STREAMLINE – All Surfaces Clear

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Today’s gem from Francine is pretty simple to say but not quite so easy to achieve.  Keep all surfaces clear.  Clear surfaces provide us with possibilities.  Somewhere to eat your dinner, prepare a meal, pay bills or simply to sleep.

She also reminds us that surfaces are not for storage.  If you have too much stuff for your available storage spaces perhaps it is time to let some it go.

This is one area with which I have had partial success.  For instance, my dining table always is clear apart from a doyley and vase which provide a decorative element.  I am also pretty good at keeping the vanity bench in the bathroom as well as the laundry bench clear.

Dining table

The study desk is generally a failure and the kitchen benches range from good to bad depending on the day of the week and work in progress.

Kitchen bench

It takes time and effort to achieve the state of a completely clear surface.  Like all changes you need to start small.  Don’t expect to turn the study desk which is overflowing with stuff into a minimalist’s paradise overnight.  If you have sufficient storage in the bathroom, I think the vanity bench is a great place to start.

The dining table is also a good one to tackle because anything that is on here is definitely in the wrong place – a dining table is to sit at to eat a meal.  Since most of us eat 3 meals a day there are plenty of opportunities to make sure that it is clean, clear and ready for use.  Since it is also a public part of your home everyone will benefit from it being clear and ready to use for its designated purpose.

Please let me know – do you have any constantly clear surfaces of which you are particularly proud?  What are the areas that seem to defeat you?

Tomorrow we will move on to something a bit more interesting than my kitchen bench.  Modules – containing what you have.  It is definitely a new twist on rushing out and buying containers to store your stuff.

STREAMLINE – A Master Plan

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The first and most important thing I need to do with this post is to acknowledge that it is not my own idea.  This is the basis of the book, “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay.

I have mentioned the book previously in a couple of posts here and here.  “The Joy of Less” is a book that I keep going back to and it continues to inspire me.  That is no small feat as it seems that everyone is writing a book on organisation, minimalism and/or decluttering.  Many of them do not offer anything new but “The Joy of Less” really hit a chord with me.  In particular, I liked the philosophy in the early chapters.  This helps you to understand what clutter is, how it affects us and our relationships with it.

However, today I am going to focus more on the actual process of creating a minimalist home which works for you.

S – Start over

T – Trash, treasure or transfer

R -Reason for each item

E – Everything in its place

A – All surfaces clear

M – Modules

L- Limits

I – If one comes in, one goes out

N Narrow it down

E – Everyday maintenance

This is the step-by-step process that Francine uses and to do justice to the information, I plan to discuss each point in depth in separate blog posts.  There will be one every day or so, depending on my workload so keep watching to get the full story.  Some are reasonably clear but other concepts need more explanation.

The important thing to remember about minimalism and decluttering is that it can fit any situation and be as much or as little as you want it to be.  However, if you are reading about decluttering, there is a very good chance that you are feeling the need to unburden yourself for some of your stuff.  Don’t hijack your goals by thinking that you will declutter your house on the weekend.  You can certainly make a start but don’t ever imagine that it is a one-off weekend job!

Tomorrow we will “Start Over”.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and achievements with respect to decluttering and minimalism.

Why Simplify?

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Everywhere I have turned in the past week there seem to be messages about simplifying your life.  Some of it has been on other blogs as well as robust discussions both online and in real life.  I am not sure whether it is the start of the new year, the planets aligning or just coincidence.

Flowers

As part of the process of acknowledging that simplicity is at least part of my core values I have changed the byline of this blog to “A simple, sustainable life”.

simplicity

This post from Sho-Me Simplicity is well worth reading.  It is quite long but take your time and try to really understand the points she makes.  It is not just possessions that clutter our lives.  It can be too many commitments as discussed here at Living Simplyfree or people whose very presence drains your energy and vitality.

Gone Fishing

Perhaps the final word should come from my mother, who would say “stop the world, I want to get off” when everything got too much.  I do not know the origin of this comment but I think it sums up how many people are feeling at the moment.

Fundraising Clutter

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I want to preface this post by saying that I have nothing against the concept of fundraising.  Many charities receive little or no regular funding so donations are essential for them to be able to carry out the wonderful support and services which they provide.  It is also helps to raise awareness of issues such as medical conditions of which many people have limited knowledge.

I am bothered by the amount of stuff generated by fundraising for good causes.  The past 25 years has seen exponential growth in this type of fundraising.  Almost every week there is some designated ‘day’.  We have pink ribbon, white ribbon, blue ribbon, red nose and daffodil days to name but a few.

There are several issues around this whole concept that bother me:

The amount of unnecessary stuff which is generated in the name of merchandising.  These include ribbons, lapel pins, pens, medallions, mugs, teddy bears, silicone wristbands, keyrings, bandanas, fake flowers and caps.  This is not an exhaustive list but it gives you an idea of the sort of stuff that has become part of the push for the donation dollar.

This stuff is:

Mostly made in overseas sweatshops and imported

Has to be purchased initially by the charity which reduces the money available for use in provision of services and support

Is rarely of any real use to the purchaser

Takes up space, gathers dust and eventually is consigned to landfill

Possibly the earliest proponents of giving away something in exchange for a donation was red poppies on Armistice Day.  I believe they used to be handmade using red crepe paper but then progressed to mass produced.  Now there is a choice of poppy themed merchandise.

The next forays into a designated ‘day’ that I am aware of were ‘Daffodil Day’ (Cancer Fund)  and ‘Red Nose Day’ (SIDS and Kids)which began in 1986 and 1988 respectively.  They both began with a single product and quickly expanded into a range of merchandise.

Since when did the need to buy stuff rather than simply make a donation become the accepted norm?  Do people feel that they need to ‘advertise’ their support?  Or is it simply designed to raise awareness rather than funds?  Whatever the reason I disagree with the waste that is generated by the selling of merchandise on these special ‘days’.

My strategy to avoid the stuff is simply to select those charities that I wish to support and make a regular donation directly from my pay or at at time of my choosing.  On the rare occasions that I make a donation on a specific ‘day’ I give money with the express wish that I do not want any merchandise.  This is usually met with a strange look or comment but I simply say, “No thanks” and leave.

How do you feel about this issue?

Remember, this is not against individual organisations but rather the mass marketing of ‘stuff’ in the name of fundraising.

Gone From the Office

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Tonight I decided to get rid of more stuff I can do without.  My office is still the area where there is significant excess stuff.

First, I tossed a pile of ‘scrap’ paper which I use for writing shopping lists, menu plans and so on.  I realised that there was no way it would ever be used up so into the recycling it went.  I still have a small pile of used A4 paper for using in the printer as well as 6 notepads.  They are more user-friendly than what I recycled which included blank pages from diaries back as far as 2006.

Next I did a quick sweep through the filing cabinet.  It is far from finished but I did cull a lot of stuff.  2 books to the op shop bag, then the cards, piles of old catalogues, fliers and brochures (mostly gardening) from 5 – 10 years ago went into the recycling.  I am not sure how they managed to escape previous culling sessions but it just goes to prove that just because you have decluttered an area once that it is done for all time.  Things tend to creep back in as well as our needs and interests constantly evolving.

2 plastic sleeves have gone back into the stash of sleeves, 1 bulldog clip and 2 Post-it notepads will go to work (I use them there but not at home).

I intend to move something out of my home everyday this week.

Till next time.

Keep it Simple

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While I will never live a truly minimalist lifestyle, I try to simplify my life as much as possible

Most of us in developed countries use much more than our share of the resources on this planet.  We accumulate ‘stuff’, need bigger houses to store our ‘stuff’ and are so reluctant to part with what we have accumulated that self-storage facilities are a growth industry.

I am on a decluttering journey, but not one that entails hiring a skip and tossing garbags full of stuff into it with no thought as to their destination.  No, I acquired these items and I feel that it is my responsibility to use or rehome things I no longer need or want in an ethical manner.  My aim is to send as little as possible to landfill.

This is my laundry.  It is clear and uncluttered which is good for a utility area.  I took this photo after I had used the bench to fold the clean clothes.

2011-09-28 01The cupboards are well-used but not full to overflowing.

2011-09-28 02I do have some ornaments and decorative items as these next photos show.  Nevertheless, I do not want to feel overwhelmed by lots of things so I have a small number of things that are precious to me.  I think this strikes the right balance.

2011-09-28 03Another view.

2011-09-28 04Behind all of this is my motto – “Live simply, so that others may simply live”.  It is not original but sums up my ideals.

Are you decluttering?  What is your goal and how do you go about achieving it?  I would love to hear your stories and experiences.

Till next time.