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3 Questions of Decluttering

As I prepare for my upcoming move, I’ve decided to take some of the advice I’ve read over the years, and come up with the 3 most important questions I need to ask of each possession I will be bringing with me.  My goal is to have less, surround myself with only what I love, appreciate those items, and rid myself of things that have negative ‘juju’ clinging to them.  Out with the jeans that give me muffin top, the old gifts from exes I no longer wish to be reminded of, and all of the junky items I purchased when I should have saved up and bought the quality item I really wanted!

My Three Questions:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I use it?
  3. Does it make my life better?

These questions have really jump-started my decluttering.  Instead of waffling over a shirt that is mostly OK, but is never all that comfortable to wear, I can confidently answer “no” to the first question, and off it goes to the donate pile.  I’m in a good space mentally and emotionally to let go of many items that I’ve been trucking along for years due to guilt, the dreaded “what if I need it”s, or shame at how much I spent on something that got little or no use.  It also doesn’t hurt that every item I throw away is one less item to box up and lug into my new house!

What do I love? My new iPhone!

Well, I’ve finally joined the ranks of iPhone users!  It took months as I debated back and forth about the various new smartphones on the market.  Who was I kidding?  I wanted something that looked cool, performed well, and could keep me organized for work and home, and entertained when I travel.  The iPhone has so many great apps for tracking my appointments, keeping up with my social networks, keeping eating and exercise journals, and more.  It’s been love at first swipe.  It’s probably a good thing that this week is crazy for work and work travel, so I’ve only had a limited amount of time to peruse the App Store.  I foresee spending some quality time doing just that from my hotel room this week!

My next step is finding a cute case.  I purchased a standard silicone model for the interim, but I’d really like to find something unique that reflects my attempt to live a life surrounded by only what I love.  I realize that purchasing a temporary case goes against the aim of not acquiring random “stuff,” but since iPhones don’t have standard insurance, I’m willing to expend the extra $15, and will pass along this case once I pick up a new, prettier one.  Etsy is my next stop…I hear they have some cute options.

Organizing Tips for Clutter Junkies – Step 1: Bathroom

Although I’m not a huge makeup or lotion/potion fan, I definitely have my fair share.  As I actively work to cull through all of my stuff and keep only “what I love,” this seemed like a great place to start.  For one, the bathroom is small, so organizing your makeup and toiletries can be done in a couple of hours.  Starting with a simple accomplishment is a great way to build momentum for decluttering your life without becoming overwhelmed!

My Four P’s of Bathroom Decluttering

  1. PURGE:  Go through every drawer and shelf and throw out everything that is expired, almost gone, never been used, or broken.
  2. PASS ALONG:  Give away to a charity or friends any unused/unopened/unexpired products or duplicates that you will never use.  (This includes all of those “free with purchase” makeup gifts, hair products that don’t work for you, vitamins you bought but never even opened, and the 16 different scents of lotions you picked up at the holidays).
  3. PACK:  Take everything that is left, and begin to set aside everything you would need as if you were packing for a move or a long trip.  Thinking of having to lug everything around with you keeps you honest about what you truly need, use and love.
    1. Break into categories:  Makeup, Toiletries, First Aid, Hair Product, Hair Accessories, Lotion, Perfume, Tools
    2. Sub-categorize: Everyday Makeup, Evening Makeup, Daily medication, OTC medications, First Aid/Band-Aids, etc.
    3. Keep a notepad nearby to create a shopping list for anything that you need to replace or do not have (Neosporin, new makeup brush, etc.)
    4. If it doesn’t fall within these categories, it now goes into either Purge or Pass Along.
  4. PRETTY: After you’ve eliminated a lot of clutter and trash, you’re ready to appreciate what you use, need and love.  Here is where a few well organized bins and boxes will come in handy.
    1. Everyday Makeup Caddy – I found an amazing white wooden caddy with little drawers and dividers that is perfect for my everyday makeup and brushes.  It was in the office supply section at Overstock!

      Overstock’s Desktop Eclipse Organizer ($21)
    2. Try the Dollar Store for inexpensive plastic drawer bins to divide inside each vanity drawer.  (Use poster adhesive or scrapbook glue dots on the bottom of each bin and drawer to keep them from sliding around).
    3. Throw a bucket or basket beneath the sink to hold cleaning supplies, gloves and extra trash bags.  (I’ve found that I just need Method Tub and Tile cleaner in Eucalyptus Mint, a couple of Magic Erasers, and Mrs. Meyers toilet bowl cleanser in a cute mini bucket from the Dollar Store).
    4. Use an inexpensive basket to hold extra toilet paper, bars of soap, or other frequently used items beneath the sink or on a shelf.  I grabbed a cute one from my local thrift store for $.69 and hit it with some leftover yellow spray paint.
    5. An unused makeup bag or any tin with a lid can make a great First Aid kit.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have Band-Aids, Neosporin, Rubbing Alcohol, and Advil all in one place!

It was possible for me to organize my entire bathroom in just a couple of hours, and it feels like a great start to my journey of paring down.  Everything will fit into a couple of small boxes for my upcoming move, and can be easily unpacked in a matter of moments.

Hitting the Ground Running

Real Simple Inspiration

It all started with a long business trip, and a fateful plane ride stuck in the middle seat.  Knowing the torture that lay ahead after an already long week of meetings and networking, I decided to treat myself with a couple of magazines for the plane ride.  Although the new issue of Real Simple would be waiting in my mailbox upon my return, I just couldn’t resist buying it.  That one issue (February 2011) inspired me to pare down my life, focus on my needs and desires, and surround myself only with items and people that I love.

Change was already afoot in my life when I had this inspiration.  A three year marriage was coming to an end, and many shifts were on the horizon for my personal life.  I definitely could not have imagined that at 33, I’d be a twice divorced (yep – twice) mother to a remarkably sweet and easy going two year old.  My career has taken off, and in six years, I’ve achieved a very happy level of success in my field.  I’m blessed with a job that I never even knew existed, and that challenges me in a way I never anticipated being a lawyer could.

What, you may be asking, does any of this have to do with a copy of Real Simple magazine?  My business trip had wrapped up my first introduction to Board of Director membership for a huge national non-profit.  Spending several days in the company of these men and women from the upper echalons of their professions and communities was very inspiring.  I was ready to take on the world!  Before I could even get that thought off the group, my mind jumped to the impending chaos of my separation/divorce, the resulting financial impact, and the horrors of yet another move.  As I leafed through the magazine, it occurred to me that the only way I could truly makeover my life would be to use this seismic life shift to start over with a clean slate.  Sure, I’ve been successful in the past with organizing one closet at a time, and even throwing a bunch of stuff away, but there’s always been so much of the past cluttered around me that it felt insurmountable.  In the end, I’ve always closed up at least a few of those stressful drawers and overstuffed boxes, leaving them untouched and weighing heavily on my soul.

Real Simple magazine has been a favorite of mine for years, as much for their clean page layouts and helpful tips on organizing my pantry, as for the aspirational lifestyle I saw inside their pages.  I may be a messy piler and near-hoarder with “stuff,” but perhaps I could use the divorce and move as my chance to start anew.  To start small and grow into my new life, instead of packing around all of the baggage of my past and present and then somehow hoping to find serenity among the dusty boxes and old memories.  In the days and months ahead, I am going to use this space to document my journey towards a “Real Simple” life surrounded by “only what I love.”