3 days to add to your calendar

calendar book

There are three days you might want to consider putting on your calendar every month. They aren’t something you have to juggle among other appointments, places you have to go and people you have to see. They are flexible commitments to yourself. We have so many obligations to others, it’s easy to forget to make time to do things that will make you feel a little happier and a little more in charge of your life.

dangling ends knot

Day 1: Dangling Ends Day

Everyone has projects and/or tasks that never quite cross the finish line. For some reason, they get postponed or shoved to the back of the task pack. So they hover about like annoying little gray clouds. Declare one day a month Dangling Ends Day—a day to tie up all the loose ends on those projects and chase those clouds away. Believe me, the anticipation of getting those things done is always worse than actually doing them.

Dangling Ends Day requires some self commitment. If you write it on the calendar, you owe it to yourself to do what you’ve asked yourself to do. At the end of the day, you will be pretty darned pleased with yourself.

phone a friend telephone

Day 2: Phone a Friend Day

We have friends we see a lot, that are a part of our lives now. And we have friends that we don’t see all that often. They’re on our mind, but we just never manage to get together. And time passes; months can go by without talking to one another. That’s why we all need to make time on our schedules for Phone a Friend Day. It’s amazing how good it feels to make a simple phone call.

If you’re not a phone person, a great alternative is Write a Note Day. Texting is fun and fast, but there’s nothing nicer than to get a real letter in your mailbox.

box of donations

Day 3: Declutter Donation Day

We all have a few to many things in our lives. Some of us let them accumulate longer than others. Declare a Decluttering Donation Day every month. Whether you take magazines to the library magazine swap pile, clothes that you no longer need to a shelter or tchotchkes to a charity thrift store, make a point of making at least one donation run a month, getting things you no longer need to places that can do good with them.

That’s our short list. What kind of day would you add to your list to make you feel happier and less stressed?

Editing your workshop

A well-stocked workshop is a beautiful thing. Having the right tool, right screw, right dab of paint when you need it makes household repairs end in victory instead of an unplanned trip to the hardware store. But the workshop can also be a catchall full of “that might come in handy someday,” things you bought for one job a decade ago, and other mysterious hardware findings that somehow found their way into your life. If you’re an average human, your workshop has probably built up all kinds of hardware flotsam slowly over time.

Whether you’re staying where you are or in the beginning stages of downsizing, a bit of time editing of your workshop is time well spent. Reducing clutter, reminding yourself of what you actually have and tidying up will make finding whatever you need when you need it easier.

Wondering how and where to start? Sort things by type, rather than by area. Your hand tools might share a drawer with tape and paintbrushes, but it’s much easier to assess what you have when you gather like things. How else will you realize that some way, some how you have managed to have a bakers dozen of phillips head screw drivers?

workshop tools

Identify your key hand tools, sort out your extras

Looking at your hand tools, what are your essentials and what are your duplicates and surplus non-essentials? Group all the surplus together, you’ll be surprised at how many screwdrivers and measuring tapes you have. What to do with those no longer needed hand tools? Make up a tool box for someone in your family who is new to living on their own. Make up small kits to donate to furniture banks for families that have lost everything and are starting over. Donate individual tools to a non-profit Habitat for Humanity ReStore or a similar organization.

Review your power tools

Two things to think about with power tools: do you still use them and are they old enough that they’ve been outmoded by newer models have improved safety. Tools that take up space but haven’t been used for years can be donated, sold or passed on UNLESS they are no longer safe to use. Those should be recycled.

Some power tools represented big investments at the time they were purchased. But if you don’t use it, if you don’t need it or if it’s not safe, it has not earned a spot in your life and it’s time for it to move on.

workshop nails

Sort your nuts and bolts and bit and bobs

A good workbench has a nice assortment of hardware. Hardware is small, doesn’t take up much space and has a magical ability to multiply in stealthy ways over time. Look for screws you bought for one particular project—you needed two, you had to buy a box. And jars of rusty nails. And coffee cans of rusty  nails. And the ever popular little bags of hardware that came with furniture, window treatments etc. You will likely find that you have more brass brads than any one person will ever use in a lifetime. Edit down to what you are likely to use and donate or share the rest with others.

workshop miscellany

Equally able to multiply with stealth are the bits and bobs: outlet covers, adapters, picture hangers, plastic caps, felt furniture pads, lengths of chain, ceiling hooks, mending plates, L-brackets. If you don’t see a use for it in your immediate future, let it go.

workshop cans

Sort your cans and bottles

The workshop is a chemistry lab. There are solvents, lubricants, cleaners, putties, adhesives, paints, stains and everything in between. Start by sorting into three groups: useful, dried out/hardened, no longer needed.

Review the useful things so you know what you have. Put them back on the shelves, grouping like things together. The dried up things can go into the trash. The no-longer-needed things can be divided again into: things you can offer to others, new or nearly full things you can donate, things you can safely dispose of and things that are hazardous waste.

FYI: Old latex paint can be opened, mixed with cat litter and left somewhere with ventilation to harden. Once it’s hard, it can go in your regular trash. Alkaloid paints that clean up with spirits are.

Sort your project supplies

Sometimes a project requires specific supplies. The things that springs to mind immediately are decorative paint treatments, wall papering and laying tile. If you don’t see those projects happening again in your near future, pass on, donate and/or dispose of those things as is appropriate.

workshop glue tape

Take a look at what’s left

There are lots of things in a workshop that we haven’t talked about like tapes, painting supplies, pipe wraps, rolls of screen mesh, extension cords, twines and ropes, doorknobs, latches and more. Sort through the rest of these things with a trash can on one side and a donate box on the other side.

Step away from the rickety stepladder

Look at your collection of stepladders. Some might be best voted off the island for safety reasons. It might have lived a long full life and is a little rickety from age. Or it might be poorly designed and wasn’t particularly safe to use from the start. (Those are the ones without anything to hold on to when you are going up 2 or 3 steps.) And anything held together with duct tape should probably also be asked to leave.

It’s not a bad time to look at a step stools as well. If it has a non-slip top, wide balanced base and no duct tape reinforcements, it’s probably fine. If not, time to go!

And finally…

Now that you’ve sorted and organized, you may find yourself with storage boxes, drawers and bins that you don’t need anymore. Donate or pass them on, don’t leave them to fill up again! And give yourself a pat on the back at a job well done. Somewhere, someone is setting up their first workshop, and the things you no longer need will go on to have a new, useful life with them.

 

The Three-Year Rule

It’s a simple rule: if you haven’t touched something in the past three years, you probably don’t need it. Applying the rule makes it easy to spot things you won’t miss once they’re gone, making the job of thinning out clutter easier.

Start where the pickings is likely to be ripe, in the deepest, darkest reaches of your kitchen cabinets. Is that an ice cream maker? And a crepe maker? Oh look, a fondue pot–where did that come from? Apply the rule: have you made ice cream, crepes or fondue in the last three years? If the answer is no, out they go.

Be brave and take on your wardrobe. There’s the paisley jacket that still has tags attached from a boutique that closed eons ago. You’ve never really been a paisley kind of person, but you thought maybe you could become one. You were wrong. Next to the jacket are the pants that don’t fit your thighs properly, the sweater that makes your neck itch and the handbag with a strap that bites into your shoulder, which is why none of them have left your closet in at least three years. Time for them to go.

Where next? The garage, the craft room, the linen closet, the basement—anywhere there’s clutter that bothers you. When you donate, hand down or sell your unwanted things, you win twice. Your have more space in your home for things you really use, and you’ve sent the unwanted things on to new owners who will enjoy them.