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eliminate clutter

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.

New Minimalism Project – Eliminate Paper Clutter

Part of the challenge/fun of being an aspiring minimalist isn’t just getting rid of stuff that doesn’t add value to my life but also not bringing new things into my home that are superfluous and create clutter. I’ve notice one of the things that creates a lot of clutter in my life is paper. I subscribe to the Phoenix Business Journal and sometimes it takes me a few weeks to find time to read it; I get business cards from new contacts at networking events; I get flyers and handouts of useful information. I get bills and financial statements that I hold onto for tax purposes; but, unfortunately, I suck at filing them so they will become a massive pile on my desk and every few months I’ll take an hour to sort it all out.

Collectible Cards by J Aaron Farr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Collectible Cards by J Aaron Farr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This month I’m challenging myself to eliminate the paper clutter in my life. I want to get rid of the stacks of paper that are around the house. They’re not as bad as they used to be, but they’re still there. I also want to try to adopt a rule that every piece of paper that comes into the house has to be put away or recycled within 24 hours of crossing the threshold. This will be a big challenge when I get the latest issue of the Phoenix Business Journal or I get a massive stack of business cards from networking events. Last year I went through my stacks of business cards, updated my contact database, and threw them all out. I don’t want those stacks to come back because I’m never going to look at them again. If someone wants a recommendation, I’ll look it up.

When it comes to organizing my records, I’ve noticed that I prefer to use binders instead of file folders. It’s just easier to manage everything. I got a bunch of binders from a friend last year who was cleaning out their office and they’ve been sitting on a bookshelf. I want to take some of my paper file, three-hold punch the documents I need to keep, and organize them in binders so I can easily find what I’m looking for when I need it instead of having to potentially go through every page in the file. This will be especially handy for documents and receipts I have to keep for taxes.

There will be a few exceptions to the 24-hour rule. One is bills and bank statements. I have one day a week that is designated for dealing with bills and bank statements. It’s just more efficient to deal with them in one sitting. Those envelopes have a designated space on the kitchen counter and once a week I deal with them. This system is working so I’m not going to mess with it. The other exception is for grocery store ads. I save money by buying things when they’re in season and stocking up on staples when they’re on sale. When the ads arrive in my mailbox, I highlight the things I might want to get during my next grocery trip and I make my shopping list based on that. The ads sit on the counter until the following week’s arrive and that’s when the previous week’s get recycled.

So basically the rule for the month is all paper has to be put away or recycled within 24 hours of entering the house unless it’s more efficient to keep something on the counter for a specific purpose for up to a week.

This will be interesting to see how this challenge works out. I think it will be great for creating new habits that eliminate clutter, but I think it will be hard to get home late from an event and know that I can’t go to bed until I deal with the papers from the day.