On Mental Clutter

As you may note, I’ve not written an entry on this page since the spring. Why not? I had nothing all that compelling to add, though I’ve been working with de-cluttering clients all along. It would have been the written equivalent of talking just to hear myself talk. Not useful, and actually could have been considered mental clutter.

I’ve been thinking about mental clutter a lot lately. It comes in many forms. For me, part of it stems from spending too much time in front of the computer. It draws me, as it must be the case for many others, too. At some level, it becomes mental clutter. We spend time on emails and other electronic activities. How might other parts of our lives miss out and/or suffer because of too much screen time? For me, among other concerns, I lose out on time for pleasure reading.

I’ve been reading Helen Nearing’s book Loving and Leaving the Good Life, about her time with husband Scott Nearing. Very much oversimplified, it’s about their decision to leave New York City in 1932, moving to southern Vermont. They hoped that scratching out a Depression-era living would be easier in the country than in a big city. When the valley they dearly loved became too much ski-area-oriented in the early 1950s, they left Vermont, moving to the Penobscot Bay area of Maine.

Reflecting about Scott Nearing, Ronald LaConte wrote, “To sit and talk with Scott, whose life has spanned almost a century, is to be reminded that there are constants, that beyond today’s computer games and television sets are natural rhythms and human values that do endure. A visit with the Nearings is a reminder that there are other things to plug into.”

Indeed. Don’t know about the Nearings? They’re worth your investigation. I first read Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing decades ago. Inspiring. I think you’ll find that to be true, too. Happy reading!

Less is, Well, Less. Resist More!

In this era of super-sized this and that, it’s easy to get lured by the temptation to buy more of various things than you really need. Do you shop at “regular” grocery or big box stores that offer multiples? Tightly packaged rolls of paper towels, toilet paper and the like may seem like a good idea in those non-home settings, with their different scale of wide aisles and huge shopping carts.

While you may save some on additional items, are those savings in balance with at-home conditions? Do you have to force those additional paper towels into cupboards that now seem too small? How much time might you waste trying to get to other items? What about your frustration level?

Unless you live very far from stores and shopping requires a major excursion, you might want to think carefully about how much stock of anything to keep on hand. For most items, a week’s supply, or enough for two weeks at the outside, will be enough. More could be considered clutter. And, remember that physical clutter = mental clutter.


Saving Screens Sanity

Do you have slightly differently-sized screens for your windows? Is matching them a frustrating process?

Here’s an easy tip to tame the task. As you prepare to put them up, mark each with its location. After washing each screen, attach a piece of masking tape to its frame. With a magic marker or sharpie, write its direction. For example, I label my three living room screens as follows: living room (west), living room (southwest), living room (southeast).

I do this task in the spring, because the screens are up as late into the year as possible. (I hate bugs in the house, including those that somehow hang around in the fall, fighting off their inevitable end.) It’s much easier with warm fingers, instead of cold ones.

Welcome spring, especially after such a tough winter!!

Tax Time!

Are your 2013 taxes driving you crazy? With the deadline looming, you may be scrambling to file on time or, if you won’t be ready, to request an extension.

I worked with a client yesterday morning before she met with an accountant to file her taxes. We spent most of our time together organizing current and recent bills, and double-checking that she had all needed documents for her meeting. I shared with Sue my ongoing practice about tax readiness.

Suggested as a Timely Tip on this website last fall, perhaps it bears repeating and expanding, to help you stay ahead of the game for this year’s taxes, when filing time rolls around next winter.

It’s easy. Organize papers in a tax file. I keep one going all year long. It includes letters about charitable contributions and receipts from medical appointments. There’s a list about online purchases, so I can pay state sales tax. (Yup, I’m one of the honest ones!) Elsewhere, in the old-fashioned calendar I carry around and in a small notebook kept in the car, I log miles driven for all volunteer activities, including choral rehearsals and performances. Last year’s total was 2,056. At 14 cents a mile, it’s well worth it.

Admittedly, these suggestions are so low-tech as to be no-tech. They work, though. You might try them. When tax time comes around again, as it surely will, you may be grateful for your tax file!

Clearing Mental Clutter

Have you ever felt slighted by someone? Been unable to get beyond anger about something done to you? While this website’s major focus is clearing physical clutter, mental clutter can drag us down just as much, maybe even more. Harboring resentment drains your energy. It can take the joy out of living.

As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, ““No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

How to get beyond such a situation? Use it to your advantage. Redirect the energy that you’re actually wasting. Would it be possible to bring your anger to its source, and resolve it with respectful talk? If not, maybe write a description of the situation and, if you have a fireplace, burn the paper. Or, write a letter to the person(s) who have cluttered your brain, then burn it. No fireplace? Ball it up, then recycle it.

However you decide to clear the mental clutter, keep in mind another wise statement from Eleanor Roosevelt. “Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Stylish Storage

Now that we’re past the mid-January point, you may have caught your breath after the holidays. Are you now thinking to make sense of some piles that you’ve perhaps had for a long time, and others that somehow appeared during holiday busy-ness?

Here are some easy fixes. I especially like baskets, for their functionality and style. They look good and can be used for different solutions as your needs change. Made in many different sizes and styles, they often can be found quite affordably. Store toys and books; catalogs, magazines and newspapers before recycling.

Like baskets, cloth bins hold many objects, too, from table linens to toys to…you get the picture.

Trays are great, too. They don’t take up much space, and can tame the mess on bathroom counters, bars and other areas.

Canisters are great for kids’ stuff. If you can find them, the kind made of clear glass with tops on the bias will keep contents visible. Think crayons, small plastic pieces for built structures.

Already suggested elsewhere on this website, you can easily organize bills, which tend to collect on my kitchen counter; maybe on yours, too. Place them in due date order in a manila file folder or in a napkin holder.