There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m starting to see it. That was my big breakthrough recently. I surveyed the piles of paper on the bed and they seemed small. There weren’t a lot of boxes around me anymore. Decluttering stopped seeming endless, and started to appear finite. I’m getting there at long last, and you will too. I’ve been quite busy during all these months at home. While others are relaxing with family and house mates, playing games and puzzles and lego, I’ve tried to end years of hoarding and clutter with a firm view of a different future. Here’s the gist of my progress in productivity.
COVID and decluttering
Many people have used this year to do big tidy ups and get long-standing projects done and excess out of the way. Me, having returned from years overseas and unpacked some boxes that have been packed and stacked for well over a decade, seized the day and used the months on end of paid at-home time (thanks, welfare!) to get on top of the overload. A lot of paper projects, namely. So far, I’ve measured 15kg of paper decluttered. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been doing.
- I streamlined my filing system. In doing so, I have shredded and recycled four ring binders full of old documents like housing, bills and financial information.
- I found all my old budgeting notes and got rid of ALL of it.
- I opened up three large tubs of school work and have recycled most of my high school books, two extracurricular projects I did at uni, and two large binders of documents and photos from extensive studies in photography. I’m working on a third binder of study work at the moment, and there’s a few more to keep at for a while.
- I’ve set up one binder and two smaller folders for makeshift school paper. One for certificates and transcripts. One for uni admin, which came in handy when I had to query a student debt recently. In the binder I’m creating a portfolio of my work, best writing and photos from over the study years. Once everything has been sorted, these folders will get another cull to let go of more.
- I’ve divided up all those magazine articles I collected for years into categories and have already read and decluttered four categories’ worth.
- I let go of about 60 old cards – credit cards, loyalty cards, library cards, and so forth, and have started a habit of calling any company whose card I find, to ask them if the card is expired or valid. I have chopped up loads and put a bunch of them on apps to keep on my phone, streamlined.
- I’ve started to delete copies and copies of electronic files plus outdated documents and streamline my folders on my hard drive, with a view to having just one neat menu on a hard drive, and one back up in the cloud. All the excess discs and thumb drives and hard drives and cloud files will eventually be gone.
- I have divided my emails – five accounts, into folders in two apps (Gmail and Outlook), and keep on top of deleting incoming junk and emails, by going through them once every few days. Additionally, I’ve been routinely going back over old emails and spending half an hour reading and deleting, or bulk-deleting through the search tool. So far I’ve deleted thousands of old emails and I’m still going.
- I have been through all my medicines and beauty products and thrown out everything old, and used up quite a lot, then re-organised my bathroom drawer last week to have what I only use today at hand.
- I opened up a tub of old picture frames and updated my pictures and hung them on the wall. I’ll be printing a few newer photos to put in the last of the frames once COVID is done.
- I have bought canvas frames and mounted my collections of pins and keyrings. I donated a bunch of old keyrings to a kid who is going for a world record with his collection. For my stuff, I’m decluttering anything I don’t want to display.
- I’ve started work on my Shutterfly photobook project, and already am working on two separate books.
For me, being able to move forward with new habits means remembering my goal to not accumulate and repeat the past, and practice every day the habits required to keep on top of daily living. Good systems and practices can do wonders. I am currently in an experimental phase to figure out what works best for me, and I haven’t forgotten the important cue/action/reward foundation to set up good habits. Here are some things that are helping me.
- I keep my shredder plugged in and at all times, have a bag of paper to be recycled lurking around. When I handle anything, it goes through the shredder, into the recycling bag or the trash. If I have to keep it, I go into my office and find its new home straight away.
- I have places for donations and e-waste to go once handled. As soon as lockdown’s over, I’ll be able to throw them in the car and get rid of them out of the house.
- I have a table within sight in my living space, where my 5-minute jobs go. Today, when I had 20 minutes before a Zoom call, I grabbed a couple of items and made phone calls and handled them.
- I keep a pen and diary (open to today, always) on my dining table. When I’m eating, or just hanging in my living area, I jot down things I need to get done so I don’t forget. I check back every night to see where I’m at, and add anything for tomorrow.
- Any paper I’ve sorted, I’ve kept those piles by moving them into individual manila folders, and standing them up, labelled, in my bookcase. My current projects are in one magazine holder. Other piles are stored in other magazine holders within manila folders, ready to grab easily.
- I try to keep my living area and bedroom as clear as possible. All paper gets kept in the office so I can close it out of mind whenever I’m overwhelmed.
- I’ve ordered some desktop drawers to further divide and conquer, and some larger drawers to divide up some business and study documents for easy motivation and work.
- I make the effort to spend several evenings a week wandering into the office, finding a pile or category or folder and, with my favourite tunes on the radio, kick back and do some sorting. Likewise, if I feel like chilling on the couch, I’ll try to go through a few emails.
Meanwhile, I keep to the good systems I’ve established for daily life, so that I don’t burn out just being stuck at home and tired of the overwhelm. I aim to have good habits that I just don’t think about, so that my real energy goes in decluttering and solving the challenges I’m facing this year. Like I described in the Moments post about habits, I always go to bed with the dishwasher on or loaded, and a clean counter top. I always make my bed and open my blind in the morning – I can’t open it unless I’m dressed, so I rarely stay in my pjs all day long. I have allocated days for laundry, washing my hair and cleaning my house. Same goes for budgets each fortnight and large monthly shops and batch cooking. I also keep in mind my big goals and take steps each week to accomplish them. I guess I’m getting there.
For now, I’m keeping at it and learning from the process. I’m proud of how far I’ve come this year. The wonders of staying in one place, huh. Should’ve done it sooner.