March 31, 2015

Wrapping Up March of Trash

I took a photo of my garbage can, but the picture did not look so impressive. You just see a plastic container and you cannot guess what is in it, or indeed, whether it is full or empty. In a way, this mysterious container is a good symbol to wrap up March of Trash with, with or without the photo. That’s because after you have correctly identified something as clutter, once it is out of sight in the trash, it may be surprising how quickly it is forgotten. A high school yearbook? Ah, yes, I think I had a high school yearbook at one time, even if I don’t remember exactly when, or what was in it.

March 28, 2015

March of Trash, day 28

“What do I do with an old cell phone?”

Clutter-busting goes more easily after you form a very clear question. The question above, for example, is one that you can take to a search engine such as Google, where you will at least find other people’s answers and suggestions.

March 25, 2015

March of Trash, day 25

What can you do about clutter when you are not at home?

It’s a fact of life for many of us that our responsibilities take us away from home for days at a time. This presents a challenge not just in the March of Trash challenge, but whenever you want to change your lifestyle by taking on new habits. How can you build a new habit when you’re out of your usual environment?

March 22, 2015

March of Trash, day 22

“I’m sick of looking at my stuff,” Brett writes. “Sometimes I think it would simpler to just throw it all away and start over.”

If you’ve been following along in March of Trash from the start and taking a critical look at your stuff every day, it’s understandable if you’ve reached the point where you just want to get away from it — to “throw it all away,” as Brett suggested, or perhaps to run screaming out of the house to a place that isn’t so cluttered.

It’s understandable if you feel that way — but please don’t actually do that.

March 20, 2015

Spring Arrives at March of Trash

Today is officially the Northern Hemisphere spring equinox and the unofficial start of the spring cleaning season. This makes it a good moment to remember one of the ultimate goals of clutter-busting: with less clutter it becomes practical to keep your place clean, and with cleaner surroundings you’ll live a healthier life. That, as far as I know, is the original idea of spring cleaning. In keeping with the tradition of spring cleaning, my local Goodwill is holding its “Epic Spring Donation Drive” today. Their announcement gets into the spirit of the season:

March 13, 2015

March of Trash, Day 13

I can’t write about clutter on Friday the 13th without mentioning tradition and bad luck. The habits we have about what to keep and what to throw away are created mostly out of tradition, and it’s our bad luck to be living in a time when items we would traditionally expect to keep last two times as long and come to us numbers 25 times as great as they did in the periods when these traditions were formed. As I like to say, clutter is a problem your grandma probably doesn’t have the answer for because clutter as we know it today didn’t exist in the twentieth century.

March 10, 2015

March of Trash, Day 10

It is the miscellaneous nature of clutter that makes it a challenge. You can’t erase clutter with a few proclamations. Every item requires new thinking and a fresh decision about where it goes.

Some decisions are easier than others, though. One of the easiest actions to decide on is to return something you borrowed to its owner after you are done using it. It might be embarrassing if you have held the item for a long time for no particular reason, but regardless of the details, returning it is still the obvious thing to do.

March 07, 2015

March of Trash, Day 7

A light-bulb moment — realizing that the oversized bulb perched precariously on the old piano (that’s another story) was a standard, working 100 watt light bulb, ready for use in a porch or garage fixture or perhaps a lamp that would accommodate its oversized globe shape. No one seemed to know what lamp the bulb had come out of or why it was sitting on the piano, but that didn’t really matter at this point. Placing the bulb in the cabinet where light bulbs were normally kept, it was ready for its next use.

March 04, 2015

March of Trash, Day 4

Halfway through the first week of the March of Trash, the obvious enemy is the tendency to postpone action until later. The idea of this month-long clutter challenge is to create a habit of addressing clutter. To make this work, you may have to uproot an existing pattern of thought. Whenever you put off action in a specific area, it is based on the assumption that, in the future, action will become easier. But is this idea true? Ultimately, no. It is action itself that makes further action easier. The mere passage of time actually makes action harder.

March 01, 2015

March of Trash, Day 1

The March of Trash kicks off today. Participants are setting out to be “everyday clutterbusters” for the month of March. With less than four days of planning and preparation there wasn’t time for a big buildup, but even so, I have heard of at least six people participating. I consider that a pretty strong expression of grass roots support, considering how few people have heard of the challenge at all. If you’re just getting started, visit the March of Trash Challenge page to get the details and download your scorecard.

I started my March of Trash by tossing some of my leftover food containers. These are the polypropylene tubs and lids that restaurant food arrived in. They are dishwasher-safe and microwave-ready, so it’s useful to have them, but I need only a few. I kept the best ones and threw the rest in recycling.

There are two pieces of clutter — not mine, but from today’s efforts — that are worth looking at. I think they represent some of the most immediate challenges you face when you look for clutter. The decorative border shown here looks like it ought to be good for something. It’s a wall decoration that would typically go along the top of a wall where it meets the ceiling, perhaps above the wallpaper on a well. But it is a piece only five yards long, effectively shortened by stains near one end, so it is not so easy to imagine what room you might decorate with it. It is “new” in the sense of never having been used, but it has been sitting around long enough to be considered old. No one knew where it had come from. It looked like something to donate to Re-Store or Goodwill, where someone might find a use for it.