Thursday, January 1, 2015

I can find my keys!

December 1, 2014: I began to unstuff my life in earnest. After answering some tough questions about my relationship with things and people, and determining my core values (from chapter one), I started chapter two of Unstuff Your Life by Andrew Mellen by making a home for keys, purse, wallet, glasses, cell phone. And mail. And I got my hubby’s cooperation in the project. Woo hoo!

Before: the clutter just inside our usual entry
This first step seems so simple, almost a no-brainer. Who doesn't have a place for their keys/wallet/purse/glasses/cell phone (KWPGC)? These items are daily necessities. You can’t leave the house and function without them. And anyway, DH and I were pretty good about putting our KWPGC in the same vicinity almost all the time. Why the excitement?  Well, it turns out that “pretty good” isn't quite good enough. There were times when one of us would be searching for K, W, P, G, or C when we should have been leaving the house to go somewhere. There were times when DH would get to his volunteer job (an hour’s drive away) and discover that he had forgotten something (wallet, cell phone), not very often, but often enough to be memorable.

Besides, the place where we mostly kept our KWPGC was rather unsightly, a mess to look at when we came in the door or went into the kitchen/dining room. Our KWPGC didn't have a real Home. They just sort of existed on the counter inside the door, and sometimes they didn't even land there. So, as I said, pretty good isn't good enough. These items, the KWPGC, need a real Home; we need to be able to find them at a moment’s notice; we need to be able to grab them and go and be assured that we have everything we need every time. The Unstuff approach is the simplest, most practical method I've found so far from many de-cluttering/organizing books. You start with one very basic, necessary set of items you use every day and get control of them. Then, for a month, practice the habit of always, always, always (always) returning your KWPGC to their Homes. Always. Every time. No exceptions. 

Within two days, by making a real Home for our KWPGC, DH and I have made a dramatic difference in our lives. Not only can we always find our necessities, we enjoy the aesthetics of their new Homes.

Even though Mellen's approach calls for finding organizing solutions by using things you already own, I decided that a new shelf would be the best Home for all DH’s pocket things (including wallet and keys). I bought a lovely little shelf with three baskets in cubbies, and three hooks under the shelf for keys from Target. It’s the perfect size and configuration for DH. He has claimed it as his own, and has been really faithful with putting his things there as soon as he comes in the door.

Added center cabinet with drawer
My daily things already had a home in my purse (and I've been good about keeping them there). It was the purse that needed a real Home. For my purse’s Home, I was able to use a cabinet we already owned. The cabinet was in the garage, but was the same as a row of cabinets we have in the kitchen. There was a slot in the row of cabinets where the single cabinet from the garage could fit and look great. By moving that cabinet there, I eliminated the unsightly recycle bins (found them another Home), and added space, not only a shelf for my purse, but also a shelf (with basket) for incoming mail, and a drawer for “office” things (pens, note pads, stapler, letter opener, paper clips, etc.). So far this arrangement has been very handy and pleasing.

One shelf for purse and basket for things to take with me;
another shelf for incoming mail basket.
The second part of the first month’s Unstuff project is getting control of the mail. I did make a Home for the incoming mail (a basket in the cabinet where my purse lives), so now incoming mail goes there and does not live on the kitchen counter. So far so good. The problem is, I’m feeling a lot of Resistance to dealing with some kinds of mail (magazines, especially). In the Unstuff approach, there’s more to dealing with the mail than just making a Home for incoming mail, and that’s where I’m struggling. Mellen’s system also requires that one schedules regular times for processing, e.g. filing, and taking care of the action items from the mail, which is still a bit hit-or-miss for us.

The processing part mostly works: junk mail into recycle before it even comes into the house; and things to be filed into their basket. We just haven’t actually scheduled time for processing.  In the book there is also a process for dealing with catalogs (which works for us), and magazines. Magazines are another issue (pun intended). As part of my “art supplies,” magazines have a life of their own outside the mail processing system, and I haven’t really got a good Home or process for magazines. I promised myself I would address the Home for magazines issue before the end of the month, but …

MOST of my magazines (I think), gathered in one place

The Unstuff approach offers practical, concrete things you can do right away to make life easier. Getting control of daily necessities took only small effort for a big benefit. That was a category that didn't have too much “stuff” (well, maybe magazines), and so it was easy to implement the “Home for Everything” and “Like with Like” rules. This first step was quick and easy to implement at this busy time of year and helped us get through the holidays without losing or having to hunt for daily necessities. In the past, I've found that trying to de-clutter or organize bit by bit doesn't work for me. In this case, however, taking this one small category of things and getting control of it was a brilliant first step. 

Next up: from Unstuff, the kitchen; and from other sources, other compatible ideas. The journey has begun.

A Home for Everything and Like with Like… If everything you own has one home and only one home, it can only ever be two places… out being used or back in its home, awaiting its next use. – Andrew Mellen


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations!!! You've made giant steps here. I suspect that as you live with the 'new' order you'll be more inspired than ever to continue it in other places. I think they make 'storage' boxes for magazines. If you save them (I usually end up tearing out the articles/pictures I want to keep and recycling the rest) you could put the different magazines each in their own boxes with dates on the outside - or even list references on the outside that refer to something in the magazine that you'll want to go back to. I'm having fun vicariously organizing through you *smile*.

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