• New Year, New Minimalism Projects

    Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is an awesome year for you.

    Flipped Hangers in my Closet - January 2016
    Flipped Hangers in my Closet – January 2016

    It’s the start of a new year, so you know what that means – Closet Clean-out 2016 begins! On January 1st, I went through my closet and flipped all my hangers. When I wear a garment, it will be hung up the normal way when I put it away. At the end of the year, I’ll be able to tell at a glance what I haven’t worn. The general rule is – if you haven’t worn something in a year, you’ll probably never wear it again – so get rid of it.

    My wardrobe has shrunk significantly since I started minimizing my life in 2013. Since then, I’ve whittled my wardrobe down and built it up with garments that I love. The goal is to feel beautiful and comfortable in any setting.

    Donation to Charity - January 2016
    Donation to Charity – January 2016

    I also have a shelf in my linen closet for items that need to be given away to charity. When I moved into my condo, I did a “packing party” that resulted in eliminating over 9 boxes of stuff from my life. Since then, I filled my charity shelf with more things to be given away. This week, the AZ Humane Society is coming over to pick up 2 boxes and 2 garbage bags filled with stuff for their thrift store. One box is almost all books – books I’ve read in the last year and books I’ve kept and will never read. One of the bags is filled with clothing – jeans, socks, t-shirts, and dresses that didn’t survive last year’s clean-out.

    My other minimalism challenge for the year is eliminating and controlling paper clutter. I have a perpetual influx of paper into my life – bills, business publications, handwritten notes, etc. My goal for January is to eliminate my existing paper clutter and to keep incoming paper from piling up for the rest of the year. A few years ago, I challenged myself to process every new piece of paper within 24 hours. Perhaps I should try that again.

  • My minimalism project has been in full swing for the past five days since I moved in to my new condo.  When I moved, with the exception of a few pieces of furniture and my bike, all my stuff fit in to 27 banker boxes, a handful of other plastic bins and boxes, three suitcases, and a backpack. I told the movers just to leave them stacked up in what’s supposed to be the dining area of the condo. They said it was the fastest move they’ve ever done.

    I’m sticking with the program of only taking things out of boxes as I need them. Living this way reminds me of the scene from Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams’ character is talking about his new apartment: “I was going kind of a refugee motif. You know, ‘fleeing my homeland’ kind of thing.” It was very unsettling at first because following the rules meant I couldn’t make the place feel like a home by unpacking everything. On the flip side, it’s made me think about what makes me feel comfortable in space.

    The Boxes in my Condo - 10-15-2014
    The Boxes in my Condo – 10-15-2014

    I will say that everything takes a bit longer when what you need isn’t in a drawer or on a shelf. My first meal at the condo was soup out of a can. Just to make this simple meal, I had to locate a glass measuring cup, my soup mug, and a spoon. Even with well-labeled boxes, this was a disorienting experience.

    Over the last five days, I’m managed to empty four of my banker boxes. There is a notebook that lives on the kitchen counter and I’m diligently recording each item as I unpack and use it. On the first day, the number of things I unpacked filled the front and back side of a page. It included things like my bedding, some towels, Rosie’s (my basset hound’s) bowls, my Swiss Army knife, my coffeepot, my laptop, and my pajamas. On the second day, the things I unpacked only filled one side of a page. For the last three days, I’ve only filled about half a page and it’s mostly items related to food preparation and consumption, clothing, and office supplies.

    I’ve also done a bit of shopping for the condo – mostly cleaning supplies and food storage items like ziploc bags and tin foil and food. I’m not limiting any of my activities in an attempt to limit the number of items I use. It is surprising how little I need to be comfortable and to start to feel settled.

    To be nice to myself this week, I laid out clothes on top of my dresser that I know I’ll need this week – 5 pairs of underwear and 4 sets of workout clothes. I get up early in the morning and it seemed like a form of torture to make myself fumble around when I’m half-awake to get dressed.

    I also created a rule that if I unpack something that is part of a set, I have the option to unpack the whole set. So if I need salt, I can unpack my salt and pepper. If I want to watch one of my Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVDs, I can put the whole box set on the shelf.

    For now, I’ve purchased all the furniture I expect to get for a while, but I might get a few more pieces during this process. If I do, it will be about creating a comfortable functional home, not about keeping up with the Joneses or getting things just to fill the space. I’m loving having so much open space to move about.

  • I challenged myself last month to take steps to eliminate the paper clutter in my life. Before starting project, I would let papers that needed to be filed pile up on the kitchen counter. If people were coming over, I would move the pile from the kitchen to the bedroom, and about four months later I’d take an hour to sort and file the massive pile of papers.

    My project for May 2014 was to deal with every new piece of paper in my life within 24 hours, preferably before I went to bed that night. So here’s how it went.

    For the most part, the project was a success. The only papers that sat on my counter for a limited amount of time are bills (that get paid every Friday) and grocery store ads (that get recycled when the next ones arrive in the mail). Many times, the 24-hour rule forced me to file papers I keep within minutes of coming in the door. It was a great habit to solidify. Often times, it was faster to deal with papers right away than when I’d let them pile up.

    It wasn’t always easy or successful. Sometimes I go to networking events and I get back to the office with a stack of business cards. It’s time consuming to enter the data from each card into my contact database and there were a few nights I was up late, sometimes painfully tired, getting all the data in before I’d let myself go to bed.

    Working Through My Phoenix Business Journal Last Week
    Working Through My Phoenix Business Journal Last Week

    The hardest thing to deal with was newspapers and magazines. I get the Phoenix Business Journal (PBJ) every week and I get a few professional magazines every month as part of my memberships in professional organizations. It’s hard to go through each one within 24 hours of their arrival, and I can’t always predict when they will arrive so I can’t set aside time for them. And I think part of it is a fear that going through each one will take a lot of time – and that’s not necessarily true. Here’s a typical process I go through with each edition of the PBJ:

    • Flip through the paper – read the articles that are relevant to my work, skim the rest (or at least read the headlines).
    • Highlight the articles that require a follow-up – people I know or people I want to meet
    • Tear the pages with highlights out. Recycle the rest.
    • Take the highlighted pages to my laptop and send follow up emails. Note the interactions in my database.

    I only have to send a few emails per editions, and sometimes it’s zero. Take home lesson: Dealing with these publications (which are filled with ads I don’t read) takes a lot less time than I think. It’s usually less than an hour, significantly less.

    I wish I’d made it a bigger priority to clean out my existing files, in particular to take my receipts in Taxes 2014 folder and put them in the Taxes 2014 binder that has dividers to help me stay organized. I started the binder last month and every new receipt goes into it, but there’s a file folder of accumulated receipts that may not get sorted until 2015 when I’m working on next year’s taxes.

    So what’s next in my minimalism project? I think it’s my CDs. I have a CD binder full of albums I rarely look at. Some people would say just to chuck it out, because if it’s that important, I’ve already ripped it into my iTunes. I think I’ll go through it one more time, make sure everything’s ripped, keep a few albums I play in the car, and then get rid of the rest.