How and Why to Declutter Your Children’s Toys

When I was pregnant with my first child, I took great care in designing her room and decorated it with a dozen or so meaningful toys. A blanket made by my sister in law that depicted a lullaby that was sung to my husband when he was younger and that we continue to sing to our children. My childhood stuffed animal from when I was a kid that I hoped she would snuggle and play with. A porcelain piggy bank decorated in beautiful teal and yellow flowers that I bought while pregnant in Chicago. Turtles that were knitted by the women in my family to welcome my sweet daughter into the world. A small stack of books that were either meaningful gifts or carefully selected by me and my husband. Her room was beautiful and I loved spending time in there as I daydreamed about my baby and who she would become.

Fast forward a few years and the scene is very different. While those meaningful toys from that first nursery remained, they were surrounded by heaps of other toys that didn’t always have a place in my heart (or my daughter’s). Some of these toys found their way into our homes via Santa (I couldn’t help myself those first couple of years!). Others were generously given by family and friends for holidays, birthdays or just because. I will admit that I got into a bad pattern of buying gifts for my daughter for the thrill of it (Happy Monday Jane!). I was focused on why I thought she needed the toy instead of remembering the bigger picture.

Children don’t need bins of toys to be happy. They crave time spent with us. They thrive playing outside, exploring their yards and the world around them. The toys piled up and I spent way too many hours organizing them and putting them away and being annoyed by them. It took me a long time to realize that my problem wasn’t my organization strategy, it was the sheer mass of toys we owned. I finally feel like I have a handle on this toy epidemic and I want to share my system in the hopes that it will simplify you and your children’s lives.

THE BIGGER PICTURE. First, it is absolutely necessary to clearly understand why you are doing this. What is the problem that inspired you to do this in the first place? Do your kids whine every time they are at a store and see a toy they want? Are you tired of spending your time putting away toys over and over again throughout your day? Are your kids constantly fighting over wanting the same toy, even though there are literally hundreds to choose from? Whatever your reason is, figure it out, write it down and refer back to it when the next steps get difficult.

TO INVOLVE THE KIDS OR NOT. One decision you will have to make is if you want to involve your kids or not in the decluttering process. With younger kids, I would suggest that you do this after they go to sleep or when they are not in the house. If your kids are older, including them probably makes the most sense.

I think it is important to remember that you are the boss here. Yes, your kids have their favorite toys and it would be cruel to get rid of those treasured objects, so don’t. But as parents, we have the hard job of being the adults and this is one of those times that you might have to put on your big girl/boy pants and be the boss. If the toy problem has gotten out of control and your kids are possessive about every single toy, it is your job to get ahold of the situation.

GATHER ALL THE TOYS. This might be daunting, but that is the point. I want you (and your kids) to see exactly how much stuff you own. Check the kids’ rooms, the playroom, outside, storage, the closets, etc. Pull everything off the shelves and make a massive pile. Take a picture while you’re at it so you can look back at this image when you need a reminder to not buy dozens of toys at their next birthday.

CREATE THREE PILES: Trash, donate and keep.

TRASH THE CRAP. Any broken toys or toys with missing pieces can be tossed. If you decide to keep a toy that has missing pieces because you are determined to find those missing parts, set a deadline for yourself and if you haven’t found them by then, throw it out and move on.

FIND THE FAVS. The favorites should be obvious. You will know when you see them most of the time. The ones that keeps your child’s attention for longer than five minutes. The ones that they play with every week. The ones that engage their imagination. The ones made of quality materials that still look beautiful years later. The stuffed animals that are worn from so many hugs, tea parties and nightly snuggles. These are the toys that deserve a special spot on the toy shelf.

DONATE, DONATE, DONATE. This is where you get to make the biggest dent in your horrendous toy pile. This is exciting people! I know it might be difficult to say goodbye as you stare into the eyes of that keychain doggy you bought your child in Atlantic City (oh wait, that was me), but it is time. When it gets hard, remember what motivated you to do this in the first place. Think back to your own childhood- can you remember your favorite toys? I doubt a hundred different toys come to mind. We all had a few prized possessions that were near and dear to our hearts and that is really all we needed. My best childhood memories involved playing in my yard, exploring the woods, hanging out with my friends, playing with my dolls and drawing in my room. So buckle down and be ruthless about donating the majority of the toys that are left.

EXAMPLES OF TOYS TO DONATE:

  • Anything free that came with your child’s burger and fries
  • Duplicates (do you really need three sets of toy keys and ten baby dolls? NO!)
  • Baby toys and books (if you are done having babies)
  • Anything that talks that you wish would shut up
  • Guilt ridden toys – those toys you have hung on to because they were gifts but they never graduated to the favs status
  • Character toys that train your kid to whine “I want that!” anytime they see something with Elmo’s face on it
  • Toys that don’t keep your kid’s attention or don’t add to their imagination
  • Outdoor riding toys that don’t get used- most of us have more than we need in this category

Congrats! You have now made your life as a parent much simpler and happier. I promise that you will love having less toys to manage and I will even bet that your kids will whine less and get even more involved in their play. Children get overwhelmed by too many choices and by reducing their toys, you are reducing their stress. From now on, take action by playing the gatekeeper when it comes to what toys may enter your home and your children’s lives.

TIPS:

  • If you are having a hard time reducing, give yourself a physical limit. Grab one bin per kid and only keep what will fit in those bins.
  • If there are toys you want to donate but you worry that your kid will be upset by their absence, hide them and wait to see if they notice. Just be careful not to do this with too many or else they will slyly sneak back into your kid’s room before you know it.
  • Remind your children (if you choose to involve them) that the toys you are donating will end up being a special “new” toy to another child. I realize that this won’t work for some kids but I have found that my daughter is more likely to part with something if she can imagine someone else playing with it.
  • If someone asks what to get your children for birthdays or holidays, suggest experience gifts. Passes to the zoo, tickets to a show, memberships to parks, swim classes etc. For Christmas, I used to write my nieces and nephews a card with a handful of fun ideas of things we could do together for our special date (they almost always picked making cookies as one of their two choices). This low cost idea was a fun experience for us all and the memories were way more valuable than whatever toy I would have bought them. Also, their parents loved the fact that I wasn’t adding to their toy clutter.
  • Implement a toy in toy out rule. Every time your child is gifted a toy, they can choose a toy to donate. This way you won’t find yourself back where you started next year.
  • Limit the amount of toys you give to your own kids. Instead of piles of gifts for their birthday, let them pick an activity to do with you. Maybe an ice cream date with just Daddy. Sleep in a tent in the backyard one night. Take them iceskating in the city. Think outside the box (literally, bahaha!).
  • Create a toy library and put half of the toys in there to be traded out when your kids are starting to get bored of their toys. These toys will feel new and exciting to them and you might even get a break as they play with them. Score! I also created a book library where 80% of our children books live. My daughter loves to trade out books every month or so.
  • Quality over quantity. When you buy things for your kids, choose a high quality item over a bunch of cheaper, crappier items. While you’re at it, do this same thing when you buy for other people’s kids and their parents will thank you!

HAVE YOU SUCCESSFULLY DONE A TOY PURGE? WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR KEEPING THE INFLOW TO A MINIMUM? WHAT POSITIVE CHANGES HAVE RESULTED? I WOULD ALSO LOVE TO HEAR YOUR REASONS FOR WANTING TO REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TOYS IN YOUR HOUSE. THANKS FOR READING!

Maximize Your Passions, Minimize the Rest

Take a look around your home and see if your passions are obvious. Do you have balls of yarn and sewing projects, strewn around your home? Multiple bookshelves packed tight with books of your favorite subjects? Closets full of shoes for every occasion? A ridiculous amount of pens ands journals that make your heart flutter when you look at them? Cupboards full of baking accessories? Piles of comic books on your nightstand?

We all have belongings that bring us oodles of happiness, but they often don’t shine as brightly because they are surrounded by mountains of crap. Decluttering is the best way to recharge those items with the joy they once brought you.

Sometimes we hold onto hobby related items because we think we might want to pursue those projects in the future or because we feel guilty getting rid of something we spent good money on. Every time I saw my poor bag of knitting needles and half finished scarves, I felt shitty. Like I had failed and that I needed to give knitting another shot. I am finally realizing that that is bull shit. The reason I retired those needles over and over again is simply because I don’t like knitting! I didn’t want to admit that to myself because I love the idea of being a knitter, the only problem is I don’t like to knit. I absolutely hate pulling out all of my progress to fix a previous mistake. I always mess up when trying to count my rows because I have the attention span of a goldfish. Knitting doesn’t make me happy and that is perfectly fine!

Photography on the other hand, I love the shit out of photography. I frame my photos and display them on picture ledges. I print them and make projects out of them. I design photo books and look through them when the mood strikes me. I post my photos on social media and then turn those posts into Chatbooks that my family and I occasionally read as bedtime stories (narcissistic much?). I use them to create personalized Christmas gifts. I get so much joy out of editing them in the evenings while sipping on a glass of wine and watching a show. Oh sweet bliss, how I love photography!

There was a time though, that I didn’t take full advantage of my photos like I do now. If I felt inspired and attempted to make a project or decided to print my favorites, I got discouraged by the sheer mass of photos I had collected. Boxes of old photos tucked away in storage were filled with duplicates, too many photos of ex boyfriends, and embarrassing ‘artsy’ photos from my high school days. Even worse was the digital mess. I had dozens of CDs worth of photos from my first point and shoot camera and literally thousands of unedited photos filling multiple hard drives as well as my computer. I would get so overwhelmed that the inspiration would fizzle out and the projects never came to fruition.

After taking the time (and it took a hell of a lot of time) to declutter and organize my photos, I am now able to access them quickly and easily. Yes, I still have thousands of photos and that is perfectly okay. That is wonderful! It isn’t about the number of items you keep relating to your hobby. It is about keeping only the ones you love and getting rid of the rest.

review:

Discard the hobbies that don’t hold your interest anymore.

Pinpoint which items in your home you are passionate about and edit them down to only the things that truly make you happy.

Find an organizational system that makes your things accessible and looks beautiful.

 

Declutter Your Digital Life

Digital clutter might not feel like much of a  problem since most of us have an abundance of digital storage, but filling your hard drive and your devices with crap you don’t want or even use will hinder your productivity big time. It’s like filing your basement with everything you’ve ever owned, just because you have the space. Clearing this digital clutter will save you time and help you stay on top of your shit. Here are a variety of ways to simplify your digital life:

Organize your phone apps

Yes, even your phone needs to be decluttered.

First, delete any apps you don’t use anymore or don’t want to use anymore.

Next, delete the folder system. You might think this is a weird suggestion, but all those folders do is create one more step between you and Facebook (you wouldn’t want that, would you?). Folders make it harder to find the app you are looking for and also makes you more likely to keep unused apps since they are somewhat hidden.

Finally, organize your apps so that the ones you use most often are on your home screen. I keep three screens worth of apps and my third screen houses games for my kids and apps aren’t able to be deleted. I rarely have to stray from my home screen and I can see my most used apps at a glance.

Be the boss of your inbox

I know email isn’t sexy (although inbox zero sure is), but it is something everyone needs to deal with and it can either stress you out or help you out. To avoid letting your inbox get out of hand, check your email daily just as you would check your actual mailbox every day.  The only emails you should be keeping in your inbox are ones you’ve purposely left there to be dealt with at a certain time. If your reply would only take a few minutes, try to reply immediately. If you’ve received spam or unwanted subscriptions, unsubscribe immediately (I don’t know why it took me years to figure this out, but unsubscribing makes dealing with email so much simpler and takes just a few seconds).

You can even use cool websites like this one to view all of your subscriptions at once. (Unroll.me will only let you unsubscribe to five subscriptions before asking you to promote their site to get unlimited access. What I did was just use the unroll me site to view my master list and then I unsubscribed the old fashioned way.)

CLEAN UP YOUR BOOKMARKS

If you use your computer a lot, you probably have accumulated a ton of bookmarks that you rarely use. Delete the ones you don’t need anymore and organize the rest. This is where I actually love the use of folders. I have a folder for my photography business and a folder for my blog and it keeps me organized and focused and also makes it so I don’t have dozens of bookmarks cluttering my toolbar.

FREE YOUR CAMERA PHONE

I can’t tell you how long I lived with a perfectly good camera phone that never worked because I had used up all of my free space. If I was desperate to take a photo, I would frantically try to delete photos, videos and even text message threads to get enough space to take the damn photo and by then, the moment was usually gone. I know I am not alone here. When my girlfriends were visiting from out of town, the five of us tried to take a selfie and all five of our phones were full. Enough is enough people!

  1. Once a month, go through all the photos on your phone and delete as harshly as possible (I know that right now, having multiple of you and your boyfriend drinking mimosas on Sunday morning makes sense, but it won’t in a couple of years). Pro tip: I’ve found that adding this as a task to my Bullet Journal keeps me from putting this off.
  2. If you have an iPhone, don’t forget to go to your albums and find the “recently deleted” folder (who’s terrible idea was this anyway?), select and then press ‘delete all’ to actually free up the space on your phone.
  3. Back up your photos. There are many ways to do this (don’t you worry, I will write a whole post about this since it took me forever to develop a system that works). I use Image Capture to import the photos to my computer, and then back them up to my external hard drive and my online backup system Crashplan so I never have to worry about losing my precious photos. Before disconnecting from Image Capture, I delete all the photos from my phone. Ahhh, best feeling ever.
TIDY YOUR DESKTOP

Don’t let your desktop get out of hand with folders, photos and screenshots cluttering your view. When you turn on your computer, you should be welcomed by a beautiful image that makes you smile. I try to only use my desktop to store things that I need to deal with. Right now I have a folder of photos that I plan to back up to my hard drive and a screen shot of a quote that I want to write down in my Bullet Journal. If you decide to ignore this tip, at least keep the chaos organized by putting everything in neat columns.

SIMPLIFY YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

When I say ‘simplify your social media’, I am not suggesting you give up Facebook or reign in your tweets. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I don’t hold back when it comes to sharing photos of my family.) If that is a fun outlet for you or a way for you to feel connected when you don’t have the energy to actually connect, then keep it up.

What I am suggesting is that you be intentional about which sites you sign up for and how wide of a circle of friends/followers/tweeters (can you tell I don’t tweet?) you allow into your virtual space. Social media is a wonderful thing that can add to your life, but if you never edit the constant inflow, it will start to morph into a plague that eats away at your soul (A bit much? Maybe not). Pare down your subreddits to just the ones that excite you. Hide or unfriend your Facebook friends that bring you down. Don’t sign up for the latest and greatest social media if you already feel overwhelmed by how often you are staring at a screen. Reduce the amount of boards you have on Pinterest so that you will be inspired when you look at them.

These sites are meant to add to our lives, not take over our lives. By decluttering your social media, you will get more out of these sites and you will avoid wasting your precious time on cat videos (unless you’re into that kind of thing).

SHUSH YOUR NOTIFICATIONS

Turn off your damn notifications. Push notifications are exactly what they say they are, pushy. Do you really need to know that someone liked your photo on Instagram while you are eating dinner with your family? Save that shit for the toilet! (For real, that is a great time to check on your likes). Notifications are ugly to look at and make you feel like you are slacking. How backwards is that? Look over here, there are 4 new things happening on Facebook! Two people liked your witty status! Some person you don’t know also congratulated your friend on having a baby! Quiet the noise and be in charge of when you want to check in with your apps instead of letting them be in charge of you.

10 Ways KonMari-ing My Shit Changed My Life

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life” – Marie Kondo

My obsession with decluttering began when I read Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  No joke, it literally changed my life.

Kondo’s philosophy is that you should touch every single one of your belongings and only keep what ‘sparks joy’. This process of discarding should happen all at once and be done intensely and completely (it took me about three months). She believes that your home has all the storage you need and urges her readers to tidy first before deciding where to store your things.

Here are ten ways applying the Marie Kondo commandments to my home changed my life:

1. I KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS

When you only keep the things you love and designate a home for each thing, you know where all your crap is. Even when I lived in a much smaller apartment, I still didn’t know where everything was. I would spend way too much time searching through my stuff and it would drive me bonkers. Knowing exactly where every item is in your home helps you avoid buying unnecessary duplicates and saves you a ton of time.

2. MY BASEMENT IS NO LONGER A STORAGE UNIT

Luckily, I KonMari’d my shit within the first couple years of having my very own basement. Still, I accumulated quite a lot within that first year. I figured, what is the harm in keeping something I might want one day in the basement since I have so much space down there? Having the space is not reason enough to keep something! It is a slippery slope to having a bunch of crap that will take days and days to go through and will stress you out in the meantime.

You might not want to think about this, but eventually you are going to die and someone else is going to have to go through all of your stuff and that someone is most likely going to be a family member whom you love. You don’t want that for them, so make it a point not to use your basement as a storage unit.

If you are lucky enough to have a dry, normal smelling basement like me, then you can take full advantage of this space. I use mine to do laundry (no choice there), play pool (okay my husband is the one that does this, I am usually too tired at the end of the day to do anything involving standing), and play with my kids. We set up a playroom in the corner of my basement and it is quite possibly my kids’ favorite room in the house. My three year old often chooses to have her quiet time down there and my nine month old kicks in excitement when the door to the basement opens (weird, right?). So make the most out of your basement and don’t make the mistake of using it to store all of the shit you don’t actually need.

3. FOLDING LAUNDRY IS FUN

Dork alert! Kondo’s promise that you will love to fold your laundry doesn’t come to fruition for everyone, but it did for me. I usually spend a day getting all the laundry clean before diving into the big folding ceremony. I hesitate to say this, but I even save this ‘event’ for the evening when I can watch a show (or listen to a podcast) while folding it all in one fell swoop. I am a tad controlling of how my clothes get folded so I won’t even let my husband help when he offers.  I love making the little piles and then neatly stacking them into the laundry basket to be distributed the next day. Seeing my clothes all standing at attention in their drawers just does it for me. When you only keep the clothes that “spark joy”, you learn to take better care of them which is evident in how you fold and store them.

4. ADDRESSING ISSUES WITH THE THINGS I LOVE

When going through my clothes, I was deciding if a knit sweater was worth keeping. I loved it but I never wore it because it had a snag that drove me crazy (type A people can relate). When I decided to keep it, I googled how to fix it (turn it inside out, pull snag through and tie a knot). Those Sperry shoes my husband bought me for Christmas a few years back, but they give me blisters so I never wear them? I googled that one too. (Believe it or not there were many articles on how to fix this problem. I went with wearing them with thick socks for a few hours and blow drying the heel. Supposedly soaking them in salt water and then wearing them until they are dry works wonders as well.) One of my favorite necklaces that broke? Sent an email to the designer who graciously fixed it and sent it back looking even better than when I first bought it.  I used to feel shitty every time I saw those unworn shoes from my husband or that broken necklace but no longer my friends. Now, they fill me with delight because I took the time to bring them back to life.

5. I HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE WHEN I GET DRESSED

One of my favorite changes has been in my closet and drawers. If you have been to my house in the past year or so, it is very likely that I have offered to show you my t-shirt drawer and possibly even my underwear drawer (oh yeah baby!).

Before my KonMari purge when I would get dressed up (aka not wear my active wear), I would try on a handful of outfits and end up feeling discouraged. My room would look like a tornado hit which ya’ll know is not great for post date night romance. If the outfit was snug in all the wrong places, I would be reminded that I should lose those fifteen pounds. If the style was a passing trend, I would question my personal style and wonder if my clothes were dated. If I recently bought a shirt but never wore it, then I would feel guilty about the money I wasted. Not a great way to get excited for a rare evening out.

Donating these clothes that caused me strife was incredibly freeing. That dress that was cute on the hanger but was way too girly for me. The jeans that fit fine but that I was never excited to wear. Those button up cardigans I bought because I thought they were a necessary wardrobe staple.  That workout shirt that only ever fit for a few weeks after running a half marathon. I freed myself of all of those clothes that didn’t represent who I am today and the experience left me feeling confident and happy.

Now, I love every single one of my outfits and I am choosing between the things that make me feel great about myself.  I have a better sense of my style and getting dressed takes just a few minutes.

6. GUILT FREE HOME

One of the most gratifying parts of the tidying up process is liberating yourself from objects whose only attachment to you is guilt. I had no idea my home was brimming with things that made me feel terrible. A gift that I no longer wanted but kept out of guilt. The fancy blazer I bought within a month of having my first baby because I was going though a new mommy identity crisis (I literally never wore the damn thing and it hung in my closet for years, laughing at me and my stay at home mom-ness).

Seeing these things every day was bringing me down without me even realizing it. Such freedom when I released these things back into the world where someone might actually use them and love them, and I could stop feeling shitty about their uselessness in my life.

7. GLORIOUS EMPTY SPACE

Oh how I love empty spaces! Never in my life have I not had to stuff my clothes into my drawers when putting away laundry. This alone is worth the effort of tidying up. Even better, an entire drawer being empty! I could hardly believe it was possible. Even my bathing suits have a dedicated drawer just for the fun of it.

Empty surfaces are my jam. I have a frame on my dresser and nothing else and this makes me happy every single morning. (It also makes it way easier to clean.) I cleared off my kitchen island entirely which thrills me every time I lay my eyes on it. I tidied up my kitchen counters by storing my microwave in my pantry and my toaster with my pots and pans. My clutter free kitchen makes cleaning a breeze, provides more space for cooking and creates an overall happier experience in the kitchen (which is great since I spend half my time there somedays).

My mind instantly relaxes when I am near these spaces. Filling every corner and stuffing every closet creates a sea of distractions where we can never just be in the moment or get one thing done to completion. (Need some help creating an empty space in your home? Check out this post.)

8. RIP THRIFT STORE OBSESSION

Oh thrift stores, I love you and hate you simultaneously. I was in the habit of going to my favorite thrift store weekly, sometimes with purpose, but mostly to get that jolt of energy from buying something to add to my home. A picture frame, a mirror, random glassware, whatever. I was also letting my kid pick out a new book (or five) every time and the piles of books were accumulating faster than I could read them. I thought I was being responsible because these things were used and therefore cheaper, but I was turning my home into a collection of random shit and was wasting hours of time in the process. Breaking up with my thrift store obsession has been liberating to say the least (although a few of the things I bought there made the cut and so it wasn’t ALL bad). Next up, break up with Target (gah, I don’t know if I’m ready!).

9. USING THE THINGS YOU KEEP

When you hold an object in your hand and you realize it does spark joy, it is like you reenergize that item that had been collecting dust. If the things you love are mixed up with all of your other belongings, it is hard to even notice them. After decluttering, I began drawing again which I hadn’t done in years. My CDs which had been dormant for years were transferred to my computer and then donated. All those songs I used to love are now on my phone and I can listen to them any time. I kept a handful of my daughter’s newborn clothes and decided to hang my two favorites in her room so I would see them every day (this is also helpful when your kid is driving you nuts and you need a reminder of how little they used to be…  although even that doesn’t always help when the threenager is full throttle). It is like I have activated these things that had been forgotten, and now they are apart of my life in a meaningful way.

10. ROOM TO GROW

And now, the ultimate goal of decluttering – attaining a clear vision of how you want to spend your time and your life. What is working and what isn’t? What do you want your days to look like?

The things that haven’t been working in my life were much harder to ignore after going through this process. I knew what I needed to weed out next, even if I wasn’t ready to address it right away. My unhealthy habits were lining up, waiting for me to KonMari them next. This is where I am at now and it is even more life changing than donating half of my stuff. This is the meaty part of life. The self reflection. The bigger picture. Living with intentions instead of drifting through life. Decluttering your stuff is just the beginning and it sets you up perfectly to take the next step which you’ve subconsciously been longing for.

I would love to hear if you have been bitTen by the konmari bug. Leave a comment explaining how Kon Mari has changed your life for the better.

Make a Change, Part III: Make Room for Change

You’ve written your sucky life list and your kick ass life list and you’re revved up for how to set this plan into motion. In order to change your life, you need to clear some space in your schedule. Being busy all the time is killing your ability to try something new, which means you are stuck doing the same old same old and your life is passing you by. Decluttering your to do list, social calendar and unfavorable habits will make room to accomplish the things on your kick ass life list. Decluttering is not about restricting yourself. It is about releasing the time sucking activities and allowing you to envision the life you want.

I am not someone that likes to restrain myself, but when I decided to cut back on a couple of things that were adversely affecting my life (chocolate and TV to be more specific), a sea of opportunities flooded my way. I found myself doing new things that I hadn’t even realized I wanted to do. I began blogging, listening to podcasts, running, going on adventures with my family, enjoying the outdoors more, and began cooking new meals for my family. Before, I was mindlessly watching TV every evening while snacking continuously until I went to bed.  My dessert obsession was a huge distraction throughout my days and it was getting in the way of me doing the things I actually wanted to do. Breaking those habits that were hardwired into my life was liberating. After that, I decided to write these lists in the hopes that I could continue down this path of enriching my life with new experiences.

This process of reducing the things that are taking up your time is uncomfortable. If you decide to cancel cable like I did (and intentionally watch less Netflix/HBO), you might find yourself at a loss of what to do with yourself. You’re not used to having free time and it feels uneasy and possibly distressing. Don’t shy away from this! Embrace this time and see what happens. It is amazing how the ideas start to trickle in. Maybe ideas that you wrote down on your list, maybe something completely different. Be patient and see what happens. Find a way to carve out a couple of hours at night or maybe even a whole weekend if you can. Then allow yourself to fill that time with something different. Start to create the life you had imagined but didn’t have the time or energy for. The results will surly be life changing.

Teeny Tidy Task #1 Clear One Surface

Home should be a place that comforts and reenergizes you, not a source of anxiety. The cause of this stress can sometimes be the piles of stuff cluttering our homes, which interrupts our productivity and stresses us the F out.

When you are trying to accomplish something, it is easy to get sidetracked by cluttered surfaces that are vying for your attention: unopened mail on the kitchen counter, dirty dishes from breakfast on the dining room table, tools that never got returned to the basement, yesterday’s jeans left on the dresser because you’re hoping to squeeze one more wear out of them. All of these things are fighting for your attention, which results in you feeling stressed out simply by walking from one room to the next. You end up forsaking your original task in favor of getting comfy on the couch to check Facebook and zone the hell out.

By decluttering your surfaces, you invite a sense of calm and order to your home. This results in you feeling at peace and arms you with the focus to conquer whichever task comes your way.

My first Teeny Tidy Task challenge to you is this: clear one of the cluttered surfaces in your home and keep it clean and tidy for one week. Here are five steps to make it happen:

1. CHOOSING A SURFACE

Time to choose a surface, the messier the better. Here are some clutter magnets you might consider: the top of the dresser, the kitchen island, the bedside table, the desk if you’re brave enough, the coffee table, the top of a bookshelf, the kitchen counter, the shelves in your bathroom, your kid’s toy shelf, the top of your refrigerator, etc. Choose a spot that you can manage to keep clean for an entire week.

2. EVERY ITEM NEEDS A HOME

Find a home for every item cluttering your space. Depending on which surface you choose, this step could take some time.

If you picked your dresser because you let your dirty clothes pile up there, then you need to focus on changing your habit and take the time to put the clothes where they belong at the end of the day.

If you chose your kitchen counter, then you need to be militant about getting those dishes cleaned (or at least put into the sink temporarily) and get creative about where you are going to store the appliances taking up your precious counter space.

If you chose your desk, you might have a lot of papers to sort and bills to pay and you’ll need to come up with a plan to avoid letting those things accumulate in the future.

3. Clean YOUR SPACE

Time to break out the cleaning supplies and clean the crap out of whatever area you chose. Don’t do a half ass job here. Make it look gorgeous so that you aren’t tempted to dirty it up anytime soon.

4. The Joy of an EMPTY SPACE

Consider leaving your surface completely blank. If you know having a lamp and a framed photo will bring you great joy, then go for it. Just don’t over do it.

Certain items are necessary, but you might be surprised by what isn’t. Maybe you have an alarm clock but you only ever use the alarm on your phone. Try storing the alarm clock down in the basement and see if you miss it. We forget to question why we keep things like this simply because they have always been there. Question every item that you want to keep on your surface so that you are left with only things you love or are very useful.

5. DEFEND YOUR CLEARED SURFACE WITH YOUR LIFE

Embrace your inner neat freak and keep that space meticulously clean and tidy. If someone in your home dares to clutter up this precious space, deal with it right away and put that crap anywhere else but there.

This is where the magic happens. As you go through your week, notice how you feel when you see that tidied area in your home. The calmness that ensues from these empty spaces is one of my greatest joys. Okay, that’s a little much, but damn if it doesn’t feel great.

Leave a comment SAYING which surface you chose and if you felt any magic as a result of this experiment.