You know those people who always seem to just have it all together? The ones who are usually calmly waiting, scrolling through Facebook, when you burst through the door feeling frazzled and out of breath because you're late meeting them...again!? The folks who have the PTA calendar memorized and always seem to have contact information right at their fingertips to meet every conceivable need, from trusty mechanic or top notch medical specialist to medieval jousting expert? They remember to return your book, even though you forgot you loaned it to them in the first place. They know when and where outdoor movie night is happening and exactly when to score free cones because it's National Ice Cream Day. They always acknowledge your birthday and never forget to send in non-perishables for the school's canned food drive (while you, on the other hand, can be found desperately hunting through your pantry at the last minute for cream of mushroom soup or something else you'll probably never eat).
Yeah, we all know at least one of these people, but starting today, you can become one with much less effort than you think.
New Habit #4: Take and Use Notes. Keep track of everything as it enters your brain...reminders, to-dos, shopping needs, contact info, events, appointments, due dates... in a central, reliable system and--here’s the key--review it daily.
Why? The biggest benefit is the confidence and peace of mind you'll find from having a reliable way to tame your brain clutter. Yes...that's a thing...and too much of it leads to stress, whether you're consciously aware of it or it's just bubbling up right beneath the surface. That old expression "too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth" means that having no established leader to give clear direction will lead to chaos and, ultimately, failure. Well, that's what happens when you have competing priorities, demands on your time and random thoughts running wildly through your head without a central unified and reliable system in place for managing it all.
Now, the key word here is "reliable". Lots of people have calendars, address books, fancy apps on their phones, colored-coded giant whiteboards on the refrigerator....you name it, yet still suffer from brain clutter because they aren't in the habit of actually maintaining and using these tools properly. All the fancy pots and top-of-the-line kitchen tools in the world won't make you a master chef unless you know how to use them and do. With proper daily maintenance and a solid habit of reviewing what you’ve noted, you'll avoid overbooking (and overstretching) yourself, missing important appointments or deadlines, or forgetting to do tasks, and you'll be able to plan ahead with confidence. You'll also rest easier knowing you can communicate with your network whenever and wherever needed.
How? This is actually a three-part habit.
First, choose a format that you think will work best for you, be it electronic, paper, cave drawing, whatever, or even a combination of the above elements. This will involve some trial/error and re-evaluation as you go. Expect that...it's okay, and if you have to change formats along the way, it just means you are learning more about yourself and what works for you (or doesn't). There is no right or wrong way...just a right-for-you or wrong-for-you way. Whatever format you choose, it must meet these three criteria:
Next, add anything and everything you need to remember into your system as soon as you become aware of it.
Finally, make a daily appointment with yourself to review the data in your system so that you can bring it to life through an action plan. This is crucial. Without this, your system will not work and you will no longer trust it...reliability is key, remember? Simply sitting down each and every day to review what is coming up so that you can prioritize, plan ahead and share info with others as needed will save you time and stress otherwise spent worrying about what you're forgetting. Having a centralized system for tracking everything not only enables you to address your immediate concerns but also keeps the back-burner items on your radar so they don’t sneak up on you.
Already got this one down? Fabulous! Have you tamed your paper piles? Having a system in place for keeping track of appointments, reminders and contacts is a prerequisite to eliminating paper clutter. If you've already mastered Habit #4, go ahead and begin a daily triage of your incoming papers into these categories: action, file, pay, and read. Create calendar reminders/contacts for action and pay items, file reference papers and contacts regularly, and keep reading material handy and to a minimum (seriously, if you haven't read the fashion article you bookmarked in that 2010 magazine by now, it's probably safe to go ahead and toss it).
Tip of the Week
Speaking of taking notes, one way to improve your odds of adopting any new habit is to take note of what has (and hasn't) worked in the past. Was there a particular person who encouraged you (or sabotaged your efforts)? Is there a specific strategy that kept you motivated? Repeat the behaviors that have led to success and try to identify and eliminate the ones that led you astray.
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! From this point on, only those who have actually joined the challenge will receive weekly emails introducing the remaining six habits of organized people. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help in adopting any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end. Joining is FREE, so what have you got to lose?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the challenge, need more suggestions or encouragement, or just want to share your success story!
You’ve got this!
Can you believe we’re already more than halfway through the first month of 2021?!! Time marches on, and every minute you spend stepping over, working around, or shifting the disorder in your home is time you could be spending on something more fun or meaningful. The good news is that you can reclaim your time by establishing just a few good habits that lead to more order, less stress, and better living.
In the past two blog posts, I introduced the first two of ten good habits adopted by most organized people. If you missed them or need a refresher, click on the links below to read them:
Habit #1: Unpack upon arrival
Habit #2: Hang stuff up
Don’t worry if you’ve stumbled out of the gate. It’s never too late to get started or get back on track and keep moving forward.
Habit #3 is to make your bed each day as soon as you get out of it!
Why? It establishes a sense of order and accomplishment from the very moment you get up. Think about it...in the 60-90 seconds it takes (yes, it really only takes that long) to make your bed, you earn your first win of the day! Not only is it the quickest method I know to magically restore some visual peace and order to your bedroom, it makes a statement that you intend to make this a productive day. Let's face it, getting out of bed is difficult for everyone. Making your bed is a commitment to begin your day and really make it count. In his 2014 University of Texas Commencement speech, Adm. William McRaven (USN Ret.) explained,
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made --that you made--and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
Now, I know there are those of you who will try to make the argument that you don't need to make the bed because you're just gonna get back in it a few hours later. Instead of looking at this as a dreaded chore requiring excuses in order to avoid it, view it as something you do to pamper yourself...a gift to the future you. You’d be pretty disappointed if you got back to your hotel room after a day of sight-seeing to find a rumpled bed, wouldn’t you? After all, one of the perks of staying in a hotel is getting pampered by the housekeeping staff. There’s nothing more luxurious than climbing into a neatly-made bed at the end of a tiring day. It's like unwrapping the well-earned gift of rest.
My husband works the night shift and sleeps during the day. Even though I know he'll be getting into that bed an hour after I get out, I still make it for him every single day, and he does the same for me. It's just one more way we show one another some loving care and say "Welcome to dream world. Enjoy your stay." Making your own bed is just another form of expressing some self-love.
How? I find the most painless way to make your bed is to pull the covers up as far as you can and smooth them out while you're still in it and then neatly fold back one corner to make climbing out easier. This way, you are practically finished by the time you are on your feet. Then just fold back your exit flap, smooth and tuck the covers, neaten up the pillows and you're done. If you're a messy sleeper, it might take you a few seconds longer. Regardless, I promise you, it will not take more than 90 seconds, max, to accomplish your first win of the day!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #3, well done! How tidy do you leave the rest of your room each morning? Nothing ruins the calm, peaceful feel of your bedroom sanctuary like piles of clothes lying around the room, a cluttered dresser, or stacks of reading materials collecting dust. If your resting place feels chaotic, focus this week on making sure all clothes are put away and the floor and surfaces in your bedroom are clear before you exit so that you can enjoy a restful sleep in your welcoming bed at the end of the day!
Tip of the Week
One of the most common pitfalls we face when trying to establish new habits is life getting in the way of our best intentions. It happens to everyone, but obstacles don’t have to end your journey toward better habits. You just need to find the quickest detour route and keep going. With the right amount of determination and experience, the little things that used to throw you off track will become nothing more than opportunities to learn and better prepare yourself for whatever roadblocks lie ahead. Commit to never skipping two or more days in a row of performing your new habit. Skipping more than one day establishes a new pattern of not doing it and makes it harder to get back on track.
And always remember: imperfect progress is still progress!
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! I’ll be introducing Habit #4 in next week’s blog, but after that only those who have joined the challenge will learn the remaining six habits of organized people. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help establish any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end.
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at email@example.com, and stay tuned next Monday to learn about Habit #4.
I don’t know about you, but I had high hopes that 2021 would be an improvement over 2020. To say that the first ten days of the year have been disappointing would be a gross understatement. When the world is in turmoil, it is more important than ever to establish some order and control within the confines of your own home as a sanctuary from the madness. So let’s forge ahead, undeterred, with our restorative, calm-inducing challenge, shall we?
Last week, I introduced Habit #1: Unpack Upon Arrival. So how did everyone do? If you missed it or stumbled on this one, no worries. It’s never too late to start or reboot. Read last week’s post if you need to catch up. (Just a reminder for those of you who joined the official Good Habits Challenge: it’s never too late to request free accountability check-ins.) However, if you’re still on track with last week’s habit, you’ve got a jump-start on the next one.
Habit #2: Hang Stuff Up. Hopefully you’re now hanging up your coat, your purse/backpack, your keys, etc. upon arrival. Now add to that your towel, your bathrobe, your comfy hangout sweater...whatever items you tend to leave lying around that could be hung up in seconds as soon as you stop using them.
Why? A better question might be why not? This is such a quick and easy way to reduce surface clutter, restore visual peace to your environment, and ensure your belongings will be right where you expect them to be later on. These items will also stay in better condition when regularly hung up properly than if left crumpled on the floor or piled up on a chair somewhere. Towels will dry faster, clothes will be less wrinkled, and the dog won’t shed as much all over your throw blanket or bathrobe. More importantly, this is what I would call a “gateway habit”...a habit that leads into another, even more important habit. Once you are in the habit of hanging stuff up and experiencing the payoff of such a minimal investment, you’ll be more likely to put other things away as soon as you finish using them too. The simple act of putting things away right away is the master key that opens all the doors to organization. So why wouldn’t you attempt to make a habit of it?
How? As I said in last week’s post, hooks make hanging stuff up easier. If hanging up your bath towel is a chore, replace the towel bar with hooks. Where else might you be able to add a few hooks in strategic locations to make this habit easier to adopt? Don’t overlook the backs of cabinets and doors. For best results, install them as close as possible to where you use each item. Identify other deterrents to hanging stuff up. Are you short on hangers? Are they too slippery? Do you have to cross the room in order to hang up your sweater? No obstacle is too minor to consider if removing it will help you become successful.
If you’ve already mastered Habit #2, well done! How are you about putting away your clean laundry in a timely manner? If you routinely let it sit for a day or more once it’s washed and dried, focus your efforts this week on putting it away within 24 hours.
Tip of the Week
In last week’s post, I provided a few tips for establishing new habits. Today I want to zero in on one of them. Tying your new habit to an existing one not only helps you remember to do it, it establishes a routine. Routines are merely a string of habits performed in the same order at regular intervals. They are like little programs your brain executes without much input from your conscious mind, freeing you to focus your attention elsewhere. In other words, they allow you to go on autopilot to accomplish a great number of small tasks. Aside from helping you remember what you need to do, established routines also remove much of the conscious decision-making of whether or not to perform the task. You just do it without giving it much thought. Once a new habit is part of your routine, it can actually require more thought and effort not to do it. This is the goal when adopting new good habits. (It’s also a big part of the challenge in kicking bad habits, but that’s a post for another time.)
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! I’ll be introducing Habits #3 and #4 in the remaining blog posts in January, but only those who join the challenge will learn the other six. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help establish any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end.
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at valerie@easypeasyliving, and stay tuned next Monday to learn the details on Habit #3.
You’ve got this!
If you've resolved to get more organized in 2021, I've got great news...it's easier than you think! Orderly living is achieved by simply adopting a few good habits and sticking with them over time. Today we’re kicking off the Good Habits Challenge here at EasyPeasy Living. I’ll be introducing the first four key habits of organized people in this blog during the month of January, but it’s not too late to join the official challenge and discover all ten. Plus, those who join get some free helpful tools to promote success in establishing and sticking with any new habit.
New Habit #1: Unpack Upon Arrival. In other words, put away your keys, phone, purse/backpack/wallet, and coat in the same spot the very minute you come in the door.
Why? It saves you time and frustration the next time you depart your home, and it establishes a sense of confidence and control because you'll know just where to find what you need. No more searching for your essentials when you're rushing to get out the door, and no more worrying about misplacing your primary means of communication, funding and escape!
How? Establish a "landing pad" somewhere near the front door, aka your arrival/departure gate. If your home is in chaos, this is the ideal starting place for creating homes for each of your belongings.
Keep a spring-loaded clothespin attached to the neck of your coat hanger to quickly clip your jacket closed and prevent it from falling off without having to mess around with that pesky zipper. No coat closet? No problem. Hooks are actually the simplest and easiest ways to hang things up quickly with minimal effort while allowing you to capitalize on your vertical space. Don't overlook the prime real estate on the backs of doors and cabinets, or put a coat stand in the corner for lots of hanging space with a small footprint. Designate a spot for your phone and wallet too. A shoe basket or boot tray near the door is also helpful. And don’t forget a home for your masks. (We keep a basket of clean, reusable masks on the entry table that I refer to as the “masket”.) The main point is to always put things away in the same spot and as soon as you enter the house...before you do anything else. You’ll be glad you did the next time you need a quick and clean getaway!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #1, well done! Can you always find these commonly-misplaced items? If not, focus this week on establishing a home for each one and making it a habit to put them away there immediately after using them...every time!
General tips for adopting new habits
The hardest part about establishing any new habit is remembering to do it and staying consistent long enough for it to become second-nature. Here are a few tips to help you with that:
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at valerie@easypeasyliving, and stay tuned next Monday to learn the details on Habit #2.
You’ve got this!
One of the most common questions I get is “What organizing tools should I buy to get started?” My answer is simple: “Nothing!”
You don't have to spend a lot of money getting organized. While it may be tempting to purchase cute canisters for your pantry or boutique baskets for your closet, it is wiser to spend your decorating dollars on the spaces your guests will actually see than on organizing the stuff that's kept hidden behind closed doors. And contrary to popular belief, all those cute bins and cool gadgets from The Container Store don’t come with a lifetime supply of magic fairy dust that will automatically transform your home into an orderly oasis. Not to mention that going on a pre-organizing shopping spree, while a fun way to procrastinate on actually tackling your project, can end up becoming overwhelming and wind up adding to your problem of having too much stuff. The good news is that you are likely already surrounded by the best, most versatile tools on the market...you just don’t realize it! And all these items are easily adaptable if/when your needs change, unlike that task-specific gadget you paid too much for at your favorite home goods store.
December is Top Tips Month here at EasyPeasy Living, and this week I'm sharing 16 of my favorite things...ordinary, everyday objects most people already have lying around the house that, with a little creativity, you can transform into extraordinary tools for staying organized or just making life a little easy peasier. Be sure to follow @EasyPeasyLiving on Facebook and Instagram, where I’ll be sharing my top five most favorite favorites in the coming week. I may not have a magic wand, but these little gems are the next best thing.
First a word of caution: resist the temptation to hoard any of these. Most will be in pretty constant supply, so you can afford to wait until you have a specific need to begin collecting.
OK, here we go!
I recently saw a picture of a wedding gown made from 10,000 plastic bread bag clips. That may be a bit extreme, but there are lots of practical uses for these little plastic doohickies:
I love lighting candles to cozy up my home on long winter nights! From October through March, I enjoy snuggling up in front of their warm glow each evening. My favorites are the jar candles because they are less messy, keep their shape, and - best of all - the glass jars can be cleaned out and re-purposed to store all manner of things once the candle inside has burned itself out. Jar candles come in so many shapes and sizes, so the storage opportunities are endless. You can even fill them with something wonderful and gift them! Some of my favorite things to store in them:
Contact Lens Cases
Do you get a new case every time you buy solution? Don’t throw the old one out! These miniature lidded containers yield super-sized space savings and convenience, especially when travelling. Tuck them into your purse, backpack, fanny pack, suitcase or camping gear. Here are just a few of the many things you can store in them:
“Disposable” Food Storage Containers (such as Take-Along or Ziploc containers):
Closet and cabinet organizing is all about function and how to fit, find and access what you need as efficiently as possible. That's why I love these inexpensive containers for storing everything from pretzels to pencils. They come in varying sizes and are transparent, airtight, versatile, stackable and easily labeled. Best of all, you can pick up as many as you need for next to nothing and easily find them at most stores that sell housewares or groceries. Or just go "shopping" in your recycle bin.
Keeping small items organized can be a challenge. I love it when a gift or purchase comes packaged in a box with dividers, but you can also purchase plastic divided boxes at most craft stores or home goods stores that are stackable and easily transportable. Here are just a few ideas of things to store in them:
Life changes fast. Sometimes you need a low-tech communication device that travels well and can change right along with it. The dry erase marker isn't just for white boards, my friends!
Both the open-ended, soft kind or the hard, hinged eyeglass cases make great storage receptacles for so many objects inside your drawers, purse, backpack or suitcase. Here are just a few things you can store inside them:
One of the best ways to save space is to equip yourself with multi-taskers. Why buy and store a gazillion different toxic and expensive cleaners, stain removers, disinfectants, and whiteners when all you need is one bottle of this multi-purpose miracle? (Well okay, you should probably buy more than one bottle of it for all these uses.) Hydrogen peroxide has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-mold, anti-fungal and anti-mildew properties and is non-toxic and environmentally-friendly. And while it may be worth its weight in gold, it has a price tag you'll love almost as much as its versatility. Use it to:
Let's face it...we are all lazy about something. Embrace your laziness and make it work for you! These little turntables come in a variety of sizes. A few places they can help you spin into action instead of spinning your wheels include:
There's a reason our mothers and grandmothers kept a supply of these around! They’re economical, environmentally-friendly, reusable, versatile and inexpensive! Sold in most grocery or home goods stores by the dozen for about a buck per jar, they are a worthwhile investment. Or just befriend someone who likes to give homemade jam as gifts! Here are just some of the many ways you can use them around the house:
I always keep a stash of these on hand because they are so versatile. In addition to the obvious, use them for:
They say a picture paints a thousand words, but a picture frame can say a lot about how organized and creative you are! Try one of these ideas for putting yours to work for you:
Every well-stocked toolbox contains sandpaper, but you'll want to reserve a spot for it in other areas of your home when you see all its uses! Use it in your:
Shoe Pocket Organizers
With this little organizing trick in your pocket, you'll create storage space you never knew you had. Those transparent plastic or mesh shoe holders you hang on the back of your closet door are nothing less than a pocketful of miracles when it comes to maximizing on your vertical storage space! Here are just a few ideas for what to store in them:
So simple and low-tech, it's easy to overlook the power in their pinch! Next time you are near a dollar store, pick up a pack of those spring-loaded wooden clothespins. They will perform all kinds of little jobs around the house to make your life a little easy peasier. A few examples:
Maximize your vertical space with tension rods! No hardware or tools required to install these wherever you need to create storage.
And all these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! Go on Pinterest or Google or just use your own imagination to find additional uses for each of these things. If you find a new one or have a favorite thing of your own, share it with me before December 27 for a chance to win a copy of James Clear’s bestselling book, Atomic Habits. (To learn more about entering the 2020 Top Tips Contest, visit www.easypeasyliving.com/news.)
With a few of my favorite things, getting organized without any fancy organizing tools will be easy peasy!
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What’s in it for me?
C’mon, admit it. Most of the everyday responsible actions you take...from getting out of your warm, cozy bed on a cold morning to going to the dentist or getting a flu shot are because there’s something in it for you. You get to keep your job, keep your teeth, and keep from getting sick, to name a few. I mean, how many people do you think would actually pay their taxes just because it’s the right thing to do if they didn’t also see keeping their freedom as a pretty major benefit? It’s human nature to want something in return for your inconvenience and sacrifice. Even kids understand this concept from a young age, as evidenced by my son who once offered to pull out all of his teeth for the tooth fairy if she’d just bring him enough money to buy a Lego death star. (Little did he know that, with a little patience, she’d end up with all of them eventually anyway.)
We parents teach our kids this notion of hardship eventually leading to a payoff when we incentivize them to behave, to do their chores and their homework, and to sacrifice for others. Be it sticker charts, extra privileges, or even just heaping on the praise, we are reinforcing this idea that doing the right thing, even when it’s hard, yields positive dividends. Even when we want to improve our own behavior, we promise ourselves little rewards for rising to the challenge. And there’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as we select a prize that won’t end up sabotaging our efforts. (A new outfit for your slimmed-down body is probably a better reward for sticking to your diet than a celebratory cake...just sayin’.)
But incentives only work when we consciously identify what they are and specify the actions required to earn them. Case in point: I figured out a long time ago that a tidy, uncluttered environment keeps me calm and reduces my stress level more than just about anything else. I have two teenagers, so it’s a given that I’m going to feel stress in my life. But I know that the visual peace of a neat home and knowing exactly where to find everything will allow me to better manage all the anxiety that naturally accompanies the thought of paying for college, not to mention my babies driving and dating. That’s a reward that is well worth spending an extra minute here and there to put things away...even things that were left out by others. It’s the thing that motivates me to regularly clean out my closets and get rid of all the excess stuff I don’t really need. Just knowing that I will have sufficient room to house and conveniently access my well-thought-out purchases is all the enticement I need to avoid making impulse buys I might struggle to put away when I get it home. That effort is a gift I give myself because I’ve already determined that the payoff is huge. I don’t keep my home organized for the benefit of guests or my family. It’s for me. Which is good, because these days I rarely entertain, and my family couldn’t care less how tidy and organized everything is as long as they can find their remotes and locate the router when the wifi needs resetting.
So what’s in it for you to have less stuff? What do you get out of purging your excess...passing up a great sale...forgoing freebies and hand-me-downs...giving away some of those sentimental objects you have stored away but will likely never use?
Might some of these benefits of streamlining help you pare down?
Take some time to think about your top ten motivators for cutting back your belongings and write them down. Then dangle that carrot where you can see it clearly. Review it regularly to remind yourself what’s in it for you to tidy up before bed, to find a home for everything you own, to stop acquiring, or to donate or recycle all the stuff you can do without.
With a little awareness and the right incentive, even discovering the more of less will be easy peasy.
It’s almost Thanksgiving! You know, that beloved holiday where we watch football on TV and stuff our faces so that we have plenty of energy to shop til we drop on Black Friday…the one that heralds the coming of the Christmas season and the official start of the decorating wars…when we get the green light to start spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need.
Hmmmm...Thanksgiving. Thanks giving…giving thanks.
Thanksgiving is unique among the end-of-year holidays because it really lasts for only one day. Even Halloween gets bigger billing these days, with all the creepy decorations, parties, costume preparations, and spooky movie marathons on TV. By the time the big Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, we are usually so focused on football and eating and planning out our 4AM shopping strategy that we forget what this day is really supposed to be about. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
Well, it is not about extravagant spreads of food in abundance. It is not about beautiful, impressive tablescapes a la Martha Stewart. It is not about kickoff time or fires in the fireplace or putting up the Christmas tree. It is not about traveling or pumpkin pie or gourds or falling leaves. It is not even about pilgrims or Native Americans or survival. And in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, it is most definitely not about large gatherings with family and friends. It is about gratitude…gratitude for life and whatever it has handed you…gratitude for blessings and gratitude for the hardships that make you appreciate the blessings…gratitude for what you have now and gratitude for what you once had…gratitude for the love of others and for the ability to love them back…gratitude for the chance to share your unique gifts and talents with the world and for those who have shared theirs with you...gratitude for hope and for the ability to keep on hoping even in the most hopeless of situations...and gratitude for the capacity to recognize all for which there is to be grateful.
Gratitude is an attitude. Gratitude is a gift. Gratitude is the thing that makes it possible to get through even the worst of days and still want to wake up and try again tomorrow. Want the secret to “easy peasy living”? It’s gratitude. Gratitude transforms what you have into enough. If you have sufficient amounts of gratitude, you'll never need more of anything else.
Never have we needed a holiday to contemplate and venerate gratitude more than we do this year. So let us be grateful for this Thanksgiving, whatever joys or disappointments it may bring. Before you dive head first into that turkey with all the trimmings, or whatever meager meal you've managed to scrape together this day, take a little time to reflect on all that you have instead of all that you wish you had.
Among the many blessings for which I am grateful, I add you, my faithful followers. I'm wishing you and your loved ones a truly safe and Happy Thanksgiving filled with all the gratitude your hearts can hold!
Several years ago, a neighbor friend of mine who knew that my husband and I wanted to get in shape offered us--FREE--a treadmill that had been sitting idle for some time in her basement. We were ecstatic! That treadmill was just what we needed to transform ourselves from couch potatoes to svelte beach bodies by the time bathing suit season rolled around (well okay...give or take 50 pounds). Best of all, the price fit right into our meager (read: nonexistent) budget. We’d have to be crazy to say no to that...right?
While impulse purchases are a real thing, most of us actually do weigh the cost vs. benefit before we acquire something new. Thus, something free + something we want = YES! So why are our closets and garages so crammed full of stuff we never use? Clearly, we are miscalculating something. Perhaps we're leaving something out of the equation. I propose the correct formula should be:
Financial cost + Space cost + Convenience cost + Opportunity cost = True Cost
Most of us don’t see past the money and never even think about the last three components of this equation, probably because they are difficult to quantify. But omitting them from the equation altogether is how we wind up feeling disorganized, frustrated and suffocated by all our stuff. Let’s take a closer look:
This is usually the primary and often the only cost we consider when deciding whether or not to acquire something new. If you want proof, look no further than the ridiculously long checkout lines at your local Dollar Tree. How many times have you bought something just because it was “such a great deal”? And note that I keep using the word "acquire". That's because considering the cost of something applies even to--especially to--items for which we paid no money at all. Interestingly, the more money we pay for something, the less willing we are to part with it once we realize it was a poor purchase. And the longer we keep it in some vain attempt to “get our money’s worth” out of it, the more it ends up costing us...in space, in convenience, and in opportunity. As my husband and I would eventually discover, that $0 treadmill was most certainly not free, after all.
Ah space…the final frontier! Most people completely underestimate the value of empty space. We see it as something to be consumed instead of recognizing the important role it plays in keeping us organized and sane. Every single item you own--from vegetable peeler to king-sized bed--costs you valuable space. Like money (and cake), you cannot keep (have) it and spend (eat) it too. Overspending your space--or cramming as many objects into your empty spaces as you can--leads to clutter, visual noise, stress, and sometimes even guilt. The more spacious your environment, the easier it is to maintain and control. Purging items you no longer need/use makes it infinitely easier to see, access and keep organized the things you do. That “free” treadmill ended up costing us significant space in our small basement.
Life gets really inconvenient when you lack space. If you’ve ever watched one of those hoarder shows, you’ll be struck by how much more effort it takes them just to accomplish everyday tasks like cooking a meal or taking a shower. When your access to the items you need is restricted, it takes more time, energy and effort just to get them out and use them...much less to put them away again when you're done. Pretty soon, you stop bothering to put things away at all. This leads to clutter, chaos, frustration and a sense of defeat as you either lose items or they continually get in your way.
Also, the more stuff you accumulate, the less visible everything becomes. If you can’t see what you have, you’ll either buy it again or you won’t use it at all. So why are you keeping it? And owning too many belongings makes you less nimble...the sheer inconvenience of moving all that excess stuff out of the way in order to make home improvements or repairs can lead to procrastination, sometimes causing or worsening damage and costing even more money in the long run. Before you know it, you’ve increased the financial cost of ownership well beyond your initial investment.
Remember our treadmill? Well, we had to sacrifice some of the space we had been using for sorting and folding laundry just to make room for it. This made doing the laundry an even bigger chore than usual. Laundry baskets often ended up stacked up on the treadmill because there was no place else to put them. Talk about a motivation killer! If you think I’m going to do laundry first just so that I can exercise, think again! In my book, Exercise + Laundry = Forget it! The convenience cost of that treadmill in doing laundry was huge, not to mention that actually being able to use the treadmill itself was so inconvenient, it ended up just sitting there collecting dust for months. So why keep it? Good question!
What are you missing out on because you’ve acquired too much stuff? If you had just said NO to some of those “great deals” would you have had the money to go on a weekend getaway with your sweetie? If you could've just made do with fewer kitchen gadgets, might you have more space to share your love of cooking with your grandchildren? If you cleared all the “some day maybe” stuff you paid good money for out of the guest room closet, would you be more likely to entertain overnight guests?
It was summer when we said yes to that treadmill, so we forgot that the only spot we had available to put it in is where we normally put our Christmas tree...right across from the fireplace, next to the big recliner where my husband reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the kids every Christmas Eve before bed. There was no room for our tree in the basement that year. No enjoying the beautiful lights by the warm glow of the fire. That treadmill ended up costing us a valued family tradition that Christmas, and it was truly a bummer.
The good news is that you can mitigate the costs of the things you own if you just ask yourself a few simple questions before you acquire anything new:
We’ve all made mistakes in saying yes when we should have said no, but that doesn't mean you have to keep paying the price for your error. That treadmill? We gave it back to our neighbor and joined the gym instead. You see, we concluded that the financial cost of a gym membership was worth what we would save in space, convenience and opportunity. Don’t let what you paid (or didn’t pay) for something interfere with righting what's wrong.
With a little honest contemplation about the true costs of ownership, even saying no to a blowout sale can be easy peasy!
Everyone has excess stuff. (I know I do!) And the first step in effectively organizing any space is to eliminate as much of the excess as possible. Unfortunately, just like doing the laundry, cleaning, eating right and exercising, this need to purge your excess is ongoing. You have to keep doing it if you want to stay in good, orderly shape.
One of the biggest deterrents to ridding ourselves of the fat in our home is all the guilt that wraps itself around each unwanted, broken, useless, ill-fitting piece of surplus in our closets. Some people have storage units stuffed to the brim with that guilt. It comes in the form of gifts received but never used, deceased loved ones' belongings that we don't know what to do with, clothes long out of fashion that used to fit, broken furniture or toys we always meant to repair but never did...all good intentions and fond old memories that are now saturated in guilt. If this sounds like you, it's time to bring that guilt into the light, recognize it for what it is and purge it once and for all.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you confront your guilt:
Memories cannot be donated. We often keep items because they trigger a fond memory for us. But unless you encounter that object, the memory isn't getting trig gered. My readers know that I'm big on re-purposing, not only because it saves money and reduces waste, but because it often enables you to place a memory trig ger in the midst of everyday life. There it can do its job much better than if stuffed into a bin in the garage. But if you can't find a use for it, consider documenting the memory in some other way. Take a photo of the item or write about it in your journal before donating it to a good home.
True gifts are emotions, not tangible items. No one ever intended to give you a burden as a gift. The physical object they gave you only represents the true gift of their love, appreciation, friendship...and those are things you cannot get rid of simply by donating them. Often, the giver will not even remember the specific object that represented their real gift, much less realize that you parted with it.
A purchase is not a lifelong commitment. Yes, you may have spent "good money" on it. True, you may have loved it once upon a time. If you are not using it and no longer need it, then getting rid of it now does not change those facts. Hopefully it served its purpose at the time you acquired it, but even if it didn't, depriving yourself of the space it occupies now will not make it so or increase its value.
If you're gonna fix it, fix it NOW! Stop procrastinating. If it is important or valuable enough to warrant keeping, make it useful again. Otherwise it is just broken stuff getting in your way. If you haven't fixed it by now and aren't willing or able to do it today, you probably never will. Give yourself a firm deadline for getting it done and pitch it if you don't meet it.
Sharing is honorable. Perhaps there's an item that reminds you of someone special. If you don't need it or can't use it or display it, why not honor that person by sharing it with someone who can? Preserve the memory with a picture or journal entry and pass it along...perhaps to someone else with a connection to that same special person.
New memories await creation. Don't allow your desire to hold onto old memories squeeze out the opportunity to create new ones. You need space to live and grow and collect tomorrow's keepsakes. Give away that guilt to make room for something better.
I'm not suggesting that you can't keep anything just for its pure sentimental value. But you owe it to yourself and to the simplicity you need in your life to keep it manageable and meaningful. Decide in advance how much space you are willing to devote to that category and once it is full, it's time to purge something or stop collecting.
With a little courage and pragmatism, even purging your guilt can be easy peasy.
What do weight problems, financial troubles, and clutter management struggles all have in common? They each stem from an imbalance between intake and outflow.
Sure, banishing clutter from your home requires getting rid of your excess stuff, but just as with weight and financial challenges, it doesn’t end there. Real long-term success also depends on how carefully you monitor and regulate what’s coming in, as well as what’s going out.
If you’ve ever experienced a toilet overflow, you know that the crucial first step is to immediately turn off the water supply before you even reach for the plunger. Failing to prevent more water from accumulating while you work on unclogging the backup can lead to an even bigger mess that takes longer to clean up. But what happens if you don’t even know where the shutoff valve is?
Thanks to reality TV shows that highlight the issue of hoarding, most of us already know that compulsive shopping can lead to big problems with clutter. But what about impulsive shopping? While it may not lead you into bankruptcy or land you on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive, making purchases without thinking them through beforehand could be unraveling all of your grand plans to wrest control of your home away from your jumble of belongings. These decisions are the leaks that need to be plugged in order to better regulate the flow of items into your home. But where do these poor choices originate? Well, let’s see. Do any of these sound familiar?
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with keeping some extra toilet paper on hand (as I think we all learned earlier this year), but knowing when to stop buying it is vital. It’s okay to take advantage of a great deal...on something you were planning to buy anyway. But there’s a big difference between seizing an opportunity to save money on something you need and simply accumulating more stuff you don’t need because it was on sale. And that difference is forethought.
Before you make a purchase, ask yourself:
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Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.