By Rose Zappa-Jehnert
It seems just a few years ago one rarely saw storage facilities. Now you can’t drive anywhere without seeing one every few miles. I sometimes wonder what this says about our generation. Do we really need that much “stuff” that we are forced to rent a storage facility to keep it in? And if we do need to rent to keep the “stuff”, when will we ever use it if we don’t remember we have it? Are our insecurities about never having enough affecting us to the point that we keep too much “stuff”???
I know many people who have no idea what they have in their homes, much less in a rented storage facility! The question I ask them is – “Do you really need this, and if so – when was the last time you used it, or when do you plan on using it next?” We need to be realistic with ourselves and simplify, simplify, simplify!
We are inundated every day with information that we must handle – be that on the computer, arriving in the form of newspapers and magazines – not to mention the tons of junk mail we receive each day! The first step to de-clutter our lives is to consider how we handle this information as it arrives. Again, it is important to be realistic as to whether we will need the information in the future.
Do not subscribe to dozens of magazines if you don’t have time to read them! It is not only a waste of our precious natural resources, but you work hard for your money – don’t throw it in the recycling bin! I carry the current magazine with me to read in spare time – waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting for someone running late for an appointment, etc. As I read a magazine I tear out what I want to keep for reading when I have more time and use those pages as a marker to know the last page I read. When I complete the magazine and have read the articles, I file the articles I wish to retain in binders according to subject; whether it is a household hint column or information on how to plant a garden or some other piece of information I will find useful in the future. The magazine is then recycled and I await the next month’s issue with a clear desk!
A rule of thumb I have with incoming mail is to open and separate into trash, shred, recycle, or file. Don’t handle any paper more than once. My mail opening is usually reserved for dinner prep time – as things are cooking on the stove, the mail is opened on the counter and separated into piles which I quickly distribute to areas for filing, recycling, etc. Baskets are an excellent container for papers awaiting filing, recycling, or shredding – they are not only functional, but also can be very decorative.
E-mail can also be overwhelming to most of us these days. I recently read a fact that several years ago we spent approximately an hour a day on email and it is predicted for the year 2003 that most individuals will spend an average of 3-4 hours a day reading and handling their e-mail! We not only receive important information, but also jokes and now that you’ve disposed of the paper junk
mail – you have to deal with electronic junk mail! Go through your email quickly by deleting those items you don’t wish to review, viewing those that can be handled quickly, and setting up folders to retain information that will be needed in the future.
What about all that other stuff? If you have clothes in your closets and bureaus that you can’t remember the last time you wore them, then why are they there? Another organizational rule of thumb for these items – if you haven’t worn it for a year, what are the chances you will use it? Why not donate it and receive a tax write-off! Do you really need to keep every stuffed animal or toy your child has ever received? Children who are taught early to clean up and donate old items to those less fortunate learn to be more generous and kind adults, and in the process also learn to be better organized and less cluttered! How many plastic containers are in your kitchen closets – and just when was the last time you saw what was in the back of those cupboards?
If you don’t use it – LOSE IT!
I truly appreciate the gift of living in a country where we have available to us everything we need (not to mention, much of what we want), but I also believe that our lives have become more and more complicated over the years. We need to examine ourselves to understand our need to retain so much “stuff” and then begin a program to assist us in weeding out those things not necessary to our everyday lives. By returning to a more simple and organized lifestyle we bring balance and freedom to our lives and decrease the stress and extra cost of finding extra places for storage!