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How I De-cluttered My Life in the New Year

January 17, 2014

I like simplicity. I’m not the type of person who needs tons of stuff and things in my life. Clutter makes me feel anxious. And I’m not just talking about physical clutter; mental clutter is also a big anxiety-provoker for me. So when the calendar changed to 2014, I decided to take time to de-clutter my life a bit.

I am constantly getting rid of old clothes and books (I have a donation bag in the car at all times so if I see a drop-off location, I dump the stuff). So I focused my efforts on the “lesser-known” things that cause clutter, digital clutter being a big one. Some of the changes I made are easy things, but make a world of difference. I thought I’d share my techniques with you in case you’re feeling the need to simplify your life too.

This photo has nothing to do with the content of this post. I just liked the simplicity of the lone pinecone

I like the simplicity of the lone pinecone.

Recipe Files – Many of the recipes I use are now pinned to my Pinterest boards or stored on this blog’s Recipe page. But before the days of everything being online, I kept my recipes in a big recipe binder or I used cookbooks. I took out the VERY big recipe binder and started tossing all the recipes I didn’t like or realistically will never make. It was a lot of paper! Now the binder is better organized with the recipes I actually use. I also donated a lot of cookbooks I don’t use. I hated to do it, but there’s no point in keeping one cookbook if you only use one recipe in it. Either tear out the recipe page and keep that, or find the recipe online.

Internet Bookmarks – It was ridiculous how many sites I bookmarked. I went through the sites and did three things. First, I deleted the sites I no longer needed. Second, for the articles I wanted to keep (because I may use them for reference for future writing), I added them to my Delicious feed. Delicious is a great way to store articles (and post your own). Third, I reorganized the bookmarks I did keep and my toolbar so I can better find what I need.

Delete Blogs – I read a lot of blogs. Like a lot – more than 200. I have them all in my Feedly account, which is like the now-debunked Google Reader. As I was reading the blogs, there were always those that I would only skim or skip altogether. So one day (while watching TV is a great time to do this), I went through all of the blogs and deleted the ones I don’t read. It was liberating! And now when I go to read my blogs over the weekend, my stream of posts isn’t as overwhelming.

Facebook and Email Clutter – I don’t know about all of you, but I’m getting so sick and tired of what’s showing up on my Facebook feed. I used to love Facebook to connect with people, see pictures, and have conversations. Now it seems like it’s just Buzzfeed articles and memes. I have no time for this crap! So I went through an un-liked so many pages. And if you don’t want to unlike pages, you can also go to the page and select “hide from newsfeed.” I also unsubscribed from a slew of email newsletters to keep my email inbox less overwhelming.

Cell Phone, Cable and Phone – I HIGHLY encourage you to review your bills often because chances are, those sneaky bastard cable and service companies are charging you way more than what you need. I found out that I was being charged for the option to call internationally and all these fancy features on my landline. I reduced the phone plan to the bare minimum since the landline is rarely used (in fact, we are thinking of dumping it altogether).

The cell phone is another BIG one. We were being charged for this ridiculous amount of data that we’ve never even come close to using. I downsized the data plan, which saved us a big chunk of money. And honestly, we don’t even use the current allotment.

Finally, we are making the move to dump the cable, which will save an obscene amount of money. We opted for a Roku with Netflix and HuluPlus subscriptions. I am SO excited for this change!

Pantry, Fridge and Freezer – I tossed a lot of old food. It was so nice to go through the kitchen and get rid of stuff taking up space. And I’m not talking about rotten apples. I mean the condiment jars that are beyond the expiration date. Or the boxes upon boxes of teas I will never use (I give this stuff to my sister who loves tea). The stuff that I froze thinking one day I will use it, and now is way passed it’s prime.

Computer Documents – I finally emptied the trash on my MacBook, and either archived all documents or deleted them entirely. I also transferred a lot of stuff to Google Drive in order to free up hard drive space and keep documents safe that I didn’t want to lose.

So that’s what I’ve done so far and it feels SO liberating! I need to do other things – like go through old photo albums, organize pictures, and organize my hard files. But I’m happy with the work I’ve done so far and feel like 2014 is off to a great start!

How do you de-clutter your life? Did you get rid of any unwanted stuff lately?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2014 10:38 am

    Great suggestions. It seems no matter how much I declutter, piles amass quickly. I cleaned my study– and new piles have appeared. Alas.
    Recipes– now that could take me a year!

  2. Kshein permalink
    January 17, 2014 12:01 pm

    This list is excellent. I’ve done some of these recently and will do a few others on your list. I’ve also recently gone through old file folders (both computer and file cabinet) and updated all my online accounts. Once I had everything clear and organized I was able to meet with a financial planner – something that had been on my to-do list forever, but that the clutter had prevented. De-cluttering has many benefits!

  3. Shary permalink
    January 17, 2014 12:10 pm

    You’re so efficient and thorough. I’m sure I can’t clear out as much as you did, but I’m with you on how much anxiety extra stuff can generate, so I’m going to give it a try. I’m starting with my Internet favorites list and moving on from there. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. January 17, 2014 12:47 pm

    Leah that sounds like a great annual exercise to start the new year off right! I will need to wait for a break in my schedule to put aside the time to do this. I’m kinda glad I have yet to really solidify my “bucket list” or resolutions for the year because in reading other posts, and yours, I’m finding some inspiration! How much time did you set aside to do this?

    The email clutter is one I’m regularly purging…

    The facebook “noise” hasn’t been too bothersome now that I spend more of my social media time on Google+ and the circles provide such a nice way to look at the content that you really want to see!

    If my husband wasn’t a sports fan I’d be right behind you in looking into Hulu subscription service because I really do not like the amount of money that goes towards our satellite bill each month.

    Thanks for the reminder that when we de-clutter, it’s more than just the physical space!

  5. Amber Highburger permalink
    January 17, 2014 1:37 pm

    Leah,

    This is a GREAT article or blog or read (not sure what to call it), and I think we are more alike then I ever realized! I do all these things as well, but the one thing I do that was not mentioned….. I take all the digital pictures I have taken throughout the year and dump them into a folder named 2013 pictures and then put the pictures in date order, and finally, I burn them on a CD. That way if the computer ever crashed or I got the horrible black screen of death, I would still have all the pictures.
    Jim does not believe in photo albums, so we have a CD of each year of the boys. I used to organize by month when they were little but I dont have time for that anymore. I also used to keep the pictures in albums on shutterfly, but with the idea of people stealing pictures from the net or even other weirdos looking at my kids, I opted for burning on a CDs.
    I just thought I would share another way to “de-clutter”. Oh, and I do this every year in January!

  6. January 17, 2014 5:17 pm

    This is a great piece, Leah! And a great reminder to rethink all our stuff.

  7. January 18, 2014 6:46 am

    Leah, these are some great suggestions, as I hadn’t thought about electronic data clutter~! I start in my kitchen, the center of the home, and strive to “shine my sink” every day (see flylady.com) for more … It’s a small accomplishment but it means I never wake up to a sink full of chores. I also go through all that paper that comes every week – medical statements, retirement savings etc, and sort/shred/file (that pile can multiply easily). I clean out the food cupboards regularly, b/c oldest son is a single parent and is happy with a can of ANYTHING I give him … and lastly … I return books to my bookstore to get a small bit of $$ back towards new books. Those small steps keep the center of our home relatively clutter-free and, since it’s the first room one comes to when arriving, the feeling is one of welcome and calm :)

    Happy New Year~
    MJ

  8. January 18, 2014 4:32 pm

    These are incredibly helpful tips, Leah, and my main goal this year is to declutter and clean up — in the belief it will make me more productive. I got rid of about 4 file boxes full of old manuscript drafts when AAA had a shredding event. It was FABULOUS and then I did pretty well for the first two weeks of the year, but now as my writing time goes up, my tidiness and patience for decluttering goes down. I’ll work out a balance one of these days! Thanks for the ideas!

  9. January 19, 2014 12:05 pm

    Just reading that took a weight off MY shoulders! I’ve done much of the same over the past few months. . . even with the recipe binder! Guess what–I’m not making all those Paleo recipes I printed last year. ;)

  10. January 19, 2014 6:34 pm

    Great suggestions, Leah! I agree that clutter creates stress. One of my goals is to keep my new computer organized, but I find myself just uploading pictures and downloading Downton Abbey onto my old one that’s about to bite the dust. Oh, well! We’ll get there, right? :)

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