31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Digital Clutter

This post is written in collaboration with U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about digital clutter during this series.  With cell phones being such a big part of the everyday now, it can be a bit overwhelming to deal with all the apps on your iPhone 8.

According to App Annie, in 2016 people spent one trillion hours on apps worldwide.

Let that sink in just a bit.  One trillion hours.  Wow. 

Entertainment categories seem to be the most used.  There is always another show to watch, book to read, game to play, or song to listen to.  I know that I tend to take a ton of videos and pictures on my phone, and often get that lovely warning of no more storage available.

It is smart to periodically get rid of unused apps because they can slow down your device.

Taking the time to de-clutter your apps is a good practice to get into.  When you turn on your phone and there is no rhyme or reason to the order of apps, and the amount of apps you have but do not use, it can become more of a hassle to use the phone, or you may get stressed out because you can’t access something quickly.

U.S. Cellular Tips to de-clutter your Smartphone

Free up some space – It is obviously frustrating to receive that “no more available storage” warning when you are trying to take another photo.  Determine which apps are using the most space by checking the storage on your phone.  You can delete the apps that are not used or redundant.  Sometimes apps will store extra info than necessary, and simply deleting the app and then re-installing it can free up space.  Also, don’t forget to check your text messages, that can use up storage fast!

Use an app to de-clutter – You can use an app like Magic Phone Cleaner or DiskUsage to determine which apps to delete.  It may sound odd to download an app to get rid of apps, but once the app does its job, it is easy to delete it until you want to do a storage check on your device again.

Delete redundant apps – Often we will download multiple apps that do the same task.  An example is having Evernote, OneNote, and SimpleNote.  All do the same task, but you have three different apps!  Choose one, delete the others, move on.

Deleting apps is not permanent – If you find that you are really missing an app that you have previously deleted, you are easily able to re-download it.  Just go to your previously purchased apps and re-download it.

We can always do with less digital clutter.  iPhones and tablets are supposed to create efficiency in your life, not take away from that efficiency.  

Now I am off to put the 1200+ videos and pictures on my phone onto an external hard drive.  Wish me luck!

Do you ever get the dreaded “no more available storage” warning?

Between Nov. 10-17, 2016, a total of 701 online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Paper Clutter

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House

Paper clutter is something that is difficult to get a handle on.  Between bills to pay, what you need to keep for your business, what you need to keep for your kids’ school/activities/memories, important documents that you should always have, calendars, schedules, chore charts, magazines, lists; there can be a lot of paper clutter

I have a love-hate relationship with paper.  I love all the pretty journals, I use an Erin Condren Life Planner there is the teacher planner for homeschool.  I am a list maker, and these lists have been everywhere in the past.  We also receive bills and other important paperwork that we need to take care of.

You might be the same as me.  Hating paper, but also loving it.  What should you do about it then?

There are some easy ways to take care of paper clutter.  You may be convinced that you can never get rid of it all, and honestly you can’t.  There are some papers that are going to constantly be coming into your life, and some you will need to keep.  But, there is a great many pieces of paper that can go right into the recycling bin.

Let’s start with mail.

You get mail delivered almost every day.  The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you deal with the mail as soon as it comes out of the mailbox.  When you immediately weed out the junk from the important, and get it in the correct spot (recycling bin for junk, and either a file or to-be filed place for the important), you relieve some of that stress from paper clutter.
I try to do this all the time, however, there are instances when I grab the mail on my way out the door, and set it on some shelves near the door…and it sits there.  Or I will pile it on my management hub table, and it will sit there for a while (see my kids aren’t the only ones that mess up my clean surfaces).  There it will sit until three days later when I finally stop to take care of it.  And most of it is trash!  Stuff that we don’t need at all!  It just takes up space.
So when you check your mail, immediately deal with it.  If you can’t immediately deal with it (like when I check my mail as I am on my way out the door), wait to get the mail until you get home.  It will take you 2 minutes to sort through everything, and then it is done, you can move on without trying to remember if x bill was in that pile.
This will lead to bills.  I plan to talk more about financial paperwork in another post, but wanted to briefly touch on bills here.  Thankfully we live in a time when there are a lot of automated bills.  Bills can be delivered to your e-mail, many banks offer services that allow you to have bills delivered to your online banking, where you can then pay for and file the bills right there. 
However, there will most likely still be some bills that you cannot automate or get through e-mail.  We have water and sewer bills that are not delivered through e-mail.
When you receive a bill in the mail, you need to immediately put it in a spot where you will remember to pay for it.  The system that I use is to put the bill in a pocket in my planner, and then write the date the bill is due in the monthly calendar section.  That way I know that when I pay my bills, I know what needs to be paid when.
You may put an alert in your phone or e-mail, or you might write it on a wall or desk calendar.  Whatever is your method for paying the bills is fine, but making sure it is put somewhere where you remember and can actively pay the bill is important.
For bills that you receive in the mail, it is easy to scan those and digitally file them away so that you can recycle the paper bill and get it out of your house.  I have a compact HP printer that easily allows me to scan bills as I receive them.  You could even do this if you live a more digital life.  Immediately scan the bill and then pay through online banking when it is due.
As a mom I think the most paperwork comes from my kids.  There is always something that needs to be dealt with.  Either new artwork, school work that the kids have done that either needs to be filed for their portfolio, or thrown out.  If your kids go to public school I have heard the amount of paperwork that comes home on a weekly and even daily basis can be astronomical.  Dealing with that immediately is part of the solution.
If you wait to deal with the paperwork until later, it will pile up and be more overwhelming to deal with.  And, in the example of school work coming home in their backpacks, you may miss important dates if you wait around to go through it.
What about the paper that you need to keep?  What should you do with that?
Well, you can do several things.  You can have an old fashioned filing cabinet – which is what we have.  We keep important documents in file folders, so they are accessible.  There are some things you just need to have the original for – things like your social security card, birth certificates, marriage license, passport, wills and other estate documents, life insurance policies.  All of these paper items need to be stored, hopefully in a safe and accessible way.  If you do not want to keep them in your home, you could get a traditional safe deposit box at the bank. 
There are places where you can decrease the amount of paper you bring into your home as well.  You can cancel paper magazine subscriptions and instead read them online (or at your local library for free!).  Most newspapers have a website now where you can see a few stories for free each month, or pay a fee for a digital subscription. 
And if you want to completely remove junk mail from your mailbox each week – you can try a service such as DMA Choice which will help remove you from mailing lists for a small ($2) fee for 10 years.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with paper?

31 Days to Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Declutter Your Home

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Now that we have talked about what decluttering actually is, it is time to start the process of going through our homes and figuring out what is most important.

There are so many articles and books written about the *right* way to declutter your home, and I will have a post in a couple days with those resources in case you are interested, but here I am going to talk about what works best for me.

The easiest way for me to go throughout my home is to have a room by room approach.  The reason I do this is two-fold.  First, I have three small children, and if I tried to declutter a specific category throughout my entire house on one day, I would never have my house put back together.  Working on one room at a time helps me to concentrate on one area, and to see a.) if something even belongs in that room to begin with and b.) if it is something we actually need in our home.

This is something I tend to enjoy doing at the start of either the spring or fall seasons.  But, I have been known to start going through a room in February, after we have settled from all the holiday madness.  It is something that you don’t want to wait for the perfect time in order to start.  You just need to start.

If decluttering to de-own your stuff is really scary to you, start with the easy stuff.  Surface clutter.

Surface clutter is the bane of my existence.  Whenever I clean off a surface, it then starts yelling at the rest of my family “put your stuff here!”  I don’t know how many times I will have just cleaned off all of the kitchen counters, when my kids will start piling books they have read, LEGO they have put together, and they set it down on my clean countertop.  The same goes for my desk, and my command central table.

If your family does this, I recommend setting out a basket for you to put their stuff.  I have a pretty basket that I pile all the treasures into.  Eventually they come looking for it, or we have a 10 minute tidy and one person’s job is to put away what is in the basket.

Most of the time surface clutter isn’t something that we can completely de-own, because it is oftentimes bills (although if you have any ideas on de-owning bills – I have a couple – please share them!) and other paperwork.  We will get to how to deal with paper later.

Surface clutter can also be little items that you have in your home, that perhaps you wanted to decorate with at one point, but they no longer bring the joy to you that they used to.  Or along the same lines as my kitchen counters, try removing some of your appliances from the counter.  We keep all of our appliances in a cupboard, and it makes me so much happier to see nothing on the counter (except my coffee maker – which is something I see a heck of a lot of beauty in!).

When you reduce the amount of stuff you own, you will reduce the amount of time you need to take care of and manage that stuff, and it will give you freedom to use your time in ways that are important to you, rather than to take care of your stuff.

When you de-own your stuff, it gives you a mental boost as well.  Instead of worrying about all the things you need to take care of during the evenings, on the weekends, you are free to live your life, and to do the things that matter to you.

Having that weight lifted mentally is a huge positive.

We live in a home with only 1 closet, and that closet is actually a second floor entry that Matt hung up shelves for us to use as a clothes closet – and we do hang all of our clothes in the closet for the entire family.  Because we don’t have a lot of closet space, we can’t keep a lot of clothes all the time.  The options are either to store them in totes in the attic (which we tend to do with off-season clothes and hand-me-downs for the kids), or to hang them in our closet.  Because I have very little space, I tend to only keep the items that I really love and wear.  This is the same for my kids and husband. 

Because of this one closet craziness, we are unable to store a lot of stuff away from the public eye.  So we have the interesting dilemma of living in a large house with nowhere to hide stuff.  Instead, most of what we own is out in the open.  This can cause a lot of stress for me because I don’t like to see all of that mess all over the place.  And no matter how many basket systems I work out with my kids, it is too overwhelming to them.  So we try to have less, and that gives the kids the ability to take care of their items without feeling overwhelmed.

Have you sent your kids into their bedroom or playroom before when the floor is covered in LEGO and Shopkins, princess dolls, and yarn? OK so the yarn is probably slightly unique to my home.  Usually what happens is my kids will work for about 15 min and come down either saying they are finished (they are most definitely not), or being so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that they are crying and are paralyzed unable to clean it up. 

It is overwhelming to them to deal with everything out at once.  And while I would love to say the “take one toy out, use it, put it away” approach is a great one, it isn’t realistic, at least not in my home.  My kids like to make elaborate scenes for stop motion movies using any and everything they can get their hands on.  I love that creative play, so I have to make adjustments to my attitude about what comes out when.

If they have fewer toys, they are able to easily take care of them. 

At first you might think that taking away toys will lead to boredom.  And it might at first.  But, I noticed that when the kids have a clear space to play, and only a few options, they play longer, and happier together, than when they have everything at their fingertips.

Start with making it a point to de-own.  Do not bring new stuff into your home just because it is newer, or prettier, or the kids might like to use that.  Then go through each room of your home and weed out what you really, truly do not need.

What is the one area of your home that you are most concerned with de-cluttering?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Declutter or De-own

You had to know the D word was coming, didn’t you?  Decluttering is something that is a bit of a buzz word these days.  If you just declutter your home, life will become a happy place for you and your family.  Of course that isn’t completely accurate, but decluttering is an important part in the simplicity process.

Now, when we talk about decluttering, we do not mean MINIMALISM – although if minimalism is the direction you and your family want to go, more power to you.  In fact, I will say that I would love to be a minimalist, but my family does not entirely agree with everything I say about minimalism, so we need to compromise.  That is what family is about, right, compromise.  If you are single, this is all about your decisions, but if you have other people in your household, make sure you involve them in this process…otherwise it doesn’t work.

I feel like I have been decluttering for years, and honestly I have.  I could not, for the life of me, figure out why year after year I was still giving away garbage bags full of stuff.  Well, part of that reason is because we have growing children, each year they grow out of clothes and toys, and we are able to move forward, but there is another problem…and I would bet you have this problem too.

I didn’t make this connection until I listened to an episode of the Slow Your Home Podcast a few months ago.  Brooke said she had heard a quote from Joshua Becker and when she said it, it resonated with me completely.

Don’t just declutter, DE-OWN.

This is so incredibly simple yet also a bit of a slap in the face. 

I am really great at going through a room and trashing all the stuff that is no longer working, necessary, fitting, etc.  However, if you then let that same stuff (in newer working order) come back into your home, you have accomplished nothing.

Now, that isn’t always something you can control.  There are birthdays and holidays that often come with more stuff, but there is also the everyday, when you make a *quick* trip to Target to get some more all-purpose spray, but walk out with a new top, three toys for the kids, that thing you thought you might need at some point, and look it is on sale.  $100 later, you have a bunch more stuff that you probably do not need, and yet you now bring it home and try to find a place for it.

If you are spending time organizing constantly, then you are not decluttering.  Instead you are just moving stuff around trying to make it look aesthetically pleasing, but not actually finding that lightness that we talked about yesterday.

Some fun examples for you from my home.

I love books.  I read books all the time.  My kids use a literature based homeschool curriculum.  We have a lot of books.  In fact, I often receive books in the mail from publishers to review.  It is a wonderful thing, free books.  But, you know what, a lot of these books are not books that I love and will read again.  So why am I holding onto them?  Honestly, I have a hard time saying that I won’t need something again (this will bleed into the next example), and books are something that I want to fill my home with.  However, I am usually able to say that I won’t read that book again, and just because my kids might one day also want to read that book is not a reason I should hold onto it.

So I started donating books to the library.  Now I know if I want to read it, all I have to do is stop at the library and check it out – also, funny thing about libraries, they are filled with books.  If I find that I am repeatedly checking out one specific book, I can purchase it and add it to my collection, but it if is a one off, well then it can stay at the library.

The next example is dishes.  We have a lot of dishes.  I *think* that we are going to entertain, so obviously we need all these dishes.  In reality we only use all these dishes a couple times each year, so we store them.  And we don’t even store them well, they are sitting on top of my armoire as we speak – see!

please ignore the tablecloth and headphones...Lucy isn't quite ready to leave these things alone so they go where she cannot reach them!

I think that having extra dishes is fine if I am constantly entertaining, but I’m not.  And more often, if we are entertaining, there are a lot of kids involved and we go the paper plate route – it makes more sense for my family.  Now, you may entertain every week with beautiful tablescapes, and you need those dishes.  I do not.  So this weekend I am going to pack them up and donate them to Goodwill.

You may think that decluttering is almost an every season occurrence, and that can be true when it comes to kids’ clothes and toys.  There are things that can always be weeded out of your home.  But, when you go through your home to declutter, you should look at it as de-owning, not just decluttering.

Tomorrow we are going to talk more about how to actually go through our homes to de-own our stuff.

What is one thing that you have trouble de-owning in your home?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Goals & Dreams Resources

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Over the past few days we have been talking about our dreams, and how they are not so out of reach if we can break them down into smaller goals.  Goal setting, and even dreaming, can be a bit overwhelming, so I wanted to share some of my favorite resources for these two very important parts of life.

At the end of 2013 I had hit a wall.  I wasn't living the life that I wanted, and it all kind of culminated right at the end of the year.  It was at that point that I drew a line in the sand, and realized that I wanted to live differently, I didn't want to float along, I didn't want to continue to people please.  I wanted to reach my dreams.  You may have had a similar experience in your life where you said "enough is enough, let's get this done."

In early 2015 I bought three books that were life changing for me.  Each one spoke to similar things, but were all from different points of view.  These books I continue to read and refer to, and recommend over and over again.

Make it Happen by Lara Casey - This book is all about, you guessed it, making it happen.  Taking your dreams and turning them into reality.  Realizing that you are able to do what you want, you just need a plan to get there.  It is incredibly motivational and gives you a good kick to get things going.  When reading this book, you may want to have a notebook handy because you will definitely be coming up with some amazing ideas you hope to implement in your life.

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst - The tagline of this book is amazing "making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands."  We all feel like we have so much stuff commanding our time, which is part of the reason we want to simplify, but giving ourselves permission to say no to the things we really do not want to do is difficult.  Telling anyone no is something that can cause a large amount of stress in your life.  It did for me, however, once you make the commitment to say no instead of always saying yes, it is incredibly freeing.  Lysa gives some very practical wisdom about making the right choices for you and your family.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson - An amazing book talking about how you only get one life with your family, and you want to make it count.  Sally is a wealth of knowledge on parenting and homeschooling, and how to incorporate what is important for your family (that family mission statement and values) and turning those ideas into an amazing family culture.

The last item I have is not a book to read, but a book to interact with.  It is the 2018 PowerSheets Goal Planner by Lara Casey.  Now, these have not been released quite yet, but they will be before this month is through and I will be back with more info about them when they are available.  I started using this goal planner for the first time in January, and it has been amazing to really get to the bottom of what my goals are and the small steps required to reach them.  

I also will recommend writing down your goals and dreams.  Keep them handy so that you know what  you are working towards!  When you accomplish small goals that are leading to that big dream, celebrate it!

Do you have a dream that you fear is too big?  What are some small steps you can take now to move towards that dream?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - How Simplicity Provides Freedom

Over the past several days we have been working on our big picture dreams, and figuring out how to break those down into goals.  But, I know what you are asking yourself, how does simplicity provide freedom?

We have managed to define that simplicity looks different for everyone.  Just because someone thinks of simplicity as living off the grid does not mean that is your definition of simplicity.

But how does simplifying your decisions, your finances, your outside obligations, even your possessions, give you freedom?

You will find that when you start to simplify your life, your heart will be lighter.  You will have the option to be more carefree, instead of worrying about the next thing.  Simplicity means lightening your load, and when that happens you will find peace and freedom in that simplicity.

It may sound strange, and you may think to yourself, what does that even matter?  But, when your heart is lighter, your entire outlook on life changes.

Does this mean there will never be difficulty – absolutely not, and in fact there are times when it will be more difficult.  Stepping off that main path, taking a detour when everyone says the direct route is right in front of you, can be difficult.  I can’t say that everything will be easy from here on out, as we have discussed before just because you are striving for simple living, or simplicity, does not mean that life becomes easy, far from it.  However, when we strive for simplicity, the freedom, the lightness that simplicity provides will change our perspective.

Remember that when you are simplifying your life, your decisions, your finances, you are saying no to the things that are not bringing value to your life, or that you do not value to begin with.  This makes so much more room for the yes that you want to say.  Instead of having to say no to something you are passionate about, you are able to say no to the things that aren’t important to your family’s mission, and say yes to that one thing that is so important.

As we move through the rest of this month, we will be going through some ways to actually make those changes, practical tips that will help you to simplify your life.  You are not trying to fit yourself and your family into one idea of simple living or simplicity; rather you are making your own way.  Knowing yourself and your family is very important in this project, so I recommend going back and looking at your family mission statement, and your list of values.  What is the most important thing for you?

What is one thing that you can remove from your life today that will create lightness in your heart?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.