40 bags in 40 days

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This great article about purging 40 bags of crap for the 40 days of Lent was shared on Facebook by a friend, and I thought I would share it with you guys.  My hubby and I have definitely benefited from clearing our home of the crap that we never use, but we still have a lot left to get rid of.   I LOVE the idea of using Lent as a motivator. Instead of giving up a food (or in addition to), try giving up a bag of stuff you don’t need to someone who does, each day of Lent.

This is such a win/win/win proposition. You’ll have less garbage just taking up precious space in your home, your home becomes more peaceful because of it, you give the items to someone who will use and love them, and you can even claim the donations on your taxes if you want to.  Here’s some helpful hints from the article for letting go of the things you’re reluctant to purge (as usual, my comments are in blue):

On those days when you’re feeling craptastic and “Crap Clingy” ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Do I really, really love it?  This doesn’t mean, “Do I love the person who gave it to me?”  It means, “Do I use it regularly, or does it make me smile when I look at it?”  This is extremely personal.  Others may not understand why I still cling to a whole ton of books, but then I may not understand why they keep a ton of cheap souvenirs from every city they’ve ever visited.  Don’t feel guilty about keeping something that makes you smile, just because others don’t understand its worth to you.  But don’t feel guilty about getting rid of stuff you never use, either.
    2. Would I buy it again?  In other words, is it valuable enough to you that you would spend money to replace it if it was broken or lost?
    3. Have I used it in the past year?  With the exception of seasonal items, I’d dare say things should be used even more often than that in order to merit a place in our space.  But if this is hard for you, try getting rid of everything you haven’t used in two years, then wait a few months, and try to get rid of things you haven’t used in a year.  Remember, you’re keeping these items from being used and love by keeping them in your home for dustcatchers.
    4. Would it be hard to replace if I needed it again?  This is the hardest thing for a lot of people.  I don’t want to get rid of this because I might use it again someday.  Chances are if you haven’t used it in a year or two, you’re never going to need it.  It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a great/useful/ingenious item.  If you’re not using it, it can’t be the great/useful/ingenious item it was intended to be.  This is especially good to consider for small appliances and power tools.  It’s not amazing if it’s just gathering dust.
    5. If I were free from guilt, would I want it?  Meaning, just because it was great-aunt-whoever’s, or was given to you buy dear friend x, doesn’t mean you should be obligated to keep it if you never use it. Take a pic if you’d like, for the memories. Maybe even write a short bit in the caption about the person who gave it to you, and then give it away to someone who will appreciate it.

I know I’ve been pushing the “get rid of stuff” thing a lot, but it really does bring peace to your household.  It’s so much easier to take care of the things you really use and love if you’re not spending all your time and effort shuffling through and caring for the things you don’t love.

And if you’re not ready to commit to 40 bags yet, try just a little.  Every little bit helps, and once you get rid of the first few bags, maybe the added peace and sense of accomplishment will inspire you to do more.

BTW, the pic above was posted on Becoming Minimalist today, and I thought it went well with this article.

How about you guys? What do you find hardest about getting rid of stuff?

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Organize a Little Closet

Here’s another great organizational article from Life Hacker.

How to Organize a Lot of Clothing in Very Little Closet Space

Home Repairs That Are Worth It

Check out this list of ways to quickly brighten up your home, especially if you’re considering trying to sell your house soon.  But these are also great tips for getting your place company ready, for all those big holiday parties you’re going to host!  Most are fairly inexpensive, quick things you can do to make your house look nicer.  Not everything requires back-breaking or bank-breaking work!

It helps to minimize stress by deciding which things are worth spending the time and money on, so that you’re not so overwhelmed.  Because there are probably a lot of things you’d LIKE to do to improve your house.  I know there are in mine.  And while this short article is focuses mostly on repairs, I would stress again how much of an improvement eliminating clutter can make.  You don’t have to get rid of things you love!  Just get rid of the things you don’t love and use.  And anything that only gets used rarely doesn’t deserve a prominent place in your house; it should be packed out of the way until you need it.

The only thing I might add is this:  For some inexplicable reason, realtors have a tendency to tell people to repaint all of their rooms in light, neutral colors.  (Perhaps this is a regional thing?)  I would disagree.  While you may want to entirely repaint a room that is a really wild color (or particularly battered) before trying to sell, for the most part you can get away with patching and touching up in the color that’s already there.  For one thing, bright white and sometimes even off-white can be overwhelmingly harsh, particularly if it is in every room.  For another thing, it’s probably a senseless expense since chances are the buyer will want to repaint in their own color scheme within a year or so anyway.  True, your sense of decor may not be the same as theirs, but if a paint color is enough to block the sale of your home, you’re not likely to please that potential buyer anyway.

Good luck sprucing up!

http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/year-end-home-repairs-that-pay-off?ectid=elp.facebook.post.12-5-2013

Decluttering Your Bookshelf

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/unclutter-books/

I’ve talked about decluttering before, but I have a confession to make:  I find getting rid of books borderline painful.  I loathe the idea of getting rid of a book and then wishing I could read it again.  I’ve gotten marginally better at this since I’ve gotten my Kindle, since many older works of literature are available for free.  Part of the problem is that my hubby is even worse than I am.  So we have books sitting on bookshelves that have literally not been touched in a decade, except for us to look at them and decide that we’re not ready to get rid of them.

So obviously I’m asking you to do as I say, not as I do.  😀  There are some great ideas on this list, but the thing that has helped me the most is to think of giving them to a home where they will be loved instead of collecting dust.  I like donating books to the public library or church library especially, because then they can be loved by LOTS of people.

And it is really nice to know that the books you DO decide to keep are the ones that you REALLY love, and will re-read.  As fond as I am of my Kindle, somehow I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely give up the experience of reading a real book.

BTW, if you itemize on your taxes, don’t forget to get a receipt for donations to the public library, your church, or any other non-profit.

Coffee Filter Uses

Here are some great ideas for using coffee filters for some things that might not occur to you:

http://www.meetpenny.com/2011/08/more-coffee-filter-uses-to-reduce-paper-towel-waste/

Avoid Food Waste: Buy Produce That Lasts

I have a confession: in the past, food waste has been a HUGE problem at our house.  Lettuce has probably been the biggest offender, because we like our lettuce crisp and fresh, and it just doesn’t last that long.  But fruits have also been an issue.  We tend to buy them when we’re in the mood, usually buying too many of one kind, and then lose interest and sort of…forget they’re there.

But there is no excuse for throwing away money, and I’m ashamed to admit that we’ve done so.  We’re always disappointed when we discover a package of food that inadvertently got pushed to the back of the fridge, or produce that went past its prime.  Often we found ourselves saying, “I didn’t even know we had this.”

This article, 12 Fruits and Vegetables That Last For Months, has some helpful hints for which produce to buy.  While even these items can outlive their peak of freshness, they have the best chance of surviving long enough to be eaten, and it’s helpful to know how to store them to maximize their counter-top lifespan.

One thing I might add that we have been getting better at doing:  go through your fridge, freezer and/or pantry OFTEN.  Pitch the leftovers that just aren’t going to get eaten, before they become a bona-fide science experiment.  Take inventory of what things in there are approaching the end of their usability, and make plans to use them in a meal or snack as soon as possible.  Use frozen foods before they get frostbitten.  It’s best to do this BEFORE you go shopping, to avoid buying repeats of what you may already have on hand.

We have started developing a habit of having at least one designated “leftover night” per week.  This has dramatically decreased the number of things that get thrown out because they’ve become fuzzy.  I’ve also been trying lately to get into the habit of putting a little piece of tape on the lid with the date it was made (or writing on the ziplock bag), so we know what has the greatest urgency.

A note about stocking up:  while you may be able to “save” a lot of money by stocking up on items when they’re on sale, don’t forget to take into account how quickly you can actually use all of the items.  You’re not saving much if you end up throwing some of the items away because you didn’t use them before they expired.  This counts for “non-perishables” as well as produce.  Who wants to use a bottle of mustard that expired in 2009?

What are your favorite long-lived produce selections?  What else do you do to minimize food waste at your house?

Simplify By Getting Rid of Variables

Boost Your Productivity: Kill Some Variables In Your Life

In our never-ending quest to reduce stress by simplifying, we often don’t consider all of the tiny decisions we have to make every day.  While I may not be a proponent of owning one pair of jeans and a handful of t-shirts, I can see the logic in trying to eliminate some of the repetitive decision-making options from your day.

Some people lay out their clothes the night before, and I do this if I have something going on the next day.  However, if I’m just hanging around the house, baby-sitting and granny-sitting, I tend to grab whatever knit pants and t-shirt happens to be on the top of the drawer.  I’m sure that doesn’t follow any “what not to wear” rules, but I don’t see any point in agonizing over what to wear if I’m not going anywhere.

I have tried to cull my clothes to the point that the things that I didn’t really wear often were given to someone who will wear them.  I found that even when we started keeping the laundry caught up all the time, I was still wearing the same several shirts.  I decided those other items didn’t need to be taking up valuable closet space, and complicating the selection process.

As for grocery shopping, I can certainly see the appeal of having commonly purchased items delivered.  If you’re getting a lot of the same things repeatedly, and they’re non-perishable, it makes sense to get them delivered, perhaps for less than you would pay at the local grocery chain.  But I would still have to make a couple of trips a week just to keep us up in fresh fruits and veggies, something I’m not willing to cut back on.

I was surprised that this article was so short, although it did get me thinking about other ways to eliminate decisions.  I expected to see something about menu planning (we’ve not really mastered this, but we find that we have several fall-back meals that we like to have on hand, and we do like to use freezer recipes), putting items in the same place every time (how much time do you waste searching for your car keys, purse, or fave shoes?), or even “multi-tasking” by using time otherwise spent waiting and twiddling your thumbs (read, knit, or whatever while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, getting your car worked on, etc.)

And let’s not forget that having clear goals can save us a lot of time in the decision making process.  I’m a big fan of to-do lists (perhaps just a tiny bit obsessive).  If I have several things that I want to accomplish, it helps to try to prioritize them, so that I make sure I get the most important ones done, even if I don’t complete my list.  Then I don’t have to spend time repeatedly reading through the list and thinking, “Ok, what should I do next?”

Have any of you had success with having some of your groceries delivered?  Can you think of other strategies to eliminate some of the variables in your life, and make better use of time that may otherwise be wasted?