decluttering-under-bathroom-sink

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To go along with the great closet reduction of ’16, I’ve decided to tackle my biggest clutter problem area: the underside of the sink.  When it comes to hygiene and beauty products, I’m a bit of a hoarder.  I keep mascara too long and stock up on five different Bath and Body Works sets and buy soap in bulk instead of only when I need it.  This is probably associated with my candle addiction and a general desire to have everything, including myself, smell amazing.  Maybe it’s because I spent my formative years saturated in chlorine and hairspray, and now I’m making up for lost time (and damaged hair).  Maybe I just really like all the colors b&bw body wash comes in.  Who knows.

What I do know is that this has to stop.

Solution?  Make use of my neuroticism and penchant for list-making.

For a week, I kept track of all the products I used.  I even recorded the general time frame during which I used an item – morning, day, or night.  I noted what I liked to use and what I was really only using in an effort to empty the bottle.  I tossed some expired things I wasn’t even aware I had.  I organized.  I made myself become aware of what I was putting in – and on – my body on a daily basis.

When I reviewed at the end of the week, I realized I didn’t really need a box full of stockpiled body wash and toothpaste.  I wasn’t using anything at a rate fast enough to warrant hoarding.  And if I’m completely honest, I have way more stuff than I even realized that probably won’t make its way into my hygiene rotation until 2017, if that.

Plus, I had another, secret motive for this portion of the decluttering.  I learned a few months ago about microbeads, which are tiny plastic beads used in many different hygiene products.  Unlike natural exfoliating items, microbeads don’t dissolve or biodegrade. They’re also so small that they rarely get filtered out at water plants, meaning that they end up in oceans and landfills and potentially your food and drinking water.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not really interested in trying to digest plastic…

(FYI – microbeads have recently been banned in the United States!  They should be eliminated from all products in 2017)

Microbeads, along with other environmentally conscious thoughts and feelz, are my secret motive.  I want to be more aware of where my various beauty and hygiene products come from, and that means being more restrictive about what I use and when I buy things.  It’s also an unfortunate truth that many environmentally conscious items can end up being expensive when compared to the “less green” options.  Hopefully, shopping less and more consciously will even each other out.

How do I tie all this together?  Well, the first step is eradicating unused and unusable items from my hygiene hoard.  This ranges from expired topical creams to chunky nail polishes – anything that doesn’t function the way it should.  Where I could, I recycled empty containers.  After getting through the toss phase, I moved on to develop a hygiene routine that I now keep posted by my mirror.  This way, I can remove items I find I’m not using anymore, or add products that I transition into my routine.

I haven’t actually made any new purchases, however.  As I run out of particular staples, I’ll start researching products to see if I need to replace anything in my daily cycle, either in terms of environmental impact, cost, or personal usefulness.  But that’ll be the fodder for a future post, so for now, adieu!

I’m fairly erratic when posting about decluttering (working on it, sorry!), but in a recent effort to rekindle my journey into minimalism, I did a kind of weird thing.  I spent an entire evening going through my entire wardrobe and I counted every item.  And when I say every item, I mean every item.  Things that are natural pairs stayed paired but otherwise, from my t-shirts to my socks, I counted up clothes and put them back.

Guess how many items of clothing I have.  Guess.

Nevermind, I’ll tell you.

I have 536 clothing items.  Which seems like a crazy amount of clothing, given I started wearing capsule wardrobes over half a year ago and generally only get into 50% of my workout clothes and lounge wear.  I’ve also been doing my best to get rid of ill-fitting or damaged clothing for months now, which means that a year ago, I probably had 600-700 pieces.  Even if I wore four or so separate items a day, I would never have to repeat a complete set of clothing in a given year.  That is definitely surplus.

Now, you may want to know why I decided to dedicate one whole evening to clothes counting (on a weekend, no less!).  My roommate certainly did, when I was able to confidently tell her exactly how much clothing I had.

I am starting my most ambitious decluttering project yet.  (Maybe it’s not KonMari level decluttering, but it’s certainly something.)  I’m moving in two months, and by that time, I want to reduce my closet by 25%.

Yep.  One quarter of my closet, gone.  That’s 134 articles of clothing that will no longer be my responsibility or my concern.  I won’t have to look at them and say, “ugh, I have to make time to wear that soon,” because that’s actually how I deal with clothes I don’t like but own.  I won’t have as much laundry.  I won’t need find space for them in my new room.

I do have some rules and loopholes to help me through this project, because a) I’m a structured kind of person and b) I want this to be useful, but not torturous.  They are few, but they are good.

  1. Things that don’t fit go.  I’ve never been the type to try to save clothing “I might fit into someday,” but I have been the type to squeeze into things too tight or rig things that are too big, just because I hate feeling like I’ve wasted money.  In reality, all I’m wasting is time and personal comfort.  Exceptions to this rule are oversized sweaters, because oversized sweaters are bae.
  2. T-shirts can be upcycled into a quilt.  I have absurd amounts of t-shirts that I acquired in college, and I actually wear maybe seven of them maybe once a month.  It’s time to cull the pretty-but-unwearable ones and either craft my own quilt or send off for one from Etsy.
  3. I don’t have to get rid of my seasonal clothes.  This is relevant because hey, I live in Florida, which means there’s maybe one month each year I can wear actual sweaters or multiple layers.  I’m not going to force myself to cut down on clothing I actually like just because I currently live in a subtropical zone.
  4. Any new clothes will increase my item count.  I was going to avoid buying new things altogether, but I already rarely shop, so it felt redundant to ban it outright.  Instead, I’ll essentially be following the buy-one/give-one rule for any shopping I do.  And, finally:
  5.  I will use this to cultivate my style.  Maybe some of this closet exorcism will involve spinning heads and aggressively tossing clothing around, but I can also use this time to create a more concentrated wardrobe.  I know what I love wearing.  I know what I’m apathetic about wearing.  If I’m going to be painstakingly sorting through my closet, I might as well multitask and organize the survivors at the same time.

I want to start by removing my first ten items come May 1.  Wish me luck!


Have you ever done a complete wardrobe overhaul?  What suggestions do you have for thinning my closet?

incidental-digital-decluttering

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When I started taking decluttering seriously half a year ago, I knew that one of the most intimidating realms to conquer would be the digital one.  Though less visible in my life than physical possessions, my digital stores were disorganized, overwhelming, and not removed as easily as a trip to Goodwill.  Just the idea of going through all my photos became some sort of impassable barrier; other desktop folders got some half-hearted shuffling around.  Emails were a little easier to decimate, mostly because I was already a firm user of the “delete when done” method of communication.

But other than some attempts at obtaining some order in my digital life, I didn’t mount any concentrated effort or complete any particular task.  I certainly didn’t blog about it.  After all, I didn’t have anything valuable to say!  Even as I cut swathes through my wardrobe and established order in my office, the computer (and its electronic compatriots, the cellphone and the camera) remained an ineffable space.

This isn’t a post to say I figured out how to demolish my collections of “maybe I’ll need this documents” or even how to appropriately organize my photo collection.  Instead, it’s a chance for me to provide my self a little bit of validation for what I have been able to do on the digital front.  Even though there’s much left to do, it’s amazing that I can sit down at my computer and not feel overwhelmed by folders and documents and half thought out notes blazing from the screen in pastel colors.  And you know what?  I didn’t even get to this point on purpose.  It just came, gradually and easily, as I worked on the rest of my life.

For one, I take fewer photos.  If I’m going to disengage from the world long enough to snap a shot, it’s going to be something I work hard to get right.  There’s no need for a photo of every single moment that ever happens – I’m either going to remember those moments or I’m not.  I’m highly unlikely to spend my old age going through photos to recreate that moment I had a really good bowl of tomato soup or saw a spider on my wall.  If it’s worthwhile, instagram it.  If it’s not, snapchat it and call it a day.  Only rarely do I take a photo for the sake of keeping it for later recollection.

I also have become better at organizing notes.  No more Notepad files labeled “a thought” “one more thing” or “what did I mean when I wrote this.”  Instead, I stick them all in one long document that I clear out regularly – often, the note is forgettable and I just erase it.  Sometimes I act on it.  Sometimes I stare at it and then abandon it for another few months.  Ultimately this document won’t exist at all one day, when I am perfectly organized and only have incredibly valuable, actionable ideas come to mind (ha!), but for now, it’s a long step upward from the clutter that spanned from desktop to Google Drive.

And ultimately, the process of cleaning up my physical life has reduced the number of things I need to write down in order to remember.  Why should I have a file that lists all the movies I own when I’m perpetually deciding which movies to sell, donate, or bequeath to my father?  Why should I save important PDFs to my desktop when I’ve got an email folder just for that particular bill?  It’s seems wild, but my physical and digital clutter go hand and hand.  Maybe yours does, too!


Have you been able to clean out your digital clutter?  What processes worked for you?

 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about decluttering, in part because I have tumbled headfirst into a decluttering slump.  I was fairly productive over the holidays as I worked on my childhood bedroom.  But when I got back to Florida, I realized I didn’t know how to keep going with all the stuff I have there.  Sure, there’s a lot I don’t use.  But I’ve culled it to the point that I at least like and can fit into everything that’s still around.  It makes it a lot harder to decide to get rid of things.

But I still have big dreams of a truly minimalist lifestyle.  I also made a vow that 2016 would be a year I learned how to better discern what’s necessary in my life.  Thus, I musn’t give up!  In an effort to reboot my decluttering efforts, I’ve decided to share three tips I’m trying to implement.Continue reading

It doesn’t seem like it’s been three months since I developed my first ever fall capsule wardrobe.  I based it on Project333‘s suggested wardrobe of 33 items (though I didn’t include accessories or shoes in my capsule, I got as many of those as I wanted!), and I have to say, I had a great time!  I never ran out of clothing and no one ever commented on me wearing “the same thing” all the time.  I even discovered some fun new ways to pair articles of clothing together!

But now that the Sept-Nov run is over, I have a few thoughts on my first capsule wardrobe.Continue reading

Re: my plan to seriously declutter my life, I wanted to build a capsule wardrobe for the start of the school year.  Project333, my inspiration for this venture, breaks down the capsule wardrobe into thirty-three items for a three month period.  I live in Florida, so I don’t feel the need to stick to the seasonal boundaries of project333’s cycle.  It’s going to be hot eleven months out of the year, but conversely, it’s going to be freezing indoors.  I’m also not going to count shoes or jewelry this initial go-round.  Instead, I’m going to keep a record of what shoes and jewelry I actually wear, and cull extraneous items later in the year as necessary.

It seems like I’ve sorted out the rule set necessary to get this capsule wardrobe off the ground.  You’d think I’d be able to jump right in, picking items that can seamlessly adapt to professional functions, school days, or hanging out with friends.  You’d think my one-temperature-fits-all location would make selection even simpler.

Of course, you know what they say about best laid plans.

My capsule wardrobe ventures, in spite of my good intentions, are not going well.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying to develop it day by day rather than in one fell swoop, or if I just have too much clothing.  I don’t know if it’s because I resist doing laundry more than once every two weeks or so.  But I haven’t been able to maintain a solid set of items for a week, let alone three months.  Clearly something about my current approach isn’t working for me.  I just can’t figure out what that something is.

But I refuse to give up!  September starts in a few short days, and that gleaming “1” on the calendar feels perfect for starting my capsule wardrobe over once again.  However, instead of trying to patch a wardrobe together as the first month goes by, I’m determined to take some time Saturday to pick out my thirty-three items and put the rest of my clothing deep in the back of my closet.

I’m also going to take an approach that project333 suggests for developing wardrobes: writing down what types of items you think you’ll need before selecting any specific articles.  And so you, friends, can hold me accountable, I’m going to list them out below!


 

2 maxi dresses

2 professional/presentation quality dresses

1 pencil skirt

5 transitional dresses (school or adventure appropriate)

3 cardigans (staple colors for versatility)

1 blazer

1 leather jacket

6 work-appropriate tops

4 casual tops (not for a professional environment)

2 skirts

2 pairs of blue jeans

1 pair of rose-colored jeans

1 pair of black jeans

2 pairs of shorts


 

Have you ever made a capsule wardrobe?  What struggles do you have when trying to cultivate a smaller closet?

My first forays into decluttering have been fairly successful, though there’s still a long way to go.  It doesn’t help that I’m visiting my parents for the next week.  My childhood bedroom is still chock-full of assignments and t-shirts and toys from my first eighteen years of life.  It’s hard to feel like I’ve made a dent on decluttering when every time I come home, I fall back in to a pile of nostalgia and resistance (“I don’t need to get rid of that – I may not have pulled it out of a drawer for a decade, but I loved it when I was five! Right?!”).

But like I said, I have had successes!  Since my introduction to decluttering, I’ve sort of started a capsule wardrobe, which immediately made me realize I don’t wear many of my shirts; I’ve recycled or destroyed dozens of documents I was sure I would be called on to present for some sort of small home appliance convention; I’ve put a moratorium on purchasing, which has reduced the intake of clutter significantly.  On the digital front, I’ve cut great swathes across my email accounts in an attempt to really and truly reach Inbox: 0.  Through all of this, I’ve become firmer in how I want to spend my time and money, which really helps determine what activities are of value, and what things I do just because.

However, through all of this, I’ve been fairly inconsistent in my methods.  I didn’t realize how many different ideas people have about decluttering until I started looking for guidelines in books and on the web.  Some will say to do a little bit of cleaning each day, some say to do it all at once; some tell you to go room by room, others will group all your items into categories.  This deluge of information has complicated how I plan to proceed.

In order to organize my thoughts and to introduce any newbies to the art of decluttering, I’ve decided to gather what I’ve learned into a few schools of thought!  Each has its benefits, and each may be ideal for different kinds of people.  It just depends on what best fits with your mentality and schedule.  You may be like me, and need to try all of them, or you may find one that fits you perfectly.  Just remember: the point of decluttering is not to get rid of everything or start completely new (though those methods may have benefits for people making moves across oceans or who spend the majority of their time traveling).  Decluttering is about determining what has value in your life, and what you simply use as filler.


The Kon-Mari Method

Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is actually what sparked my decluttering revolution.  I grabbed it on a whim earlier in the year and found myself unable to sleep until I finished reading it.  Kondo suggests doing all your decluttering in one fell swoop and also decluttering by category, not location.  She’s got excellent credentials: as a cleaning consultant, she has a three-month waiting list and no repeat offenders.  Personally, her method appeals to the spiritual side of my nature, because she thinks its important to only own items that “spark joy.”  She also suggests taking the time to handle each item in order to assess if it really has value to you.

Declutter Buddy Method

I’ve seen this mentioned a few times while browsing Pinterest.  This method – of using a friend to help you declutter – normally goes hand-in-hand with the idea that you should not touch your stuff.  If you don’t have a buddy, there are other ways to avoid intimate contact with your belongings.  Touching items is linked with feelings of ownership that might prevent you from discarding an item you otherwise don’t use.  This method eliminates those feelings: a buddy can hold the items for you while you make decisions.  This would probably be especially effective if the buddy knows you well (like a roommate or significant other) and could tell you when you were waffling over a pair of jeans you hadn’t worn in months.  Just make sure to be a good pal and help your buddy declutter in return!

Room-by-Room Method

While this method can be done in a lengthy stretch of time, this is often associated with the “declutter a little every day!” mentality.  The room-by-room method involves taking on clutter one room at a time, or even breaking your home into smaller parts, like a pantry or the cabinets under your bathroom sink.  This helps you focus on organization and making the best out of any given space, as you are more homed in on the fine details rather than the overall picture of your home.  Just be careful: this method can very easily turn from decluttering to moving items from one spot to another, without any real removal going on.  But it’s a great way to organize if you find yourself leaving your flashlights in the pantry and your DVDs in your dresser drawer!

Sarah’s Way

I don’t have my own school of thought, per se, but I do have strong opinions on what you do with the items you find you no longer need.  So many people approach decluttering as a discarding activity, where everything you decide you no longer need, you’ll dump in the trash.  Don’t do that!  The vast majority of items you no longer need may be useful to someone else: donate them.  Or, if you’ve got a stack of magazines you’ve realized you’ll never read, recycle them!  Don’t get so caught up in your cleaning frenzy that you forget about the importance of keeping our planet clean as well.  Every item I depart with either goes to a recycling bin or Goodwill, or I figure out how, in the future, to avoid getting an item that I must throw away.  By discarding with a consideration for the planet, you may really change your mindset about possessions.  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.


 

What decluttering methods have you attempted?  Let me know if you use any of these ideas to freshen the way you tidy up!

With the conclusion of 2015’s Jane and John in June series, I have a lot of free blog spaces on my editorial calendar.  While I considered filling the emptiness with aggressive amounts of posts about what I’m reading, I decided instead to branch out and take my first official, tentative steps in the direction of lifestyle blogging.

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How did I determine what topic I wanted to focus a series on?  Well, I looked at what activities were near and dear to my heart, and I came up with a few options.  Since I’m not a champion of DIY nor a baking goddess, I decided to go with the one thing I had been investing a lot of my recent time in: decluttering.  This interest in decluttering was sparked by two events in my life that occurred simultaneously a couple months ago:

1. A friend tweeted about wishing she had a capsule wardrobe, which led me to discover Project 333.  I sort of/kind of started with the most recent session, which started on July 1st.  The whole moving thing kept me from really investing time in it until now.

2. I saw and purchased The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (by Marie Kondo) which was a bit of an odd choice for me, because I tend to avoid self-help texts unless they come in the form of memoir or peer-reviewed journal articles.

These two moments led to a spurt of cleaning in my own home and closet, a spree bolstered by my recent move.  When trying to pack up your life to migrate from one home to the other, there’s a stronger impetus on figuring out what’s actually necessary in life.  However, even with the move, reducing clutter and excess in my life is an ongoing process.

Which is where this blogging series comes in!  I’ll implement tips and strategies that I find by scouring the web (and by rereading Kondo’s book), and share them with you.  To simplify things further, I’ll be dividing the series into three subtopics: the closet, the computer, and the conscience.

To kick off the new series, here are a few quick tips to declutter your life!

1. Don’t buy in bulk just for the sake of buying in bulk – buy in bulk because it’s something you use or eat every day, or because there are enough of you in your home to justify getting eight bottles of hand soap at the same time.  While you may save a few dollars with bulk, you may also end up with something you never use but keep around for ages.

2. If you don’t wear an article of clothing, don’t wait to see if you’ll maybe wear it one day.  Donate or consign it.  Guilt over not wearing an item you once spent money on will only continue to build as long as that item exists in your life.  Let someone else appreciate it.

3. Cards from friends and family are often hard to throw away because they’re sentimental.  Instead of tossing them the moment you get them, try using them as decoration, or storing one year’s stash at a time.  When the year is up, replace old cards from the same family and friends with the new set for the new year.


Do you have any quick and dirty tips for decluttering your life?  What things do you find hardest to throw away?