Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

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Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:21 pm

I've read various books and even attended a seminar or two, but *stuff* just seems to build up in my place. I feel like it's getting the better of me of late, so I'm soliciting ideas from Bogleheads for ways they have successfully gained the upper hand on this front.

I guess one standard approach is to somehow get rid of extraneous stuff. Then once you've reached equilibrium you can only buy something new as long as you are prepared to discard something to make room for the new item. Well, I've never been able to get rid of enough stuff to reach equilibrium. If I ever do, who knows, maybe I will have worked so hard to achieve this that I would be disciplined enough to limit purchases to basically replacing an existing item. Has anyone on this forum actually reached this state?

As an aside, I wonder where Bogleheads fall on the clutter spectrum vs. the general population: minimalists ... or pack rats?
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Taylor Larimore » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:31 pm

braun:

"Our life is frittered away with detail. Simplify. Simplify." -- Henry David Thoreau


It took me many years to learn (and apply) this lesson to my life and to our portfolio. It is one of the best decisions I ever made.

This is another Boglehead thread about the same subject and with suggestions for clean-up.

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=106825&newpost=1552096

Best wishes.
Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby englishgirl » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:48 pm

I have not yet reached equilibrium, but this year I have made it a point to get rid of things when I buy new, and preferably to get rid of more than I bought. Why wait for equilibrium to institute this practice? Buy a pair of shoes - donate two pairs. Buy 2 t-shirts, donate 3. Buy an iPad, sell the Kindle. Etcetera. It has been working well so far, plus I have had occasional clearing out projects, but only on a small scale - like the t-shirt drawer. Breaking it down into smaller projects make it more likely I'll complete something rather than, say, trying to completely overhaul my entire wardrobe.

Now, if no more junk mail ever arrived, I'd be happy.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Sunny Sarkar » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:51 pm

Few weeks ago, I sought to reduce my "digital clutter". First stop: close all webmail accounts I've opened over the years except the primary one. You wouldn't believe it when I say this, I couldn't believe it myself either - I ended up having to close 34 webmail accounts :shock:

And this does not include webmails that have gone out of business like usa.net - my favorite one was partlycloudy@mostlysunny.com :happy )

---

At the same time, I also reduced # of bank accounts to 1, and credit cards to 3. That's 2 cards too many - one survived because it's my oldest one and defines the length of credit history, and the other gives me free fico scores (real) every month.
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on regardless". ― John C. Bogle
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:59 pm

Taylor Larimore wrote:braun:

"Our life is frittered away with detail. Simplify. Simplify." -- Henry David Thoreau


It took me many years to learn (and apply) this lesson to my life and to our portfolio. It is one of the best decisions I ever made.

Best wishes.
Taylor

Taylor: Nice quote. Yup, I'm still learning ... and working hard to achieve a simple life! Thanks for the inspiration.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby stlutz » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:19 pm

Move to a smaller house? Stuff always expands to fill the available space.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:39 pm

englishgirl wrote:I have not yet reached equilibrium, but this year I have made it a point to get rid of things when I buy new, and preferably to get rid of more than I bought. Why wait for equilibrium to institute this practice? Buy a pair of shoes - donate two pairs. Buy 2 t-shirts, donate 3. Buy an iPad, sell the Kindle. Etcetera.

I find this ... challenging. I have been better about not buying so much stuff, but I find the "discard" aspect hard, especially when it's something I still like. I mean, say I buy a new sweater because I like it, it's different enough from what I already own (e.g., color, style, ... on the other hand, admittedly, a sweater is a sweater and basically just something to keep you warm) and I find it at a good price :D Actually, that's part of the glitch; it's hard for me to pass up a good deal.

Anyway, so once the purchase is made it's hard to give up any of the other sweaters. They're still in decent shape and different enough in color or styling to earn a spot in the closet. If you're discarding good stuff, how do you justify that? Granted, if you donate nice stuff to charities it's good for the recipient to get something nice but I guess I'm not entirely convinced it will go to good use and / or someone else might not like my taste and won't really appreciate the item as much as I do, in which case I just hang onto it.
englishgirl wrote:It has been working well so far, plus I have had occasional clearing out projects, but only on a small scale - like the t-shirt drawer. Breaking it down into smaller projects make it more likely I'll complete something rather than, say, trying to completely overhaul my entire wardrobe.

That's great advice. I always forget to break my de-cluttering and cleaning projects into smaller tasks.

englishgirl wrote:Now, if no more junk mail ever arrived, I'd be happy.

One trick I learned that has worked quite well for almost a year now is to have a basket or something to hold the mail I receive. That way, if I come home and am too tired to sort through things, everything is at least in one place and I can go through my mail at the end of the week or something. I know that doesn't directly address your junk mail issue, but I figure it could maybe be a helpful tip to others.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:43 pm

Edit: Duplicate post
Last edited by rjbraun on Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby travellight » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:20 am

rjbraun- I see it the same way and have the same challenges.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:04 am

stlutz wrote:Move to a smaller house? Stuff always expands to fill the available space.

Actually, I "up-sized" several years ago. That's probably part of the problem. In fairness, my former place was pretty small and it's not as if I'm living in a McMansion or anything now. While I agree that I shouldn't be seeking to expand my space now, I would be happy to just use my current place more wisely, rather than down-size, at this point.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby VgSince1982 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:41 am

First, it helps to reduce / avoid "children" :D With my nest emptying, clutter is more manageable.

My advice is to clean out closets or cabinets by removing everything. Purge what you can. When you put things back, leave at least 25% of the closet or cabinet empty - like a shelf or a section. If you make this a rule, you'll always have a place to put the really useful things you have...the things you leave out which have become clutter.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby bungalow10 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:55 am

We've gotten rid of about 10-20% of our belongings this past year. We did some remodeling, which included removing everything from a few rooms in our house and then only putting back what we absolutely intended to keep. Everything else was curb-recycled, thrown away, or given to Goodwill or friends. I sold very few things since my intent was to get them out of the house ASAP.

It took all year (we have two kids and one on the way), and some things we just had to keep despite not needing them at the moment (baby/kid clothes and supplies are a big one).

I still have plans to clean out the other half our basement next year, and probably our garage. I'm hoping we can eliminate another 10% next year. Our garage is packed with stuff, luckily we can still both park in there easily, but the amount of things we have is ridiculous and I know we couldn't easily access most items in there, making all the storage pretty pointless.

Always leave space when reorganizing, it makes it easier to find things and you won't be buying duplicates. Be ruthless when getting rid of things. And don't "add on" when you can purge instead. My DH really wants a storage shed for the yard, and I'd rather just get rid of a storage-shed worth of stuff.
An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and have a dime.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby likegarden » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:00 am

It is an aging thing. In my house I am fighting clutter by others. It is tough when people grow up in houses with much space and simply fill it up with interests and hobbies. People can not understand that you will not be able to remember what you had stored away when you have accumulated too much. Plus when in the 70s and later in the 80s the body is no longer able to move heavy loads of paper and books. There is always that option to separate to get peace though.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby johnep » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:34 am

This is a huge problem for my wife and mine to a lesser degree. We have lived in our house for nearly 40 years. Once the kids left home, my wife claimed their closet space and rooms for storage. I added 250 sq ft flooring in attic for storage and she immediately filled it up. I built a 16x12 storage building with 2 levels of storage and I have a hard time getting my tools and mower in there for all the Christmas decorations and other stuff.

We started remodeling living space in our house a few years ago and managed to declutter the living area (except for my office). This summer my wife went through all her clothes and I took 5 car loads of her old clothes to goodwill and a Christian ministry. She had a lot of clothes that she had kept since our marriage 44 years ago. The house looks a lot better but we are still a work in process.

I always go through my clothess twice a year and give away old clothes or anything I have not worn in past year or so. When my office gets messy enough, I clean it and discard or file stuff. I go through my office files once a year and discard outdated stuff. Otherwise, my desk and files would quickly fill up. Someone mentioned digital clutter. I have a good system to manage my email but otherwise do not worry about digital clutter. In the old days when storage was at a premium, it was necessary to purge old files periodically. However, someone who stores lots of music or videos probably still has to manage that as they consume a lot of storage.

I think everyone could do better at this if they set aside perhaps a day a month or quarter to declutter their home and digital stuff.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby hicabob » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:49 am

I rent a 30 foot dumpster every few years and fill it up. About $300 and the place I use gives you up to a week before they show up to haul it away.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby stan1 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:14 am

The hardest thing for me to part with is books, but this year I got rid of almost all of my 20+ year old college textbooks and many other books that I've accumulated over the years. Most were technical and non-fiction books, and updated information is now available for free on the internet so the books really were obsolete. I tried to donate the books, but could not find a local organization who would take them so I loaded them up in the car and drove them to a bulk recycler who gave me about $7 (which I then donated to a school group). I now only buy 1 or 2 paper-based books per year so the clutter should stay down.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby englishgirl » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:17 am

rjbraun wrote:
englishgirl wrote:I have not yet reached equilibrium, but this year I have made it a point to get rid of things when I buy new, and preferably to get rid of more than I bought. Why wait for equilibrium to institute this practice? Buy a pair of shoes - donate two pairs. Buy 2 t-shirts, donate 3. Buy an iPad, sell the Kindle. Etcetera.

I find this ... challenging. I have been better about not buying so much stuff, but I find the "discard" aspect hard, especially when it's something I still like. I mean, say I buy a new sweater because I like it, it's different enough from what I already own (e.g., color, style, ... on the other hand, admittedly, a sweater is a sweater and basically just something to keep you warm) and I find it at a good price :D Actually, that's part of the glitch; it's hard for me to pass up a good deal.

Anyway, so once the purchase is made it's hard to give up any of the other sweaters. They're still in decent shape and different enough in color or styling to earn a spot in the closet. If you're discarding good stuff, how do you justify that? Granted, if you donate nice stuff to charities it's good for the recipient to get something nice but I guess I'm not entirely convinced it will go to good use and / or someone else might not like my taste and won't really appreciate the item as much as I do, in which case I just hang onto it.


Oh, I have this problem too. Which again is why I find breaking it down into a smaller job is easier. If I buy 2 sweaters, and under my new rules have to give up 2 or 3 sweaters in return, I find that easier than trying to go through my entire sweater collection and cull 25% of them. Somehow, finding 2 or 3 that haven't held up well, are a bit small (or big), have a coffee stain or a ripped cuff, or that I just don't love any more, is not so hard. And then...when I say "donate" the items, I am not donating them right away. That is too hard! Actually, I use part of the closet in the guest bedroom as the donation space. If I have guests coming, this needs to be emptied out so they can use it. If no guests arrive, then it needs to be emptied out in December, to get the tax deduction in by the end of the year. If I haven't gone to that closet looking for an item since I put it away, and when it comes to donate the items I'm not immediately overcome by a sense of "I HAVE to keep this!", then it has to leave! Usually, I go to that closet and wonder why I kept the stuff for so long, as it all seems so old and tired.

Also, knowing that I'm going to have to give up some sweaters in return for buying new sweaters makes me think harder about buying new stuff in the first place. Which was partly the point of the exercise anyway.

Books are an issue for me too. Now I try to only buy on the Kindle. And I've gradually got rid of a few books - they are hard to part with though.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby climber2020 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:58 am

rjbraun wrote:As an aside, I wonder where Bogleheads fall on the clutter spectrum vs. the general population: minimalists ... or pack rats?


Ooooh, this is a passion of mine. I fall on the minimalist end of the spectrum. I used to keep around a lot of stuff, but had a moment of clarity when I had to move across the country for just one year for a job. I took only what I could fit in my car, and other than a mattress and small couch that I acquired once at my destination, lived with nothing else other than my carload of stuff. I realized during that year that most of what I owned had very little practical value, and I found I was much happier with fewer possessions to maintain. So when I moved back, the purging process began.

Here's my general approach to things:

For clothes, if I haven't worn it in a year, it gets donated. I no longer care how expensive it was, if it was a gift, or if it has sentimental value. If there is some sentimental attachment (like a commemorative shirt) then I take a picture of it before getting rid of it. "Something you might wear someday" is a poor excuse. If you come across an item where those words pop into your head, the item immediately gets tossed out.

I got rid of 90% of my books and now only have 3 small boxes worth tucked away in my closet. These are the books that I actually re-read every few years. Anything I haven't read in 3 or 4 years got donated. To prevent the new accumulation of books, I use the local library now which has worked out great.

Old phones get donated after 2 generations. I always keep the last phone I had in a drawer as a backup in case I break mine, but other than the one spare, they get tossed.

Anything I don't absolutely need or have a strong want for, I no longer buy. I used to buy a bookcase every time I moved just because I always had a bookcase growing up and it seemed like a standard piece of furniture everyone owns. Same with a bed and a kitchen table. With most of my book collection being gone, I no longer have any need for a bookcase which frees up a lot of space in the living room and makes dusting a lot easier. I have one all-purpose small table that I now eat at as opposed to a proper kitchen table (again, saves a lot of space), and after I got rid of my last bed frame I never bothered to get a new one, so my mattress just sits on the floor.

Now that I'm at a point of equilibrium where I only possess the things I need and regularly use, every time I consider a purchase I'm careful to ask myself if the item in question is something I will use and truly enjoy. If there's doubt, then I don't buy it like my old self may have done. It's very important when you start downsizing your belongings that you don't go out and buy all new stuff to replace the old stuff and end up in the exact same predicament a year from now.

The hardest part of throwing out your stuff is in the very beginning, so I would start off slow with a few items. Once you realize you don't miss any of those things and it doesn't bother you nearly as much as expected, it will get a lot easier.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Cottage » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:17 pm

I did the spend-money and collecting thing earlier on (but fortunately, finally figured things out!). A couple suggestions from someone who cleared out A LOT of stuff, and still has more to go, but is in a much better situation....

For some reading inspiration, I recommend Miss Minimalist. You can read through her blog entries from the beginning, I believe. She's a minimalist, but not an extreme type - she doesn't obsess with owning only the fifty items that will fit in a backpack! She has a book that might be a worthwhile investment also - I like to review my copy occasionally for some additional reinforcement. But just her blog posts are very good at helping change how you look at "stuff".

I did a good bit of ebaying way back when, but it doesn't seem worth the hassle anymore, for the prices most things get now. I decided quite some time ago, that I would just get over the wasted money, and started giving away a lot of things. I treat it as a kind of penance for my frivolity. Two ways to clear out and not feel as bad about the long-gone dollars, are museums (when you can find a match), and a charity thrift shop for a cause you believe in. The usual big names always get mentioned, but there are plenty of local thrift stores that are trying to raise money for their mission.

I went from "collector" to being fairly minimalist. I don't want a completely empty space, but I can't stand a lot of clutter anymore. It's hard to get started, but once you see some empty space, you'll be surprised at how much more empty space you want, and how much easier cleaning out gets!!

Also - it's an iterative process. I started doing my clearing out a good decade ago. No lie! But you'll find that you'll get rolling along for a while, and will ditch a lot, and then you'll need to take a break from it. But after your brain gets a break, you'll feel the purging momentum building up again. So don't get frustrated when you can only do "this much" to start with.

Good luck!!
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Epsilon Delta » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:49 pm

The first rule of holes is "stop digging". The first rule of clutter is "stop getting new stuff". Once you've done that sooner or later the stuff you do have will wear out, and you will have less stuff. Then you can start buying again, but in moderation.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby mephistophles » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:53 pm

Quit buying all this stuff. Buy only what you need and get rid of it when it no longer functions.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Colorado13 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:58 pm

One strategy that I've found to be effective is to request that if family members insist on giving holiday gifts, that they only give me gifts I can use up (food, restaurant gift certificates, fuel cards, etc.) rather than gifts that take up permanent space in my home. My entire family is on board with this plan. This certainly helps limit the number of things that come into the house and also reduces the need for me to think "I need to keep this only because favorite uncle Bill gave it to me...."

The other strategy I use is that I remind myself that the shirt/tool/toy/etc. that I "might use again someday" is likely to be much more highly valued by someone who has even less than I do. That makes it much easier for me to move things from the closets to Goodwill.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:50 pm

englishgirl wrote:
rjbraun wrote:
englishgirl wrote:I have not yet reached equilibrium, but this year I have made it a point to get rid of things when I buy new, and preferably to get rid of more than I bought. Why wait for equilibrium to institute this practice? Buy a pair of shoes - donate two pairs. Buy 2 t-shirts, donate 3. Buy an iPad, sell the Kindle. Etcetera.

I find this ... challenging. I have been better about not buying so much stuff, but I find the "discard" aspect hard, especially when it's something I still like. I mean, say I buy a new sweater because I like it, it's different enough from what I already own (e.g., color, style, ... on the other hand, admittedly, a sweater is a sweater and basically just something to keep you warm) and I find it at a good price :D Actually, that's part of the glitch; it's hard for me to pass up a good deal.

Anyway, so once the purchase is made it's hard to give up any of the other sweaters. They're still in decent shape and different enough in color or styling to earn a spot in the closet. If you're discarding good stuff, how do you justify that? Granted, if you donate nice stuff to charities it's good for the recipient to get something nice but I guess I'm not entirely convinced it will go to good use and / or someone else might not like my taste and won't really appreciate the item as much as I do, in which case I just hang onto it.


Oh, I have this problem too. Which again is why I find breaking it down into a smaller job is easier. If I buy 2 sweaters, and under my new rules have to give up 2 or 3 sweaters in return, I find that easier than trying to go through my entire sweater collection and cull 25% of them. Somehow, finding 2 or 3 that haven't held up well, are a bit small (or big), have a coffee stain or a ripped cuff, or that I just don't love any more, is not so hard. And then...when I say "donate" the items, I am not donating them right away. That is too hard! Actually, I use part of the closet in the guest bedroom as the donation space. If I have guests coming, this needs to be emptied out so they can use it. If no guests arrive, then it needs to be emptied out in December, to get the tax deduction in by the end of the year. If I haven't gone to that closet looking for an item since I put it away, and when it comes to donate the items I'm not immediately overcome by a sense of "I HAVE to keep this!", then it has to leave! Usually, I go to that closet and wonder why I kept the stuff for so long, as it all seems so old and tired.

Also, knowing that I'm going to have to give up some sweaters in return for buying new sweaters makes me think harder about buying new stuff in the first place. Which was partly the point of the exercise anyway.


Your culling and holding process is a great idea. I started that a while ago. It's worked well but I haven't really stuck with it. But when I (hopefully) do some decluttering this weekend I will definitely apply this tactic. It definitely helps to make it easier to part with things if I know that, at least initially, the stuff is not really going away, quite yet.

Yeah, maybe if I force myself to do the buy one, discard two approach I will need to be even more deliberate with my purchases. :|

englishgirl wrote:Books are an issue for me too. Now I try to only buy on the Kindle. And I've gradually got rid of a few books - they are hard to part with though.

Yes, as stan1 also said, this is a tough one for me too.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but we have discovered a fantastic public library book sale (mostly donated by individuals in the community) where we find all kinds of good titles for only a couple of bucks each. Literally, we can walk away with a bag full of really good books for the price of one new hardcover, plus the proceeds go to support the public library :sharebeer . But as a result the shelves at home are filling up fast, and we like to keep the books around, for the most part. Alas.

Edit: I am also a HUGE public library fan and user. But I still like the idea of a home library containing books I've already enjoyed, as well as those I still look forward to reading.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:06 am

Colorado13 wrote:One strategy that I've found to be effective is to request that if family members insist on giving holiday gifts, that they only give me gifts I can use up (food, restaurant gift certificates, fuel cards, etc.) rather than gifts that take up permanent space in my home. My entire family is on board with this plan. This certainly helps limit the number of things that come into the house and also reduces the need for me to think "I need to keep this only because favorite uncle Bill gave it to me...."

The other strategy I use is that I remind myself that the shirt/tool/toy/etc. that I "might use again someday" is likely to be much more highly valued by someone who has even less than I do. That makes it much easier for me to move things from the closets to Goodwill.

Interesting idea with the holiday gifts. I've thought of trying something like that, though haven't acted yet. The holiday gift-giving is a big one. As a general matter, a lot of money and time gets wasted on stuff people don't really want, like or need. And it's only going to get more pronounced as the holiday season goes into full gear shortly.

Yeah, if you think someone will really value and appreciate something you donate, that is nice.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:21 am

I really appreciate everyone's comments, suggestions, thoughts and advice! I guess a major purge is in order, though I'm not sure I'm ready just yet to take that on. I do think emptying cabinets and then starting from scratch makes a lot of sense. But it also seems like a huge undertaking and, until the job is finished, disarray with stuff scattered all over the floor or something. Maybe I need to start slow, as was also suggested.

I know I definitely have more than I need ... but part of it comes down to a quality of life thing or something, I think. Sure, I could get by with one sweater, several shirts, etc. and that's what I try to do when I'm traveling, for example. But when I'm home I enjoy having more than one sweater to wear and, frankly, even when I'm traveling by the end of the trip I find myself getting really tired of always wearing the same sweater. Maybe it's a balancing act. I'm willing to have to deal with some more stuff, just to be able to have things I like around. But there's no question that it can get to be too much. All that extra stuff requires more work, and time, to keep the place neat and clean, as well as to find where all the stuff is stored.

Thank you for the support!
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:28 am

Cottage wrote:For some reading inspiration, I recommend Miss Minimalist. You can read through her blog entries from the beginning, I believe. She's a minimalist, but not an extreme type - she doesn't obsess with owning only the fifty items that will fit in a backpack! She has a book that might be a worthwhile investment also - I like to review my copy occasionally for some additional reinforcement. But just her blog posts are very good at helping change how you look at "stuff".

Her blog looks interesting. Thank you. I will definitely have a closer look.

Cottage wrote:I went from "collector" to being fairly minimalist. I don't want a completely empty space, but I can't stand a lot of clutter anymore. It's hard to get started, but once you see some empty space, you'll be surprised at how much more empty space you want, and how much easier cleaning out gets!!

Also - it's an iterative process. I started doing my clearing out a good decade ago. No lie! But you'll find that you'll get rolling along for a while, and will ditch a lot, and then you'll need to take a break from it. But after your brain gets a break, you'll feel the purging momentum building up again. So don't get frustrated when you can only do "this much" to start with.

Good luck!!

Oohhh, it would be nice to reach the point where it's not a battle to clear stuff out! I look forward to that time :D
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Watty » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:38 am

I've been working with my wife on this for years and I am hoping that I have just about got her to the point where she will be willing to declare "junk bankruptcy" after the holidays and get rid of the vast majority of the clutter.

They way that this is shaping up is that once she is willing to declare "junk bankruptcy" that she will get my help in taking it to auctions, donation centers, or the dump and that I will do this without "guilting" her about all the stuff.

After the clutter is gone she will also have "permission" to go out any buy replacement items that she might ever find that she needs.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby FrugalInvestor » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:47 am

My wife and I have always been pretty good at getting rid of stuff. About ten years ago our new neighborhood began having a community garage sale and we decided to give it a try. Most things that we don't regularly use (except clothing which we donate to a local organization) goes in a storage area in our attic and then goes out for the sale. It's interesting to see just how much money you can get for your 'junk' and this helps motivate me to put things out for the sale. We usually come up with enough stuff to make participation worthwhile about every other year and sell 3/4 or more of what we put out. The remainder is donated unless is has substantial value and then I usually sell it on Craigslist.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby lightheir » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:58 am

Having moved 12 times in a 12 year period, from East to West Coast, I quickly learned how painful clutter can be. I've gotten very good about avoiding it as much as reasonably possible, but my wife still has a long way to go. :shock:

Tips that help for me:

- If you are not going to use something in a 1 year period, SERIOUSLY consider purging it. If it's not going to be used in a 2-year period, there must be a VERY compelling reason to keep it, or it should absolutely be purged.

- The horror you get about being wasteful should be offset by the reality that all that 'stuff' you are holding onto is just taking up valuable space which you are already paying for, and adding additional cost to your mental clutter. Even if you have to buy a $15 book a second time because you threw out a copy by accident a year ago, it's ok, as more often than not (like 99% of the time), you won't ever miss the stuff you threw out if you follow the criteria above. This is a valuable skill that you have to develop if you hope to escape the clutter - letting go of belongings, especially the very-low use ones.

- Go digital and aggressively reduce all paper records. You won't be able to eliminate all of them, but with a good sheet-feed scanner, you can knock down over 98% of it. My parents don't use digital archiving, and they have half a basement full of file cabinets of records (well kept to their credit.) I have a pocket-sized encrypted hard drive, which is backed up to cloud, more secure, and searchable - a vastly superior solution, imo. I no longer even have a file cabinet - just a small folder for any papers that really can't be scanned.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:31 am

lightheir wrote:Having moved 12 times in a 12 year period, from East to West Coast, I quickly learned how painful clutter can be. I've gotten very good about avoiding it as much as reasonably possible, but my wife still has a long way to go. :shock:

Tips that help for me:

- If you are not going to use something in a 1 year period, SERIOUSLY consider purging it. If it's not going to be used in a 2-year period, there must be a VERY compelling reason to keep it, or it should absolutely be purged.

- The horror you get about being wasteful should be offset by the reality that all that 'stuff' you are holding onto is just taking up valuable space which you are already paying for, and adding additional cost to your mental clutter. Even if you have to buy a $15 book a second time because you threw out a copy by accident a year ago, it's ok, as more often than not (like 99% of the time), you won't ever miss the stuff you threw out if you follow the criteria above. This is a valuable skill that you have to develop if you hope to escape the clutter - letting go of belongings, especially the very-low use ones.

- Go digital and aggressively reduce all paper records. You won't be able to eliminate all of them, but with a good sheet-feed scanner, you can knock down over 98% of it. My parents don't use digital archiving, and they have half a basement full of file cabinets of records (well kept to their credit.) I have a pocket-sized encrypted hard drive, which is backed up to cloud, more secure, and searchable - a vastly superior solution, imo. I no longer even have a file cabinet - just a small folder for any papers that really can't be scanned.

Wow. That's impressive. I was going to ask how you do it but when I reread your message I understood: moving 12 times in as many years will do it. Given the way I live currently, that is a rather staggering thought. But it's interesting. Maybe if I adopted even half of that mindset, I would be better able to begin the purge / de-clutter process.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby clearwater » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:33 am

rjbraun wrote:Her blog looks interesting. Thank you. I will definitely have a closer look.


You are overthinking this. WAY overthinking it. You don't need to read any more. You already know what to do, I bet.

Take it from someone who has moved nearly thirty times. There is no secret to this. It is not magic.

You need to start THROWING THINGS AWAY. This doesn't mean they have to go in the "garbage", but you need to dispose of them. Give them away, donate to worthy causes, take them to the local recycling / reuse center, last option is they go to the dump. But you need to *get the stuff OUT OF YOUR HOUSE*.

No amount of reading or thinking is required here -- you just need to get moving. Once you start, it gets easier! Make a big pile by the front door and start moving things out first thing tomorrow morning. You probably already know what you don't need and can go. Believe me on this: once it is gone you will likely never, ever miss it.

If you start thinking too hard, you will second guess yourself, and things will just get moved from pile to pile and room to room, as you get scared you are making a mistake. If it has sentimental value, consider the space it is taking up physically as well as psychologically in your head. If you can take a photo of it, do that, but don't let emotions drag you down from moving forward. Some things are worth keeping, many are not (we convince ourselves they are, but in reality, they are just mental baggage that we have to carry around in our head, all the time).

When in doubt, think like you're taking a one year trip to another part of the world, and can bring a full size backpack, and two duffel bags. That is actually a very full life of "stuff" -- way more than you'd actually need. Clothing: Outer shell, two fleece (one lightweight, one midweight), one heavy wool shirt, one nice sweater, three pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, five pairs of underwear, multiple pairs of socks (GOOD socks!), hat. Personal goods: mobile phone, multi-band world radio (if needed), toiletries, simple camera. Optional expensive, complicated, likely to cause more frustration than needed: laptop computer, complicated SLR camera, anything with the word "improved" or "version 2" in its name.

You get the idea. With the list above, you could travel the world with almost no worries! The only thing you'd need to collect are experiences (leave the crappy souvenirs for the next guy... you want something... take a digital photo which costs nothing and can be stored at "no weight").

It is possible to lead a very simple life, but people are their own worst enemy by refusing to just start acting and tossing stuff out. Remember: whatever you can get rid of, you will likely never miss it.

We've all gone through this in our own way, but my experience having moved repeatedly is that the biggest revolution has happened in the last 10 years: we now have the digital technology between paper scanners, cheap digital cameras, and digitized music and videos that you can store almost everything you'd need in terms of information "for free". The only other stuff you need are clothes, and household goods. Everything else is just complexity!
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby talldave » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:44 am

Get rid of the shelf, the stuff will follow.

I assume you've seen this site http://unclutterer.com/

What clearwater said.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:01 am

talldave wrote:Get rid of the shelf, the stuff will follow.

I assume you've seen this site http://unclutterer.com/


I hadn't seen the site till your post. You may laugh, but I actually own a cheese curler, aka "girolle". I agree with some of the comments posted: it's for a particular type of cheese (Tete de Moine) and has a "cultural" component. Anyway, you're right in that it adds to the clutter and has limited applications, but that can be the case for some kitchen utensils. I do try to keep the non-essentials to a minimum in my kitchen, but I am guilty on this one!

talldave wrote:What clearwater said.

@clearwater: You make excellent points. Thanks for your post. I'm hoping to make some progress on donating / de-cluttering / discarding this weekend. I hope to be able to report to this forum next week with some solid progress.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby johnep » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:30 am

One person advised us to pick one room and declutter it, then go to the next one and the next. It can seem overwhelming when you look at the totality of what you want to do, but by breaking it down into manageable chunks, it enables you to get started and make (and see) progress.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby desertbandit442 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:35 am

This can become a serious problem! Just start small with one project a week and do it--clean out a desk, then clean out a file cabinet, then kitchen cabinets, then a closet, etc.

I moved back to a town close to my parents about six years ago. Their house could have been on an episode of "Hoarders." I spent the first summer visiting them two and three days a week and cleaning out areas. They had their living space back by the end of the summer. A year later, the house was full of "stuff" again! I said; "Mom, I am not going to clean out again just so you have space to fill back up!" She said, "I know, I'm sorry."

My Mom passed three years ago and my Dad passed two years ago. I just now finished cleaning out the house of stuff--one 30 yard dumpster, one 20 yard dumpster, and one 10 yard dumpster of "stuff".

Please don't do this to your children. I have moved well towards the minimalist lifestyle in my retirement years to save my kids from this problem.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Colorado13 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:56 am

Another strategy that I don't think I've seen mentioned yet is to get a buddy to help. Bribe him/her with pizza, beer, or whatever, and have him or her help you. Someone who does not have the emotional ties to your possessions can help you with the "should this stay or go?" decisions. (A family member may or may not be the best candidate to take on this role.)

I do this with one of my friends (who unfortunately likes to purchase things from garage sales) every 6 months or so. The positive reinforcement from someone else may be helpful. Your friend should take your items to the donation center, used book store or wherever on your behalf, which removes the temptation to have second thoughts/to remove things from the donation and/or trash piles. This strategy also makes the process seem less like an overwhelming project.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby bungalow10 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:59 am

desertbandit442 wrote:This can become a serious problem! Just start small with one project a week and do it--clean out a desk, then clean out a file cabinet, then kitchen cabinets, then a closet, etc.

I moved back to a town close to my parents about six years ago. Their house could have been on an episode of "Hoarders." I spent the first summer visiting them two and three days a week and cleaning out areas. They had their living space back by the end of the summer. A year later, the house was full of "stuff" again! I said; "Mom, I am not going to clean out again just so you have space to fill back up!" She said, "I know, I'm sorry."

My Mom passed three years ago and my Dad passed two years ago. I just now finished cleaning out the house of stuff--one 30 yard dumpster, one 20 yard dumpster, and one 10 yard dumpster of "stuff".

Please don't do this to your children. I have moved well towards the minimalist lifestyle in my retirement years to save my kids from this problem.


My mom has actually made comments like "I'll let you deal with it after I'm gone", or "I'll hold onto it so you can sell it later". Um, no thank you. I really hope she changes her ways.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby lightheir » Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:14 am

rjbraun wrote:Wow. That's impressive. I was going to ask how you do it but when I reread your message I understood: moving 12 times in as many years will do it. Given the way I live currently, that is a rather staggering thought. But it's interesting. Maybe if I adopted even half of that mindset, I would be better able to begin the purge / de-clutter process.


Such is the travails of a MD in training. You move for medical school, move during medical school for research year out, move for PhD on top, move for internship, move again during residency, move again for fellowship, and move again for a job, and then move again when you get a new job. I haven't even included the moves within each block such as 2 moves during residency or medical school etc.

I'm glad I didn't really understand the reality of being a virtual migrant during my medical training years - when you add that reality on top of the stress of training, it gets pretty crazy. Of course, I could have just decided to stay in one place for everything, but such is the price you pay for going for the best training your career can support.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby VictoriaF » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:33 am

Colorado13 wrote:Another strategy that I don't think I've seen mentioned yet is to get a buddy to help.


Or do it like Strangers on a Train; make a pact to kill each other's clutter.

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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby bungalow10 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:39 am

VictoriaF wrote:
Colorado13 wrote:Another strategy that I don't think I've seen mentioned yet is to get a buddy to help.


Or do it like Strangers on a Train; make a pact to kill each other's clutter.

Victoria


The only thing that worked with my husband was to do it while he wasn't home. When we were remodeling, I took a day and moved two dressers out of his closet (and down the stairs - did I mentioned that I am/was pregnant?), and took six garbage bags FULL of clothing and gave it all to Goodwill. I purchased a closet organization system and installed it in his new closet (this took a separate weekend), and then moved all his clothes and organized them for him.

He LOVES his new closet and how easy it is to find everything, but he would have never done it himself.

Did I mentioned he had drawers full of brand new clothes in his old closet that he didn't even know he had? I kept those items, of course. His new closet has wire basket drawers so everything is in view - hopefully no more "lost" clothing!
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Tim_in_GA » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:46 am

I have found that just putting old stuff out at the end of the driveway with a "free" sign works rather well. The stuff disappears quickly and becomes someone else's treasure.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:46 pm

Colorado13 wrote:Another strategy that I don't think I've seen mentioned yet is to get a buddy to help. Bribe him/her with pizza, beer, or whatever, and have him or her help you. Someone who does not have the emotional ties to your possessions can help you with the "should this stay or go?" decisions. (A family member may or may not be the best candidate to take on this role.)

I do this with one of my friends (who unfortunately likes to purchase things from garage sales) every 6 months or so. The positive reinforcement from someone else may be helpful. Your friend should take your items to the donation center, used book store or wherever on your behalf, which removes the temptation to have second thoughts/to remove things from the donation and/or trash piles. This strategy also makes the process seem less like an overwhelming project.

I have a feeling this works better if your friend is ruthless in his or her role. I've tried this approach somewhat, admittedly with a de facto family member, and the borderline stuff I'm almost ready to discard he wants to keep, and vice versa. :confused
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Colorado13 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:47 pm

rjbraun wrote:I have a feeling this works better if your friend is ruthless in his or her role. I've tried this approach somewhat, admittedly with a de facto family member, and the borderline stuff I'm almost ready to discard he wants to keep, and vice versa. :confused


You're right that ruthlessness is required. You need someone that can convince you that "No, you really do not need to keep 12 of ___ or jeans that you used to wear in high school" (unless high school was last year.) You could hire a home organizer to assist; possibly the cost of the service could be offset by the tax deductions that you could receive for donating items to charity or by selling them.

If you live in Hawaii or somewhere similarly enticing, I am volunteering to be your ruthless friend.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby VictoriaF » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:08 am

Attire is easy to get rid of; it's an outer shell, it's superficial.
Books are parts of one's soul. Disposing of the soul is unbearable.

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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby celia » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:37 am

rjbraun wrote:I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but we have discovered a fantastic public library book sale (mostly donated by individuals in the community) where we find all kinds of good titles for only a couple of bucks each. Literally, we can walk away with a bag full of really good books for the price of one new hardcover, plus the proceeds go to support the public library :sharebeer . But as a result the shelves at home are filling up fast, and we like to keep the books around, for the most part. Alas.


Our library encourages us to buy their used books and when you're done with them, if you don't really have the room for them, donate them back for the next book sale. That shows your support for the library too.

We have a friend who loves to read and often buys new books. But she lives in a tiny space and donates them to the library right after she is finished. She lets them store "her" books for her and she can usually borrow them back when she wants to read any again. :happy
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby rjbraun » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:16 am

celia wrote:
rjbraun wrote:I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but we have discovered a fantastic public library book sale (mostly donated by individuals in the community) where we find all kinds of good titles for only a couple of bucks each. Literally, we can walk away with a bag full of really good books for the price of one new hardcover, plus the proceeds go to support the public library :sharebeer . But as a result the shelves at home are filling up fast, and we like to keep the books around, for the most part. Alas.


Our library encourages us to buy their used books and when you're done with them, if you don't really have the room for them, donate them back for the next book sale. That shows your support for the library too.

We have a friend who loves to read and often buys new books. But she lives in a tiny space and donates them to the library right after she is finished. She lets them store "her" books for her and she can usually borrow them back when she wants to read any again. :happy

Funny coincidence that this post is side-by-side with VictoriaF's immediately above. While I can see that book buying and saving can be problematic, for now it's a bit less of a concern. At least books are relatively easy to store since they line up on a shelf nicely or, if necessary, stack on the floor well. Admittedly, it adds to the clutter but arguably they enhance a room's decor too :happy . And now that we've discovered these library sales I really try to only buy these gently used books so I'm at least not spending a lot of money (how's that for rationalization!). But, yes, ultimately it's more stuff to deal with.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby lightheir » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:28 pm

Our local libraries don't even accept donated books. It's been the same on the East and West Coast. Something about them having too many to deal with, or something along those lines. I was going to donate a whole trove of recent-gen fiction and nonfiction in excellent condition, but they weren't interested (!) Not sure if this is a general phenomena, but I was surprised to find out.

I do love paper, but I have to admit that ebook storage on Kindle or elsewhere is pretty awesome for saving space. I'm not even a voracious reader, but after 2 yeras, my Kindle bookshelf would easily take up 2 entire rows of shelf spaceI also like that they're readily accessible - I still feel badly every time I purge books, but there's no need to purge with Kindle ebooks, which is actually very nice.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby Sunny Sarkar » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:39 pm

"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on regardless". ― John C. Bogle
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby MathWizard » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:47 pm

If it is cost thing (I'll keep it in case I might need it.):
Then add the storage costs of an item into the purchase. If it is still cheaper to buy new, then you can always upsize your home.

I use the square footage cost of our home if it is something that must be kept inside (furniture, clothing) and cost per square
foot of the outdoor shed we built if it can be kept in an unheated shed (yard tools, grill over winter)

If it is an emotional thing, rent don't buy.
I rent large tools and trailers.

Borrow:
I boorow books from the library rather than buy them anymore, I can't stand to throw good books away. I had to
stop Natl Geographic because it felt like a crime to throw such photograhic art in the trash.

Go digital:
I'm moving that way with magazines/newspapers. Eventually I'll probably go all electronic with them.
I still get paper copies of all important financial transactions and file them. Digitization is time-consuming, and
I'm kind of old-fashioned with financial docs. A paper with an original ink signature is still the gold standard with me.
Paid bills get tossed after a year. Ownership papers kept until a year after sale. I do keep tax returns for a couple of
decades though.
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Re: Looking for advice to reduce / avoid "clutter"

Postby lightheir » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:06 pm

Interestingly, I find that careful application of digitization has save me substantial time for the initial investment.

I don't digitize everything, but I do digitize nearly everything that is financial or may be important down the road. It's not as easy as throwing it into a file folder, but I've found the time digitizng and archiving it methodically means that I have saved myself the time of searching for it down the road (search tools are great for digital) and as well don't need to spend a later round of mental energy deciding whether I need to purge it or not to make room for more files/space. Having a fast sheet-feed scanner like the Fujitsu scansnap is essential - I would never be able to have this digital archive work with flatbed scanners.

I also like that my personal financial paper documents aren't floating around to be pilfered from the trash, etc. It's one thing to shred a few docs at once, but shredding bins of old docs is a real hassle. I don't even let it get that far- once I scan, I either shred or mark for shredding. Was a bit weird to throw away a paper record so quickly, but now that I'm used to it, it's been a real time and space saver to not let any paper accumulate whatsoever. Being forced to decide right away whether to keep or discard is part of the essence of staying uncluttered, and making that digital decision forces you to do it immediately up front.
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