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Tip of the Day: Eliminate the Paper Trail

Paper clutter is still a huge problem in my life. Here are some tips to avoid the pileup!

  • Place a small recycling bin/wastebasket where you drop your purse or keys. Sort mail immediately upon receipt. 
  • Go paperless! If you pay your bills online, check with the company to see if they can stop sending paper statements. 
  • Many magazine subscriptions offer discounts if you purchase them on e-readers such as Kindles or iPads. If you’re a magazine fiend, but hate the resulting piles, sign up for a digital subscription instead.
  • Invest in a shredder. There’s something inherently satisfying about sending a paid bill through the shredder. It also helps keep your personal information more secure. 

If you are unsure whether or not to toss an important-looking paper item, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this information easily found online?
  • Is the information old or outdated?
  • What will I NEED this document for? Why do I need to hold onto it?

When in doubt, a good scanner/printer combo might be all you need to save important documents without the paper trail to match. If you’re really concerned, you can always scan the document for backup, but toss the paper copy. Always remember, recycling is your friend! (This is a particularly helpful tip for children’s artwork, cards, or pretty wedding invitations that make you smile, but take up unnecessary space). 

Note: I am not a tax expert. If your tax professional suggests keeping important documents like receipts and pay stubs, listen to them, not me. I can honestly say though, I’ve never once needed a paper copy of a pay stub that wasn’t the absolutely most recent, so think about that when you’re deciding whether or not to keep it. Also, there are ways to get your address off of junk mailing lists, but I’m a fan of coupons, so I don’t mind it as much as most people. 

 

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Tip of the Day: Regift!

I had two crock pots. One was a wedding gift, and the other was a Christmas present from my brother. Both new, both awesome, and both genuinely thoughtful gifts. I loved them both.

But I don’t need two crock pots.

Sure, I could keep one “for a rainy day” in the attic, and then when my current crock pot breaks, inevitably forget that I have a spare.

No.

Hiding something in a cabinet or attic like that is no way to appreciate a thoughtful gift! So, I gave one of the crock pots to my sister-in-law. And now you know what? She loves it. She makes delicious meals with it! It’s even got adorable polka dots on it, which look cute in her brand new condo. Everybody wins.

If you have an item that you don’t need, and you know someone else who does, give it to them. Pay forward the kindness and generosity that was bestowed upon you by the original giver and remember: “What’s sentimental for us can be useful for someone else” -Joshua Millburn, The Minimalists.

Weekend Challenge: Beauty product round-up

I LOVE beauty products. Makeup, body washes, lotions, potions, body sprays, scented candles, you name it! I love them all. But I have an entire linen closet of doom that is filled to the brim with various products, and what do I use on a day-to-day basis? A comb, a bar of plain soap, and some moisturizer. That’s crazy.

Here are some inherent problems with collecting beauty products:

  1. They’re fairly small items, so it’s easy to justify storing them. It’s true, 50 eyeliners only take up a small percentage of space in a drawer, but do you really NEED 50 eyeliners?
  2. Any given product has a shelf life of between 90 days and several years. How old are those eyeliners, anyway? As they expire, products lose their effectiveness, but can also spread (or cause!) infection. Gross.
  3. They’re expensive! I find it’s often difficult to get rid of things upon which I spent absurd amounts of money. But how useful is that? The money is already gone, and I’m not using the product anyway. Let go of the guilt, and quit buying more.

This weekend I decided to tackle my beauty product collection and come up with some solutions to these problems.

  1. Embrace the space. An empty drawer is a happy drawer. Nobody needs 50 eyeliners, even if they technically fit in a drawer. Is there everyday clutter on the counter that could be stored instead?
  2. Most of my products were old. I’ve listed the average shelf life for different things below. If your stuff is old and gross, toss it. No need to give yourself pinkeye.
  3. Things you can do to justify the cost, instead of throwing useful items straight in the garbage:
    1.  Give them to someone who will use them. Some women’s shelters will accept donations of unopened products. Body sprays and other items that don’t come into contact with your actual skin are easy to give away to friends or family. I put a free sign on a box of hardly used products in front of my house. Anything that was still there at the end of the day is thrown in the garbage.
    2. Give yourself a strict timeline to use up your products. I’ve given myself 30 days to go through some of my items before I have to toss them. If it’s a bath or shower product (soap, body wash, etc), only continue using it if you LOVE it. If it’s greasy or smells weird, toss it. It’s much easier to justify tossing something once it’s all slimy from the shower.
    3. Google alternative uses for bath products. For example, I shave with extra lotions I have laying around instead of buying shaving gel (But, I was using plain soap before, so my shaving routine is pretty basic). I have a ton of bath bombs from Lush, and I found an interesting list of alternative uses for them, since I rarely take baths. Check it out at your own risk.
  4. Work on breaking the habit altogether! Now that I don’t need a full face of makeup every day, I’m experimenting with lighter looks and routines that don’t involve foundation and false lashes. Eventually, I’d like to even try a “no-poo” method of cleansing my hair, and avoid buying shampoo. Unleash your inner beauty!

 

Beauty Product Shelf-Life:

I found this handy website where you can enter the code of a specific product and it will tell you whether or not it’s expired. I haven’t personally tested it, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not something is still good, you can try it out here. Apparently, the FDA only requires expiration date labeling on “drugs” (sunscreen, acne treatments, dandruff shampoo etc) but the EU requires one on products that have definitive expiration dates before 30 months. For a more detailed list of products, click here or here. When in doubt, throw it out!

Eyeshadow: cream based shadows, 1 year. Powder, up to 2 years.

Eyeliner: Between 1 and 3 years. Some sources say eyeliner can last up to 5 years. But if you’re hanging onto eyeliner for that long, are you really even using it?

Mascara: 4 months (Surprise! I know your mascara is older than that)

Lipstick and lip gloss: between 1 and 4 years. If it looks/smells questionable, toss it.

Nail Polish: 1 year.

Foundation and concealers: 1 to 2 years.

Powder and blush: 2 years.

Alcohol based hair products: 3 to 5 years.

Bar soap: up to 3 years.

Shaving cream and deoderant: up to 2 years.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: up to 3 years.

 

Don’t worry, I will be posting the before/after of my linen closet of doom once it’s finished. I broke several of my own “de-cluttering with kids” rules while trying to get through it. Learn from my mistakes!

 

Goals

Goals.

We all have them. Some are big, some are small. Some are lifelong and some are day-to-day. I’ve thought a lot about my goals for this process, and I try to keep them in the back of my mind when I’m facing a particularly difficult day in my journey. They are subject to change, of course, but we must always be looking forward to the future, and not dwell on past behaviors and habits.

Here is a simplified list of my major personal goals in my journey toward living a simpler life. I want:

  • Everything I own to have a specific home. A place for everything and everything in its place.
  • To not spend the majority of my time cleaning and organizing my house. To be free to spend my time with my friends and family.
  • To teach my children how to live simply, and not attach unnecessary sentiment to material things. I’d rather they value experiences and memories.
  • To share my journey of ditching my clutter with others, in hopes that I can inspire them to lead a better life.
  • When we eventually leave this house, I want the moving experience to be as pain free as possible. No more moving random boxes of crap!
  • To spend more time decorating and working on the design aspects of my house, and less time controlling clutter.
  • To work smarter, not harder.
  •  To be free from excess.

These are the major goals I remember along the way. Minor goals include:

  • Developing a solid cleaning routine and sticking to it.
  • Cutting my shoe and clothing collection down to ONE closet.
  • Emptying the attic.
  • Using storage space wisely, and not filling drawers and cabinets to the brim.

Those are my goals. What are yours?