Category Archives: decluttering

IMPORTANT – About My Home – Clutter Porn

Well, maybe not that important. Just a mini rant about the overuse of the word important, along with its close cousin, urgent, in communications and especially on mail items. They seems to be cluttering half of the envelopes that arrive in my mailbox, yet their contents are rarely important to anybody except the sender.

Why do mail marketers and others continue to use this tired old trick? I suppose that’s rhetorical — they use it because it works. After all, even though we know the odds are it isn’t important, and may be of no interest to us at all, we don’t dare throw it away unopened just in case it actually is important.

More Tricks

Sure, sometimes you can tell from the return address who it’s from, but sometimes there’s no name; just an address. Or worse yet, the return address is misleading. Bank Of America (or its “marketing partners” – euphemism for “companies we sold your name and address to”) sends all sorts of things in essentially identical envelopes, all with the bank’s return address. Usually it’s an offer for some sort of insurance, or trying to get me to apply for some sort of loan or another, but I am forced to open each and every one and give its contents at least a cursory glance, lest I discard my statement or other legitimate communication regarding my account.

OK, now that I have that mini-rant out  of my system, and just to show you my headline isn’t totally bogus, let’s move on to something that, while it might not be too important in the overall scheme of things, you might enjoy.

About My Home

With all that describing of different kinds of RVs in my last post, I didn’t even tell you what I live in. My home is a 1979  Georgie Boy Cruise Master  CM20RB. It is a 20-foot class C motorhome. Interior space  is 18 feet long by 7 feet wide, or 126 square feet.  Here’s the floor plan:

Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

…or at least what the one in this brochure did when it was new:

If you’d like to learn more, or are just into 70′s advertising or shag carpeting, you can click the brochure cover for an eight-page PDF.

Ahhh, but what does it look like now, 32 years later, you ask? Time for…

Clutter Porn!

I know that at least one of my readers (Hi Tanja!) has been patiently waiting for me to post some photos of my clutter. While I’m not quite ready to offer a full portfolio yet, I’ll dip my toe in the water with this small offering:

As you can see, I still have my work cut out for me. In my defense, pretty much everything I own is in here, in 126 square feet. I’m still plugging away at it, and I’ll get there eventually (and post more photos, too).

Oh, and here’s what the outside looks like:

Yeah, even the outside is cluttered, but the stuff on top of the table and the boxes and pile near the rear wheels are stuff to be sold or donated, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Why’s the hood open? Mechanical trouble? Naw, it’s just open to discourage the packrats (the 4-legged kind) from nesting in there. They’ll make a mess and chew through hoses and wires, too.

What Do You Think?

Are “important” and “urgent” overused? Is 126 square feet too big? too small? just right? Want more clutter porn? Comments are always open.

Decluttering Decisions – The “Lost Or Stolen” Test

(For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of “Exploring RV Living,” it will be coming later this week. If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe via email or RSS to make sure you don’t miss it. Links are over in the right-hand column, below my mug shot.)

I’ve always been a thorough researcher when it comes to major purchases, and have read my share of online product reviews. While trying to come up with a relatively easy rule to help me decide what to keep and what to eliminate in my decluttering efforts, I remembered a question I’ve seen asked by at least one review site, and is frequently volunteered by reviewers on other sites, especially musician’s gear sites: “Would you buy it again if it was lost or stolen?” In the context of a product review, it’s an excellent question. If something is so useful or desirable that you couldn’t be without it, that’s about as good as a personal recommendation can get.

Not Just For Reviews

It turns out that the “lost or stolen” question makes a really good test during decluttering. What we would do in the event of the sudden disappearance of an item is a good gauge of that item’s actual necessity and value to us. The low hanging fruit (or maybe the fruit that’s already fallen from the tree?) is quickly eliminated by asking ourselves “If this was lost or stolen, would I even notice?”

What Would You Do?

Where “lost or stolen” really shines, though, is after the first few rounds, after the obvious fluff has already been eliminated. Now the decision process is more challenging. We need to separate the “that’s really nice” stuff from the “I really need that” stuff. As you look at an item, ask yourself “If this were lost or stolen (or broken beyond repair) would I immediately run out and buy another one just like it?” If you can honestly answer “yes” to that question, then the item is probably a keeper. If, on the other hand, you answered that you’d figure out how to get on without it, then you probably don’t need it. If your answer is “I’d have to replace it, but probably not with one like it,” that’s a sign that it serves a needed purpose, but is probably not a good match for your current lifestyle. In that case it might be worth considering replacing the less-than-ideal item with something more suitable. No hurry, though — you can wait until it needs replacing anyway.

Terrific Test

While this isn’t the answer to all decluttering dilemmas, such as what to do with sentimental and decorative things, the “lost or stolen” test is a great tool for making decisions regarding practical things. Can you think of any other  simple tests to help with decluttering decisions? What have you found that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff? Comments are open — don’t be shy!

115 Degrees In The Shade

Well, folks, I have a couple more practical posts in the making, but they’re not quite ready for public consumption. On the other hand, I did say I was going to post at least once a week, and it’s been over a week now, so I thought I’d better offer up something.

About That Headline

Yes, it’s one hundred and fifteen degrees in the shade (135° in the sun!) here in the desert west of Phoenix. The absorption refrigerator is struggling to keep its contents cool. Stepping outside into the light breeze feels like walking into a giant convection oven. The forecast is for another couple days of the same, and the area is under a Heat Advisory. Summer is definitely here.

Keeping My Cool

Thanks to the Wonder of Ancient Technology known as an evaporative cooler, it is a very comfortable 82 degrees indoors, without running the air conditioner. I love my swamp cooler — not only does it save energy and money, but it also allows me to enjoy fresh cool air and open windows instead of having everything closed up and recirculating the same stale air. In another week or so I’ll unfortunately be having to do just that when the monsoon season’s increase in humidity renders the evaporative cooler ineffective. I’ll also see my electric bill triple for about three months.

Avoiding The Heat

So what have I been doing while I stay indoors avoiding the heat? Well, I’ve been pecking away at decluttering. I am amassing a boxful of small electronic bits, pieces, gadgets, and gizmos that individually would not be worth the trouble of selling, and don’t seem appropriate for thrift store donation either. Still, they’re just too darn good to throw away. I’m thinking of putting the whole boxful on eBay as a not-quite-mystery box. I’ll put up a couple photos and maybe some general descriptions of the highlights, and see what happens. If nothing else, it will be fun.

Multimedia Maintenance

I’ve also been working on my digital library as I transition from “legacy” paper and polycarbonate media to bits and bytes on a hard drive.  This is an ongoing project which I spend time on now and then when I’m in the mood. I could go into more detail sometime if you’d like to read about it. Let me know.

Clearing Clutter Pays Off

There are plenty of ways that eliminating clutter pays off. More space and less distraction, for example. But I wasn’t expecting it to pay off literally. I was going through some folded bits of paper and receipts the other day, making sure I wasn’t about to throw away anything important, and there it was folded up in an old store receipt: a twenty dollar bill! Pretty cool, huh?

In Other News

Do any of you write for content farms, or have you in the past? Are you considering writing for one to help make ends meet? You should give this NYT  Opinionator blog post and this Faster Times article a read.

Exceptions to Decluttering Rules?

There are two “rules” frequently cited to help with decluttering as well as to avoid re-cluttering. The first helps us decide what to get rid of by suggesting that if something hasn’t been used in X length of time (one year is the most common, but I’ve seen recommendations range from three months to two years) then you don’t need it. The other rule helps us avoid accumulation, and it is usually called the “one in, one out” rule. Let’s look at each of these rules and see if there are times we might not want to simply follow them blindly.

If You Haven’t Used It…

This rule is designed to help us decide what we don’t need. If something is stashed away in the bottom of a closet or the back of a drawer and we have not even seen it, let alone used it in months or years, what makes us think we’ll suddenly need it one day? The truth is that we probably won’t. There are exceptions, however.

Emergency!

If you drive a car, you probably carry a spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. If you regularly ride a bicycle any significant distance, you probably carry a patch kit or spare tube, a tool kit, and a pump. These are things we may not have used or even looked at in months or years, but we continue to carry them around because we don’t want to be stranded by the side of the road should we experience the misfortune of a flat tire. Along the same lines, we might keep first aid kits in our homes or vehicles, but hope we never need them. Ditto for fire extinguishers. Perhaps we can call this the emergency equipment exception. You can probably think of more examples, and they will vary depending on your individual situation. Just make sure you aren’t using this exception as an excuse to keep all kinds of “just in case” stuff that you probably won’t ever use and could easily re-acquire if needed.

Got Plans?

Another exception might be “I plan to use it.” This works if you have something that is already earmarked for a specific time or occasion in the future, when you know that you will use it. Don’t confuse this with “I might use it,” “I hope to use it,” or “I want to use it,” which are all excuses for keeping what we really don’t need. A variation on that exception, which I am experiencing right now, is “I plan to use it once I’ve decluttered enough room for it.” While I have to be careful that I’m not using this as a blanket excuse for keeping stuff I should be getting rid of, I think that if I have something that I honestly feel I will use and get function or pleasure from once I have the space to enjoy it, then I can at least leave it for last. Once I’ve decluttered to the point where I can comfortably accommodate the item, if I find that I am still not using it or have lost interest, then it becomes subject to expulsion.

One In, One Out

This one is very popular in the RV and Tiny House communities, where space is at a premium. It can even be expanded to “one in, two out” during active decluttering. This rule aims to maintain a static quantity of items if strictly followed. It isn’t so much subject to legitimate exceptions as it is to “creative interpretation.” We need to be sure we are following the true spirit of this rule. Getting rid of a worn out pair of socks shouldn’t justify bringing in a new TV and a game console. Yes, that’s two items in for two items out (a pair of socks), but using that kind of logic will only get you deeper into consumerist clutter. Ideally, an item goes out to make room for an equivalent but better, smaller or simpler item. Replacing several items with a single multi-function item could result in a two, three, or more-for-one trade! In any case, the items going out should be the same size or bigger than those coming in, the goal being to maintain balance or reduce clutter, not to increase it.

More Examples?

Can you think of other decluttering rules with legitimate exceptions? How about ways you or other household members try to “cheat” on the anti-clutter rules you’ve laid out?