November 26, 2016

No-Spending Year

Imagine going for a year without spending money on anything you would consider optional. What would happen? Michelle McGagh writing at The Guardian tried this and reports that life got simpler — after she adapted — and that she paid down her mortgage loan by 10 percent.

September 27, 2016

Self-Discipline Doesn’t Do the Work

Which should you do first: the things you know you have to do, or the one thing you feel like doing right now?

Before you answer, consider this: you’ll feel more disciplined if you address the things you know you have to do, but you’ll be more productive if you work on the thing that has captured your imagination at the moment.

August 11, 2016

July 31, 2016

Paying Off a Mortgage

I paid off my mortgage. I have the letter from the mortgage bank to make it official. The letter is about step five in the process. My friends are more interested in this story than I had expected, but it makes sense when I think about it. In a world where perpetual debt has become the norm, who do I know who paid off their house while still living there? Sure, people are constantly selling houses, buying new ones, paying off the old mortgage, and taking out a new one, but that’s a different process. What is it like, in the Internet mortgage servicing era, if you are going to pay off a mortgage and keep living in the house? Friends are looking to my story to find out.

July 04, 2016

Independence, Debt, and Clutter

The four big forms of everyday suspense in America are clutter, a busy schedule, debt, and excess body fat. More often than you would think, they go together. This makes sense when you consider the effect of a person’s time and energy — when you don’t have the time and energy to solve one problem, you won’t have it for the next problem either. The positive side of this is that when you break free from suspense in one form, you are probably well on your way to solving it in its other forms too.

Today, Independence Day, has me thinking about the link between money and clutter. I’ve been spending the day going through my house, taking away some of my excess possessions.

May 08, 2016

Stamp Out Hunger 2016

If spring cleaning includes cleaning out your pantry, you may have perfectly good food to give away. For most U.S. postal customers, that’s especially easy to do during the Stamp Out Hunger drive on Saturday — just leave grocery bags of food near your mailbox or mail slot before your letter carrier arrives. Donations go directly to local food charities.

Stamp Out Hunger 2016 postcard

April 05, 2016

Branson on Sleep and Success

Most people will agree that sleep feels good but may be surprised to hear that sleep is a key to success. On the occasion of the release of the new Arianna Huffington book The Sleep Revolution, Richard Branson writes about the value of sleep in his blog:

March 31, 2016

Tons of Trash

During March of Trash we repaired, recycled, gave away, sold, composted, burned, and trashed tons of stuff. The pickup truck I saw, said to be on its last legs and on its way out, must have weighed at least two tons by itself. We put things away. We found stuff we had lost or forgotten. We upgraded our lives by throwing away worn-out shoes, chairs, cooking pots, sheets, and towels, replacing the worn-out items with better ones we already had. Tons of obsolete paper files were recycled. Neglected equipment found its way back into the flow after being given away or sold. This list included hair cutting shears, a bread machine, a carpet cleaner, a typewriter, and a guitar game controller. A strobe light and a snow shovel were repaired and returned to use. At least one participant has set aside stacks of boxes for a tag sale in April.

March 28, 2016

Room for Something to Happen

We don’t clear clutter just as a matter of abstract principle, but because it makes a real, immediate difference in what we’re able to do. Removing clutter means making room for something to happen. Here are a few simple examples:

March 25, 2016

Holiday Weekend Clutter-Busting

Today is the first day of a holiday weekend for many of us. The holiday can have different implications for different clutter-busters. Here a few suggestions for some of the most common situations:

March 22, 2016

Clutter-Busting in the Face of Bad News

I woke this morning to reports of bombings. Unknown assailants had killed 20 people on their way to work, along with more people in other locations. This kind of news can cast a shadow over a day, even one as sunny as today is in Pennsylvania. I have been telling myself for years in situations like this that the best response to death is for those of us who remain alive to live our lives the best we know how to. That sentiment doesn’t help as much as it might seem it should. It can be hard in the face of disaster to focus on all the tedious work that must be done. It is still better to do some work than to give in to despair (or morbid curiosity, poring over news that says the same thing it said an hour ago) and do no work at all. Whatever work you can do on day one makes day two seem that much lighter.

March 19, 2016

The Back-of-the-Closet Effect

If you’ve cleared away the obvious clutter that’s right in front of you, it might be time to go look at the back of the closet.

Go look at things you don’t look at everyday. Something can be clutter just because you haven’t seen it for so long that you’ve forgotten you have it.

March 16, 2016

Reading the Scorecards

The month is not quite half over and already I am starting to see completed March of Trash scorecards. I should hasten to add that no one is checking your scorecard to make sure you really completed it, but on the other hand, I’m always happy to see what people have accomplished. A March of Trash scorecard can be a head-scratcher to read at times, though. People are getting rid of things I never heard of.

For example, what is a “cat cave”? Wikipedia (describing the Columbus Zoo) offers the image at right. At Etsy it seems that cat caves are often made from felt. Whatever the details, a cat cave is apparently a bulky item that, if sitting idle, calls out to be given away to a household where a cat lives.

March 13, 2016

5 Ways to Talk Back to Clutter

Self-talk, the thoughts you have that are directed at yourself and may seem like voices in your head, can be a problem. One of the most burdensome things about self-talk is the way it keeps repeating, as The Urban Monk author Pedram Shojai tells us:

It loops over and over in your head like a bad mantra.

Deepak Chopra sums it up nicely: “99.9 percent of the thoughts you have in your head today are the same thoughts you had yesterday.”

One of the reasons thoughts can repeat so exactly day after day is that your material surroundings are so much the same day after day. That is especially true if you are living with clutter. All your possessions trigger thoughts in your head. If you see the same possessions in the same spots day after day, they tend to inspire the same thoughts. It’s as if your stuff is talking to you, saying, “Your life doesn’t ever change, does it?” along with other equally negative sentiments.

March 10, 2016

Clutter-Busting Alone

I got a question: “How can you take on clutter alone?” The question surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. When you find yourself unexpectedly living alone, it is one of the best times you can imagine for taking on clutter. You have time, and the clutter is right there. Besides your own stuff, there is a strong chance that you are left with some of the debris of someone else’s life, things that can bring you down if you let yourself be surrounded by them. You have a great deal to gain by taking the clutter away.

Yet depending on the circumstances, living alone can also be one of the hardest times to muster the energy to do anything.

March 07, 2016

Making Change Real

It is clutter’s inertia that makes clutter-busting so difficult. On days when you don’t do anything with clutter, it stays exactly where it is, and that creates the illusion that you will be stuck with the same clutter forever.

This is only an illusion. Everything in a house got there by being carried in and can just as easily be moved around or taken out. Of course, if a house is full of clutter, the clutter won’t go away in an hour, but it takes only five or ten minutes to make a change that is easy to see and that has an emotional impact.

March 04, 2016

Refrigerator and Freezer Trash

We have trash! It’s fitting that March of Trash starts off with a photo of a trash bag. It might not be pretty, but the celery, kale, coffee, coconut, and who knows what else serve as a reminder of how much trash you can find just by opening the refrigerator door and looking inside.

March 01, 2016

Clutter-Busting State of Mind

Effective clutter-busting may depend on taking some time to put yourself in the right frame of mind first. Since today is the first day of March of Trash 2016, it seemed the perfect time to look at this subject. Most of all, be patient getting started with clutter, since getting started is often the biggest hurdle for a person to get over.

February 29, 2016

Introducing the March of Trash Challenge

Join forces with 100-200 other every-day-clutter-busters for the March of Trash challenge. Again this year, the challenge is to throw junk away every day for the entire month of March. Read all about it and download your scorecard here:

February 20, 2016

March of Trash Starts in Ten Days

Space is freedom. With space to work in, you can do the work to make the changes that transform the limiting circumstances of your life into something quite different. Work creates change. Space makes work possible. So where does the space come from?

If you’re like most people, space is the result of taking a careful look at your possessions and making a series of difficult decisions — a process otherwise known as clutter-busting. The hundred or so participants in this year’s March of Trash are setting aside a small amount of time every day in March to clear the decks and create the space for whatever comes next.

March of Trash is in March to provide an early start on spring cleaning. Cleaning a room isn’t half as hard if you can take the clutter away first. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be so daunting if you divide it into two stages — first, take away the junk and clutter, then take away the dirt and dust. March of Trash helps you focus on the junk and clutter.

February 05, 2016

Multitasking: More Harmful Than Previously Thought

We’ve all heard by now that multitasking doesn’t really work and can be harmful. I know there are people who are carrying on with their multitasking habits, hoping that brain scientists will change their minds and decide that rapid task-switching isn’t really as harmful as it appeared a year or two ago. Unfortunately, the evidence against multitasking continues to accumulate. If you habitually try to do three or four things at once, you must change your approach as soon as you can so that you can be healthier and get more done. In case you’re not convinced, here’s the latest roundup of what is known about multitasking: