December 22, 2010

What if you had to move onto a boat?

...or into a tiny house? Or a basement or attic? Or a camping trailer or RV?

Sometimes I imagine having to move everything I own onto a 30-foot boat. Would I be able to? What would have to go bye-bye? Two of my favorite blogger/travelers, Pat and Ali of Bumfuzzle are doing it for the second time (the first was for a trip around the world) with their young daughter on a 43-foot Spindrift sailboat. Years ago, Jay Shafer moved his life into an 89 square foot tiny house, and Chad and Ana of Chanatrek did it in a VW bus.

Maybe when you get rid of everything, you don't lose what's left of your gain the rest of the world.

Photo courtesy of phil_g/Flickr

December 9, 2010

Decluttering as Meditation

When I am feeling a bit agitated or stressed, I find a surprising amount of relief from cleaning and decluttering my house or even just a small space like a closet. I don't know if it's the tossing of unwanted items or just the exertion caused by the work, but I always end up feeling better.

Meditation is used as a practice to declutter the mind, maybe it can be the other way around as well. Decluttering in order to calm the mind.

This article from AARP last January said it best:
"What you gradually discover, as you begin to declutter the space around you, is that as your personal ecosystem changes, your choices broaden, life feels more manageable, and your surroundings become better suited to who you are now—and what you're aiming for in the future."
Get a head start on your future, and on one of the New Year's top resolutions and clean out your closet and your mind.

Photo courtesy of [Two Roses/Flickr]

November 30, 2010

A New Year's Pledge

I got this from Simple. Organized. Life. Perfect little mantra for the upcoming new year...and beyond.

November 29, 2010

Addicted to Decluttering

I was planning on spending a good part of my Thanksgiving holiday doing some more decluttering and organizing, but just realized that I'm down to nearly nothing. I've sold, given away and thrown out nearly everything I can and I have not been buying anything new for some time. I was a little flustered. What was I supposed to do next? I now have all this free time!

It seemed a little silly, but I realized that you can get so wrapped up in decluttering, organizing and simplifying your life that you can become addicted to the chore. It's thrilling to make headway and to create a well ordered life, and when that's gone, you seem a little lost. What next? Well, I don't think you are ever really done. You still need to make sure that you keep unwanted items out of your life and with daily bombardments of advertising and holiday gift giving coming up, that's a chore in itself. So the best thing to do is find additional things to do with your time: read, write, take a walk, laugh and love...or enjoy a little dolce far niente.You deserve it.

Photo courtesy of rick/Flickr

November 17, 2010

"Storage Wars" on A&E

I recently saw a preview for a new show on A&E called "Storage Wars". Teams of professional treasure hunters and buyers are profiled as they bid on repossessed storage units. The teams have five minutes to scan a recently opened storage unit and place their bids on sight-unseen items. Several teams even use devious tactics in attempt to walk away with whatever might be in the unit. Some of the teams dismiss a unit because the items look like junk.

It looks like it could be a fascinating show with the same typical dramatic music and exaggerated pressure used in "Ice Road Truckers". I will watch just to see what objects people are willing to pay to store...and then forget about. It is a little sad that people will feel their stuff is so important, that they are willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to store it, just to drop the payments and have their precious items walk away in the hands of others. This show is another example of the effects of this economy, overbuying and too much stuff.

October 28, 2010

Fall Cleaning and Green Storage Solutions

Fall is a great time for cleaning out and organizing that closet, garage or storage shed that is really bugging you. It's a great time because the weather is cooler, the nesting instinct is settling in and you will be cooped up inside the house more due to the weather, so why not make your space more organized and habitable?

I will be tackling the yearly job of cleaning the garage this fall. It's fairly organized already, but over the summer it gets neglected as we go about doing our fun summer activities. Sports gear, house maintenance and yard supplies are starting to get jumbled the cleaning and storing begins.

Sustainablog recently had a great post on green storage solutions that I am determined to use this season. One solution is creating a community sharing option. We have great relationships with our neighbors and I want to create a section of the garage where we can store items that we share with the neighbors and vice versa.

Photo by [Productive Porcupine]

October 6, 2010

Sentimental Clutter

I recently saw these two questions from Naomi Seldin, the writer of the Simpler Living column for the Times Union:

If you’ve tackled sentimental clutter:

1. How did you get yourself to purge what you didn’t need?

2. How did you decide to keep those really important things without letting them take over your house?

There are several great comments from Naomi's readers on how to get rid of those meaningful items.  I love the idea of taking a photo of the beloved item or donating the item to a charity that you or your family really cares about.

I think that when purging those beloved stuffed toys or your mother's silverware, you have to be in the right mood. Don't purge these items when you are feeling loss, self-doubt or sadness. Hold onto them for another day when you are feeling empowered and the need for organization and cathartic cleansing is top of mind. However, don't beat yourself up if you find it's too painful to get rid of an item. If you really want to keep it, it won't hurt you or anyone else to find a special place for it.

No matter what, I will never get rid of my 40-year-old Teddy Bear. You can't make me!

Photo by scazon/Flickr

August 31, 2010

7 Steps to Clean Up Your Financial Life

I thought this was a good article from Bankrate on how to clean up and keep your financial life in order. Maybe the world's banks can use this advice as well?

 You can't clean up financial clutter if you don't know where it is. That's why the first step is to make a list of all your financial accounts, credit cards, and other assets and debts. This balance sheet, of sorts, shows what you own and what you owe and can help you figure out what you don't need.

"Set up a foundation that establishes where you are: Make an inventory of accounts and a balance sheet, and then say, 'These can be consolidated. These are redundant. I don't use these. I didn't realize I had that,'" Ciccotello says.

Most people need only one or two bank accounts, perhaps one at a national or regional bank and another at a regional bank or credit union, says Ronit Rogoszinski, a wealth advisor at Arch Financial Group in Long Island, N.Y. More accounts mean only more paperwork, fees and exposure to identity theft. Forgotten accounts can be declared abandoned and confiscated by the state.

To clean up your bank accounts:

  • Make a list of the accounts.
  • Research which offer the best services at the lowest cost.
  • Stop or transfer any automatic deposits or payments on the less attractive accounts.
  • Instruct the financial institutions to close those accounts.
"A lot of banks have decreased overdraft protection or eliminated it, so you want to maintain that relationship with a bank that lets you maintain that line. Even if you don't need it, you want to hang onto it because getting that today is very hard," Rogoszinski says.

Closing credit accounts can hurt your credit score. But your score shouldn't be the only consideration in whether to close accounts you don't need. Use a few major credit cards responsibly and close other accounts to free yourself from paperwork, advertising catalogs, identity-theft risk and the temptation to overspend.
To clean up the clutter:

  • Make a list of your credit cards in order of the highest to lowest interest rate.
  • Transfer balances from the highest rates to the lowest.
  • Close the high-rate accounts.
  • Make more-than-minimum payments on the low-rate accounts.
  • Monitor the rates until the balances are paid off.
Don't be deterred by the stumbling blocks and special offers that credit card companies use to prevent account closures. Instead, "hold on, be persistent, ask for written confirmation that the account has been closed and then follow up and look for the closed account on your credit report," Ciccotello says. Repeat this line -- offered by Rogoszinski -- as many times as necessary to get the result you want: "Thank you, but I need to close this account."

Employees who change jobs often leave a trail of retirement accounts in the care of their former employers. As those accounts proliferate, it becomes difficult to manage the investments, and if a plan is transferred to a new manager, the assets may go missing or the investment choices may be very limited.

To get rid of 401(k) clutter, roll over old accounts to your new employer's plan as soon as you're eligible to do so. If your new employer doesn't offer this benefit, roll over into an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA. Some banks will count an IRA toward a minimum balance that can earn reduced or waived fees on a checking account or other services. Rolling over an old 401(k) when you start a new job also can reduce the temptation to cash out your investments.

"My philosophy is when you leave an employer, you take what's yours with you," Rogoszinski says.

Some people like to keep stock certificates, government savings bonds, uncashed checks and the like in hand because having the actual documents gives them a sense of financial security. The downside is that these documents are at risk of being misplaced, damaged or destroyed. To create more order, deposit securities and other negotiable instruments into a bank or brokerage account or keep them in a safe-deposit box. Make sure someone close to you knows where your assets are held or stored.

One tangible sign of out-of-control financial clutter is piles of monthly account statements -- or unopened envelopes that contain those statements. To get this paperwork under control, set up a filing system for current open accounts and stash the old statements, sorted by year and type of account, in shoe boxes. Write the year and the status of the accounts -- OPEN or CLOSED -- on the outside of each box. At the end of each year, pull the oldest boxes off the shelf and shred the contents.

Many people accumulate collectibles as a hobby. But these collections of postage stamps, coins, cars, artwork and other items can have an investment value as well. That means collectibles should be cataloged and insured as part of a financial clutter clean-up campaign.
"If you haven't thought of (your collectibles) in an organized balance sheet way, you may be missing that your homeowners insurance has a low limit and you have a lot of exposure if those items are stolen or lost in a fire," Ciccotello says.

If you've tired of a collection that has a high investment value, you might want to convert that "clutter" into cash and use the money to pay off debts or buy other assets.

Photo by Alan Cleaver/Flickr

August 17, 2010

Be Happy With What's Left

So, you are in the process of decluttering and you realize that what you have left is not what you want. You just gave away your favorite and not-so-favorite books, clothes, dishes, plants and furniture and now you are stuck with nothing. Do you buy new items that you like and risk just cluttering up the house again? Or do you keep hold of a few things that you sort of like...but not really?

Most of the time, decluttering takes a little sacrifice, but some of the time it can create a clean slate to fill with a minimal amount of items that you absolutely love. When I got rid of all my excess mismatched dishes and bowls, I made an investment in some beautiful earthen pottery bowls that I love to eat everything out of: cereal, pasta, popcorn, soup.

After getting rid of or selling your unwanted items, take some time to really find out what you love. Maybe after all these years, you never liked delicate china cups to drink tea out of, maybe you are a big mug person after all.

Photo by Muffet

August 10, 2010

When is the best time to declutter?

This summer has been my time to have fun. Decluttering and simple living has taken a bit of a back seat while I enjoy the beautiful summer sun, hiking in the mountains and camping.

However, when fall rolls around, I get that feeling again of wanting to cozy up with a book rather than with my hiking boots. When the air turns cold, I find myself going through my closet to find a fleecy sweater that has been relegated to the back of the closet. The nesting times of fall and winter might be the best times to tackle that decluttering job, it's a job that can take place while you are inside, waiting for that storm to blow over.

But, in the meantime, let yourself have some summer fun and forget about the stuff for a while.

Photo by peasap/Flickr