15 Minutes to Tame: 15 Areas You Can Organize in 15 Minutes

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When I got my first apartment, I quickly became aware that homes take work to maintain. Each item takes up space and I wanted as much space as possible to be peaceful and creative. But the process of decluttering can be time consuming, especially when you try to tackle an entire room. One trick is to break up each room into several smaller tasks, cleaning each slowly.

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New You, No Clutter: How to be Clutter Free in 2020

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2141dda7ae54aed465caedbeaa1b0f54According to every magazine, blog and instagram quote, each January, a new year promises a new you. We make resolutions, or anti-resolutions, with the goal of bettering ourselves and transforming our lives. One of the most fulfilling goals is that of having a peaceful organized home.

However, the path to a clutter free life challenges most of us. Typically, the process starts with an initial clean sweep. Then, a cycle of maintenance begins. Usually, a book or an article inspires the change.

Today is that day. This is the last article about clutter you’ll ever need to read.

Ask Yourself “Why?”

When I moved into my first apartment, I felt overwhelmed by the task of running a household. I had recently graduated from college, finished an internship and started my first job. The hours for work were very long. My time to myself was limited. When I considered how I wanted to spend my free time, I pictured myself reading, painting, writing or exploring. Instead, I was planning means, shuffling piles of laundry and trying to organize my stuff so that I could exist in my small space.

Then, I had enough. I started looking for information on living in small spaces. Since this was over ten years ago, I only found a few random articles from various sources. Notably, I found several blogs and articles from people living in similar situations; they lived in the city, worked long hours and made the most of their free time in a small space.

What was what I wanted!

I just wanted to make the most out of my time. I wanted to make space for the kind of life I loved to live. So, I had the answer.

Why aspire to be clutter free?

More of the life I loved.

Make This Your Only Goal

Whether you are planning for a new year or looking to make a change, organizing your life is a big goal. It’s more of a resolution than a task. Creating a clutter free life requires new habits and new focus. This will become your main “thing” for months. Most processes will take a year or more to really fix your clutter problem. Then, you’ll spend more months and years maintaining the system.

So, don’t pair it with another goal. Don’t try to learn a language. Don’t plan to lose 15 pounds. Don’t start a new hobby.

Instead, focus on being clutter free. That’s it.

Augment, not Overhaul, Your Life

The quote at the top of this post is from The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath. Most people, who haven’t read it, think it’s simply a mental health tome focused on the main character’s time in an institution. Instead, much of the book focuses on the events that led to the breakdown. In that story, Esther begins her journey as a successful student who wins an internship at a prestigious magazine. She aspires to be a writer. She wants to live life fully. Several small and large traumas impact her mentally causing a suicide attempt and subsequent therapy.

Throughout this fiction novel, Plath focuses on extremes. “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days,” proclaims Esther.

Similarly, resolutions and goals fail because of an “all or nothing” attitude. We’re hard on ourselves. We develop strict rules. We make impossibly long task lists.

And then, the plans fall short.

If you aspire to live in a clutter free space, think of it as a way to augment your life. It won’t fix “everything.” Organization can’t promise to solve every problem. It just makes some room. It just lessens your “stuff” over time.

So, as you add a process for cleaning out your home, remember that it’s not an overhaul. Decluttering slowly nips away at your stuff. Decluttering changes your life but it doesn’t CHANGE your life.

Develop Easy Rules

Pick whatever system you like to clean out your space. Just make sure the rules are easy. In fact, make them even easier to match your life.  Lower the standard to whatever you can reasonably do.

Some of my favorite methods:

Just remember that this process will probably start with a month of heavy work. Then, you’ll repeat that cycle for about a year. This allows you to form new habits. Going forward, the new mindset will shape your daily routines. What goes into your home and what comes out of your home will change as you live in a clutter free space.

Clutter Free in 2018

instagramfollowersAs a goal, a clutter free home remains a worthy choice. It took me nearly three years to get to a point where my home only contained useful and loved items. And it’s still a daily process.

You’ll find that clutter creeps into your life unexpectedly, often from other well-meaning people.

For example, my friends and family sometimes offer me their clutter as they organize. They know I am fairly decisive in determining whether something is of use to me. So, they try to give me things in hopes that I’ll either accept it or dispose of it for them.  Sometimes I have the time to work through that process for them and sometimes, I just have to say “no”.

I’ve learned that saying “no” to stuff means saying “yes” to the life I want. Remember? It’s that life filled with painting, writing and exploring.

Here’s to your clutter-free plan!

What are your tips and tricks to keep your home free of clutter? Let me know in the comments!

60 Tips to Declutter Your Office

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. Henry David Thoreau

Some people tell me that creativity and clutter must go hand-in-hand. I refuse to believe it. I agree that little inspirational bits accumulate around imaginative people. I disagree that we need to surround ourselves with disorganization. In fact, I find that I do my best work, creative and functional, in a clutter-free space. And I say this as someone who has boxes with broken costume jewelry, a collection of ostrich feathers, and a plethora of paints. It’s the curation and usefulness of these items that facilitates the creative process.

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Bite the Bullet Journal

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Creativity and organization collide beautifully in a daily journal routine. In our detached and digitized world, the feel of a beloved book brings a stir of sensations. The cover feels warm. The pages sound soft. The dust smells like new markers. As most people relentlessly busy-brag about how out-of-control their lives have become, we can break the cycle with little, leather-bound books.

Behold- the bullet journal.

What is a bullet journal?

Bullet journals bring together the best parts of tracking your life and recording thoughts with none of the restrictions. Typically, the pages are completely blank, although some have light grids to help with designing the pages. Most people use them for daily organization on the bulk of the pages and save special pages for large goals or thoughts. What started as a big idea (from the actual Bullet Journal brand) has turned into a nostalgic revolution for intentional living.

The idea of keeping a journal is not new. However, many people struggle to keep up with a daily journal because of the commitment to logging everything in longhand, paragraph form. By contrast, bullet journals mix daily reflection with lists. Think of it as a to-do list on which you can reflect over time. Everything is shorthand and simple. The typical page includes:

  • Topics
  • Page Numbers
  • Short Sentences
  • Bullets

The best part? You don’t have to be artsy or creative to enjoy this process. The official Bullet Journal team has created a template to help people get started. However, this post reflects on my personal journey in productivity and note-keeping.

My Journal Process

As a young person, people would always gift me empty journals. They knew I liked to write and sketch (…holding books in my hands so that I could smell them). However, these journals would pile up in my bedroom as I really could never fill them out. I would try to start a traditional diary and flame out. Then, in high school, I had an epiphany. I often collected paper snippings that inspired me. They weren’t something for a scrapbook. Instead they were usually quotes, blocks of text or images cut from magazines, calendars or homework assignments. They would wear and tear as I moved them from my bulletin board to a desk drawer then a file box. At the same time, I was dedicated to my daily planner to keep me productive and organized. By college, I started meshing the two, using the gifted journals. Each page contained:

  • The date
  • A to-do list for the day
  • Dates and times for events
  • Hand written copies of quotes or facts that I found during that day
  • Doodles

The result? I developed a daily routine for planning my day at the outset and reviewing my progress in the evening. I quickly used up those empty journals, going through several each year. With time, special pages were added with long term goals or collections on a similar topic. For example, I usually put a list of new years resolutions at the very back and check my progress monthly. Also, the back fills up with brainstorms for blog posts, craft projects or big ideas.

When bullet journals surged into popularity, I had no idea what they were. However, people kept asking me where I got my bullet journal. Most of my friends, coworkers and family members link me to these little, analog list-filled books, knowing that they have been a core part of my life for about 15 years. I can see why they are becoming a popular way to inspire productivity – they’re a natural fit and add a welcome contrast our busy, digital world.

Logging for Productivity

There are several ways that keeping a daily journal inspires productivity. First, it helps you identify your tasks and goals. Each morning, as you review your list, starts with a plan. Each evening, you enjoy the satisfaction of noting your progress. Second, it reminds you to prioritize. Sometimes, our expectations can get out of alignment with reality. There are some tasks that never seem to get done because they aren’t really important. This exercise encourages you to question each item and consider whether it is worth your time. If you find yourself copying a task from day to day for several weeks, it probably don’t belong on your list at all. Third, the process allows you to appreciate your progress. As you track, you will see slow growth. Tracking both challenges you to improve while celebrating your success. Over the months and years, you’ll find that your productivity spikes simply by setting aside time to focus on intentional living.

Popular Page Ideas

The freedom of a blank page can be adapted for both short and long term goals. If you’re looking for ideas to get started, Pinterest offers hundreds of ideas to style your pages. I’ve found that many people enjoy tracking similar themes, including:

  • Daily, Weekly or Monthly Spreads
  • Bucket Lists
  • Places to Travel
  • Mood Trackers
  • Books to Read
  • Birthdays and Anniversaries
  • Memories
  • Spending logs
  • Collected quotes
  • Things that make you happy
  • Meal or snack lists
  • Sleep logs

You can log anything that is important to you. So, everyone’s journal is different and personal. This is the key to their overwhelming popularity. 

Bullet Journal Tips

Everyone should keep a journal in the way that works best for them. However, I have collected a few tips over time as I’ve explored this process.

  • If you like prettier pages, you can create design elements in pencil first. Then, trace them with a fine tip pen to make them permanent.
  • If your pages don’t have a grid, cut a piece of graph paper to the page size. Use a paperclip to secure the graph paper behind your page. This can be used as a guide when you work on the page. Then, just move it to the next page when you’re done.
  • Test your writing tools on a back page before you begin. You’ll want to make sure nothing will bleed through. Some pages are thick enough for paint. Others will bleed with a felt-tip pen.

Bite the Bullet Journal

Bite the Bullet JournalThe beauty of a bullet journal rests in customizing. If you are just starting, a short daily log can form the habit. As you make this a regular part of your routine, it will be come a loving, self-care moment as you reflect on the meaningful moments of your life. No matter how simple or complex your journal, you’ll find daily inspiration to be productive.

If you have any tips or ideas, I’d love to read them. Let me know in the comments.

*Note: I don’t use an “official” bullet journal or endorse a particular product.