Two months into the new year and I still haven't completely settled on my Word of the Year. I kept thinking about the word "less," but I don't really feel like it is much different than "simple" for 2016 or "contentment" for 2017. I still find myself immersed on this journey of simplifying our life and home and trying to learn to be content in the everyday...before all of my "simple" projects can be complete.
Clutter is an antagonist to all three of those words and I'm constantly in a battle against it. But no matter how hard I fight, it seems to find its way to my countertops, closet, van, etc. Why?! Why, when I have given so much away and simplified so many aspects of our life, do I still have to battle clutter everyday?
And then it hit me. I'm losing the fight because I'm fighting the war on the wrong battleground! I try to fight clutter once its inside my home, but the battle needs to begin before it gets here! I need to stop ALLOWING clutter to infiltrate my life.
That's right, ALLOWING. There is so much clutter and noise that we are allowing and even INVITING into our lives and homes! And most of the time, we don't realize its happening or that we have the option to say, "no, thank you!"
While this will take some effort in the beginning, like all good habits do, the following things can help us have simpler, less cluttered spaces and minds.
Unfollow and Unfriend
Unfollow Instagram accounts or businesses that no longer appeal to you, especially if you only followed them as part of a giveaway. Unfriend that person you added on Facebook because you had one class project together five years ago in college.
I've been going through my friends lists and editing frequently. Basically on Instagram, I want to see pretty pictures and be inspired. I rarely follow a close friend on both Instagram and Facebook because I realized that many were posting the same picture on both sites. I don't need to see it twice. My personal Facebook is reserved for mostly close friends. If I'm not comfortable with the idea of you seeing pictures of my kids in underwear, then I'm not adding you.
If you aren't seeing posts and announcements from pages and people you like hearing from the most then make sure to use the "See First" option on Facebook. You can find this under the "Follow" option on their page. Interact with posts by people you enjoy seeing and hearing from on Facebook and Instagram. The way that these two sites set up their algorithms, posts with a lot of interaction are more likely to be seen by you and others. Interacting includes liking, commenting and/or sharing that post.
As we allow social media to take up more and more of our lives, let's make sure that we are at least seeing the content we want to and stop wasting time scrolling past things we don't care about.
Either subscribe to a business's email list or follow them on social media. There really is no reason to do both. Most of their sales are listed in both places so a follow AND an email subscription is redundant. I only have a few businesses that I make an exception for because they offer different content on each platform.
You can find the "unsubscribe" button on the bottom of most emails where you have joined a list. But to make this and my inbox even simpler, a friend told me about a free service call Unroll.Me. I literally just signed up about 5 minutes ago. It appears to be a service to help you unsubscribe to emails you no longer want to receive, but also allows you to "roll up" marketing emails that you still want to receive into ONE email. You no longer have to read separate emails for Nellie Taft, Pottery Barn, The Laundress, etc. Get all of their emails in one quick easy to read email. It sounds amazing, and I'm hoping that this will clear up my inbox anxiety!
Opt Out of Catalogs
I have started to use Catalog Choice to unsubscribe to catalogs that I no longer want to receive in my mailbox...which is basically all of them. With daily emails from companies that I shop at, I no longer need to waste trees and time on catalogs.
Catalog Choice does not have the means to unsubscribe you from all catalogs, so for those I go to the company's website and use the contact form to email and ask to be removed from their mailing list. I'm already seeing a big difference in the amount of catalogs we receive.
Opt Out of Junk Mail
There are two ways that I know of to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive every day. The first is DirectMail.com's National Do Not Mail list. This is a free service similar to the Do Not Call List, but is not sponsored by the government. It is a private company that actually creates "junk mail" for companies. Their thought is that it is a waste of company money to send you something you won't respond to.
The other is OptOutPrescreen.com. This is provided by Experian, the credit reporting agency. You can opt out of prescreened offers for 5 years online or permanently by mail.
I personally have signed up for both of these, but make sure that you do your research on these (and the Unroll.Me) and make your own decision.
Accept Email Receipts
I love this option from CVS and other stores. I created a receipt file in my email inbox and now I don't have the paper clutter of receipts, but I still have access to the receipt if I need it for a return. The Walmart app is great way to save any receipts I get from there and to use their Savings Catcher option.
Say No to the Toy in the Kids' Meal
Everywhere we go, someone is offering our kids a cheap toy, whether its the dentist, fast food restaurant or even church. You can say no. I have done this with kids' meals frequently. My kids don't even realize that all fast food is "supposed" to come with a toy now!
The same goes with free samples. I buy a lot of my hair products from Sephora online. I used to ALWAYS get my three free samples. No. Matter. What. But then I ended up with a box of stuff I never tried or had a desire to try. Now, I only get the samples of stuff I already use daily so that I have "travel size" options or the samples of products I really do want to try.
I realized that getting freebies, just because they're free, is really wasteful and isn't free. These things cost space in my home and peace of mind when I'm trying to get things organized!
Don't Accept Things You Won't Use
I have someone in my life that loves to thrift and discount shop. And they are constantly on the lookout for gifts and things that they can give to us and others. However, there have been several times that we have been on the receiving end of something that we already had, wasn't useful to us, or that we simply didn't like. A few people told me to just accept these things and take them to Goodwill later, and for a while I did. But then I realized that this did a disservice to the giver and to me.
They were wasting their money on something they thought I liked, and by accepting it, they could then go on to waste more money in the future on similar items, thinking that they were helping. And I had to take time out of my schedule to deal with the item...moving it from place to place until I finally dropped it off at the thrift store.
Now, I don't suggest being rude. Kindly tell the person that the item isn't needed or your style and that perhaps they could get better use out of it themselves. Or suggest they consider someone else who may need it. The most recent thing we turned away was a baby swaddler. We already had plenty because we've already had two other babies, but a cousin was having a new baby. She might actually need the new swaddler when we didn't. It worked out for everyone.
I will say that I only do this when it is a gift without occasion. I wouldn't do this with a Christmas or Birthday gift as I feel that more thought goes into those than these "I saw this and thought of you" type of gifts.
Be Conscious of Packaging
While I've always felt that by recycling, I'm not really wasting resources, I recently learned that isn't true. China has stopped accepting most of our plastics for recycle so they are ending up in the landfill anyway. You can read more about it here.
But even if avoiding plastic and excess packaging for the sake of the planet doesn't entice you, think about the time and money we spend dealing with recycling and trash. You open a box from a recent online order. How long does that box and packaging sit on your counter before you put it in the garbage bins? Then you have to empty your bins in your home to the larger bins in the garage. Then, if you're like us with no trash or recycle pick up, you have to drive your waste to the recycling center. That's a lot of time and effort. Buying veggies and other items in bulk (without the provided plastic bags) can save time and the planet. Win-Win!
Keep a Donation Box Near the Door
For all of the clutter we didn't fight before it arrived in our homes, make sure to keep a donation box. This way you have one place to put items that you find in your home that are no longer serving you. DO NOT put an item back in it's original spot if you've decided that you no longer need/want it! It should got straight into the box.
OK, this was a really long post. If you made it to the end, you are a true warrior against clutter and waste. I hope that you found at least one or two new things you can implement today in your own battle to lead a simpler, less cluttered life!