December 2010 / January 2011 Newsletter

Tip of the Month: Decluttering as a treasure hunt

“I wondered where that was!” During every major decluttering effort, it seems I hear those words at least once. And that’s why I sometimes remind clients that we’re going on a treasure hunt. We’ve found passports, precious family photos, $800 in traveler’s checks, and so much more.

Sometimes the “treasure” is less tangible. Those treasures can range from finding the space to welcome a new baby to creating an uncluttered, inspiring office for someone to do her best work. And sometimes the treasure is just the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we’re ready for whatever life throws at us — because we can find things, our papers are in order, our schedules under control.

And then there are the items that are no longer valuable to the current owner — but become treasures again when they go back out into the world. This could be a collection of plastic bags given to a charity that does food distributions, books given to a library, or items given away on Freecycle to neighbors who are incredibly grateful for your offerings. (And I’ve met some wonderful people through Freecycle – so another unexpected treasure was some new friendships.)

My Own Decluttering: The file cabinets

Since decluttering and organizing are ongoing efforts, I thought I’d share some of what I’m working on in my own home (and home office). As I noted in a recent blog post, I’ve been going through my files of travel information, and finding much I don’t need to keep.

But I’ve also been clearing out some on my financial files. Some of this was the annual maintenance of discarding one more year of old tax records, for both myself and my mom. But there were plenty of other papers, too.

I definitely wanted to keep my latest Social Security statement showing my projected income when I start claiming those benefits. But I sure didn’t need that information in paper form! I scratched out my social security number, scanned the paper, and shredded the original.

Other papers I just didn’t need at all. I had a nice file called Utilities which included, among other things, a couple brochures about the new SmartMeters the gas and electric company installed recently. If I ever want this information — and I’m not sure why I ever would — I can find it online just fine.The file also had a note about the numbers to call if I ever lose my power; the numbers belonged in my address book, so I added them there. Many papers from that one file that wound up in my recycling bin!

Similarly, I didn’t need envelopes for donating to charities when I now make those donations online. And my public radio stations have their calendars online; I don’t need those in paper form, either.

I’ve got more files to go through, but I’m really pleased with my progress. I’d like each file drawer to be no more than 75-80% full, since that makes filing easier — and I’m getting close.

Organizing Quotes of the Month

Quote #1:
“Perfection is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around. …

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.”

Quote #2:
“If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol, and productivity as self-worth . …

“Say no today. Buck the system. Take something off your list and add ‘take a nap.'”

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Organizing Product of the Month

Thanks to The Shelving Store for pointing me to some fun storage bins: the P’Kolino Play Kits. They’re designed to work with other P’Kolino products, or on their own, and could store all sorts of stuff.