Operation: Declutter

I am a hoarder.

Okay, no I’m not, this is a hoarder. But I am a severe packrat. I am terrified that one day, I will turn the corner and I will find myself on TLC with an organizational strategist explaining to me why my possessions are not an extension of me and I shouldn’t feel nauseous throwing things away.

Two of my favorite blogs help me with my hoardaphobia. The first, a blog called Lifehacker, has a litany of tips and tricks to tweak one’s life to perfection. While this blog is admittedly slanted toward the tech savvy, it contains enough clever tweaks to help even the layman achieve productivity nirvana. The authors at that blog espouse simplicity and minimalism where possible, and one of my favorite features is their featured workspaces. The spartan, simple, and immaculately organized desks on display there are what I aspire to one day achieve.

The second blog, Unclutterer, is less frequently visited, but has essential articles on how to get rid of unwanted and emotionally draining clutter, while keeping items that are useful and emotionally fulfilling. I have been amazed, as I browse through older posts, just how many embryonic hoarding tendencies I possess.

All the more reason to kill them off now.

This summer, as I’ve streamlined my productivity and attempted to develop new talents and skills, I’ve found that the clutter that I surround myself with distracts me and keeps me from reaching my full potential. That’s why I’ve undertaken “operation: declutter”, an initiative to free me from emotionally taxing physical and mental clutter. If my wife wouldn’t kill me, I’d post before and after pics, but you’ll have no such voyeurism from me!

I’m admittedly only a couple of weeks into “operation: declutter”, but so far, I’ve found a few different tricks, some from the web, some of my own devising, that are helping me tackle this mission. I share this, because with the proliferation of shows like “Hoarders” and the like, I think that changes in society have somehow made it harder for us in general to part with “things”. Here are some of my strategies.

1) Digitize, digitize, digitize – If you’re like me, your kids bring home things from school, and you want to keep everything. I’ve found that the piles of kid produced drawings, writing, etc., would quickly overwhelm even the best conceived filing system. I also don’t have an ultra high speed scanner, nor do I want to wait for one to continue this operation. I’m using my smartphone’s camera with an instant upload feature to grab those works of art that don’t necessarily need to be kept as exact reproductions.

2) Take pictures of sentimental items – I figured out that if I really wanted a more minimalist, spartan lifestyle, I couldn’t hold on to that promotional Xbox 360 mini football with matching sweatbands (this is not a lie). For things that I really am having a hard time throwing away, I take a picture, then give it away or chuck it. I am terrible at keeping a journal, so many of my memories are in physical keepsakes. This helps me to preserve the memory without being buried in it.

3) Use online note taking services such as Evernote – keeping with digitizing random scraps, if you’ve ever read an article that you think you may reference again, Evernote is a great tool for keeping track of things you find on the web, or taking snapshots to file away. Again, using virtually no space, it’s a lot better than keeping around stacks of magazines or newspapers.

4) Ask yourself, when is the last time I’ve used this? – Or, better yet, when will I use this? Sadly, as a Student Council advisor, I look at random crap and say “I can use this for something.” I’ve found it’s usually better if you aren’t going to use something within a couple of weeks, you’re better off buying something later, or trying to reacquire what you got rid of. Hanging onto something that may be useful five years down the road just isn’t practical.

5) Kindle – I don’t have one yet beyond the desktop app, but as I read my book collection, I plan on giving them away or selling them second hand. If you’re not going to re-read it, recycle it. If you are going to re-read, why not keep it on a virtually space free kindle? Unless you’re trying to look smart (see stuff white people like).

6) Remember, online editions of church resources – This is not really my thing, but those church magazines pile up. Fast. They are all online, and while I want a physical edition to read once, I don’t feel bad about recycling it (or giving it to a non-member neighbor!). You don’t even have to digitize it yourself!

7) Sell, sell, sell! – my facebook friends are probably getting sick of this, but if you have redundant items, pare them down and sell them. Someone somewhere wants your stuff. If an old unused iPod is languishing in a drawer, set it free, and get some moolah!

This is by no means the most eloquent treatise on simplifying one’s life, but these are a few things that have helped me thus far. Some of my favorite self-help posts on the internet have come from this blog, so I hope this will inspire someone, somewhere, to declutter and free themselves of the emotional baggage that comes with it. I hope to report positive things here in the future.

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3 comments on “Operation: Declutter

  1. My biggest need with decluttering is always kids’ stuff: a lot of kids=a lot of birthdays and friends/family who want to spoil them=too much stuff. It’s also boggling how many accessories we think babies need, 95% of which is unnecessary.

    Great advice!

  2. I started to write a comment telling how I decluttered, but it’s turning into a post of its own. I’ll post it on my blog with a link back to yours.

    Short form: I agree with everything you say.

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