Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The 2010 50 Things Challenge Wrap-Up

Tip of the Week, June 20, 2010

We've reached the end of the 2010 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge, and I'm truly impressed: many of you not only stepped up to the Challenge but went above and beyond, letting go of more than 50 things over the past 5 weeks. Congratulations! As we wrap up the Challenge, I want to share with you some of the things that went (it's an impressive list), as well as some of the lessons learned by Challenge participants--all of which you can use to keep up your own decluttering efforts year-round.

What Went
This is always my favorite part of the Challenge: the big reveal. I've loved reading the lists of stuff people parted with during this event. Here are some of the highlights:
  • An old mattress and box spring
  • Books, books, and more books (one participant, who re-sells books on Amazon, managed to part with and ship out 75 of them in one week alone)
  • 11 jigsaw puzzles
  • Unwanted holiday decorations
  • Several old electronics, including several printers and outdated PDAs
  • Various pieces of furniture and decorative items, including desks; a wicker chair, end table, and basket set; and a smattering of lamps
  • Paper. Wow, did you all go to town on the paper, from old greeting cards and notes to magazines to old bills to unneeded reference info.
  • A waffle iron, kitchen tools that were too bulky, a cast iron skillet, and an array of dishes, glasses, and other kitchenware
  • Supplies for craft projects that never happened
  • Clothes, shoes, ties, bathing suits, belts, and luggage
  • An unwanted 6-pack of beer and a bottle of soju
  • Bunches of cd's, cassettes, and VHS tapes
  • A volunteer role (treasurer of a foundation) that had run its course
My own Challenge cast-offs included some pantry supplies that had been lingering in my kitchen for years, a bunch of recipes I was never going to make, some expired medications, a big stack of used file folders, and many, many pounds of paper.

What Worked
The Challenge participants who successfully met (or exceeded) the 50 things target used a few different techniques and tactics to clear things out. Here are a few of them:
  • Make it a joint effort. My brother and sister-in-law took the Challenge together to engage in a bit of friendly competition, and to keep each other motivated.
  • Take advantage of surprise opportunities. When she discovered that some necessary repair work in her basement couldn't happen until she cleared out some of the stuff that was there, Paula Naylor took the opportunity to do a big chunk of weeding.
  • Let a scheduled event spur you to action. Reader Kathy Bold decided that an upcoming rummage sale at her church would be the beneficiary of many of the items she parted with during the Challenge. She kept the sale in mind as she went through her house--and wound up finding more than 30 things to donate.
  • Make it a mini-business. Shawn Murphy, the seller of many books mentioned above, knew there was money to be made in weeding out and selling some of her unwanted tomes. Janet Critchley sold some high quality (but unwanted) kitchen items on Craigslist, cashing in on their value while clearing space in her kitchen.
  • Use some tough love. Even though I do quite a bit of weeding throughout the year, there are definitely things I've been holding on to for flimsy reasons. Those bathing suits I've had since I was 26: they still fit, but was that reason enough to keep them? The wrist braces I used when I had carpal tunnel syndrome (12 years ago!): could I really anticipate a time when I'd need them again? By asking myself the kinds of questions I ask my clients, I was able to see that it was time to let go of these things (and others like them), and that what's worth keeping is the stuff that's useful, meaningful, and enjoyable to me in my life as I'm living it now.

And the Winner Is...
Challenge participants who sent me their lists of what they'd gotten rid of were entered into drawing for a free copy of Organizing Your Home or one of my e-books. The winner: Kathy Bold. Congratulations, Kathy, and kudos on your success during the Challenge!

Here's hoping the 2010 50 Things Challenge has inspired you to clear the clutter, focus on what's truly important, and start living a richer, more organized life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The 2010 50 Things Challenge, Week 5: Tips for Last-Minute Success

Tip of the Week, June 13, 2010

It's the final week of the 2010 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge, and the results so far have been impressive. If, like me, you're on your way to parting with 50 things that have been cluttering your life but aren't quite there, this week's Tip can help give you the nudge you need.

Since I'm still a few (ok, about 25!) things shy of my 50-things goal, I'll be taking some time this week to do the tasks below, which are designed to help me uncover and weed out unwanted, unneeded stuff. I hope they'll also help you find the clutter lurking in your space.

Task #1: Go Through My Dresser and Closet
Confession time: there are clothes loitering in my dresser and closet that I literally haven't worn for years. I keep looking at them and thinking, Yup, I'll wear those things someday soon. Guess what? It's not gonna happen. So this week I'm going on a drawer-by-drawer, hanger-by-hanger quest to pull out the Great Unworns and then tote them off to a local charity.
What's lurking in your wardrobe that could go the same route?

Task #2: Browse Through My Bookshelves
Book storage space is a very limited resource in my house, so each time I get a new batch of books, they pile up until I clear out some of the older volumes I'm no longer interested in or unlikely to re-read. Judging by the number of new books stacked around the house, it's high time to do some culling. The tomes I part with will go to a secondhand bookstore for resale or to the Friends of the Library shop near me. Are there books on your shelves you're ready to let go?

Task #3: Take a Look in the Basement
Though I manage to keep my storage space in the basement fairly well under control, it does tend to be the place where things go to languish. Do I really need all of the empty shipping boxes, old suitcases, extra bedding, and miscellaneous odds and ends that have wound up there? Nope. This week, out they go. What would you be able to part with if you sorted through your basement, attic, or garage?

Task #4: Open Every Drawer and Cabinet
Finally, because what's out of sight is so often what's out of mind, I've set a goal of going through each drawer and cabinet in the house to re-discover what's there, and to weed out whatever doesn't deserve to stay. My aim isn't necessarily to clear things out of each and every drawer and cabinet--some will likely be just fine as they are--but instead to reconnect with what's there. (I might just find a treasure I've forgotten about.) What's in your drawers, closets, and cabinets that you don't need, use, love, or find beautiful?

Choose a few (or all) of these tasks to help nudge yourself across the finish line during this last week of the Challenge.

Congratulations on making it this far through the challenge--and here's to a great final week!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The 2010 50 Things Challenge, Week 4: More Ideas on How to Get Rid of Things

Tip of the Week, June 6, 2010

Welcome to Week 4 of the 2010 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge. I've been hearing great things from Challenge participants about the things they're clearing out of their lives, from unneeded kitchen ware to unfinished craft projects to furniture that has called it quits. Kudos to all of you who've been working on letting go of things, and keep up the great work!

Last week's Tip discussed how to find resources for donating or recycling the stuff you're parting with. This week, we'll cover three other options for getting rid of things: selling them, swapping them, and using them up.

Option #1: Sell
While not everything you part with during the 50 Things Challenge is likely to be saleable, chances are at least a few of the things you're ready to say adios to could net you some cash. Selling items you no longer want, need, or use is a great way to clear them out of your space and to profit--literally!--in the process.

Depending on what you're letting go, there are a few different routes you could take to sell your items:
  • Craigslist is a great resource for large, heavy, or bulky things that can't easily be shipped, such as furniture. Posting items for sale on Craigslist is free, but it can take time to write up your ad, field inquiries, and meet with interested buyers. The upside: in most cases, buyers will be responsible for hauling away their purchases, which can save you effort.
  • A yard sale is a good option if you have multiple things to sell and the willingness to coordinate a sale. Because sales do require a hefty dose of time, effort, and energy, it's worth being very honest with yourself about whether the things you're looking to part with will garner enough money to make it all worthwhile. For extensive advice and ideas on having a successful sale, check out the Yard Sale Queen's website.
  • Finally, if you're parting with books, designer clothing or bags, collectibles, or other small, in-demand items, you might consider selling through an online venue like eBay or Amazon Marketplace. Again, you'll want to be sure your stuff will fetch enough money to make it worth your time and effort to post it, field inquiries, and ship it, but if it is, you stand to make a decent profit on your cast-offs.
Option #2: Swap
For a middle ground between selling and donating, consider holding a swap party with friends and neighbors. At a swap party, you'll have the chance to exchange items you no longer need for things you can put to use. Check out this Tip from last spring for pointers on how to throw a fun and effective swap party. One word of caution: whether you host a swap party or simply attend one, be very mindful of leaving with less than you came with. If there are items left over at the end of the party, plan to bring them to a charity so they don't wind up as clutter.

Option #3: Use Up
Finally, the next few weeks are the perfect time to get rid of consumables by using them up. If you've been holding onto extra toiletries, food items, or similar items because they still seem useful and you're determined to extract value from them, now's the time! Make a concerted effort to finish off those mostly empty bottles of shampoo, to cook creatively with the pantry items you don't normally use that are lurking around, and to tackle your reading pile and then recycle the magazines, newspapers, and newsletters in it when you're done.

Here's to your continued success during Week 4 of the Challenge!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The 2010 50 Things Challenge, Week 3: How to Get Rid of Things

Tip of the Week, May 30, 2010

It's Week 3 of the 2010 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge. Last week, we looked at how to decide what to let go of. For the next two weeks, we'll focus on what to do with the stuff you've decided to part with so you can move it out of your space and start to clear room in your life. First up: donating and recycling.

Option #1: Donate
One of the easiest, most effective, and most beneficial ways of clearing out things you no longer need is to donate them to a group or individual who can put them to use. Depending on the types of stuff you're parting with, there are a few different possibilities for donation.
  • If you're letting go of stuff that runs the gamut from clothes to kitchen ware to furniture, you might want to go with a one-stop shop like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, which will take many kinds of things and will sell them to fund the programs they run.
  • Have several items of one type, such as books, business suits, or tools? Consider searching out a charity that will use them in its programs or directly with its clients. For example, Dress for Success accepts career wear that's in good condition, which it offers free of charge to the clients it serves.
  • Letting go of special items that you'd like to see in the hands of people who'll truly cherish them? Take the time to match your giveaways with the right recipients. For example, a local museum might like old photos or historical items handed down to you by family members, while a friend who's an avid handyperson might appreciate the set of tools you always intended to put to use but never did (and, in exchange, might even be willing to perform a few small repairs or home maintenance tasks for you).
To find donation resources in your area, try Googling the type of thing you'd like to give away, your town or city, and the word "donate" (for example, "donate books Sioux City"), or check with your town hall, community center, or house of worship. Another option is the Freecycle Network, which lets people post items for donation through an online bulletin board and an e-mail list.

Option #2: Recycle
For things you're ready to part with that aren't in good enough shape to be donated, consider recycling. While curbside recycling, which is part of many waste-disposal programs, is a great option for material like paper, plastic, and glass, you'll likely have at least a few specialized items to deal with.

Many municipalities have online directories with information on how to recycle everything from styrofoam to cell phones to unwanted medications; a simple search for "recycling directory" gave me results from Denver, Florida, Minnesota, San Francisco, and Wyoming on the first page, so searching for a directory in your area should be easy.

For links to some online recycling directories (both local to the San Francisco Bay Area, where The Organized Life is based, and national), as well as recommendations for how to recycle specific items like electronics and shoes, check out the Links & Resources page on my website.

Though finding ways of getting rid of the things you decide to part with during the 50 Things Challenge may take some time and effort, I think you'll find it's worth it: you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you're letting go of stuff you don't want or need, and that it's going to someone who'll put it to good use or being disposed of responsibly.

Good luck during Week 3 of the Challenge!