I'm starting a series of posts called On the Eights. I'm going to post a list of eight tips, links, or other kinds of recommendations on the 8th, 18th, and 28th of each month. Why eight? Because it rhymes it with Kate, silly! And because I want to keep a regular schedule for posting. Here we go!
1. Get rid of multiples. When a couple gets together, they often find they have duplicates of things--movies, for example. Or, maybe some well-intentioned friend gave you something you already have. Resist the temptation to think that maybe you'll need that extra whatever-it-is someday. You know what? You might need it someday, but if your mission is de-cluttering your life today, then the duplicates have to go.
2. Get thee to the kitchen! Kitchens are wonderful places to hoard things. They're places where all your wildest, Martha Stewart dreams come true, where all the dishes match and you have just the right size of everything. Forget it. Be realistic for your lifestyle. If you're worried that someday (there it is again) you'll have a big dinner party and you won't have enough plates, glasses, or coffee mugs, then borrow some from the people you're inviting to come over. Resist the urge to buy tools and gadgets for the kitchen. For example, I don't have a potato masher, yet I manage to make mashed potatoes. They're not the world's creamiest, award-winning mashed potatoes, but somehow I survive.
3. Make it art. Have some old t-shirts that you can't part with? Maybe it was an event tee that has sentimental value to you. That's completely understandable, but if the shirt's stashed away getting musty in some drawer, you're not exactly appreciating it. Find a way to display it like with this easy project. Maybe you have some old magazines that have an article here or there that you like, or maybe you have tons of photos. Turn them into a collage, or, better yet, scan them onto your computer.
4. Use what you have. What I mean by this is: pay attention to the items you have in your living space. Make a point to use them. You might not even realize that you have something because it's been sitting there for so long. Or maybe you have things hiding in drawers. Take inventory and come up with interesting ways to use the things you already have. I have a ton of notecards, thank-you notes, and construction paper that are just hanging around for that someday when I'll need them. Instead of waiting, though, I'm better off finding a use for them. If I truly need more in the future, I can buy more, but it's more likely that I'll say, "If I buy this, it'll create clutter. Can I live without it?" This tip also applies to the food in your pantry! Pay attention to it--eat it.
5. Holiday decor. Again, let Martha Stewart be Martha Stewart. She's the best at it anyway. The problem with holiday decor is that you bring it out for a month, and it spends the rest of the year taking up valuable real estate in your home. This past Christmas, I didn't put a tree up. Christmas still happened, and I was quite merry. I also looked into some alternatives to Christmas trees, and there are some pretty creative ideas out there that are much more eco-friendly and less clutter-forming. I'd also suggest using decor that is consumable and/or biodegradable. In the fall--pumpkins and squash varieties, in the winter--pine cones, in the spring--flowers and plants, in the summer--colorful fruit. Colorful accents like a throw blanket also go a long way toward giving you the feeling of a season without much effort.
6. Clothes. Two questions: Does it fit? Is it fabulous? I think I got these questions from Clinton on What Not to Wear. I wouldn't use the word fabulous myself, but you get the idea. Women especially tend to keep clothes in their closet that don't fit them. There are the skinny clothes that "someday I'll fit into." Then there are the big clothes that we hope we'll never fit into again. Ugh. Okay, folks, you aren't going to get skinny or fat overnight. You'll see it coming and you'll have time to prepare. Yes, you might gain weight and have to buy clothes again, or you might lose weight and have to buy clothes. Someday. Why are you centering your life on something that might not ever happen and that, if it does happen, will happen gradually with time to prepare? Again, if your goal is to live a de-cluttered life today, donate your clothes to a charity or thrift store of your choice. Someone out there can use your clothing today.
7. The bathroom. There are plenty of opportunities to de-clutter and simplify your morning routine and bathroom area. You'll have to determine what's most important to you and your routine. Here are some ways that I'm simplifying: I've stopped buying facial cleanser and just use the same soap I use on my body (gasp!). No big deal. I use a mild soap on my body and it works just fine for my face too. I also use the same mild soap for shaving my legs (gasp!). To simplify the shampoo-conditioner routine, I was using Hair One, and I like it, but it's expensive. Ultimately, frugality beat out the clutter factor. I wear little to no makeup each day, but I do have some.
8. Space is energy. The thing about many of these tips is that they're often not the most frugal choice. Some might involve re-purchasing things down the line. You won't be saving money by getting rid of things, and it might actually seem wasteful, but what if your clutter cost you something? In the same way that time is money (so they say), space is energy. Readjust your thinking when it comes to the things that are occupying your space. It takes energy to see those items, walk around them, clean them, knock them over, or push them aside to find what you really need. It takes energy to look at your clutter and say, "I should do something about that." Your living space should make you feel good and even give you energy. If it doesn't, find out what's draining you and get it gone.
Keep in mind that all of these tips I've shared today are for those who really want to downsize. Some people have what I would consider clutter because if it were in my home it would be, but don't let others determine what clutter is for you. If you love something, keep it. If it makes you happy to have it, keep it and enjoy it. But if you feel like your space is cluttered, then do something about it. Love where you live.