We’re cleaning out our home too.
It’s time to get your home ready for the upcoming winter months. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts another snowy winter here in the northeast.
Here are some things that we do at our house:
1. Get all the patio furniture cleaned and put inside if possible. We have a lot – and most comes inside – but there are a few pieces that are too big and heavy. For the pieces that stay out, we put those orange cones atop the table and cover with patio furniture covers. This prevents the water from puddling up. Make sure to secure the covers tightly.
2. Turn off the outside water and drain the lines. You don’t want to have to call a plumber in the middle of winter to fix a frozen line. Remember to bring in the outside garden hoses once you have drained them.
3. Clean those gutters before you have problems. Scoop out the debris from inside (even if you have gutter guards), so that the water can flow easily. Remember to clean out the down spouts too.
4. While you are on your roof… Check for leaks that might need fixing, cracks, and moss growing in the roof (not a good thing as moss holds moisture and that can mean rot). Don’t forget to look around the chimney. All these could become a major problem as we get into winter. As I have told you, it’s easier to fix a small issue now rather than a major issue later. You can either do this yourself or call a professional for help.
5. Get your heating systems tuned up and serviced before winter to make sure it’s in working order. There is nothing worse than waking up to no heat on a cold winter morning.
6. Caulk around the windows to seal up any drafts. You don’t want leaky, drafty windows sucking the heat outdoors. You should caulk every few years as preventative maintenance.
7. Because winter storms can mean loss of electricity… You will want to check up on your emergency supplies – lanterns, batteries, flashlights, battery powered radio, warm blankets, non-perishable food with a manual can opener, bottled water, and matches if you want to cook on the barbecue grill.
It’s much better to prepare ahead of time and do little projects now while the weather is nice. You don’t want to deal with emergency repairs in the winter.
It’s easy to come by and we all have too much (including me). But is it hurting you? It could be. Clutter is a budget breaker. I won’t go into details in this article, but trust me that having more makes you spend more. You’d think that once you had everything you’d stop spending. You’d be wrong.
Are you using that?
When you’re busy, things get messy. So how do you know if you have clutter or a mess? According to my friend Matt Baier, of Matt Baier Organizing, you should ask yourself whether it has a pulse:
Here’s an example of a living mess and an example of true clutter. If there is a playroom full of toys, all over the floor and they will be moved around and played with tomorrow, that’s a living mess. If, however, there’s a room full of toys and the kids have moved out and have kids of their own now, that’s true clutter. It has stopped moving. The heartbeat is gone. It’s dead.
Unfortunately, we had a lot of dead clutter.
Save it for a rainy day… I mean the project not the object
We needed to tackle our clutter, but I wouldn’t waste a sunny day on it – or even a whole day.
This is what we did on snowy weekends this past winter.
- Scanned documents from the file cabinet, then shredded and recycled the paper (medical records, income taxes, etc.)
- Digitized the notes, workbooks and CDs from conferences we attended – now it’s all filed in the computer and backed up.
- We did a major cleaning of the basement. In our house that is where things get put that don’t have a place. Plus, living in a family home, we have stuff from our parents – photos and memorabilia that I wanted to preserve. It’s not all done, but it’s well on its way. We are tackling the basement one box and one shelf at a time.
- Donated some useful items. We found several old cell phones that we donated to an organization that gives cell phones to battered women. We cleaned out the books for a donation to the library.
- We cleaned out the pantry and got rid of foods we no longer choose to eat. Some was donated to the local food pantry.
The bittersweet goodbye is mostly sweet
There are so many positives with decluttering. It’s not all heart wrenching goodbyes and worries about being caught without “that thing we were saving in case”. The house feels bigger and brighter. It’s a place where we feel more alive because we’re not clinging to the past or the future. We’ve benefited from sales and donation tax breaks. We feel closer to each other because we’ve processed our feelings and made plans for what we really want out of life.
We’ve found that we’re actually more ourselves without our stuff. And our spending is more focused on the things we really want – like travel.
New Years Day and winter go together where I live. It’s hard to get that “fresh start” feeling when the windows are sealed shut and the garden is dormant. If I lived in Australia, I might spend New Year’s Day planting seeds – instead, I find myself checking closets and drawers and getting the Urge to Purge.
Nothing says “last year” like unused things. Magazines, electronics, household goods… items that have been upgraded, replaced, tried but disliked, expired – these misfit goods find homes in cupboards and drawers all around my house – and probably yours, too.
I’m actually very good about keeping “stuff” to a minimum and my home clutter free. If an item is unusable, it only takes a second to throw it away. But… there are things that I just don’t want to toss; they may be useful to someone. How can I get it from my house to theirs without a lot of trouble?
It’s Easy to Give It Away, Sell or Donate:
- Use CraigsList.org and FreeCycle.org. There’s no charge and you won’t have to ship your items. People will come pick them up. You can sell them or give them away. I have sold everything from toothbrush heads to a car.
- Use local consignment stores. Consignment shops sell the item for you and take a percentage of the sale – but you keep ownership of the item. For example, you might agree to leave it there for 90 days, and they’ll take a 50% cut if it sells. If it doesn’t sell, you can take it back home and try to sell it another way. Others might offer to buy the item directly from you to resell themselves. You may be familiar with popular chain consignment stores, like Play It Again Sports and Once Upon a Child but most towns also have small mom & pop consignments that sell everything from clothes to appliances.
- Donate items in good condition to an organization or charity. You can choose the usual places or find a local charity that serves a need that’s important to you.
We personally use some of the resources listed on my resource page. We donated a laptop through the Cristina Foundation, we bring our used CFL light bulbs to Home Depot, our eye glasses to One Sight, and our old towels and sheets to the local animal shelter. We also used a trade in program when we needed a new printer – knowing that our old one would be recycled. These are just a few examples, it would take too long to list all the ways we pass on items that can be used or recycled.
Check out the resource page on my website for more suggestions. If you have any resources that you use that would help others, please let us know and we will add them to the list.
Is your phone ringing when you sit-down to dinner? Do you come home to find your mailbox overflowing with junk mail that you’ll have to sort, shred and recycle? Do you want it to stop?
I’m vigilant about my family’s privacy and do what I can to protect our personal space. I don’t want to waste a second of my precious spare time on unsolicited calls or credit card offers. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. Between social media, email, the phone and your mailbox, it’s like being pressure-cooked in sales offers.
First, make the calls stop!
We have been registered on the Do Not Call list since 2003 (www.donotcall.gov). But, they can’t protect you from charities, political campaigns, surveys, or companies that you have a relationship with. You’ll have to tackle those individually. When they call, take a moment to ask to be removed from their list. They’re supposed to comply with your request.
Reduce the sales flyers
We’d been getting unwanted mail and realized we’d gone over the 5-year limit at www.optoutprescreen.com. When we renewed our preferences, we were pleasantly surprised to find that you can now opt-out permanently. It’s a similar process to the 5-year opt-out with one additional step: you have to mail in a confirmation. This should cut down on all unwanted mail and offers… forever!
Stop the credit card offers and checks that you’ll have to shred.
We fill out the privacy options for all of our credit cards. You can find these on the inserts that come with the bills. You may have tossed them out without looking.
How did you get on these mailing lists in the first place?
So, you opted-out a year ago and suddenly you’re receiving mail and phone calls? Why? How? Well, there are quite a few ways to get back on a company’s mailing list. For example, we just went to a home show and almost every booth was offering a “free give-away”. When you fill out the form, you’re giving them permission to contact you with sales offers. Think twice before signing up. Are the odds of winning worth the unwanted calls and mail? For myself, the answer is no. But, we do take any literature they may be offering so we can contact them if we want to.
I want my home to be a sanctuary not a fortress where I’m forced to fight off unwanted contact. Here’s hoping that we can come home to minimal mail and eat a cozy dinner in peace.
“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” If you want to make changes with your life and finances, then you need to do something different.
When I imagine my perfect life, it’s like a sunny day at the beach – calm and bright with a peaceful, beautiful feeling. This year, I’ve decided to do some things differently, in the hopes of making my real life closer to my ideal life.
My Morning Meditations: I have trouble quieting my mind. When I finish one task, the next item on my to-do list pops into my head. Since January, I have started my day with a guided morning meditation. Maybe someday I’ll be able to meditate on my own, but for now it works best to listen to someone guiding me to a state of relaxation.
Results: This is really new to me. So far, I’ve seen changes in the amount of stress in my life. I am much calmer and more easily cope with my long appointment driven days. I have noticed subtle changes in my body. I now have trouble keeping my purse on my shoulder. Less stress has lowered my shoulders.
My Intention Journal: I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years, ever since reading Simple Abundance. It was difficult to think of even 5 things to be grateful for at first, but now I have to stop myself after one page. This year, I added an intention journal to my routine. In the morning, I set an intention for what I want to happen that day, and then I journal about the results before bedtime. My intention can be anything from “I easily completed this project” to “I achieved this outcome for this meeting.” I word it as an affirmation as if it already has happened.
Results: Setting my intention in the morning gives my day focus. Writing down the intention helps to keep it foremost in my mind. This compliments my gratitude journal. I recommend it to everyone. It’s worked great for me.
Going Paperless in the Kitchen: I am continuing to get rid of more paper. This year I am organizing all of my recipes in a folder on my hard drive. This includes all the old family recipes that I had on scraps of paper or recipe cards and the new ones from magazines or friends that I want to try.
Results: No more recipe cards, or notebooks with torn out recipes in my kitchen. That’s been really nice. Have you ever wanted a specific recipe, but couldn’t remember if it was in a book, card box, or ripped-out magazine page? It’s not fun.
Minimizing My Possessions: Over the last few years, I’ve been streamlining and simplifying my life. I used to keep too many things, “just in case”. But, going through things can lead to new piles because I want to give them away to just the right person. This year, I am giving myself a one-week time limit on the stuff. If I think that someone, or an organization, can use the item, I have one week to contact them, and get it to them (if they need it or want it). Otherwise, it’s at the curb.
Results: As I clear things out of my home, I’m making way for new energy (not things). I have several new projects on the horizon and have given three talks to new organizations just in the month of February alone.
I can’t wait to see what’s next. What are you willing to change in your life to get different results?
In our house, Spring is a time for cleanup. We start indoors and then finish outside. This year was different for us. The weather was warmer sooner, so the outdoors was tackled first. We groomed overgrown plants and shrubs, trimmed trees, weeded and mulched the flower beds, and more. Now it feels like it’s time to enjoy the year with family and friends.
Because Spring came early, our annual ritual was thrown off. We skipped the indoor clutter cleaning. Now we’re left with random deadlines that we are trying to follow.
- There was our town’s Sneaker Recycling Day…
- …That happened to be the same day as our town’s Paper Shredding Day.
- We have an old/unused/outdated medication drop-off (to help us clean out our medicine cabinets without poisoning the ground or groundwater).
- And then there was Hazardous Waste Day. We got rid of the last of the chemicals! We’re making great strides towards using all natural products.
That’s in our town. Does your town have programs to help you set clutter-clearing goals?
We are still left with many indoor projects that don’t coincide with a specific date, and those can get pushed off. Little by little, they will get done. We have been tackling scanning and tossing paperwork. No matter how hard we try, paper builds up.
To help you get your life simplified, check out the resources page on our website. We’ve added some new links to help you get rid of that extra stuff.
One resource we mention is Craigslist.org. We used Craigslist to give away an old TV. Just because we didn’t need it, didn’t mean that someone else couldn’t make good use of it. It’s better than having it go to a landfill.
If you try one of the resources on our list, or use another one we haven’t listed, let us know. I love hearing success stories and learning about new resources for getting rid of unwanted items.
Having trouble controlling your spending? Try something new – control your mail!
You heard me. Control your mail. For the past five years, I have worked extremely hard to get off advertisement mailing lists. My mailbox is no longer stuffed with unwanted fliers and catalogs. Oh, I still get catalogs and fliers, but only from my favorite stores. And, I have asked each of my favorites not to share, rent, sell or do anything else with my contact information. Thanks to privacy laws, I can completely trust all of them to keep my personal information to themselves.
This has reduced my mail considerably.
You are probably wondering, “What’s the connection here? I thought you were talking about controlling spending not junk mail.” Easy. What I don’t see won’t tempt me. No more impulse buying because a slick ad has convinced me I need it. If I didn’t know I needed it before, then I will probably live without it. And if I do need it, I won’t need a glossy image to sell me on it.
I don’t think I’m weak minded. These ads are designed to make you hunger for the kind of ideal life that only an expensive food-processor can give you. If you’re like me, you’ve spent many a weekend morning browsing through Sunday fliers, lusting after small appliances and “just in time for spring” capris.
Now, I have less mail to go through and more money saved. This is a bonus for my time and my budget. Try it yourself. You won’t believe how much less spending you have to list on your budget tracker with this little step.
How did I do it? By contacting these companies:
- Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, P O Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735
- Mail Preference Service, Preference Service Manager, Direct Marketing Association, P O Box 3079, Grand Central Station, NY 10163
- Companies that I receive subscriptions from (example – magazine subscriptions)
- Store credit card companies and banks – request not to receive offers from them or their partners
- www.OptOutPrescreen.com or 1–888–567–8688 to limit the offers you receive for pre-approved credit cards
That’s all you have to do! Yes, it takes some work, but it will pay off in the long run. You don’t have to tackle this every day or even during precious relaxation time.
What I did, was set aside the junk mail and take it with me for those annoying “hurry up to wait” appointments. Then I would make the phone calls from my cell. You know, when you’re sitting in the doctor’s exam room for 20 minutes waiting for a physical. Or when you have to leave early to meet someone across town “in case of traffic” then end up sitting in the parking lot waiting for the other person to show up. If you do it that way, you’ll be regaining time, not just saving time.
The holidays are long over and the new year is here. It’s time to clear clutter and get organized! With tax season underway, you can start shredding papers.
If you’ve gotten your W-2 for income tax purposes, you can shred your paystubs for the year. Make sure the W-2 matches your final paystub.
If your bank and credit card companies offer you an annual summary statement, take it. If you agree with all the information, you can shred your statements for the period that it covers. One statement versus twelve – much less to organize!
Go through your receipts. I only keep them for purchases that have a warranty (or if I think I may return the item.) I store the receipt in the product manual so that I know exactly when and where I purchased the item.
For any paperwork that you are not sure whether or not to keep, check with your tax preparer.
For the stuff in your home that seems to accumulate, my best advice is for you to take a small amount of time on a regular basis and sort through a small area. Empty out that catch-all drawer, tackle a desktop, or one kitchen cabinet. The trick is to do just that one spot. You’ll find that by tackling one small area twice a week you will see progress in no time without feeling overwhelmed.
To me, walking into a room that has been organized and clutter free is one of the best feelings I can have. Try it – it makes finding what you need easy.
Join Jill on February 27 and Never Waste Your Time Looking for a Piece of Paper
Anita Taylor, Professional Organizer & Speaker, has the following advice for those of us who tend to let things accumulate, especially our important paperwork:
The best way to tackle a stack is to…
- set a timer for 15 minutes
- sort from the top
- use the 3 D Method
- Do it, Dump it or Delegate it!
Still not done? Read on…
Sort by category: When sorting materials that all belong in the same category designate a “home” for that category for filing or storing later. This is meant to be a quick sort so you can destroy the stack.
Attack from different angles: The next time you attack that stack, start from the bottom, set the timer and GO! Next time, top; after that the bottom; and, if there’s anything left on the 5th try, cut the stack like a deck of cards and work from the middle!
Don’t forget: Set the Timer and STOP when the buzzer rings!
Once you’ve gotten this accomplished, be sure to write and let me know how it went.