Decluttering at the Speed of Life

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Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White was recommended to me by Sandra Madeira recently, and I was fortunate enough to find it online at my library.

The book itself is an easy and interesting read, and I got through it quite quickly. The method she describes is very different from KonMari, so if you find that to be overwhelming, you may take better to this one.

She recommends focusing on visual clutter first, starting at the front door and moving through the spaces where you would be most likely to have guests. Armed with only a black trash bag and a donateable donation box, start first by discarding any trash in the space.

Next, put any items that you absolutely know where they go away and put any items you definitely know you are done with in the donation box. Once you have handled all the easy stuff, it’s time to tackle the rest.

Take each item and ask yourself where you would look for it first. You can also ask whether you would actually look for it or whether you wouldn’t even remember that you had it. If you would look for it someplace, take it to that place immediately and put it away. If that place is full, remove stuff from that place until it will fit and then put the stuff you removed into the donation box. If you wouldn’t even look for it, just donate it and be done with it.

The beauty of this system is that if you get interrupted or sidetracked, you won’t be left with a pile of things that are in the middle of being organized. All you will have is a bag of trash and a box to take to the donation center.

The next time you declutter, start again at the front door and attack any visible clutter. Hopefully even if an area has become re-cluttered, it won’t take as long to deal with it this time and you will be able to move on to other areas.

There is a lot more detail to the method in the book, and she walks you through the process in several different areas of your home, repeating and refining the steps each time.

I highly recommend this book. Although I have already KonMari’d my house, I like this method as a way to keep things picked up. I also plan to use it with a friend who wants my help with her house as it makes the most sense for her personality and lifestyle.

What method do you like for decluttering?

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Am I a Minimalist?

I think the answer ultimately is no, I am not a minimalist, but I have to admit the idea is very appealing. I do find myself looking at things differently now and recognizing when something has moved from useful to clutter, and then taking the steps to get rid of it. But there are still things I am definitely keeping just in case or for sentimental reasons which I don’t strictly need.

This month, I attempted the Minimalism Game, where you get rid of 1 thing on day 1, 2 things on day 2, and so on until day 30 when you get rid of 30 things. I made it to day 19 and got rid of a total of 190 things but then I just ran out of ideas on what to declutter. Having just finished the KonMari process on my whole house, I had already gotten rid of the obvious stuff I no longer wanted or needed.

I don’t feel bad about not finishing the challenge though. Instead I just feel good that I was able to do as many days as I did. It helped me refine my ideas about what things are important to me and what stuff is no longer needed. I also find myself getting more joy out of the items I have kept.

My biggest challenge now is getting into a better cleaning routine. I do tend to be a minimalist when it comes to expanding effort in cleaning my house, and I would like to do better in that area. Decluttering has definitely helped because there are fewer things in the way, but I still have room to improve.

How about you, are you a minimalist (or an aspiring one)?

Books on Decluttering

I started out my decluttering journey by reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and I can’t recommend it enough. Her KonMari method of decluttering and organizing really made the difference for me. I finally feel like my house is under control.  There are aspects of the book that were a bit too out there for me, but overall it made a lot of sense.

I have since read Kondo’s second book, Spark Joy, and wasn’t as impressed with it as with her first book. But it was an easy read and since I checked it out of the library I could just return it when I was done.  It does contain a lot of illustrations, which are especially helpful for understanding her method of folding clothes.

Two other books I have read as well are Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki and The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson.

Goodbye, Things is a fascinating book that both details Sasaki’s journey towards minimalism and gives advice to would-be minimalists.  Although he has gone much farther down the minimalist road than I ever would, I found it inspiring to read his thoughts on the process and how it made a difference for him.  It contains a good mix of philosophy and practical ideas.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning was also a quick read, although I don’t feel that it added much to what I have already read and watched via YouTube on the topics of decluttering and minimalism.  Magnusson’s main idea is that we should clear out our excess stuff before we die so that those we leave behind aren’t forced to deal with it all.  While I definitely agree with her premise, I didn’t get much else out of this book.

I know I haven’t gone into a lot of detail about these books, but hopefully this short review has given you some ideas of what you might like to read on this topic.  If you have other books to recommend, please leave me a comment and I will check them out.

Thanks and happy reading!

Decluttering, Part Two

I shared the beginning of my decluttering journey in part one of this series, including my introduction to the KonMari method.

After working my way through about half the categories, I was pleasantly surprised when my husband expressed interest in decluttering his things. We went through his clothes and he easily discarded at least 30-40% of them. One of the bags was so big it barely fit into the donation bin when we went to drop them off!

The main part of our closet

The other area in our closet

Given our success with his clothes, I asked him to help me tackle the pile of electronics that was in the family room. Again, I was shocked by how much he was willing to let go of. The items we kept easily fit into an empty basket we had on a shelf of the TV stand.

Since then, I have decluttered and organized my craft supplies as well as all the stuff in our little storage area – Christmas decorations, luggage and bags, and sentimental items. I even put my childhood photos into an album after having them lose in a box for many years. The only thing I really have left to go through is my son’s keepsakes.

I have been so amazed at how easy this method was and how much of a difference it made in my life. I am much more motivated to keep my house tidy and to clean more regularly.

Since (almost) finishing the KonMari process, I am much more aware of the items in my house and find myself noticing things that don’t spark joy and getting rid of them. I have kept watching videos of people decluttering on YouTube and even started watching videos on minimalism.

Minimalism is a fascinating topic. I’m not sure I will ever be a true minimalist, but I do feel I can continue to pare down my possessions from what they are. I also want to be more intentional about the things I bring into my life. Right now I am playing the 30 Day Minimalism Game. On the first day you get rid of one thing, on the second day you get rid of two things, all the way up to the thirtieth day when you get rid of thirty things.

What I got rid of today

I’m curious, what’s your experience with decluttering? Do you enjoy it or dread it?

Decluttering, Part One

I have been on a big decluttering kick lately. It started with me breaking down and reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I have the kind of personality that resists things that are popular but I’m glad I finally picked this one up.

I was hyper organized during my high school and college years, probably to the annoyance of my roommates. But marriage to a person who liked to hold onto everything and also struggled with organization made it very hard to stay that way. Once I was divorced, I found that my standards regarding clutter had relaxed somewhat. I still wanted to be organized but was a bit overwhelmed with my new life, so things weren’t always as put away as I would have liked.

When I picked up this book, I was two and a half years into a new marriage and had moved from an apartment to a house about six months earlier. We had mostly unpacked and had developed some good routines for running the house, but there were definitely some areas that needed help. My clothes had just been shoved into the closet any which way, my craft cupboard was empty while the supplies sat in boxes, and a pile of various electronic items lived in one corner of the family room.

Kondo’s advice to declutter by category rather than location and all at once rather than a little at a time was intriguing, as was her instruction to hold each item and ask if it sparked joy to determine its fate. I didn’t try it out right away though; first I looked up the KonMari method on YouTube and started watching videos of other people who were decluttering using it. After a few of these, I sat down with my little jewelry box and took everything out. I was surprised by how much was in there and even more surprised by the amount that ended up in the discard pile. I felt so good putting just the items I loved back in the box and returning it to its spot on my dresser.

My decluttered jewelry box

After that, I started decluttering different small categories of things. Each time I was very pleased with the results but it still took me a while to tackle my clothes, which is where Kondo recommends you start. But I finally opened my closet and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. After that I was pretty eager to keep going.

One of my favorite transformations was where we keep our linens. It was piled high with sheets, towels, blankets, and pillows. I had been thinking we needed a better storage solution for that area, but once I was done decluttering, the space looked just fine as it was. Another area that I am especially happy with is my baking cupboard. It had gotten completely out of control and now it looks perfectly organized and clutter free.

My baking (and chocolate) cupboard

Click here for part 2, where I share more of my journey with decluttering and the KonMari method.

Boston Trip Wrap-Up

As much as we enjoyed the historical sites we visited in Boston, we also enjoyed some other aspects of our trip.

On Wednesday, we went to the New England Aquarium and then went on a whale watching cruise.  We arrived at the aquarium just as it was opening and got to watch the feeding of the penguins.  They also had fur seals and sea lions as well as a variety of other exhibits.  It wasn’t a large place but it was interesting and I got some good pictures.

20180627_132950The whale watching cruise was pretty neat.  We went about 90 minutes away from Boston, out to a plateau where the whales like to feed.  I wish we had gone up to the deck a little bit earlier to get a better spot, as it was kind of hard to see for a lot of the time.  Later on, some people moved around and we were able to get to the front, although a lot of the activity was still off to one side of the boat so we didn’t see as much as we would have liked.  We did have several sightings of a mom and her calf as they surfaced several times.  I’m sharing the best picture we got; it’s just of a tail unfortunately.

20180628_172535On Thursday afternoon, we went to a chocolate factory in Somerville, the town where we were staying.  It was called Taza Chocolate, and they produce stone ground chocolate.  They have a tour which includes a video and a peek into the factory where they make the chocolate, as well as all the samples you could want.  Their original product is a Mexican style chocolate disc which has a somewhat gritty texture due to the way the sugar is ground, but they also make chocolate bars which are ground more finely and are closer to what we are used to.  We enjoyed visiting the factory and sampling the various chocolates.

The other fun part of our trip was the food.  We went to two pubs, as well as a seafood restaurant and an Italian restaurant.  I had seafood at one of the the pubs and a burger at the other; both were good.  The seafood restaurant had good fish but the lobster topping was very chewy – either it was badly prepared or I just don’t like lobster, I’m not sure which!  The Italian restaurant was my favorite; it was also in Somerville and was called Vinny’s. Perhaps I was just really hungry after walking around in the rain all morning, but I quite enjoyed my pasta and meatball, and they had excellent bread.

All in all, our trip to Boston was a really good one and I’m glad we went there.  I’m looking forward to our next adventure, wherever that will be!

Boston Trip Historical Sites

Our main purpose in going to Boston was to experience as much of the history of the town as we could.  We started out on Tuesday by taking guided tours of the Freedom Trail, which is a collection of various American Revolutionary historical sites.  We did the first part in the morning and the North End in the afternoon.  The guides were costumed in period clothes and were both quite good.  I enjoyed the afternoon tour a little more because that guide talked a lot about the daily life of people around the time of the Revolution – what they wore and what they ate, stuff like that.

Our favorite part of the morning tour was the Granary Burying Ground.  It was a peaceful spot in the midst of a busy city.  The highlights of the North End tour were the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House.  Both of these sites were also available to tour inside.  By the time we finished the North End tour, I needed a little break so I rested while Joe toured the Old North Church.  Then we walked back to the Paul Revere House and toured that.  I found it interesting that they chose to restore the Paul Revere House to the original condition rather than the way it was while Paul Revere’s family lived there, given that he was the one who made it famous.

We weren’t planning to visit any historical sites on Wednesday, but the people we met on the whale watching tour recommended the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.  We had time after the cruise, so we headed over there and went through the tour.  I had two thoughts during the experience – cheesy and hokey.  It was the most expensive historical thing we did and it was seriously overrated.  Definitely not recommended!

On Thursday, we headed over to the Charlestown area and visited the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.  The USS Constitution has a nice little museum and then you can walk around the ship itself.  It was raining so we mainly saw the area below decks.  Bunker Hill also had a small museum as well as the monument that you could climb up inside.  It was almost 300 steps so I let Joe do it while I waited in the museum.

I would highly recommend Boston as a good destination for history lovers.  It was very walkable and offered a lot of interesting sites to see.  As I mentioned in my first Boston post, it was also easy to get around using the subway and buses, which is good because no one I talked to recommended driving or trying to find parking in the city.

Orchard HouseBefore we headed home on Friday, we decided to make our way over to Concord to visit Orchard House.  This is where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women.  It was a fascinating tour.  We saw a short video about Louisa and then walked through the house and saw how it was set up while their family lived there.  All of the paintings in the house except for the portraits were done by her sister May (Amy in the book) so we got to see a lot of her work as well as seeing the Civil War era furnishings and decorations.

If you’re interested in this time period or in Louisa May Alcott, there are several other sites in the Concord area to see.  We needed to get on the road, so we just went to the Orchard House and then headed home.

We did a few other things in Boston that were not historical, so I plan to write another post about those places.  Look for that in a couple of days!