some examples of how i use it.

RTM Logo

Help Building Routines: My morning routine is split into 4 tasks (physical care, swish & swipe, sun breaths & cat care), all tagged with “morning”, set to repeat after 1 day, with a reminder at 6AM on my phone.  This means i see them when i first wake up, and it’s fresh in my mind to go through the tasks.  The steps to the evening routine I am building (make tomorrow’s breakfast/lunch, lay out tomorrow’s clothes) are similarly set with an  8PM reminder.  The ‘trigger’ reminding me to do the various tasks helps me stay consistent.

Shopping List: “Gee, i have absinthe, but no sugar cubes, i should get some!” Pull up RTM, and add #Buy sugarcubes @Stop & Shop =2min.  If i need something for a particular event (or just dinner that night) I can also add a due date.  When i go to Stop & Shop, i search for “tag:buy and location:”Stop & Shop””, and get a full list of what i needed to buy at that store.  If i’m at a bigger store, like Target, I might just search for “tag:buy”, and view the list of all the things i needed to buy.  I can assess what is available or cheaper elsewhere as i go, and cross things off my list as i shop.  RTM has a feature for reminders when you are within a certain distance of your location, however, since many of my errands are within close proximity of my daily commute (and each other) I don’t use it.

Chore Schedule: One of my personal challenges is doing chores on a regular basis.  My life is busy and rarely adheres to a set schedule, but i want a clean house!  I also sometimes don’t know what chores need doing.  Again, enter RTM!  I know some tasks like ‘Take trashcan to curb’ need to happen on a particular day, so i can enter it with ^Tuesday 6PM @Home #Evening #Chores *Weekly =5 min (the symbols are part of a quick enter code, there are also field for the same information).  I build my chore list as i do things, and set the repeat date to occur after X days, so it’s not dependent upon day of the week.  For example, i might take an afternoon to do a deep clean of a room, and then add the various tasks into RTM with appropriate repeat periods.  If i have some spare time, i can pull up a search of “tag:chores and location:”home”” and see what is due in the near future.

Time Management: I try to make it a rule to enter an approximate time for each task, even if it’s very short.  This way i can judge how much time i need to devote to my daily to-do’s, or a given project.  I can compare tomorrow’s to-do list with my schedule and see if it’s realistic.  It also lets me see how i can be productive in a given time period.  For example, if i have 15 minutes before i need to leave, but i’m ready to go, i can check my list and get something simple done.

Project Management: Because RTM has a great tagging system, i can tag project components, and make them all appear at once.  It’s great for brainstorming project components, and also for things like packing lists.  For example, if I was going to throw a party,   as i thought about various elements – decor, food, invitations, entertainment, i could add them to my list.  Since it’s part of my overall system, i can add ideas as they come, rather than one or two brainstorm sessions.  Again, with the ability to add due dates, time estimates and locations, i easily integrate the project into my life.

Conversation Starter: I’m at the store and see a new gluten free product my sister might like.  I know she’s busy at the moment, or maybe it’s just not immediately important.  I add it to my list, tagged with her name.  The next time we’re talking, i pull up items with her tag and ta-da! All those “there was something i wanted to ask you about, but can’t remember…” moments are solved!

Emotional Check In: I often suffer from a habit of not addressing important emotional issues, trying to write them off as short term reactions, when there may actually be something deeper to consider.  I am trying to enter check-ins for myself when these situations arise a few days after i become aware of them.  For example, i was experiencing an intense wave of jealousy for a few days.  I allowed myself to acknowledge the emotion, and set a note a few days later to check in and see if i still felt jealous.  If i had been, i could of decided to address the issue with my partners then, without feeling as reactive.

Help with Purchases and Registrations: Books I want to read, movies I want to see, events i want to attend – i can remind myself to further investigate when i have more time.  I even set up reminders for Kickstarter projects I’m interested in backing, but need to research further.  I set a reminder for a date that is more relevant, and will see it come through my daily list.  It’s also great for events with early bird price increases or sales on products.  Since i have a version set up on my GMail webpage,  i can immediately enter information from newsletters into my system, without clogging my inbox.

Random: Long term goals or someday/maybe list items are also in there, so i can review them once in a while and see if they are still relevant.  Gift ideas, projects for ‘sometime in the future’, and follow-ups for email or phone conversations all can easily be entered and become part of the system.  I hope as i return to some of the Getting Things Done routines, such as weekly reviews, the ability to automatically generate the appropriate lists will assist me.


Overall, i really love using this system.  It’s flexible, powerful, easy to access, and fast.  The design is clean and intuitive (i have trained myself to use the ‘code’ but it’s not at all required).  The more i use it, the more i want to continue using it, and find myself feeling confident and secure that the important things are getting done!

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Un-deck The Halls

This morning was typical. I woke up, went through my routine, enjoying the sun on the snow as i did my sun breathes. I brought down the box of the Husband’s costumes & SCA clothing to the basement and added mine, consolidating. When i realized this left an empty container, i filled it with the artwork i was given from my Grandmother’s house, as well as some other pieces i had that have not yet found homes on the walls. Then it was off to work.

Work was supposed to be drafting, but I needed to do some site restoration oversight instead.  It was cold, but gave me a chance to be outdoors and muse on things.  The Sister and i have been using the Transform Your Life app.  Today’s quote and assignment was:

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. – Emily Dickinson
Control, which is only an illusion, is over rated.  Life has much better ideas for us than we could ever imagine for ourselves.  
Assignment: Today, allow yourself to be startled by life.

It is amazing how much i ignore in the process of living, and how amazing my world is when i choose to actually see it.  How perfect to be outdoors with this “assignment”, and appreciate things like the sun making my face warm just as the icy breeze came by, or how the snow melted and the puddles evaporated.  Simple, everyday things are fantastic, when we let them be.

Box of Lights

Lights, wrapped with cardboard, and a separate box for bulbs and fuses.

This evening has been focused on de-Christmasing the house. I am organizing the 5 boxes of Christmas items differently this year, which is interesting. The first box is lights. With three strands on the tree, and almost the entire first floor draped with lights, there are a lot. Although they take up more room wrapped on cardboard, i hope it will save me some frustration next year!  I also used a small box just for bulbs and fuses.  I think having them all in one place will make life a little easier.

The second box is garland, which i have less trouble with as far as tangling goes, so it’s really just a pile, along with ribbons, bows and the tree skirt. Soft items, really. The stockings as well.


Maybe i love my label maker too much

The other three boxes are primarily ornaments.  I divided them up into three categories – vintage (which is what my tree this year was primarily decorated with), hallmarks (because my OCD family members kept all the boxes) and crafty, which are mostly things my brother and i bought for my parents or each other as children from our school’s annual Christmas Fair.

Each box is labelled, and i hope that will mean less searching for “that thing” i want.  I also labelled smaller boxes inside the larger, such as “to repair” and “mini ornaments”.  I also made sure to put all the loose hooks into a hard plastic container, so i can find them, and they won’t be tearing holes in plastic bags.

It turns out the local cub-scout pack is doing a fundraiser, and taking away Christmas trees for $10. I could load it into the car and take it to the drop off point for free, but the convenience (and that the money goes to support kids in our town) seems well worth it.  They will come tomorrow.

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Goodbye 2012

This morning started off strange.  I slept in very late, probably due to the last of the sick, and right away started in on chores.  I took today off from work, but went about my housework angrily, realizing i was using precious vacation time for housework instead of fun because the husband had not done things during the week.  That certainly doesn’t feel good.  I froze much of the leftovers from Christmas events, took out the trash, started some laundry, did a number of dishes, reset the dining room and talked with the Sister for a while over instant messenger.

The Husband and i had a little fight, which was resolved.  He’s taking unemployment hard and i expect too much of him.  It’s hard on both sides.

2012/2013 NYE Cake

2012/2013 NYE Cake

I used a 1-2-3 Gluten Free mix (Spice Bars) to make a banana cake with chocolate frosting for a gathering with the Family-of-Choice this evening.  We are doing burgers and home made french fries for dinner and celebrating the new year.  I very highly recommend their box mixes if you need to make a gluten free dessert in a hurry.  They can be adjusted easily for vegan needs, and are highly versatile.  Each box has several recipe variations, and there are more on their website.  You can even get creative with them pretty easily, since there is so much information about ratios.

I also hung up our new calendar.  This year i bought another Anne Taintor calendar for the kitchen, since it goes so perfectly (and subversively) in that room.

It was 2:00 before i got to sit down, and even then, it was still in my PJ’s with laundry in the dryer.  I let myself play Sims 3 for a little while to relax.  It is my day off after all.

The rest of the afternoon was spent going through the Husband’s clothes.  When his job ended he had to consolidate 5+ years of living in two locations into one house.  He had a giant collection of clothing because of how he did laundry in NY and, well, not getting rid of junky clothes.  So he did keep his promise and it was all put away by the end of 2012.  We did it together. Most of the time i would hold up an item, read the size and he’d decide.  Sometimes we’d talk about where we felt it belonged, or he’d try something on, but generally it was quick.  The way things were categorized were:

  • In the primary dresser: about 20 pairs of underwear and about 20 pairs of socks (all the same type), plain t-shirts, polo shirts, his favorite jeans and long sleeved t-shirts.
  • In the secondary dresser: Fancy socks, belts, undershirts (about 10), exercise clothes, swimsuits, pajamas, less frequently worn pants, t-shirts with logos or sayings
  • In the bedroom closet (hanging): sweaters, overshirts, sweatshirts
  • In the office closet: Suits, dress pants, ties, dress shirts
  • In the guest room closet – aikido gis
  • Bin – Seasonal clothes, mostly shorts and his motorcycle gear
  • Bin – Overflow, extra shirts mostly
  • Bin – Extra socks, underwear and undershirts
  • Bin – Too small clothing
  • Bin – Sentimental clothing
  • Bin – Work clothes (stuff with stains or rips but good for painting or other projects)
  • Small bin – Running accessories
  • Small bin – Travel gear

We ended up with the largest laundry basket full of things for me to turn into rags and/or throw away as well.  There wasn’t much to donate, as there were a lot of stained or ripped items, but i will see if there is anything worthwhile and bring it to Goodwill when i do.  I feel so much happier now that everything has a place and we know what he has!

NYE with our Family-of-Choice was lovely.  There was a moment where we were all in the kitchen, each doing something, and it felt so amazing.  We watched a terrible movie together after dinner and watched the ball drop before calling it a night.  Well, and lots of kissing to bring in the new year.  It’s important, right?

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