5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.

When clutter knocks on your door, don’t let it in

Clutter is a disease. It’s a cancer of the heart and spirit that has a firm grip over too many of us, and we don’t seem to be able to loosen its hold.

Like cancer, you don’t even know how clutter took over or where it came from until – suddenly! – your schedule is full, your house is overwhelmed, and your life is an exhausted mess.

If we don’t take control of our lives, deciding what can enter our homes and take our time, and what cannot, everything will take advantage of us.

The result? A life where we are slaves to every item we have a whim for, every activity that comes our way, and every piece of waste that knocks on our door.

Clutter steals away our lives

If we don’t actively choose what we want our lives to be, someone else will choose for us.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that we should go hide under a rock, and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

However, I am stating that we need to actively decide what enters into our lives, starting with what comes in through the front door and the internet.

Learning to say no

Living in modern society means learning to say no to advertising, fashion, buy-me-now prompts, bargain deals, bulk buys, junk mail offers, time wasting specials, you-can-do-it-yourself crafting hobbies… the list goes on.

Navigating the madness means refusing to let other take control of your life, your space, your time – and your family.

It isn’t easy to learn, but minimalism – keeping the best, discarding the rest – is a skill that lies at the heart of controlling the inflow, and maintaining the outflow. It can help restore sanity, free time, energy, space and relaxation to your life.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

Decluttering before Christmas

One of the simplest and best habits to keep clutter under control during the holiday season – particularly kid clutter! – is to have a big clear out before Christmas.

My kids actually really enjoy clearing out their stuff prior to the Big Day. They associate getting rid of old belongings with making room for new, better items.

They see decluttering as a good thing, not a bad thing.

We set aside an entire day to do the job. Like most decluttering sessions, we work by category and give the process plenty of time. The kids themselves choose what is to go and what stays – although I’m there to help with suggestions and advice if they need it.

We set aside anything that is good enough to give to friends or to charity in a separate pile, and make sure it gets delivered right away.

Electronics and computer games go into a third pile, as they can be resold or traded for extra cash. The kids love this! So do I, as it’s an excellent lesson in how little things are worth once they become second-hand. The kids have become much wiser and now shop for their computer games in the “trade and save” section of the electronics store. They’ve wised up 🙂

We’re quite ruthless with the pre-Christmas clearout. My kids and I know, from experience, that once the new stuff arrives the old stuff would largely get ignored anyway. So it makes sense to pass it all on, so there’s plenty of room to appreciate the new stuff.

And you know what? We’ve never once regretted getting rid of anything. Not one thing.

So here’s my short list of tips for an effective pre-Christmas clearout:

    1. Give it plenty of time. Clearing out with my kids takes a whole day. Kids often take time to decide. Don’t push them.

    2. Work by category. An example of this is my daughter’s art supplies. Instead of sorting them where we find them, we gather everything together in one place, then sort them through, eliminating everything she doesn’t need or use. This sort of stuff sure piles up through the year!

    3. Suggest new owners. Help kids remember that their cast off items can be of genuine use to others. Their favourite shirt that no longer fits may make a friend very happy. A too-short jacket may keep another child warm through winter. Most children are kind by nature and love to know they are helping others.

    4. Remind them that new items are coming. If kids are wary about passing their old belongings on, remind them that Santa is on his way, and room will be needed for the new items!

    5. Teach them the value of trading and selling with high-priced items. Take the kids down with items to trade and sell and give them the money they earn from selling their items. They’ll soon want to get rid of more unused items, be sure of it!

    6. Bag up items right away and take the children to the charity drop-off with you. Kids need to feel that their generosity is doing others good. They should be a part of the whole process.

    7. Clean their rooms together, top to bottom, once the clearout is done. Teach your child to take pride in their personal space. There! Doesn’t that look terrific?!

Are you planning a pre-Christmas decluttering session? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, I’d love to hear them!

christmasballs2

Children will listen: How to raise a terrific kid

We all want our kids to grow up to be good people.

When I think of the sort of people I want my kids (son 11 and daughter 9) to be, I think of words like these:

Good… happy… kind… honest… trustworthy… fair… generous… hard-working… dedicated… genuine… thoughtful… responsible…

Everyone has their own vision of what they want their child to be as an adult. To get their child there isn’t hard: we just need to be consistent, solid people ourselves who model the behaviour we want our children to possess.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and it’s true. Parents who are responsible tend to raise responsible kids, and parents who steal raise up thieves.

We can say all the clever words in the world, but in the end our kids will practice what we practice. Our children will develop according to the behaviour we ourselves exhibit, not what we spout with empty words.

“Children may not obey, but children will listen, and see, and learn…”

Children may not obey, but children will watch and listen, paying attention to all you do. The following song is from the wonderful Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into The Woods”. Please listen.

When your child misbehaves, deal with it at immediately with appropriate consequences. Talk about how their behaviour affects others.

When a child has a tantrum, don’t let them get what they want because it’s easier than dealing with the ranting and yelling. And yes, teenagers have tantrums too! 😦

Be honest with your children, and create family rules that are fair for everyone.

Expect everyone to get decent sleep, to eat 3 meals a day of healthy food, to do work before play, to share the burden of household chores, to participate in family life instead of spending all time on devices or in front of screens.

Make sure the same rules apply to yourself too.

And apply society’s rules in your own home. This teaches kids that the rules apply to everyone, and that the law matters. Follow DVD and game age guidelines and recommendations, and don’t let your child watch or play dangerous, violent or adult-related content, no matter how “mature” you think they are.

Teach discipline with keeping rooms and common areas tidy, reducing clutter, cleaning regularly. Children need a clean, safe home, and want to be proud to invite friends over when a home feels like a home, not a dump. They feel shame when their home is a mess. Your child should never have to refuse friends a visit because the house is untidy.

Teach kids the value of money. Explain when items cost too much, and question the sense of receiving everything they want. Talk about respect for belongings, the value of work, and the importance of the environment.

Discuss the abuse of natural resources that is taking place due to consumerism. Teach your child to think through what all the stuff in our lives means for wild animals, river systems, wetlands and oceans.

So teach your child consequences. The law of cause and effect.
Talk about how it feels to be stolen from, and why stealing is wrong.
Talk about how it feels to be bullied, and why bullying is wrong.
Talk about safe homes and unsafe people, and how it feels to be safe, to keep others safe, and respect consent.
Talk about sex, and why sex is always, always between people who want to be there and choose to do whatever is happening.

None of this stuff is hard. Not one bit of it. But it’s all the work of parenthood that goes into raising a terrific kid, bit by bit, one drop at a time. Show them who you are, and by doing so you’ll show them who to be.

beachkids

Sick of consumerism? You might just be a minimalist!

Sick of consumerism?
Not into trashing the planet and buying stuff that you don’t need which immediately falls apart at discount stores?
Hate the idea of sweatshops and junk food and cruelty?

You might just be a minimalist!

I first heard about minimalism when I read a book years ago called Affluenza. At the time, I was living in a big city and spending every cent I had buying more stuff, but I didn’t know why. I was unhappy too but I didn’t know why.

I was trying to create my life in the image of something perfect – something other that what I was and what I had. Buying more stuff – which was supposed to be the solution – just resulted in more clutter and less happiness.

Oh, and more debt.

Affluenza is described in the book of that name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more“. I had a bad, bad case of it, and felt the need to get away.

I sold most of what I had and moved countries, yet the clutter followed me, along with the unhappiness. I learned you can’t run away from your problems. I also learned that different stuff wasn’t the solution to my unhappiness.

I concluded that the problem had to be me.

It was only years later that I finally recognised the real lesson within the pages of the book: that more stuff won’t ever make anyone happy. I started a serious move towards minimalism three years ago and shifted away from my addiction to accumulating stuff, finally beginning to make peace with who I am.

Consumerism and minimalism

Our society is trapped in a spiral of consumerism, debt and misery. How far each person is trapped differs, but it is certain that worldwide levels of depression and debt have never been higher, despite affluence being higher than ever.

In short, our stuff isn’t making us happy.

General happiness levels were higher during the two world wars. Just think about that for a minute. That’s how bad a spot we’re in right now. Something is seriously wrong.

Our lifestyle of overload in overdrive is making us obese, sick, stressed, overworked, debt-ridden and miserable.

So here’s what I discovered, after trying to live the perfect life, with the perfect stuff, at the perfect weight, with the perfect home and perfect clothes: Perfect doesn’t exist.

“Perfect” is a mirage. Just when you reach out to touch it, it shifts and changes, moves further away. As long as we try to base our happiness on stuff, and on our image, we’ll fail.

Even the celebrities don’t feel perfect. They’re rushing towards the next best thing, even faster and more crazily than the rest of us. They’re stuck on the mouse wheel, going nowhere for no purpose ten times faster.

That’s the trick of consumerism. Up to date right now? Give a month or so and the next trend will be in, or the next iPhone, or the next bigger flat screen TV, and we will be out of date, rushing like a mad thing to catch up.

More credit, more debt, the spiral downwards continues…

Minimalism changes everything. It’s the green flashing EXIT sign, the way out, if we want it to be.

The only way to win the consumerist game is to stop being a consumerist. Because there is no way to keep up-to-date without keeping up-to-debt.

So sit down and take a breath. Think about the type of person you want to be. Think about the things you want to do with your life – about the footprints you wish to leave behind for the world.

Do you really want to leave behind piles of sweatshop clothing that fell apart after a few wears and caused untold misery? Is that what you want for your epitaph?

Do you really want to leave behind piles of electronic waste because everything you bought was built with planned obsolescence?

Do you want to live on McJunk food that pays good people poor wages, and supports an obesity and diabetes epidemic in our population?

Who do you want to be?

When we buy less, we can be choosy. Instead of buying ten cheap t-shirts that will fall apart in weeks and were made in shocking conditions overseas, we can buy two or three good ones that last longer, and are made locally and sustainably.

Instead of buying that latest flat screen TV, maybe we can be happy with the old box TV we still have which is perfectly fine.

Maybe instead of buying junk jewellery, we can wear an inherited vintage piece that has a history with pride.

Minimalism starts with questioning what we actually need, and ends with finding an answer to suit ourselves, not society, or fashion, or anyone else. There’s no one right way to do minimalism – it’s whatever works for you. Some minimalists travel the world with just 51 items to their name, while others live in Dunedin with kids (*waves*), and are a work in progress, still finding their own level of belongings.

Do what works for you. Find your own path. Find the amount of belongings that work for you. The one thing all minimalists have in common is, they’re setting their own rules. They’re in charge. They’re finding their happiness in life, not in stuff. That’s what matters.

So do you think you might be minimalist? Take a look at your life, examine it. Find out. But if you think you’d like your life to be a journey with less stuff and more meaning, you just might be!

sidewayslotus_things

3 simple rules for keeping flat surfaces clear

Do flat surfaces in your home just seem to attract every single piece of junk that is lying around?

If you’re anything like me, flat surfaces have been an ongoing problem that can be hard to resolve – unless you have the tools and knowhow to stop them becoming serious clutter-collectors.

So here’s the three simple rules I use to keep flat surfaces clear:

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!
2. No more than three items on any flat surface.
3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I’ll be honest – these rules require discipline, and it takes time to learn to have discipline. But they’re great rules to have in your pocket, and they will keep flat surfaces clear if you begin to practice them throughout your home.

I talk about the 3 simple rules in a bit more detail below.

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!

In short, nobody wants you to display your clutter, your child’s dirty underwear or your unpaid gas bills!

Flat surfaces are for displaying items of value or purpose. They’re also for occasional use – for items we’re currently using then we put away again afterwards.

An example might be a television remote – we use it, rest it on a coffee table while we’re watching TV at night, then put it away safely in a drawer in when we’re done with watching.

In wet areas such as the kitchen, flat surfaces are for working and preparing food. Not for keeping knick-knacks and junk mail.

In the bathroom, flat surfaces are for personal grooming. Once we’re done using the flat surface to put our grooming tools on, the items are stored away again. Exceptions are a bar of soap, and maybe a glass containing toothbrushes and paste. Individual personal items should be stored out of sight and away, or a family bathroom can get cluttered really quickly!

If your flat surfaces are covered in stuff that isn’t “display” items or of current actual use, bag the items in a plastic bag, then sort through them. Discard anything you don’t use and find appropriate places for items of value and purpose.

2. No more than 3 items on any flat surface.

This is what I call my “Enid Blyton” rule, and it’s a good one 😉 In Blyton’s “The Naughtiest Girl in the School”, the protagonist learns that each child may have three items on her nightstand.

Three items should be enough for anyone on any flat surface. Having a set number of items for flat surfaces makes them easy to dust and keep clean, because you don’t have to move a host of items to wipe the surface down. It’s also safer in earthquakes or fires.

Some people choose to rotate their items, and others keep their items the same year after year. But the 3 item rule will help keep your flat surfaces clear.

flat surfaces clean

The top of my tallboy. Two perfume bottles and an antique horse that I’ve had for 30 years now. It’s easy to keep uncluttered surfaces clean 🙂

3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces about twice a week. My mother would be shocked at this – she wipes hers down every morning and night! 😉

Wiping down working surfaces helps keep things tidy. As you wipe, put away anything that shouldn’t be out on display, and bin anything that is post date. I’ve a habit of leaving cleaning products out after I’ve done with them, so wiping reminds me to put everything away.

For kitchens sponges and plugs, I keep a plastic container under the sink. I wring out anything that is wet, and store it out of sight. Because we have a dishwasher, there is no need to keep our plug and dishwashing liquid on the sink the whole time.

Items I keep on the kitchen bench all the time include: handwashing soap and the kettle. Sometimes the loaf of bread that is currently being eaten, as we go through a LOT of bread!

Why these rules? Why bother?

I like living in a relaxed, peaceful haven of a home. I don’t feel like I can ever truly relax when I’m looking around at piles of junk, washing to be sorted and put away, or clutter on flat surfaces.

Living in an uncluttered home is healthier, especially for people with allergies and disabilities. Clutter-free homes are easier to keep clean, and have lower levels of dust and dirt. It’s well-known that people who live in clutter-free homes are also relaxed and less stressed.

Then there’s the issue of health and safety. People have been trapped in homes and died in fires and earthquakes because their homes were too cluttered, especially in hallways and corridors. If nothing else, keep these narrow spaces absolutely clear.

Then there’s the cleaning. Anyone who is the principal cleaner in their home (*waves*) probably feels like they do enough of that already! Reducing the clutter makes cleaning easier and less time-consuming.

Give 3 simple rules for flat surfaces a try. Let me know how you get on! 🙂